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EXCLUSIVE | 'INLAND' helmer Fridtjof Ryder on working with Mark Rylance and how the movie built itself out of feelings

During the conversation, Ryder also opened up about how he wanted to be a novelist in the beginning and attending the LFF as a filmmaker
'INLAND' filmmaker Fridtjof Ryder (BFI/Youtube)
'INLAND' filmmaker Fridtjof Ryder (BFI/Youtube)

“The tables have turned,” said filmmaker Fridtjof Ryder while attending this year’s London Film Festival in October 2022 because this was the first time he was attending the star-studded event as a filmmaker and not just someone who was there to watch a film as an audience. The debutant filmmaker was one of the few ones who had the world premiere of his movie, ‘INLAND’, during the prestigious festival and was really nervous about how things will work out this time around.

The movie primarily focuses on a young man who embarks on a journey to unravel the mysterious disappearance of his mother. In the process, he meets a father figure (Mark Rylance) who cares for him and guides him through the dreamlike spaces of rural England. Rylance is accompanied by Rory Alexander, Kathryn Hunter, Shaun Dingwall, and Alexander Lincoln.


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Mark Rylance and Rory Alexander in 'Inland' (Fablemaze)
Mark Rylance and Rory Alexander in 'Inland' (Black Twist Films)

Taking some bits and pieces of his childhood experiences, ‘INLAND’ is something that he is really proud of and required a lot of legwork from the time he started he wrote the film and started shooting it. MEAWW caught up with the debutant filmmaker during the London Film Festival and had a conversation about his debut feature film and how did he feel about working with Academy Award-winning actor Mark Rylance.

Congratulations on having the WORLD PREMIERE of 'INLAND' during the London Film Festival. This is the first time you are attending as a filmmaker, so how does it feel? Is it still surreal for you?

Ryder: It’s really weird (laughs). This is something I wrote three years ago and then shot two years ago and then went into editing last year. For me, there’s been quite a lot of legwork to this point. So, it’s quite strange, like simultaneously feels like something new, but looks like something old. But it has been an amazing journey. 

You started writing the movie three years ago, which means you shot the film during the Covid-19 pandemic. How difficult it was for you to shoot at the time?

Ryder: Yeah, we shot during COVID. In the beginning, it was really scary and we were sh****ng ourselves. However, it was fine after a while because we were in the countryside, out in the middle of nowhere. So, it wasn’t too bad. Keeping the mask on your face, keeping your distance, yeah, it was kind of weird at the beginning.

Before we move ahead with 'Inland', we would love to know about your work experience in the field of writing or filmmaking in the earlier part of your professional career. Was filmmaking something that you always wanted to do? or it was something that you got interested in as you moved ahead.

Ryder: I come from the writing side and initially, I wanted to be a novelist and then I sort of started doing acting when I was 15 or 16. Both my parents are artists, so, the atmosphere at home was always like that and I always had access to a lot of movies and other related stuff. So, I believe my film education has been strong from the beginning. For me, the crossover point was when I was 15 or 16 because that’s when I realized that films hold all the things I love. I love working with actors, and performers and being around them. I love the energy of theatre and being around the troop who is working together. Then, I love to write and whenever I got the time, I just wrote. So, I believe filmmaking for me has been the amalgamation of all the stuff I would love, which was very cool.

Fridtjof Ryder (LinkedIn)
Fridtjof Ryder (LinkedIn)

'INLAND' is your directorial debut and you are working with one of the greatest actors of this generation Mark Rylance. Was the role specifically written for Mark and how did you feel while working with him?

Ryder: The film kind of came together through… I feel like it’s literally having notes in your phone and you hear something or you go for a walk in the forest and you feel something. In the beginning, I felt like the film was building itself out of themes and feelings then it was out of a need for a narrative and then kind of finding the narrative and I’ve loved Mark since the time I saw him for the first time on stage. He was in a play called ‘Jerusalem’ which is similar to ‘Inland’ in many ways and deals with rural England and he’s the weird father figure while you are not quite sure if he is a drug dealer or is he a saint. Having had some of those things in my life, I just injected some of them into Mark, definitely in the writing and I felt like I was writing to Mark and for Mark. I was writing in a language where I felt that this kind of thing would fit Mark or would fit Rory.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is how eerie it felt between those dramatic situations. Those moments are really strong and they take the movie forward and tell viewers a lot about Rory's character. How did you approach those scenes and were they always a part of the film?

Ryder: It’s funny. I think Jonathan Glazer talked about it while making ‘Under the Skin’ and said ‘when you have a narrative that has many different ways it can go,' and that’s how I felt like while making ‘Inland’.  It feels like finding a drift of the story and also shooting extra stuff even when we weren’t sure how we are going to use it, you have a little bit of light left at the end of the day so you shoot another scene and it was, I think, earlier cuts of the film were a lot more literal and then, you work your way into the dreamscape and once you are in the dreamscape there’s a certain logic that you have to follow and I feel that is way more emotional than if we do one scene like that and two scenes like this and it gets really weird. It’s more like you feel your way through and then music. I am getting the original score from the composer and so you start preparing for that stuff, like here’s a dip for a flashback and here you need to tighten up and keep moving. I feel like they were really important for the movie.

Rory Alexander in a still from 'INLAND' (Black Twist Films)
Rory Alexander in a still from 'INLAND' (Black Twist Films)

The ending of the movie feels like the character has made a peace with himself and now just wants to go with the flow. As a filmmaker, do you feel that Rory's character really moved on?

Ryder: Yeah, I want him to and that’s why the ending… I feel like the entire movie is sort of a series of questions and him (Rory) searching like literally searching for his mother and I like the fact that the ending felt like somewhere you know you hear so much about his mother walking off into the forest and disappearing. Now, you see him at the exact same place down the generation, but also there’s a sense of release in it and like a sense of him being free somewhat. There’s something really sad and really bittersweet in it and when the ending came, I just felt like that’s right. That’s like the final question that throws you all the way back to the beginning of the film, so the film feels like a loop.