sun 16/06/2024

Inland review - a cracked mosaic of memories, impressions and lurking anxiety | reviews, news & interviews

Inland review - a cracked mosaic of memories, impressions and lurking anxiety

Inland review - a cracked mosaic of memories, impressions and lurking anxiety

An enigmatic and allusive debut feature from Fridtjof Ryder

Mark Rylance as Dunleavy with Rory Alexander as The Man

Fridtjof Ryder’s debut feature made a strong impression at last year’s London Film Festival, and its cinema release ought to give the Gloucester-born director’s career a hefty shove in the right direction. Although that doesn’t mean that Inland is an especially easy-viewing experience.

Ryder, who was only 20 when he shot the film in 2020, deals in silences and absences. There isn’t much of a narrative, more of a cracked mosaic of memories, impressions and lurking anxiety, but Inland builds a powerful atmosphere of loss and brokenness. The photography is ominous and watchful. Events seem to have no intention of resolving themselves tidily, but make you search for the invisible threads which bind them together, however obliquely.

The central character is known only as The Man, and is played by Rory Alexander as if he’s barely clinging on by his fingernails. At the start of the film he’s a patient in some sort of psychiatric clinic, being assessed for release by a doctor. Much of Inland was shot around the Forest of Dean, which serves for Ryder as a mystical dimension reaching back into some folk-mythic past, emphasised by sound effects of rippling water and creaking tree branches.Inland filmAs he drives away from the clinic and heads out into green and damp-looking woodlands, our protagonist is accompanied by eerie vocal music and the cracked, croaky voice of his mother, Lizzie Herron, which will serve as a recurring narrator. She recites old nursery rhymes – “my mother said I never should / Play with the fairies in the wood”. Though not the gypsies, despite the fact that it transpires that his mother is of Roma descent.

His mother is also the – as it were – central absence in the film. It’s never spelled out what exactly is wrong with The Man, but the unexplained disappearance of Lizzie seems to have a lot to do with it, and his boyhood memories of her are a recurring motif. When a bird thuds into his car’s windscreen and falls dead in the road, it’s clearly an omen, and not a reassuring one.

What little we learn of Lizzie comes from Dunleavy, played by a whiskery and philosophical Mark Rylance: “Her life’s got its own tune, own fuckin’ orchestra... she’s been running rings round us since before you was born,” he notes ruefully. Of course, Ryder shies away from defining Dunleavy’s role, though it seems he may be The Man’s stepfather, and he displays a touchingly fatherly concern for the boy. “You silly billy – did they fix you? Are you fixed?” he wants to know, when the former turns up on the doorstep of his modest house on the edge of the forest. We’re left to make up our own minds.

But we do see that The Man is searching for something he can never find. In the film’s most arresting sequence, he visits a brothel called "The Faerie Queene" with a couple of local mates from Dunleavy’s garage, where The Man works. The place seems to hang disorientatingly in darkness, lit only by the faint glow of red lamps, a couple of anonymous punters hunched corpse-like at their lonely tables. The sex workers are mysteriously represented by antique alabaster statues seemingly hanging in mid-air. The one visited by The Man is mature and matronly, and evidently she begins to elide in his mind with what he remembers of his mother. Dr Freud will see you now.

Inland is a strange and enigmatic film, which might have benefited from more of a skeleton to hang its images and implications on. We’ll be hearing a lot more of Fridtjof Ryder, though.

The Man is searching for something he can never find


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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