Director Nim Kyong Ran on death, memory and creating new short film 'Ingensmansland' with the music of Joakim Berg

By Olivia Ekelund

Nim Kyong Ran at Bio Rio cinema in Hornstull, where 'Ingenmansland' premiered last night. Photo: Kristian Bengtsson

Presented by Vogue Scandinavia, in partnership with Stockholm-based production company Pine and Universal Music, Ingenmansland is a short film by Swedish director Nim Kyong Ran, set to the music of Joakim Berg. Here, read about Kyong Ran's experiences making the short film and watch the new release in full

On the verge of death, the adage goes that life will flash before our eyes. In the case of Ingenmansland (No Man’s Land) – a short film by Swedish director Nim Kyong Ran – it’s a single day. One childhood memory that’s haunted the life of a now old man. A life that, during the course of this film, comes to an end.


“I’m fucking terrified of dying,” admits Kyong Ran. “Which inevitably also makes it a fascination. What will remain during our final breaths?” she asks. “What will haunt and soothe us? What are the fragments from our lives that will stand out after a lifetime?” These are the questions the director got to explore at the behest of national treasure Joakim Berg - whose music is both the inspiration and score for the film.

Photo: Kristian Bengtsson

“I’d been asked to create something for his upcoming album release,” explains Kyong Ran. ‘Jag fortsätter glömma (I keep forgetting)’ was Berg’s first record since the breakup of Kent, and very much under wraps when his team reached out to Kyong Ran. “It was all very secret, and they couldn’t send any music over link. So I got to come over to his studio and listen to the whole thing from beginning to end. Which was quite special.”

Jocke’s music has followed me through so many periods of my life. My parents were avid fans, so I grew up with Joakim’s voice bellowing from the stereo of our old family Toyota. Later, I rediscovered it as a teenager. And then again as an adult.

Nim Kyong Ran

Memories rushed in as she listened. “Jocke’s music has followed me through so many periods of my life,” Kyong Ran recalls. “My parents were avid fans, so I grew up with Joakim’s voice bellowing from the stereo of our old family Toyota. Later, I rediscovered it as a teenager, and then again as an adult.” The voice that had narrated her life triggered flashbacks, just as we imagine will happen on the brink of death. “I was melancholic and nostalgic. Thinking about all those places, moments, and people that I would never be able to see again.”

Kyong Ran on the set of 'Ingenmansland'.

Accordingly, Ingenmansland is constructed on the concept of memory; what it looks, feels and sounds like. “I’ve always been fascinated by films that touch themes that can’t be expressed with words,” Kyong Ran muses. “When they asked me to come back with an idea, all I had was the memory of the music to go on. And that’s what became the basis of this project. The bittersweet feeling of digging up the forgotten and repressed, to the fragmented memory of a melody.”

The scenes in Ingenmansland blur into one another, a memory pushing itself into the dark rooms of an old man’s present. “Because the man is slowly fading away, so does the line between reality and dream, past and present,” explains Kyong Ran. “He knows that he’s on the verge of death and is therefore forced to deal with these scars.”

Photo: Kristian Bengtsson

The moment responsible for his pain arrives. The boy’s surroundings are unchanged, still seeped in light and beauty. But his sister is gone; inside him, nothing is the same. “The loss of his sister, devastating in itself, is even more so because it is tainted by guilt,” reflects Kyong Ran. This is what the film is about. “And loneliness, and the forgotten. Which applies both to the fading memories of the sister, and the old man himself, who is withering away without proper care.”

The cinematography and sound tackle the profound themes with ethereality. “I wanted the film to be read as a poem or painting that makes you think and feel rather than understand. Everything from the colour palette to composition has meaning. And our director of photography Arvid Kornstrand and set designer Lina Nordkvist brought this to life beyond my wildest dreams. Everybody involved did.”

Ingenmansland is named after a song from Berg’s 'Jag fortsätter glömma', for which Kyong Ran directed three of the music videos. “But in this piece, I wanted to showcase a story and music that was more elusive and shattered. Like how I felt when I sat in that studio. Joakim generously gave me creative freedom and the stems from 'Ingenmansland', 'Aniara' and 'Rubicon', which enabled the editor Andreas Arvidsson and I to create a whisper of the songs.” But the title holds a deeper meaning for the director too, that relates back to her curiosity for death.

“For me, 'No Man’s Land' always sounded like an afterlife for the lost. A place where people roam without end, searching for the pieces or people they’ve lost. It’s what I named the dream world in the film. A kind of Nangijala, where the lake the siblings used to bathe in becomes a massive landscape of rolling hills. A sea on land, so to speak. Where the boy can finally change the past, and save his sister from the depths.”

Presented by Vogue Scandinavia, in partnership with Stockholm-based production company Pine and Universal Music, Ingenmansland is released today. Click here or hit play below to watch the short film in full.

A film by: Nim Kyong Ran
A production by: Pine
Actors: Samuel C. Danho, Hamadi Khemiri, Antonio Alonso, Amaya Hannula
Executive producers: Adam Holmström Meinking, Joel Rostmark
Producers: Andrea Gyllenskiöld, Ida Larsson
Cinematographer: Arvid Kornstrand
Gaffer: Christine Leuhusen
Set design: Lina Nordqvist
Props master: Linn Jansson
1st AD: Sina Hashem Pour
Directors assistant: Caroline Liv Dagsköld
Production manager: Ludwig Ljung
Coordinator: Lisa Stagnell Johansson
Production assistant: Lova Broberg

Night guard: Karl Gadd
Legal & contracts: Rickard Wallentin
Lifeguard: Linus Magnusson
Choreographer: Matilda Fleberg
Steadicam operator: Morgan Gustafsson
Focus puller: Christoffer Jonsson
2nd AC: Sofia Albin
DIT: Olle Olsson
Sparks: Peter Bulling
Grip: Andreas Lindholm
Sound Technician: Jakob Erlandsson
Stylist: Liselotte Bramstång
Stylist on set: Magdalena Boberg, Malin Ummer
Editor: Andreas Arvidsson, Nim Kyong Ran
Sound design: Calle Buddee Roos, Johan Johnson
Composers: Mats Sandahl, Elias Klenell
Grade: Kajsa Kiuttu
Online: Johan Wiman

Music by: Joakim Berg

Special thanks to:
Ljud & Bild Media
Wgt A&M
Henning Mark
Christina Dorph
Degebergagården B&B