on February 28, 2015
"Inland Empire" was David Lynch's last full length feature film before he started the David Lynch Foundation, a TM-based organization dedicated to helping people through transcendental meditation. Considering the obscene runtime (three hours, almost to the dot) for a film of its transgressive narrative, I feel that Lynch knew this would be his last movie for quite some time because the poor guy just pours his heart and soul into it with everything he's got. Now, I loved it-- I understand the movie, but the reason I can't give it five stars is because the way this movie makes me feel when it's over is something that can't easily be shared with everyone because they can't understand.
The movie is difficult to explain in terms of plot-- something I find myself saying in a lot of the reviews I write for the things I like, but this one takes the cake in terms of movies. Let me try to put it as simply as possible: It's about an actress who gets sucked inside a movie she's working on, becoming the character she plays-- I know a lot of my fellow David Lynch fans are going to come down on me for this and I know that's not a completely accurate description but I'm writing this for the Lynch layman so please bear with me. Laura Dern plays an actress who is working on a movie which is being directed by a prestigious Hollywood director played by Jeremey Irons who reveals to her that their movie is actually a remake of a cursed Polish movie that was never completed due to mysterious and murderous circumstances. This information makes her and her fellow actors uneasy, and almost without warning, her whole world is unmade right before her eyes. That's about as specific as I can get without whipping out a flowchart and some diagrams.
The point is, "Inland Empire" is David Lynch taking on the world, particularly Hollywood. This film is the third part of what's sometimes called the "L.A. trilogy," or "the Hollywood trilogy," the other two films being "Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive." But "Inland Empire" marks a major departure for Lynch, the use of digital filming techniques and the complete absence of absolutely any outside interference from executives. This is Lynch, unbound. There are no rules anymore, nobody in a striped suit with a cigar breathing down his neck saying "Davey, boy, ya need to get Lady Gaga in this picture," or something similar. What we've got here is a director who knows he's about to take an extended hiatus and right before doing so he carefully pieces together a movie that will keep people talking for years. Even now, almost a decade after its release, even the most dedicated David Lynch fans are still struggling to understand what this film means.
It goes from being doom and gloom, to curiosity, to horror, romance, horror again, it culminates in an insane climax one has to see to believe and provides a beautiful and thoughtful ending for everyone who is familiar with the director's work. The rest of the movie is almost swept aside as the journey when the destination is revealed, and it's everything David Lynch has ever been a part of, everything he's ever loved coming together for a spectacle unlike anything seen in any of his prior films. In a way, I feel the "Hollywood Trilogy" is Lynch's way of exorcising the despair he felt over "Dune," a movie which he said "he had divorces more satisfying" than. In the end, the whys and the hows aren't so important as how you feel when the film is done. And I felt good.
The first disk of the DVD set is the movie, the second disk contains several oddball features as have come expected when associated with the director's work. I know the DVD set itself was made with three or four different covers, the one I got is blue and has an image of two faces on it and at the bottom says "2-Disk Special Edition."
`Inland Empire' is full of surprises. Convoluted and suspenseful we follow the story lines of successful actress Nikki (Laura Dern) who is waiting for the results of a tryout for a new Hollywood movie, `On High in Blue Tomorrows`. Soon she is visited by her new Polish immigrant neighbor. In her nosey way she pries information, but also intensely warns her of bad omens. She foretells that Nikki will obtain the part she has tried out for, but the story, is a remake and a murder will take place. She intensely relates folk tales, including one about a girl at the marketplace in an alley behind the palace who loses her memory. "Forgetfulness happens to us all," she relates. She also incessantly speaks of "unpaid bills" in a scathing fashion. Rebuffing the neighbor's pointed comments, the actress asks the suspicious elderly woman to leave.
The movie fast-forwards to the next day as the woman foretells in the narration. The gypsy fades out with a vengeance. Nikki gets the part, and on the set we meet Devon (Justin Theroux), her dashing, handsome co-star. The director (Jeremy Irons) facilitates a script reading where he relates that the film is indeed a remake; one where a murder took place and was allegedly cursed from the start.
From here the movie weaves its way through many scenes. Nikki's husband warns the young co-star of the consequences of sneaking out with his actress wife. Some feature Southern characters Billy and Sue in the movie, but they are so closely connected to their actual lives that we begin to lose our own grip on reality. Eerily suspenseful scenes show (Nikki or Sue) walking through a house in bewildered trepidation. Then, we are transported to the lives of the screen couple in the backyard. Next, we find them in Poland during the dead of winter. In one scene the actors are having an affair; in another the characters are. To spice things up, we get a play with actors in rabbit costumes performing an absurdist comedy. At certain points, just when we feel grounded, a woman is watching all the drama on television in her dark apartment.
The developments of `Inland Empire' are intriguing. Like `French Lieutenant's Woman' (significantly also with Jeremy Irons) there's a movie story mixed within a real story. Unlike `FLW' it isn't easy to tell where one story ends and the other begins. In ways like Altman's `The Player,' we have to decide what components are real and which are not. One finds oneself asking many questions while watching the movie. Which parts are from the movie? Which parts are real life? Are the scenes in Poland real or are they components of the original film? Is this all seen through a viewer's eyes or is it all part of the movie? Is she crazy or is her character crazy? Surely, the theme of misogyny is at the forefront as we come across prostitutes and male abuse. Not to mention the claustrophobic fishbowl existence of celebrity life. One thing is for certain, the movie is assembled expertly. It comes across like a mansion full of mirrors--like a fun/haunted house. Not everyone will like the exit strategy (Afterall, who likes hitting the pavement after a funhouse?) but it certainly provides a strange and intense experience.
on August 15, 2007
With Inland Empire, (and I must add Mulholland Drive too), David Lynch, I suspect, has begun to turn inward, most likely mirroring the bizarre twisted view he has of Hollywood. He shows the Hollywood sign almost right away. I am sure to some extent he sees this word on a day to day basis, meeting big phony types, muscle with money, burnt out old stars, pretty boys, nymphs, foreigners, empty sound stages, lame lunch meetings, half baked projects, empty mansions with nothing going on, and all the horrid, strange people met and absorbed on that filthy rich littered landscape. Take all this, and twist it up, pull it, heat it, and mirror it upon itself, upside down and backwards through the Lynch mind and you have Inland Empire.
To say it was either good or bad would be doing the film an injustice. David Lynch's films have become so enigmatic, this one in particular, that to give a yay or nay nod to the film would be to feign some sort of rudimentary understanding of it. I suspect Lynch himself knows no more what he is doing than any of us do, say, when we are asleep, deep in dreams, floating in the abyss of our minds collective soup. This is not a bad thing it's just become surrealism, pure and simple. This is a surrealist film. It cannot be judged as most films are. It stands, pretty much, outside the scope of what I mostly see. I enjoy the change I assure you. Yet the film does not register with me as most films do. This film floats.
One part even seems culled from an old Abbot & Costello routine with Irons telling Bucky to move it down while Bucky comically moves it up.
Other parts, with actors from his other films seem almost as if they have spilled right out of those Lynch movies as real/imagined actors moving on to appear in Inland Empire, as fictional versions of themselves. The recognizable faces such as Dern & Irons only help to remind me I am watching a made up film. I found it hard to lose myself in this. This is often the case with recognizable talent where little or nothing is done to make their People Magazine, normal, every day faces look different. I suspect this was intentional. Still anyone's guess is as good as mine. Lynch has just become so esoteric that reviewing this film on acid would probably get one better results.
It's worth seeing, and more than once for sure. Is it worth loving? For me, the verdict is still out. Sometimes films need a few decades to cook in my mind before they gel into something my unconscious starts to desire all on its own.
on May 31, 2007
I strongly disagree with the person who says this movie has no plot. I just think it takes mental effort to stay focused and understand it. I have only seen it once so far, and quite frankly I was fading out during the last hour, so I def. need to watch it again, but it did make a lot of sense to me. I'm sure it will make sense in a different way to someone else.
The movie is pretty staightforward until the scene where Laura is having a romantic moment with her movie costar. She tells him "This is just like a scene from the movie." and then realizes that the cameras are rolling, and gets disoriented. At this point the move really breaks from the reality thus far, which I appreciated since that moment was so awkward and tense.
The rest is very dreamlike. I have always thought that Eraserhead is the closest representation to my dreams than anything else in real life, and this picks up on that a bit. We see some of Nikki's dreams, where I believe she is dreaming about her lover's old flings all in one room. Her story runs parallel to the actors who tried to film this movie in Poland and died during filming, and their story is shown a bit. The male actor dies later on, which I had been anticipating. We also see the story that the woman told in the beginning panning out.
It is confusing and I need to watch it again. I highly recommend watching it in the theatre first since Mr. Lynch is aware of his theatre audience and plays of off this. There are points of it that may never make sense to me, and some storylines that I don't quite see how they fit in. But I figure if I can anticipate events before they occur then it can't make no sense. This is a movie I feel I could talk about for hours, if only someone was willing to talk about it with me. It is quite an experience, I love the cinematography, the intense close-ups, the dark colors, the actors. I enjoy taking something to think about away from it.
A great movie.
on April 16, 2015
One of my favorite movies of all time now! Excellent! If you like a more traditional film in which you are given a beginning, a middle, and an ending, or where you aren't required to do much thinking or perhaps you like a movie that is a standard hour and a half, this movie might not be for you. If you are okay with committing to a three hour movie (plus over an hour more in the special features) and knowing ahead that you may not understand the story or have a sense that everything is folded up neatly and all the answers are given, and you enjoy looking at a beautiful piece of film sheerly for the asthetics, then you will adore this flick. I get something new from it on each viewing. It's time for another movie, David. We wait patiently :)
on August 20, 2007
I managed to catch this film just before it finished its brief run at a local theater here in Chicago, and I'm so glad I made the trip. I can't say that I know what the movie is about, and I have to be honest: I don't care (though I enjoy reading the different perspectives among filmgoers who DO have their ideas on what it's really about). If the purpose of a good film or piece of music is to provoke an emotional response out of the viewer/listener, then "Inland Empire" achieved this in spades, and this makes it a terrific film in my view. I was fully riveted for all three hours and was not bored for one single minute. And it's unlike any film I've ever seen before.
I'll concede right away it's not for everyone - but I truly believe it to be something special and really love it. Laura Dern's performance is something else, and I can't think of another well-known American actress who would be bold enough to approach a role like this (though Julianne Moore comes to mind), much less put their trust in Lynch as Dern does here, and has done so before.
And though this is in digital video, I still found it to be filmed in a rich kind of way. Not sumptuous like "Mulholland Drive" (probably my favorite Lynch film of all), but still with the same care I believe Lynch puts into any of his films. The use of sound is great too. Also, though I read in a local film review about one scene where "you'll want to scream...you probably will", I was still not prepared for the impact. I actually thought I'd already seen the moment in question, but was I ever wrong! When it did happen, I was frozen in my seat - a really frightening combination of sound and image that's hard to get out of your head.
I still think about this movie every day or so - it really stays with you. Again, not for everybody, not by a longshot. But so glad I saw it and look forward to viewing it again at home.
on June 12, 2009
Some very interesting theories in the Discussions Section on this film. Which is what prompted this review.
Finally, for me at least, a cohesive and coherent Lynch film.
Detailed metaphors, symbols, and Mcguffins (or my lack of catching all the symbolism) aside, here's what I took away from this film upon my initial viewing: The film is simply about a woman forced to relive her brutal murder over and over again under the theory of eternal recurrence for her egotistical karma and harmful infidelities. (Eternal recurrence is an archaic and Nietzschean concept. Woody Allen made a joke about this theory in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. "Great, now I'll have to sit through the Ice Capades again.")
Allow me to preface my theory about this film by saying: from what we have learned from ancient Eastern thought and physics, time is not a linear event. The concept of time is temporal and subjective. It is possible that multiple timelines may co-exist as a singular event. In "eternal recurrence," the same existence or life is played out over and over again thru time. In Hindu religions it's expressed as the Wheel of Time. Nikki Grace is trapped by her karma or by The Karmic Wheel of Time. According to Eastern doctrines, we all are. Birth, death, and rebirth. Samsara. The only escape according to some Eastern philosophies is thru enlightenment, by paying for that karma ("a past-due bill"), or by altering it. Or, by some other Lynchean shift in consciousness. The Phantom, or Crimp, represents Nikki's "animus" (The masculine inner personality of a female in Jungian psychology.) or her evil karma. Nikki is warned of her Phantom personality or karma by the old gypsy woman at the beginning, "evil was born and followed the boy." Only when Nikki finally kills the Phantom, or her adulterous evil twin, can she free herself from her eternal karma. Free herself from the endless cycle of birth and death. Become enlightened. The Crying Girl (credited as The Lost Girl) represents Nikki in her latest incarnation on The Karmic Wheel of Time, watching her karma and her numerous nightmare lives unfold on TV right before her eyes. The death of The Phantom, or the cleansing of her filthy karma, frees Nikki from the trappings of time and ego, while also freeing Nikki in her current incarnation as The Crying Girl. She has broken her evil karma which allows her, as The Crying Girl, to finally achieve marital bliss, children, and karmic happiness. By the end, Nikki has changed her karma. That's it, in a Lynchean nutshell.
(During my second viewing of the film, I realized that Nikki initiates her evil karma in a past life by murdering her husband and his lover, for which she must suffer karmic payment for her own infidelities by being murdered in a similar fashion during future incarnations.)
Certainly valid, if one considers Lynch's adherence to Eastern Vedic thought, philosophy, and meditation. Lynch even quotes the Upanishads in the DVD extras.
The Rabbits are the coolest concept Lynch has come up with in a very long time. Awesome and hypnotic. Like a Magritte painting. Mind blowing to say the least. Would love to see this flick on shrooms. To me, the Rabbits represent the karmic materialistic trappings of ego. Samsara. Or, eternal Hell on Earth. If only Lynch had had the temerity to linger on the static images of them for a much longer time in the film. They are macabre. (You can find some 6 to 8 minute episodes on YouTube. Unfortunately, they were not included on the Bonus Disc.) Everyone else's interpretation about this film and the Rabbits is wholly valid. What a cool flick. My hope is that, after spending more time with it, I may see it as a Masterpiece.
Not being a fan of MD or LH by any means, I had given up on Lynch. (The only reason I rented IE is because I was intrigued by the trailer.) So, I have no idea how this narrative is applied to MD. In my opinion this is his best film since WAH and FWWM.
Even though I understand the aesthetic that Lynch was going for with this piece, I only wish he would have used real film, maybe a better digital camera, or brought the film more into focus. I also wish he had used better ambient lighting in certain shots. This film was far too dark in places when it wasn't necessary. The soft dirty focus, vignetting, and fisheyed close-ups were a distraction at times, and played a large part in almost annihilating my full enjoyment of this film. IMO, this was an unnecessary device to exhibit Lynchean dreamtime. However, I may change my opinions about this after subsequent viewings. My theory is that the entire narrative takes place in dreamtime. (Parts of the film were too grounded in reality for dream narrative. I actually wish it had been a little bit more cryptic.) For the entire film to be in soft focus to simulate dreamtime, puts a very big demand upon a modern viewer. I feel that his use of music and his Lynchean set pieces are all that are ever needed to present his inner dreamworlds. However, it is his painting, not mine. (The scratchy phonograph needle that was used to represent one of Nikki's past lives was a nice touch.) I do love the raw grainy look of old film. It's like dragging a dry oil paint brush across a canvas so that the texture of the painting surface shows thru. But, I feel that it's very easy to get carried away with the newer medium of digital tape. Unfortunately, Lynch says he'll never use real film again. Too bad. :(
Aside from being a dreamscape, comparisons to ERASERHEAD are baffling to me. This piece wasn't quite on the same level as ERASERHEAD (is anything?), but it is a very fine Lynch film, none the less. Past reviewers that complained about the "editorial sloppiness" are way off base about this film. IMO, every scene is crucial to the narrative. Nothing was extraneous. (As a matter of fact, I felt that a few scenes adding more clues about The Phantom were needed.) The film is ponderous at times for the average viewer, but the 3 hour running time moved by very quickly for me.
All of the music cues Lynch utilized for this piece were excellent, including his own compositions. I'm especially partial to his ambient music and The Rabbits' theme. Most excellent.
Everything you've heard is right on the money, Laura Dern IS truly amazing in this. A very giving performance. (In some of her scenes, she looks so much like her mother Diane Ladd, it's eerie.)
INLAND EMPIRE indeed.
The DVD extras are great. Over an hour of extra footage, most of which was not necessary to the narrative and was rightly cut. His interview is shorter than the one on the ERASERHEAD DVD, but he seemed more prepared and relaxed in this interview. I love his thoughts on music and the importance of proper theater and home theater equipment for the purpose of achieving the full intent of the artist's vision during playback. (One of my pet peeves are friends that insist on watching films on computer monitors.) Lynch goes off on people that watch films on computers and cell phones. He gets angry and very sad by the use of technology and its trend towards the "putrification" of this artform. (Lynch, I feel your pain, man.) Watching him work behind the scenes was very cool. Because his signature technique is mood, I've always had the feeling that Lynch was very meticulous and demanding in his direction to his actors, and it shows here. "Anyone need some Fixall?" Great stuff!
Now, if we could just get Lynch to film a true biography on Francis Bacon, everything would be right with the world. Or, at least right with the Lynchean Universe.
An ex-Lynchead that is intrigued by Lynch again.
This is really good.
Yes, three hours is a long time to sit still so I would recommend watching it in small doses and letting it work its way into your imagination a little at a time.
First of all this is the work of a master interrogator of the subconscious. What Lynch captures is the way the subconscious constructs its own realities and selves out of the strata of inchoate memories, feelings, and desires. But the self is never altogether stable nor completely secure for those memories and feelings and desires are always shifting and giving way to new memories, feelings, desires and selves.
In reality creative people (writers, directors, actors, painters, poets, ...) are always constructing and exploring the virtual worlds and selves that they create. This is their status quo. But what Lynch does is create a kind of paranoid fantasy world where his main character, Laura Dern, experiences multiple versions of herself amid multiple narratives. And she is powerless to choose between her actual self (if any version can be considered the authentic one) and the virtual self (or selves) that she is enacting or simply witnessing (its unclear whether she has any agency in this). All realities are equally real to her and as the film progresses she becomes more and more lost to any singular originary self.
One of her selves is a smoldering 1940's femme fatale that she is cast to play in a film within a film and another is a prim and pregnant barefoot housewife and another is a call girl in what looks like a Fiona Apple video but all are emanations from "Laura Dern's" own fragmented consciousness. Her 1940's self is helped along by a film script directed by film within a film director Jeremy Irons that requires/allows her to play the part of an adulterous southern belle but this is more than a mere role for the playing of it is informed by very real desires to rebel against the constraints and pressures of her more subdued self/reality and to enjoy in the hidden country of cinema and art and dreams what is taboo and what is forbidden without any inhibition whatsoever. But one or two selves or realites will not suffice...
Under her own watchful gaze her selves and realities continue to multiply. Almost like an audience member, or some impassive spectator to her own multiple performances, she witnesses her life become a kaliedoscopic swirl of virtual selves and realites with no actual center.
Identity crisis has never been so inticing, so sexy, so dangerous, so dizzying, and so creepy.
Lynch even throws in some Bunny theatre for good measure (perhaps as a kind of meta-comment on arts inability to make heads or tails of our chaotic existence).
This is intensely enjoyable for lovers of the avant-garde and/or lovers of psychological horror films like Polanski's Repulsion, Roeg's Don't Look Now, Kubrick's The Shining, and Lynch's own Mulholland Drive.
on March 1, 2014
This is one of my three favorite David Lynch films (Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive being the other two). All three follow a similar narrative style, which I have finally figured out well enough to enjoy. I'm hooked on these films, but Lynch's work is not everyone's idea of fun. They are profoundly dense and difficult to understand. It takes multiple screenings and quite a bit of reading to understand them. It takes work to get to the fun. Wikipedia has good analyses of all three, and gives jumping-off points for further study. This one is about the movie business. Maybe.
on March 2, 2013
For those that have ever seen a David Lynch movie, they know what they are getting into, which ironically is the unexpected. This movie is no exception. If this is Lynch's swan song, it was a damn good finale