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Inland Empire (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on February 15, 2013

An actress.  A script.  An old curse.  A Polish prostitute.  A possessive husband.  Hollywood.  A hypnotist.  A sitcom.  A woman in trouble.

These are just some of the building blocks for David Lynch’s three-hour long mindfuck, a film that defies plot summaries or even abstract interpretations.  The web is rife with attempts to put Inland Empire into some kind of comprehensible framework, but I feel that’s missing the point.  There are repeated lines and clues and symbols (a screwdriver, a watch) but I don’t think it’s a puzzle waiting to be solved.  When you think you’ve got a grasp on it, it turns and slips away from you.  It begs to be interpreted and at the same time denies any straightforward reading.  Time folds back on itself, worlds open into other worlds, people are two, three, four different characters.  The movie-within-the-movie becomes the movie, and becomes something else.  It is the purest expression of Lynch’s dreamlogic.

Laura Dern navigates a landscape that mixes Hollywood and Poland, the mundane and the mysterious.  Her performance turns as abruptly as the story, evoking multiple variations of “a woman in trouble”.  Like an extension of Mulholland Drive, at least part of this film could reasonably be read as an allegory of how the movie business treats its actresses.  And there are satirical elements about Hollywood as well… the director’s focus on awards, the inappropriate laugh track on the sitcom, the gossipy talk show.  But I wouldn’t say Lynch is making any kind of statement, just filtering what he sees through his own sensibility, one of the most original sensibilities in cinema.

The sound design and use of music is astonishing.  It creeps up on you and lingers under you and sometimes slaps you around and sometimes makes your hairs stand up.  The digital video is put to excellent effect, beautifully harsh and uncompromising.  It makes things look both otherworldly and shockingly real.  At times the light is blown out, other times it reveals only vague, grainy shapes shifting around.  Sometimes in the same shot.  Lynch is constantly shifting gears, which raises the film’s immersive intensity and makes the three hours fly by…. as long as you’re along for the ride.

It’s a work of pure moods, where what is happening is rarely as important as how it’s happening and what it’s doing to you.  I admit there are one or two points that are less than compelling — and it’s only these few parts that keep the film out of my favorite 100 — but in a way, they’re welcome breathers from the madness of it all.  A film that startles, delights, fascinates and terrifies.  Rating: Great (94)


4 Responses to “Inland Empire (rewatch)”

  1. I love this film, one of my favorites! May I ask which two points you did not find compelling?

  2. […] 102. Inland Empire (2006, David Lynch) […]

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