Inland Empire (2006)


General Information:

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David Lynch


David Lynch


Laura Dern; Jeremy Irons; Justin Theroux


Nikki Grace loosing her mind in David Lynch's labyrinthine nightmare, Inland Empire (2006)

Nikki Grace loosing her mind in David Lynch’s labyrinthine nightmare, Inland Empire (2006)

This might not make any sense:

Put a golden watch on. Stab a random person with a screwdriver – who is inside an alternate reality, or a film, and might just turn out to be you. Pick up a piece of silk. Light a cigarrete. Using the cigarrette, burn a hole through the piece of silk. Look through the hole. You’re now in a different world; explore this world. Is it in the past, present or future? Yesterday, today or tomorrow? Or all of these? Is this world that you’re just about managing to peer through – via the piece of silk – all a dream, or all a film, or all of these? After you’ve solved that, pick up a phone and call a random co-worker, who by chance is wearing a bunny-rabbit costume; this person may be in the film that you’re trapped in, or might not, or might actually be you, but then again, might not be. Remove eye contact from the hole in the piece of silk. Watch the credits go up. Think about how David Lynch has toyed with your mind in such a way that he’s given you the parodox that is the nice headache.

Now, I get baffled by most of David Lynch films, but none more so than his latest effort. His movies are like environments as opposed to films. He gives us the door to them and lets us step inside, we experience the nightmarish world that he’s created and once it’s over we’re not quite sure if we ever want to step back in them again.

This pretty much describes the elusive, paradoxical and complicated atmosphere which Inland Empire creates. I don’t pretend to understand Inland Empire, because well…I don’t. But like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, that’s all part of the fun. David Lynch is the only director I know of who can make a film where the more you don’t understand what’s going on, the more you like it, as opposed to being frustrated.

Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) plays – to quote the tagline – “the woman in trouble”. She’s cast in a new film, which is actually a remake of a never-finished Polish film entitle “47”. The first hour or so seems to be like the first half of Mulholland Drive: we think that we just about understand what’s going on until the rug is pulled underneath us, or rather wrapped around us so violently that we fall down a hill tumbling into sheer Lynchland, where apparently you know it happened yesterday, but it’s actually tomorrow. For example, during one of the opening scenes, I felt a sheer sense of delight watching, perhaps one of the most naturalistic scenes in the movie. Nikki, Devon (Justin Theroux) and Kingsley (excellently played by Jeremy Irons) sit round a table reading the lines for the film that they’re about to shoot. The scene lasts for around seven minutes and the majority consists of Nikki and Devon delivering their lines. We can tell that Nikki and Devon are skilled actors, and there’s that rare moment when watching a movie, where you are tricked by the director to believe it, the scene feels real. Yet, during the end of the scene, one of the actors hears a sound, and Devon goes to inspect in the set where it came from, he can’t find anything, yet of course, later on in the film, we fit the puzzling shards that Lynch creates to solve what happened during the read-through…and then…well, I couldn’t ‘solve’ what else happened. The best way to watch a film by David Lynch is not necessarily to try and understand what’s going on but just to let it wash over you. Repeated viewings are necessary for understanding.

Laura Dern gives a naturalistic performance

Laura Dern gives a naturalistic performance

Later on in the film, Nikki gets trapped in the film world that she’s playing, to such an extent that the real world where her director, Kingsley exists in, is no longer there. Fiction has become reality, and as we watch these events unfold, we just have to kind of accept that Lynch has gone completely bonkers and deal with this bizarre narrative. Of course, it gets more complicated, as Lynch also involves the production of the original film (not the remake that Nikki and Devon are filming) into the events as well. It’s more confusing to us, because Lynch isn’t a director that likes to ‘spoon-feed’ his audience. He never gives us any clues about what film we’re in or whether we’re in reality or fiction. The film never fades to black so that he can show us a subtitle saying: “FILMING THE REMAKE” or “FILMING 47”, or simply: “REALITY” and “FICTION”. Instead, we’re forced to work it out for ourselves, and this – if you like to have your mind fucked with – is all part of the ride.

Now for some objective drivel. Inland Empire is he first film to be shot in digital by Lynch, yet, it’s shot on a poor quality digital, we can just about make out the pixels, and this gives the film an amateur-film quality, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it adds to the films themes and style more. Lynch goes wild with close-ups and hand-held shots, to such an extent that we’re occasionally aware that THIS IS A FILM WE’RE WATCHING. The hand-held camera techniques used in this film very much reminded me of a technically brilliant horror film called The Cellar Door.

Bizarre close-up of Nikki Grace in one of the opening scenes of Inland Empire (2006)

Bizarre close-up of Nikki Grace in one of the opening scenes of Inland Empire (2006)

The acting is pitch perfect, Laura Dern gives an excellent performance about a woman who’s world is blening ever so more with the fictional and is slowly loosing her mind. Jeremy Iron’s performance bizarrely reminds me of a young Stanley Kubrick – he gives off the air that he’s a director who is at once enthusiastic and then a complete meticulous perfectionist. The soundtrack in this film is so bizarre that it should go in the album Crazy Clown Time or be put on an acid-addicts playlist on their iPod. Yet, even though it’s technically faultless, there is one fault I do have with Lynch’s most recent film. Perhaps it’s just me, but it doesn’t seem to have a personality, and could easily be mistaken for simply being confusing for confusions sake. It’s like an experiment. I can imagine this being a film being made by Lynch if he was a film student going to the NYFA. As much as I appreciate its experimental efforts, to me the film lacked a tone, Mulholland Drive was beautiful and hypnotic, Lost Highway was disturbing and frightening, Blue Velvet was mysterious and bizarrely funny…this was just confusing.

I shall now end with some form of epigrammatic statement which (and yes, it took me ages to come up with it, so you should bloody well appreciate it, you lazy person staring at a computer screen): Inland Empire is like a shattered window, where all of the shards are mixed up randomly on the floor, and some shards taken away. It’s the fact that some shards are taken away that makes it difficult: we get the sense that Lynch hasn’t quite told us everything, and that he much prefers to leae it up to our imagination instead.

On a side-note, Inland Empire has rabbits ironing clothes.




This one’s for die-hard Lynch fans, and if you’ve never been Lynchified before, watch Mulholland Drive first. It’s the most daring, bold and experimental film, Lynch has ever made (yes, even more so than his earlier short-films), yet it’s strength may also be its weakness, it’s a film without a soul.