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Inland Empire (David Lynch) [2006] - 10.98

Though Inland Empire's three hours of befuddling abstraction could try the patience of the most devoted David Lynch fan, its aim to reinvigorate the Lynch-ian symbolic order is ambitious, not to mention visually arresting. The director's archetypes recognizable from previous movies once again construct the film's inherent logic, but with a new twist. Sets vibrate between the contemporary and a 1950s alternate universe crammed with dim lamps, long hallways, mysterious doors, sparsely furnished rooms and, this time, a vortex/apartment/sitcom set where rabbit-masked humans dwell, and a Polish town where women are abused and killed. Instead of speaking backwards, mystic soothsayers and criminals speak Polish. Filmed on video, the film's look has the sinister, frightening feel of a Mark Savage film or a bootlegged snuff movie. Constant close-ups, both in and out of focus, make Inland Empire feel as if a stalker covertly filmed it.

A straightforward, hokey plot unravels during the first third of Inland Empire to ground the viewer before a dive off the deep end. Actor Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is cast as Susan Blue, an adulterous white trash Southerner, in a film that mimics too closely her actual life with an overbearingly jealous and dangerous husband. When Nikki and co-star Devon (Justin Theroux) learn that the cursed film project was earlier abandoned when its stars were murdered, the pair lose their grasp of reality. Nikki suffers a schizophrenic identity switch to Sue that lasts until nearly the film's end. Suspense builds as Nikki's alter ego sleuths her way through surreal situations to discover her killer, culminating in Sue's gnarly death on set. Sue's actions drag on because any sign of a narrative thread disappears due to idiosyncratic editing. Non-sensical scenes still captivate, however, such as when Sue stumbles onto the soundstage where she finds Nikki (herself) rehearsing for Sue's part. In this meta-film about identity slippage, Dern's multiple characters remind one of how a victim can become the hunter in their fight for survival. Lynch's portrayal of Nikki/Sue's increasing paranoia is, in its own confusion, utterly realistic. Laura Dern has created her own Lady Macbeth, undone by her guilt over infidelity. Even though Inland Empire is too long and too random, Laura Dern's performance coupled with Lynch's video experiments make it magical. --Trinie Dalton

Customer reviews (av rating: 4.0):

Rating: 5:
Lynch's Digital Masterpeice? : I saw this film for the first time last night. I have always been a big fan of David Lynch and this didn't disappoint. The film can be seen as part of a loose trilogy including Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive. All of these films are set in LA, have a non-conventional narrative structure, and allude to crime and film noir in same way. Inland Empire is the longest, most experimental and complex of the three films.


Subtitled 'women in trouble' Inland Empire follows the making of a melodrama based on an unfinished Polish film where the lead actors were murdered. The key performance of the film is from Laura Dern (who worked with Lynch last on Wild At Heart) and essentially, the film looks at a variety of identities that she assumes/performs/lives, as an actor or as a character. The film is framed by 'the lost girl' who watches the film unfold on a TV as well as a rabbit based sit-com and scenes from the original film in Poland. Both she and Dern wonder through a variety of interiors, either homes or film sets and shift between real, filmed or imagined situations. Various concepts, motifs and images reoccur continually either subtly or alarmingly different each time, forming a complex and mysterious collage. That may sound pretty confusing so it soon becomes clear this is a film to be experienced rather than understood in the conventional sense.

As with so much of Lynch's work, there is the sense of a surreal yet mundane dream-logic to proceedings and Dern in particular seems to be reacting or mediating events from a distance and when she does 'act' the consequences can be horrifying or at the least disturbing. It is a beautiful audio visual feast, which reaffirms the power of cinema, something lost to conventional Hollywood films long ago. It draws you in, as if under hypnosis, and is made all the more focused as a single vision by the technology of digital video.

The first viewing only touches the surface, as with all great art you have to return to it again and again to begin to unravel it's mystery.

Rating: 3:
5 stars and more for the film, 1 star for this optimum release : The film clearly gets 5 stars from me and would get more if it was possible. but that's not the reason i'm writing this. the reason is that optimum has put freaking COMMERCIALS in front of this film (3 of them). this is just completely unforgivable for any decent release of a david lynch film. it's like publishing an ingenious shakespeare text and putting mickey mouse on the cover of the book. just terrible. also, recently wild at heart, lost highway, fire walk with me and optimum's very own edition of mulholand drive have been published in beautiful digipak editions. this is just a regular case with absolutely nothing in it but the two discs.

the only thing that's right about this optimum's release is the front cover, which looks good and good looking menus. but like i've said, putting commercials in front of any movie you BUY on dvd is just dazzling and putting them in front of a lynch film is a blasphemy. i thought we've has enough of that crap in cinemas. but no.

Rating: 5:
superb mind-bender : It's difficult to know where to start with Lynch's latest film. Firstly, before pressing the 'play' button, you'll need to put aside ideas of any kind of conventional narrative structure. In a similar vein to Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, this feels like a large jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't quite fit (except this puzzle is much, much larger and more complex...). Inland Empire contains a kind of anthology of the ideas of those two previous films - shattered Hollywood dreams, identity transformation, menacing gangster figures, magic portals and more.
From the very opening, the atmosphere is one of nightmarish unease - the film's central premise is introduced; Laura Dern's character takes the part in a film which has been previously postponed (we later find out due to the two lead actors' having been murdered). Other parts of the jigsaw include a gypsy curse which may or may not be connected with the film (in the film). A portal in the set of the film seems to be a portal leading to a brothel somewhere in eastern Europe. A canned laughter sitcom-like set-up (but without jokes) where the characters are dressed in bunny outfits...
This can be, in parts, a difficult film to watch but this is only down to the fact that your brain will be working overtime trying to figure out how it all fits together (when perhaps it actually doesn't...). There are certainly no easy answers, which makes this film all the more rewarding. Inland Empire feels to me like a culmination of everything that has been great about Lynch's work up to this point.

Rating: 5:
Not for everyone, but definitely for me. : I've seen enough of David Lynch's films to understand why they won't be to everyones taste. The man is known is known for his unorthodox approach to cinema, and often incorporates dream sequences or flashbacks without warning. His last film 'Mulholland Drive' absolutely blew me away. I thought it was amazingly written and acted, and stylishly directed. I considered that to be his masterpiece, and could not see how could he could top it.

I'd heard a lot about this film. I'd heard some describe it as THE definitive Lynch film, and after Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, I was eager to see his latest work. However, many fans seem to have dismissed it as a pretentious mess, and commented on the sometimes-poor visual quality (due to it being filmed using digital video rather than film). It arrived through my letterbox yesterday, so I went round to a friends to watch it. And we could not believe how amazing it is. Simply put, this film is a staggering cinematic experience, and one like no other. I've never felt so bewildered and impressed by a film, nor have I ever felt like a film has taken me on such a journey. Laura Dern truly shocked me in this, as I did not believe she was capable of such versatile and convincing acting. The use of atmospheric sound and music makes it captivating and sublime. Even the visual quality only adds its surreal nature. It is reminiscent of both your best dream and worst nightmare.

*SPOILER ALERT* It took me a few watches to get to grips with the plot, but as far as I can tell, the central character (simply named the 'lost girl') is trapped in some sort of limbo. She is sitting in a room watching TV, and everything she sees (which makes up the majority of Inland Empire) reflects her life in some way. On TV, we see Laura Dern playing an actress named Nikki. She has got a part in a film named 'On High In Blue Tomorrows', playing a woman called Sue. It is announced that it is a remake of an older film, that was started but never finished (apparently because it was cursed and some of the original cast died). As production starts, Nikki seemingly becomes trapped inside the film as Sue. Sue cheats on her husband with a man named Billy, and becomes pregnant. Her husband, knowing he can't father children, leaves her and travels to Europe with a circus. Sue then announces her love to Billy, whose wife becomes angry with her. Her life spirals downhill, and she ends up as a prostitute. After recalling these events in her life to an unnamed man with glasses, Billy's wife stabs Sue on the street, allegedly because she was hypnotised into doing so. Sue dies, and we are pulled back into reality as the filming stops. However, Nikki - though alive - still seems to be trapped in the role of Sue, and after confronting the Phantom responsible for this curse, kills him. She then walks into the room with the lost girl, kisses her, and both appear to be set free. The lost girl returns to the family she feared she had lost, and Sue returns to the life of Nikki. The film then ends with a celebratory song and dance. Throughout these proceedings are random flashbacks to the unfinished original film, complete with Polish dialogue, and a sitcom set with rabbits that seem to mimmick everything else that's going on.

Many people hated this, and frequented message boards to divulge at length how terrible they think it is. I take my hat off to Lynch. He's taken experimental film-making as far as I could ever imagine it can go without looking like typical student film-esque garbage. He has truly raised the bar (for me, at least), and blown my expectations well out of the water. If anyone reading is prepared to put themselves through a surreal 3 hour film, I would strongly recommend it. It is a truly rewarding experience. My favourite film of all time.

Rating: 2:
"Inland Empire"? I'd Rather Watch "The Brittas Empire"... : Okay, I probably wouldn't rather watch the risible 90's sitcom "The Brittas Empire" than this film. But, to be honest, it's a close call. Sorry, folks, but "Inland Empire" is, for the most part, insufferably dull.

I have no hesitation in stating that David Lynch is one of my favourite directors. Many of his films could well fit in to my all-time top ten - "The Elephant Man" and "Mulholland Drive" being two notable examples amongst a plethora of cinematic treasures.

Lynch has a reputation for directing visually arresting, quirky, nightmarish and downright EXCELLENT movies. Just check out "Lost Highway" or the aforementioned "Mulholland Drive". Both are suspenseful, gripping, visually stunning and contain utterly confounding plotlines! The very confounding nature of these films means that they can ultimately be enjoyed again and again.

"Inland Empire", on the other hand, simply left me cold. It is shot on digicam, resulting in a muddy picture quality and giving the whole film a distinctly distant nature. Not effective, in my opinion.

Once again, the plot here is confusing to say the least. I usually relish David Lynch's puzzles that are famously "open to interpretation". With this movie, however, I ultimately found that I did not much care what was going on. Tragically, my overriding reaction to this film was INDIFFERENCE.

I don't think this film sits too well in Lynch's catalogue, to be honest. It pales in comparison to his masterpieces such as "Blue Velvet" and "Wild at Heart". Hell, it certainly wasn't worth waiting 6 years for!

If you are looking for an abstract and experimental contemporary movie, Aronofsky's "The Fountain" is a far better bet than "Inland Empire". "The Fountain" is stunningly shot and superbly suspenseful. In fact, it is remeniscent of David Lynch at his finest.

"Inland Empire", on the other hand, is nothing less than a disappointment.

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