I am David Lynch, I am making another film in which reality and fiction blur, in which identity is fluid or at least questionable, in which acting is sometimes being and being acting, in which directing is keeping a viewer unnerved by any means...I think...maybe this time I've alchemised the right elements, pushed the right boundaries...to open a door to a truer, primal reality where I am so fluent in the language of the collective unconcious that the connection between me and the viewer will be magical, and resonate and change our lived experiences...
...sadly for lynch Inland empire is not that time. There's no point introducing the narrative because it's particularly bare here (an actress gets a role in a film which turns out to be a cursed remake of a film based on a polish folk tale which was never finished due to the murder of the two leads, as life and film plot blur a nightmarish journey ensues, no further plot development occurs) I'm not saying that in criticism because its clear that narrative simply isn't the point. It is not clear however, what is the point. When interviewed lynch typically only ever offers the opinion that film should not be easily comprehended or experienced. Still, i thought i had come to appreciate the director's work enough that i could no longer feel such venomous frustration as i had after first viewing mullholland drive. If anything if feel more frustrated after inland empire, it had little more to offer to me than an exercise in endured cruelty.
With an outstanding cast of lynch regulars there are moments of light, but there's simply not enough to hold onto for 3 hours;the final hour in particular is like being led around an unfamiliar dark interior waiting for an inevitable sudden nightmarish vision of you-don't-know-what-yet. One is so fatigued by the journey that one wishes for this inevitable lynchian moment to be scarred on one's brain ASAP, "why is this still going?" and still, when it does, "why did i wish for that?". His bag of tricks: dialogue that is subversivley realistic but out of place, drawing out a moment so far that the length of time itself is the main cause of tension, heavily repeated visual clues (this film wants us to fear lamps for some reason) and disorienting structure. These elements are all used here, perhaps more heavily than ever and although not inelegant it is unfriendly and self indulgent.
It is a shame then that laura dern gives an exceptional performance, supported by other excellent performances, because few will endure the murky sea of the film to see them. Acting and being ...when one stops and the other begins...is a key theme here but if it weren't for the dern's apparent skill this too would have been unintelligable; you can see when she's acting at acting, when she's being an actress and when she's confused about which she is doing, it is quite a feat. in the first scene with Dern the long cuts of her face show an expression of increasingly perplexed fear and discomfort, it was a sign of what was to come both that this was the expression she would be directed to hold for the vast majority of the running time and that is was the expression the viewer would most likely have also. When she is given more action and more words to work with she shines and i was truly engaged but these moments are few and far between and by the multi-end ending I was just begging for another rabbit sitcom scene, a death and for it to all be over.
I usually wouldn't review a film like this without rewatching but the three hours was a big ask the first time around and i doubt I'll feel inclined to lose another three unless life takes a very dire turn indeed.