Inland Empire Reviews
Yes, since Eraserhead David Lynch had been pushing the narrative and formal boundaries of film language, and even if he has classics under his belt like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr., or overlooked gems like Wild at Heart and Lost Highway, Inland Empire still feels as his cinematic testament. I'm not saying it is "better", just that it feels as the most pure representation of his artistic voice.
Inland Empire is a meditation on the medium itself, a deconstruction of identity and art. It is Lynch's Persona or 8 1/2 or The Holy Mountain, not only for the clear self-refleciton that permeates the film, but also because, in the vein of those classics, it is his most vulnerable and disjointed. Virtually indecipherable on a narrative level and overwhelming on a sensory level.
You can build academic works around the use of the digital format and its significance as a distancing element from the "cinematic feel", or about the correlation between his Rabbits characters and the polish sequences. Essays can be written about that enthralling credits sequence. Lynch's celebration of his art, brought to new dimension after his reveal that he is no longer making movies. But all of that would be making a disservice to Inland Empire. Trying to explain the unexplainable. Putting to paper the intangible.
Watching this film feels like the Club Silencio sequence in Mulholland Dr., when one is totally enthralled not by the fact that everything is an illusion, but for the fact that the illusion is so powerful the boundaries become indistinguishable. All that is left to do is to look through, all the way through, until you find yourself falling through the hole and into the shifting patterns you see on the other side.
A really unique way of filming, using a digital camera of questionable quality. A really unique way of writing, giving actors new scripts each day, apparently channeling some Godard. And a narrative so twisted and surreal it makes Eraserhead look like Inception.
The plot, or maybe plots, or maybe even more precisely the complete lack of plot, earns its reputation for being extremely experimental. I think I have a pretty good idea of the main themes that are being explored but I'm not entirely sure how they are meant to reacted to.
*Spoilers for those who haven't seen it, I would definitely recommend watching the movie first before reading about it's contents*
For me I feel like the movie is exploring the fragility of modern domestic life, and the different ways sexual liberation, and to a certain extent sexual abuse and human sex trafficking, have effected "traditional" family structures. There are also some very meta elements portraying how media portrays relationships and how a person's expectations can be shaped by what they see in fiction.
All of Lynch's signature tropes only work when he writes compelling and interesting characters so we the audience can at least engage in that side of the film which act as an anchor while we navigate whatever fucked up dream like web he's spinning in his movies. Unfortunately, Inland Empire has zilch, zero, none which removes any mystique or artistic integrity of the piece and makes the picture feel weird for the sake of being weird. Not to mention, the camcorder footage makes it feel like a 16 year olds attempt at making a David Lynch movie. I get it's cheaper but my god it doesn't half make everything look cheap. Laura Dern is uncontrollably committed to Lynch's material which is admirable but doesn't serve the picture as the material itself is incomprehensible and feels almost like self-parody in many places. Maybe I wouldn't be so disappointed as well if it was 90 mins or even 120 mins... But this was 3 hours... a long, long, three hours. But at least I can say i've seen it now... Whatever that means.
Being shot in digital, it is not as visually appealing as most of David Lynch's films are and, yet, in spite of some moments of annoying clumsiness, the digital environment offers a rather disturbing tone.
This film also channels the usual fantasy/reality Lynch blend into a different manner. One which doesn't prioritize layers. If in films such as Mulholland Dr. or Lost highway, one can get a sense of which layer is the main one(even if they do go hand in hand to develop a singurlar story), here, the layers are set side by side and it is very difficult to tell which one generated the other(s).
Having said this, I see INLAND EMPIRE as a chamber of mirrors in which the same image reflects in different ways.
Again, the different narratives make sense on their own and you can even tie them together. But you can do that in different ways and this one of the reasons for which INLAND EMPIRE is - or can be - confusing.
Also, INLAND EMPIRE features plenty of horror elements and some interesting Polish touches.
However, this David Lynch film has its share of minuses. First of all, the Laura Dern monologues become exhausting, after a certain point on. Yes, they are strongly acted, but they bring to little to the whole material. Also, INLAND EMPIRE is too fragmented for its own good and features too many self-contained scenes. Yes, this might have worked better had the film had not felt that short on narrative. Many of those scenes were, indeed, lovely, but in a film with so many layers, one might expect more narrative. And the most amusing thing is that some of the deleted scenes would have been very useful.
David Lynch relies alot on subtraction, but in INLAND EMPIRE too much has been subtracted, leaving a film that is interesting to watch and talk about, but that never seems to come out as a whole.
Overall, INLAND EMPIRE is ambitious, even if, sometimes, annoyingly self-referential, and provides Lynch fans plenty of things to chew on, but, on the other hand, it doesn't have the impact of some of Lynch's previous offerings.
I can't make up my mind on whether this film is an interesting failure or a good experimental flick with some minuses, but somehow, it works the same way.
I am giving this 3 out of 5, but only because RT "insists" on this, because I don't think a rating system applies this David Lynch flick.