Inland Empire Reviews
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.
Simply put, "Inland Empire" is one of David Lynch's most unbearable movies. It's his first film shot completely digitally, done so with a Sony DCR-VX1000 camcorder; the images, in return, are fuzzy and textural. Some, especially Lynch, find this photographic technique to hold more value in terms of enigma and subversion, but I, possibly in the minority, think that this experiment is a downfall. His images are so outrightly peculiar (only he could sell the idea of three people in rabbit suits living in an apartment together in sitcom bliss) that the cheapness of the digital camera makes his once lush pictorial instincts read like an experimental student short. Before, the lavishness of film made diversions into the freakish more of a surprise; here, Lynchian punches no longer hold the shock the once did. This shouldn't suggest that his cinematic mastery is waning - it's the fault of the camera, not his.
Supposedly, "Inland Empire" is about Nikki Grace (Laura Dern), a has-been actress who has just received a part in a movie that could revitalize her once strong career. Her co-star is known womanizer Devon Berk (Justin Theroux), her director the respected Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons). Minutes into the rehearsal process is it revealed that the project is thought to be cursed - it was supposed to be made decades ago, but the actors tragically died during the filmmaking process. Following this revelation, strange things start to occur: Nikki and Devon begin to mimic the lives of the characters they're playing, Sue Blue and Billy Side, and Nikki, desperate as she is to succeed, begins experiencing situations that can only be described as hallucinatory.
I say "supposedly" when providing the plot summary because "Inland Empire" revolves around this storyline for only the first act, possibly even less. It starts off intriguingly, with the same sort of luminous ambiguities of "Lost Highway", until it descends into a labyrinth of entangled phantasms. For a while, the delusions are evocative (the audacious pairings with experimental music are especially fascinating), but at three hours, "Inland Empire" eventually keels over and turns into an unappetizing smorgasbord of Lynchian rejects. As the story was never interesting enough to begin with, interpretation is left untouched; we're either frustrated or stimulated, mostly the former.
The one thing to celebrate in "Inland Empire" is Laura Dern, in a fearless performance. Her character(s) is hardly defined, but Dern gives us a reason to gaze upon her face with utter enthrallment. She wanders around the maze Lynch places her in the middle of; Dern is so breathtaking that, once in a while, she deceives us into thinking that the material is solid rather than flimsy. More or less, "Inland Empire" is flimsy. Lynch wrote the script as filming went on (seriously), and nothing ever commences from it. He is a great director, but nothing is worse than taking an audience for granted, especially when that audience has to meander through a film for 180 minutes.
It centers on a actress who gains a role of a lifetime that to be honest is unclear if the role is her acting or her head.
There are two strange subplots happening along with the main story. 1) A strange sex trade based in Poland 2) a beyond creepy reality TV show that features human like bunnies. This is an experiment not a linear film...approach with caution.
With the premise in Inland Empire chronicling a woman as she attempts to succeed in a Hollywood career, it comes off as being familiar to David Lynch's Academy Award nominated Mulholland Drive. Following the same kind of narrative path, Inland Empire has a premise which is convoluted and a plot structure which has never heard of the word consistency which works to its atmospheric benefit. At the same time, it is clearly likely to isolate viewers who are not already fans of David Lynch. Many people would be more critical of Inland Empire if his name was not on the director's credit, but because it is David Lynch showing a clever experimentation in surrealist cinema once again, fans of his should find appreciation for his relentlessly sick and twisted mind while newcomers are bound to be isolated and confused. The script itself is really interesting because though understanding the characters is a challenge, they are all interesting creations with strong dialogue and are perfectly cast. But they are more interested for how they are treated to the narrative than for being general creations.
No stranger to testing the limits, David Lynch puts an all new kind of filmmaking style into Inland Empire. With the cinematography being built on cameras of a more average quality and following basic techniques, Inland Empire almost feels like it is shot in a documentary format which gives an odd sense of realism to the feature. Since realism is not synonymous with David Lynch in any sense of the word, it is intriguing to witness. The cinematography of Inland Empire gives it an interesting visual edge, and it captures the grim and dark colour palette of the production design very nicely. The lighting of the film is key to this because it keeps things dark yet easy to see, making for an interesting visual experience which is edited well. And with the power of a soundtrack that combines intense compositional pieces with some occasional jazz pieces and more, leading to a dark yet glamourous atmosphere. Inland Empire is an impressive exercise in style from David Lynch which compensates for a lot of the narrative complications.
While the plot structure of Mulholland Drive was not chronological, Inland Empire follows that path a bit more clearly. It doesn't mean that the film is not convoluted, sick and twisted, but at least it is somewhat easier to make sense of. Returning to what he is best at, David Lynchc crafts a story which really tugs viewers all over the place. While the confusing elements of the film and the slow pace are a lot to take in, especially considering the fact that the film runs for nearly three hours, his gleeful passion for merciless surrealism injects a powerful atmosphere into Inland Empire which is unforgettable. Embracing the story is not always easy, but David Lynch's work is undeniable because the film is a truly haunting sentiment, being thoroughly scary and torturing to the mind. If the narrative of the film is not flawless, then the experience itself is powerful enough to leave most viewer shocked and that is where the true source of strength comes into play. Inland Empire above all is a powerful psychological thriller which is full of surrealism iconic of David Lynch. Since he has not made a film in the last nine years, Inland Empire simply serves as a reminder that he still has all his iconic talents and serves as a piece of hope that one day he will come back to wow audiences all over again. In all honesty, it is one of my more favourable of his films.
And with perfect casting, Inland Empire does not fail to bring the best out of its actors.
Laura Dern's leading performance in Inland Empire really gives the film its necessary human touch. In one of the finest leading performances from her entire career, Laura Dern has Inland Empire revolving entirely around her and capturing the interests of viewers. Her performance has been touted as one of her finest to date, and that is because she is at the centre of the film. Everything is about her, even if the narrative skews off from her story occasionally. After working intensively well with David Lynch on Wild at Heart, she returns to team up with him on Inland Empire to give a performance many call the best of her career and it is not hard to see why. She captures the determination and fractured innocence of Naomi Watts' character Betty Elms in Mulholland Drive, but with more engagement in the atmosphere and an unflinching passion for succumbing to the harsh nature of everything. Laura Dern proves to audiences that she is David Lynch's ultimate leading lady in Inland Empire, and her physical and emotional involvement in the role ensures that she has no trouble embracing the dark nature of the material at all.
Justin Theroux is also great in Inland Empire. He consistently seems phased in his part as he stands up to the dark nature of the film with a perfect sense of just how sick and twisted it is. He accepts the world around him and engages with it on a level which is unflinchingly confident and displays his ability to interact with the surrounding cast very well, particularly with Laura Dern. Since he was also present in Mulholland Drive, he is a genial presence anyway, but he goes beyond being just that.
Jeremy Irons is also very good due to his sophistication and his fearless approach to the dark subject matter, and the cameo of William H. Macy is a nice touch.
So though Inland Empire is as convoluted, sick and twisted as you would expect as well as being a bit of a stretch, the intense and dark atmosphere of the film established by David Lynch's direction and Laura Dern's leading performance is unforgettable.