Inland Empire and the purpose of a film

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So after watching Inland Empire, I have been thinking about the film a lot. It is an extremely polarizing film that people seem to either absolutely despise, or love it.

So my question is, although hard to put in words, does a film necessarily have to tell a story? Does it have to get from A to B? Does it have to make sense? Does it have to entertain you?

Or has film become more than that, simply a medium to express art and communicate something other than a story?

I watched Eraserhead the other day as well and my feelings are pretty similar with the two films. Both films are far from conventional and are what I would describe as 'slow burning films', there's no definitive plot or meaning, instead the focus is very much on atmosphere and the situations that the characters find themselves in.

Inland Empire reminded me a lot of a film from last year, the French Holy Motors and I believe that both film-makers had similar things to say. Both are films about films, about the evolution of films, digital film making, identity, the roles we play, characters and relationships. And I hope someone who has seen both films can see why I am coming from.

Like I said I know this opinion will annoy a lot of people who think this film is trash, but I can honestly say Inland Empire has got to be one of the most interesting and best film experiences I have had so far. Okay as a 'film' I can understand why someone would give it a terrible rating and slate it, and most ordinary film watches will hate it, yes, but the point of this film is not to be a 'film', I feel but instead to represent something more to the viewer, you're meant to feel it, to ask questions, to think about and ponder what you have just seen. It might not make complete sense, but I don't think it matters.

So my questions basically are: when you watch a film does it have to tell a story does what you see have to be entertaining, pleasing or make sense? Or do you enjoy/prefer different films from filmmakers that use the medium of film for a different purpose, people like Tarkovsky and Lynch? Do you like Inland Empire?
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So my questions basically are: when you watch a film does it have to tell a story does what you see have to be entertaining, pleasing or make sense? Or do you enjoy/prefer different films from filmmakers that use the medium of film for a different purpose, people like Tarkovsky and Lynch?
I haven't seen Inland Empire or Holy Motors yet but I think I can comment on your general questions.

A film absolutely does not have to tell a story for me to like it; not in the strictest sense. I'll use Richard Linklater as an example. One of my favourite filmmakers, and a director whose best work has come when he has placed emphasis on ideas over plot. Slacker, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Waking Life are Linklater at his signature best and are all films that are thin on plot but thick with philosophical, social, political and cultural ponderings that are often, to me at least, thought-provoking and occasionally profound.

Similarly, I don't think a film needs necessarily to be pleasing, at least not at first, although it does depend somewhat on your exact definition of the word. On a visceral level, lots of Kubrick's films (which I seem to be coming around to, slowly) are deeply unpleasant. I didn't feel happy or at all satisfied after seeing A Clockwork Orange, in fact I felt basically the opposite. But I think it's a great film in its own right for having the power to make us feel something like that. His films are pleasing on the level of analysis because they are so abundant with themes and concepts.

There's a subjective quality to the idea of a film "making sense" that seems to vary from movie to movie. There's something unique about Eyes Wide Shut, The Master, Donnie Darko and Mulholland Drive that wraps you up in their mystery and allows you to enjoy not knowing, unravelling that mystery. That's intangible to me. I don't understand how that can be possible when not getting Persona the first time was a completely infuriating experience.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I don't think a film has have a concrete plot, be "entertaining" in some non-artistic way or be explainable in only one or two ways. I also don't say that everyone has to appreciate a film in the same way and that all films have to be on a level playing field to be compared and contrasted, but there should be some critical standards in place for a viewer to be able judge what the film accomplishes, even if it might be difficult to grasp at first. Films have evolved and standards must therefore evolve, but one thing I've noticed lately is that more people are saying I don't understand what I've just seen, but I like it because it's different and/or it's not mainstream Hollywood. They can't especially tell you why they like it but it makes them feel some way that I have to assume is "enjoyable" in some way because I don't think most people are cinematic masochists.

So I'd say it's OK for a film to be non-traditional, and it's OK for someone to like it, but doing away with the why and wherefore doesn't seem fair because how are we to know if it's a great film or an embarrassing act of public masturbation. Wait a minute. Now even hardcore porn is "mainstream". But I think that some of us are looking at film as some kind of saviour or release from more than sexual tension or addiction. So if there are unusual films you adore, work out why and perfect your writing skills to explain to others why you do and why they should feel the same way.
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Speaking of Kubrick, I think Inland Empire has a lot in common with The Shining, there's a direct reference to it in the film, but the idea of being trapped, the question of identity (The Shining's ending), and the question over reality and fantasy (room 237).

Inland Empire though to me just felt like Lynch finally making the film that he has been wanting to making, without any studio interference he shot it all on digital camera that gives it a gritty uneasy feeling, and it makes no sense at all. I liked how he campaigned for Dern to get an Oscar nomination, not something you'd associate with Lynch but something that you can see as a kind of extension of the film's message with what it has to say about actors and performances.



A system of cells interlinked
Huge Inland Empire fan. That said, I also understand why people abhor this film. It's dense, obtuse, and very dark and yukky feeling for some. I have had a couple people ask me right out to shut it down, because it is making them "feel really weird" or "getting under their skin." I like to think that makes the film a successful cinematic exercise in the expression of emotive and affecting cinematic language. As a narrative, it clearly has issues, but I don't put IE in for a narrative.

The space-folding scene with the silk is something I have watched dozens of times. Love the tone, there.
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Inland Empire is a film I've seen three times and I'm still working on what I think it means. As for purpose, all I know is I was more fascinated by it than bored and I appreciated its imagery, some of which genuinely frightened and disturbed me, such as that weird thing that looked like a fetus/deep sea creature which seemed to represent the main character's hidden ugliness or evil, I believe...

No one is obligated to like a movie because it is difficult, but I also think it's narrow-minded to judge a film harshly solely because it isn't easily understood.
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A system of cells interlinked
You talking Eraserhead or IE, Deadite? The Fetus is in Eraserhead...

And yes, it is REALLY disturbing.



I don't think a film has have a concrete plot, be "entertaining" in some non-artistic way or be explainable in only one or two ways. I also don't say that everyone has to appreciate a film in the same way and that all films have to be on a level playing field to be compared and contrasted, but there should be some critical standards in place for a viewer to be able judge what the film accomplishes, even if it might be difficult to grasp at first. Films have evolved and standards must therefore evolve, but one thing I've noticed lately is that more people are saying I don't understand what I've just seen, but I like it because it's different and/or it's not mainstream Hollywood. They can't especially tell you why they like it but it makes them feel some way that I have to assume is "enjoyable" in some way because I don't think most people are cinematic masochists.

So I'd say it's OK for a film to be non-traditional, and it's OK for someone to like it, but doing away with the why and wherefore doesn't seem fair because how are we to know if it's a great film or an embarrassing act of public masturbation. Wait a minute. Now even hardcore porn is "mainstream". But I think that some of us are looking at film as some kind of saviour or release from more than sexual tension or addiction. So if there are unusual films you adore, work out why and perfect your writing skills to explain to others why you do and why they should feel the same way.


I adored the film because it's unusual style leaves me thinking just why I enjoyed what I saw so much, but first of all I will say it has a mood like no other, grotesque and disturbing at times, perhaps, but that was its intention I felt, and I don't think I have 'jumped' during a film as many times of this one. I enjoyed it as an exploration of cinema, like Un Chien Andalou and Holy Motors, Lynch is experimenting with the digital camera and exploring the possibilities of direction, acting, and the creation of worlds, the roles characters play.

Scenes are deliberately disjointed and repeated in order us to question ourselves and the power of films that has been used to do so - how certain actions and decisions end up affecting things a lot further down the line, we get repeated dialogue, the appearance of the original Polish cast, and the woman's clue at the beginning that 'actions have consequences'. In his promotion of Dern's performance Lynch also said "without cheese there would be no Inland Empire" and expanding with "Cheese comes from milk", the idea that what happens results as something much further down the line that strangely has a way of impacting on the future - although my explanation of this is a little poor at the moment.

I also liked the idea of the woman at the beginning/end who watches the events unfold on screen, an image later replicated as Dern watches the film take place, we have a film within a film within a film. Lynch seems to be suggesting a 'higher power', an evil that influences others beneath them. This is something that happens in Twin Peaks with the evil forces of the Black Lodge, then in Mulholland Drive we have Michael J. Anderson as a dwarf how has the ability to pull the plug on everything, make a Hollywood director's work come to a complete stop. The idea of the directing controlling his actors are shared between this and Mulholland Drive, Lynch seems to have something to say about Hollywood and corporate studios - I read an interesting interpretation to the rabbit scenes where the rabbits are meant to represent those Hollywood/studio people 'high up', controlling things, the laugh track going off at random times is used as a way of showing how despite people not necessarily know what they're talking about, they go along with it and please them anyway.

Huge Inland Empire fan. That said, I also understand why people abhor this film. It;s dense, obtuse, and very dark and yukky feeling for some. I have had a couple people ask me right out to shut it down, because it is making them "feel really weird" or "getting under their skin." I like to think that makes the film a successful cinematic exercise in the expression of emotive and affecting cinematic language. As a narrative, it clearly has issues, but I don't put IE in for a narrative.

The space-folding scene with the silk is something I have watched dozens of times. Love the tone, there.
Glad you like it. The point of the narrative though is to be disruptive, I wouldn't say it has issues. The woman at the beginning talks about how times can be mistaken. And I think Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me also help understand what Lynch tries to achieve in terms of parralel universes, although events and characters are connected (I'm talking about the Black Lodge), is time necessarily constant between them, do the various events have to follow each other?

Inland Empire is a film I've seen three times and I'm still working on what I think it means. As for purpose, all I know is I was more fascinated by it than bored and I appreciated its imagery, some of which genuinely frightened and disturbed me, such as that weird thing that looked like a fetus/deep sea creature which seemed to represents the main character's hidden ugliness or evil, I believe...

No one is obligated to like a movie because it is difficult, but I also think it's narrow-minded to judge a film harshly solely because it isn't easily understood.
I agree with the genuinely frightened/disturbed part. I think I'm the only person on here, actually there is HitchFan who I think likes both too, that likes Fire Walk With Me. It's a film I also understand why a lot of people dislike it, it has an extreme grotesque visceral style, is more abrupt than the TV series and has lots of weird scenes with lots more evil elements in it. But I enjoyed it because I saw it as the perfect summary of the pain Laura Palmer felt in here final week, and the chaos of the secret life she lived.



This thing, it looks like a cross between a fetus and a deepsea creature to me, once it changes from human. The blood floating out and the dark eyes and mouth are what make me think of that:



As for the Eraserhead baby, it was gross but I actually felt sorry for it more than anything. It didn't feel threatening at all, just sad and repulsive.



A system of cells interlinked
Only person on here? You know I am actually the resident Lynch nut on the site, right?

I have seen Mulholland Drive almost 70 times. It's one of my favorite films of all time. I have read anything and everything connected to Lynch, seen all his shorts, watched Twin Peaks multiple times through and have seen FWWM over 20 times! I once watched Mulholland Drive 9 times in 3 days. I'm clearly sick.

In other words: Your typical Lynch fan!

I have seen IE many times, and I am pretty solid on what all the events in the film mean/stand for (open to interpretation, of course). When I say "narrative issues", I stand by that comment, but with a more traditional film fan as the subject, in that most people run for cover at about the 20 minute mark. I adore it, but Lynch is one of my favorite directors of all time.

That said, I watch it alone at home, because my GF has a weird fear of bunnies. She has to leave the room when they are on or she has nightmares about them. Not sure if you know, but the rabbits are voiced by the cast of Mulholland Drive!



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Now wait a minute. Lynch is not God. Even if he were, God's made plenty of mistakes. He doesn't get a free pass because you like him and think you've found a few connections. What's wrong with Inland Empire?

Any and everybody can jump in.



Finished here. It's been fun.
I'm fine with films being artsy and vague but some sort of story or meaning has to come into play. I did not like Holy Motors. Yes the acting was fine as was the directing, but there's nothing to latch on to. It's empty,blank,void of substance. I like David Lynch films like Blue Velvet,Muholland dr. and Lost Highway. Very confusing yes, but there is some meaning to be found. As for Inland Empire, I appreciate the creepy atmosphere but I cannot respect it as a film.



A system of cells interlinked
This thing, it looks like a cross between a fetus and a deepsea creature to me, once it changes from human. The blood floating out and the dark eyes and mouth are what make me think of that:



As for the Eraserhead baby, it was gross but I actually felt sorry for it more than anything. It didn't feel threatening at all, just sad and repulsive.

Ah, I gotcha - I took that scenes to mean a complete breakdown of the identities that just merged and flowed into one another - A visual representation of a psychogenic fugue state. Creepy!



Only person on here? You know I am actually the resident Lynch nut on the site, right?

I have seen Mulholland Drive almost 70 times. It's one of my favorite films of all time. I have read anything and everything connected to Lynch, seen all his shorts, watched Twin Peaks multiple times through and have seen FWWM over 20 times! I once watched Mulholland Drive 9 times in 3 days. I'm clearly sick.

In other words: Your typical Lynch fan!

I have seen IE many times, and I am pretty solid on what all the events in the film mean/stand for (open to interpretation, of course). When I say "narrative issues", I stand by that comment, but with a more traditional film fan as the subject, in that most people run for cover at about the 20 minute mark. I adore it, but Lynch is one of my favorite directors of all time.

That said, I watch it alone at home, because my GF has a weird fear of bunnies. She has to leave the room when they are on or she has nightmares about them. Not sure if you know, but the rabbits are voiced by the cast of Mulholland Drive!
I knew you loved Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, but wasn't sure what you thought of Fire Walk With Me, that's a film that seems to have a bad time around here.

With Inland Empire until around an hour in I was thinking the film was pretty straightforward and was wondering why people called it crazy and weird, and then it takes a complete change in style And yeh I knew about the Mulholland Drive cast doing the rabbits. Another thing I love about Inland Empire is the absolutely crazy end credits, they're hilarious. Just Lynch getting a load of woman to dance and he throws in as many references to his other films as he can, brilliant!



Ah, I gotcha - I took that scenes to mean a complete breakdown of the identities that just merged and flowed into one another - A visual representation of a psychogenic fugue state. Creepy!
That sounds interesting but I don't quite get you. Could you elaborate on that?



A system of cells interlinked
I knew you loved Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, but wasn't sure what you thought of Fire Walk With Me, that's a film that seems to have a bad time around here.

With Inland Empire until around an hour in I was thinking the film was pretty straightforward and was wondering why people called it crazy and weird, and then it takes a complete change in style And yeh I knew about the Mulholland Drive cast doing the rabbits. Another thing I love about Inland Empire is the absolutely crazy end credits, they're hilarious. Just Lynch getting a load of woman to dance and he throws in as many references to his other films as he can, brilliant!

Best end credits EVER!!!



A system of cells interlinked
Your gf is Anya??
I almost said "My GF is afraid of bunnies like Anya on Buffy!"



And no, Emma Caulfield is not my GF - not after the arrests and restraining orders and stuff.

Look...NEVER stand in an actor's back yard...even if you think you are meant for one another.



The Brave Little Weeman Returns!
Inland Empire is a film I'd imagine is designed to polarize, and for some reason I don't feel strongly about it either way.

Its Lynch's ultimate expression of surrealism and I believe it was Mark Cousins who likened it to Cloud Atlas, saying it was "anti-Hollywood's Cloud Atlas", or maybe he said it the other way around, I can't remember.

Its a
film for me. It really does drag in the areas which many people (including me) don't really understand. Its not essential to understand a film to be able to enjoy it, but that enjoyment is severely hampered when you're constantly wondering why something's happened, or why one character has done that, or why there are anthropomorphic rabbits in the film at all.

When you say a film doesn't have to be a "film", I think you're looking more for "movie". A film doesn't have to necessarily tell a story, and that's what I believe you were trying to get at. Plenty of films get by just fine expressing themes or visual attractiveness, and Inland Empire is definitely an example of this.

One of the prime reasons for watching a film is it being entertaining. Inland Empire can be entertaining to some people, and it was quite entertaining for me, even if like I said before it dragged in some places. If a film isn't entertaining you, then by very definition it must be boring you. Entertainment is a broad spectrum of experiences within film that excite and stimulate the audience, it can be non-artistic, or artistic, for example I found The Tree of Life to be extremely entertaining, but then Inland Empire to be mildly entertaining. The two main functions of films are to entertain and inform. If a film fails to do either of these, then hasn't it failed?

A film doesn't have to please me to make me like it. Many great films have harrowing endings (Midnight Cowboy comes to my mind as I watched it recently), so a film doesn't have to be "pleasing" or make you feel good inside to work.

I don't mind Inland Empire. I preferred Mulholland Drive greatly, because it expresses itself clearly despite being very surreal.
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but that enjoyment is severely hampered when you're constantly wondering why something's happened, or why one character has done that, or why there are anthropomorphic rabbits in the film at all.

I preferred Mulholland Drive greatly, because it expresses itself clearly despite being very surreal.
I am kind of the opposite to this. Whilst I think Mulholland Drive is a great film, I feel it suffers on repeat viewings as it loses the element of mystery as the plot is actually quite straightforward, I think.

I love mystery and would prefer the film to leave huge gaps leaving you thinking what on earth just happened, like Sedai's sig says, Lynch likes the film to leave room for the imagination, Inland Empire is like one massive puzzle and part of these long, weird, surreal scenes are in fitting with its mystery.

And I didn't think The Tree of Life was entertaining either, although it didn't need to be, the point of most of its long sequences were to allow the mind to think and appreciate the beauty of them, I suppose you could call it entertaining by the fact that the images on the screen kept the film interested and the viewer focussed as opposed to become bored.