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Inland Empire

INLAND EMPIRE (2006, David Lynch)

Now, i start this write up with the question is it even a film in the back of my head; any illusions of narrative quickly dissolve after about 50 minutes of the seemingly epic 3 hours and the much of the film reminded by of Stan Brackhage's Avant Garde work. To make it worse, the main character is actually characterS, all played by Laura Dern, giving no indication to when we're witnessing a different character or even if they actually are different or just characters she playing. See, the basic plot is Laura Dern's character gets a part in a movie, foretold by a freaky Polish woman, and her entanglement with co-star Justin Theroux off the set mirrors the plot of 'cursed' film they're starring in- thus even before the narrative is lost, there's a degree of confusion.

The turning point is when we release that the mysterious intruder on Dern's and Theroux's rehearsal, unable to be found, was actually Dern appearing later in the film. Whether a doppleganger, the same character, a fracture of one character is unknown, instead from here we're lead through repetitions of events, different time frames and seemingly completely unrelated (irrelevant?) events, including Dern as a hooker in America, a Polish housewife; then there's the sitcom with humanoid bunnies and a cursed girl who's been raped? A lot of the film is speculative, if that, the coherency is to the extent that placing a reading on it may be near impossible. Where Mulholland Drive had decypherable markers, and compared to INLAND EMPIRE, coherency, we're left with Dern possibly walking into movies as the actress or as the character in the film.

Dern handles the multiude of roles well, and the supporting cast admittedly don't have a lot to do or near the depth of roles Dern has to perform but they all do well, especially Harry Dean Stanton. I'm not sure whether to place credit in Dern, she does have a hard task and performs well but all her incarnations are distanced, perhaps it's from the digital video shooting, awkward close-ups or because there's rarely any point for empathy. Watching INLAND EMPIRE a Lynch fan can pick out many similarities from Twin Peaks like the red curtains or some alternate dimension and themes of dopplegangers from Lost Highway. There's some brilliant surreal moments, eerily captured on digital which, if you were to begin to doze off, definitely would wake you back up. It's on very few instances i will actually notice the soundtrack employed in a film and in INLAND EMPIRE is rather note-worthy in creating the surreal experience and helps create a LOT of the atmosphere the digital shooting often ends up removing. It's also very important when we have little idea of what's actually happening and what we're meant to be feeling.

With that being said, the film is a test of endurance with very little to no climax or closure. A lot of the scenes are quite bare and with not really anything but unsympathetic characters to follow it could be boring. Personally i was glued to it, perhaps Mulholland Drive had me expecting to have to look for answer to understand the film. Though Lynch, i feel has taken a different approach here, not choosing to challenge how one understand the film but how one understands film as a form. Hence the everchanging perception we have, including the prostitute dying a propchecised death from a screwdriver, continuely marked out in the film, surrounded by homeless who re-assure "you're just dying" then continue to rant unmoved about nothing, concludes with a camera pulling away and it being a movie but then Dern walking into a cinema with what she sees on screen. It's an interesting film, full of complexity someone familiar with film will enjoy otherwise it's hard to see anything particualrly of merit other than the film as artifact. Whether Lynch was trying for something similar to Warhol's Empire is very possible, certainly through the length; and seeming false endings, leaving the viewer learning to not wait for the end but live the experience. Or something. It's hard to say when a film has prostitutes start dancing to do 'Do the Locomotion'.