I got to see David Lynch’s new movie, “Inland Empire,” last night at the Lamelle Sunset 5. Or actually, I had to see it last night because it was the last evening that it was going to be playing there. It does not seem to be playing anywhere else. David Lynch distributed it himself probably because he was sick of all the business people trying to meddle with his work. It’s not like they get him…hey wait a minute….who does get him? I were supposed to get David Lynch? Are we supposed to understand what his movies are about? Or they just incredibly abstract pieces of art that we have to make sense of on our own? “Inland Empire” is the most mysterious movie he has ever done, mainly because this is one of those movies that is about everything and nothing all at the same time. If you did not really understand that last sentence, then welcome to David Lynch country!
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine said it best:
“Abandon all hope of logic, ye who enter here.”
Explaining this movie is close to impossible, but let me see how I do. Laura Dern plays a 40-something actress who is about to start a new movie that hopefully will give her the comeback she needs to her career on the right track. But she and her co-star soon learn that the movie is actually a remake of another movie that was never actually finished. This was because the lead actors of that movie found something in the story that was….well, evil I guess. Those actors were later found murdered. After that, the movie spins off into a world that is David Lynch all around. It is like so many dreams you have had, where you think you know where you’re going, but then it switches directions and becomes something else completely.
David Lynch movies (and this became apparent to me after I saw this one) seem to be a battle between reality and the subconscious. Even if you have no idea of what the movie is about or what is going on, you can sort of tell what’s real and what’s dreamlike. I especially noticed in his last film, “Mullholand Drive,” which descended into a nightmarish reality that I so desperately wanted to escape. I wanted to go back into the dreamlike state with the smiling Naomi Watts character, instead of the bitter and the utterly heartbroken one in the second half. But that’s what we get for opening that box halfway thru the movie.
Anyway, I had to remind myself to keep my brain turned off during this movie, because I knew that thinking about this movie was gonna end up giving me one massive headache. To really enjoy and appreciate a David Lynch movie, you just have to sit back and watch. “Inland Empire” is very absorbing in that manner because it seduces you into it’s world, and it’s as fascinating a world as it is a confusing one. All the same, there were moments where I felt the need to outsmart David Lynch. I came close to doing that with “Lost Highway” when I saw it a second time. But then movie kept going, and I was no better off then when I saw it the first time.
David Lynch shot this movie on some new Sony digital camera I believe which allowed him more freedom to shoot the movie his way. It gives this film a very grainy look, and certain things and characters look a lot more real here than they do in most David Lynch movies. Gone is the sleek look of “Blue Velvet” and “Mullholland Drive” among others. This is dirty compared to a lot of his other films, but it does not take away from some of the images though.
There are many great shots in this movie. There’s a great shot that comes halfway through the movie in which you see Laura Dern running down a path with her hands outstretched. Then the camera descends down from above, and you see Laura running straight at the camera, staring straight at it…The shot ends with a crescendo of ear bleeding sound and light striking her face as if to say,
“HEEEEEEELLP ME GODAMMIT!!!!!!!”
It reminds me of my most memorable nightmares where the sensation of sound overwhelmed me more than anything else. Where you get so overstimulated that you can’t help but be terrified. Those are the dreams that stick with me.
The interesting thing about David Lynch’s movies is the effect that they have on you after you have seen the movie. If you are not spending your time during his movies trying to understand just what the fuck is going on, you are sucking in the imagery and letting it affect you. It’s after you have finished watching the movie that you think more about it and you try to figure what it is all about. All this usually fails with his movies, it does not stop you all the same.
I look back at the movie, and I have questions like anyone else: What was with those rabbits at the beginning of the movie? Why was there that laugh track when the rabbits spoke? Who exactly is Laura Dern playing at different parts of the movie. Is she going crazy? Are we stuck in her mind somewhere? What is real and what is not?
Let me digress for a second. Movies that deal with the thin line between reality and fiction or a dreamlike state fascinate me endlessly. Movies like John Carpenter’s “In The Mouth Of Madness,” “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” “Lost Highway,” “Mullholland Drive,” and David Cronenberg’s “Existenz” among others have examined this theme and have got me thinking. The line between reality and illusion keeps getting blurred for all of us as we surge on forward with continuing advances in technology. These are movies that you get you thinking and make you draw your own conclusions as to what actually happens.
Most people hate movies like this because they are ever so desperate to have everything explained to them. They don’t want to be treated like the idiots that they are. Kind of shows you what a shallow culture we live in. Me, I like these movies because of the fact that they get you thinking. Not knowing sometimes is scarier than knowing. It forces your brain to explore the darker parts of your psyche, and this is a place most people prefer not to go to. Who really wants to discover that you can actually be capable of things that would land some people in jail for life? I don’t always want everything explained to me. If it’s done right, it is perfect for a movie to end with an ambiguous ending.
I can see the reaction of those not familiar with David Lynch’s work:
“I hated it! I couldn’t figure out what the fuck it was about! It kept going in different directions. And I am sorry, but that Laura Dern cannot act to save her life!…”
OK, hold on right there dammit! Laura Dern can’t act? BULLSHIT!
Laura Dern has been described as fearless in this movie, and nothing could be more true. She is brilliant in a role that must have impossible to explain to her when she accepted it. It feels like it has been a long time since we have seen her in anything. She goes in just about every direction can in this role, and she never fails. I hope that campaign that David Lynch started with him and a cow on (I believe) Ventura Boulevard for Laura Dern as best actress somehow pays off. She deserves it. However, it’s unlikely that she will get nominated because not many people have seen the movie. What a shame. Laura Dern is in just about every scene in this movie. She’s incredible.
With David’s movies, I can’t help but think that he would much rather be living in the dreamworld than reality. It certainly sounds tempting. His dreams can sometimes (dare I say) be far more intoxicating than reality. More invigorating. The way he sees reality makes me want to run away from it, and fast!
And how about that Harry Dean Stanton? He never fails, and he has a great moment where he starts telling a strange story that somehow develops into a way of acquiring money from people who are dumb enough to listen. This guy has been in just about every movie it seems.
I’m not sure what else to tell you about “Inland Empire” that I have not already said…actually, I do need to mention that among other things, this movie has a fantastic sound design by David Lynch and others. It surrounds you and aids the visuals he has dreamt up perfectly.
So, after all is said and done, this is quite a remarkable movie as much as it is confusing and bewildering. But if you are a fan of the universe that is David Lynch, you will at least have an idea of what to expect.
Great filmmaking. Not if you will excuse me, I still need to figure out what this damn movie is about…