Like all of David Lynch’s movies, Inland Empire boasts that patented nightmarish/dreamlike quality that we’ve come to expect from him. This is Lynch’s last feature film to date, and currently has nothing in production.
When Lynch announced that he was making a new film, starring Laura Dern, shot only on a digital camera, all he said was that it’s ‘about a woman in trouble.’ I think it’s fairly safe to say that they statement describes all his movies. And while that statement seems vague, it’s really the only thing he could have said without going into an intense description of the three hour film since it’s so complex, and confusing. Remember the last half of Mulholland Dr.? Well picture that, it’s just as challenging and exhilarating, but there are three hours of it. Laura Dern stars as Nikki Grace and Susan Blue. The former is a woman who’s loosing touch with reality slowly, but surely. She’s chosen to star in a film adaptation of Polish folktale that is supposedly cursed. Although she’s married to a dangerously jealous Pole, she starts an intense affair with her co-star Devon (played by Justin Theroux…who also plays Billy Side in this film).
It may take some a while to get used to the grainy quality of the digital camera. Some call Lynch pretentious for choosing to film digitally, but he’s stated upfront that he can’t get away with filming as much stuff as he does on old school film, the studios won’t pay for it. I’m completely willing to accept this explanation. Pretensions aside however, this piece is one of the more inaccessible pieces in Lynch’s oeuvre. Parts of the movie focus on a crying prostitute in a hotel room, watching a sit-com played by humans in rabbits suits. The rabbits are dressed up as humans, and speak to each other in sentences that make sense, but as part of conversation that is completely incomprehensible, with a laugh track that sounds off at random moments (how alienating is that?).
As per usual Lynchian style, the film is accompanied by an intricate, and unsettling score that perfectly highlights and underscores the twisted plot. The cast was exceptional, most of the main players had already worked with Lynch before. Laura Dern is the shit in this film, showing off her acting prowess, as the role demanded an emotional range that few attempt, and even fewer pull off. Theroux also excelled, and was effectively creepy. Like most of Lynch’s films, you’re lucky if you think you understand it. Few directors force this much contemplation of their works, forcefully dragging your imagination into such a dark world. Even if you don’t get Inland Empire, you’ll be glad you spent three hours watching this abstract, surrealist work.