There's a profoundly ridiculous paradox to reading a competent, scholarly essay on a film whose greatest, most remarkable and worthwhile aspect, ultimately, is its lack of a need to be explained. You see, David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE is first and foremost a cinematic EXPERIENCE. This film aggressively defies attempts to be explained because it is created as a manifestation of an aspect of the human psyche which defies or transcends verbal communication. What David Lynch expresses through INLAND EMPIRE simply cannot be reduced to words; it absolutely must be experienced. Just as a rollercoaster can never, ever be understood by reading about it or simply watching it, you have no option but to actually be on board, soaring through the vast caverns, ornate galleries, and claustrophobic cupboards of David's archly gothic mind if you hope to solve his film's secrets. INLAND EMPIRE is so unlike any other film in that the narrative story--the meaning--is ONLY graspable by actually managing to find your way "in" to the concealed inner film, on your own, by your own guile, wits and tenacity.
If you follow David's "instructions" for how to gain access to the inner, "real" film then the myriad mysteries of its meaning, origins, and purpose will be revealed, at least to a degree whereby any erudite, literate dissertation will only seem redundant and unnecessary. If you heed the marvelously camouflaged "directions" contained in the curious words of the various Polish characters at the beginning of the film--especially Nikki's peculiar new "neighbor" with her bewildering comments concerning time and space--then, hopefully, you'll find youself suddenly immersed in a remarkably cogent, lucent and intense cinematic experience. Until that moment which I managed to decipher the coded commandments of those agitated, odd characters INLAND EMPIRE was a formidable barrage of frantic, hostile and perplexing melodramatic hysteria. Once I somehow intuited what David was expecting of me, and I allowed my mind--my psych--to be led to where he was deliberately leading the film then suddenly opened up, blossomed, exploded into an astoundingly intense, visceral experience. Everything isn't immediately understandable but through the duration of its 3 hours it eventually makes explicit what is its sincerest intent and purpose. Methodically, ingeniously, vividly, David's film reveals its reason for being, and any analysis or clinical dissection after the fact is only redundant and actually kinda silly and tedious. But because so many people have failed to traverse its threshhold INLAND EMPIRE is vulnerable to both well meaning and also cynical exploitation by misguided, oblivious, self satisfied eggheads.
But that's the contradictory nature of all truly worthwhile art; its inherent reluctance, its refusal to be explained. In fact, all Great Art exists in direct opposition to the literate, rational, sane world. INLAND EMPIRE is not only an expression of the atavistic, irrational, outlaw instinct possessed by all worthwhile artists, but is also a deeply sincere and solemn attempt to share a very profound and sublime insight into the nature of our increasingly demented and warped media infused culture. David isn't merely reciting his opinions and thoughts about our bizarre, psychosexually damaged society, he's demonstrating them in the most compelling, creative, artistic manner possible.
And so, all the academic chatter contained in this essay is certainly pertinent and valid, but it's also inconsequential and irrelevant. If you merely see or watch or witness INLAND EMPIRE then you might find Michael T. Lidstone's writing to be valuable. But if you manage, hopefully, to actually experience David's amazing, outrageous creation from within its awesome fullness then you'll understand my complaint. What's most confounding and wonderful of all is that INLAND EMPIRE--the film, itself--is just as surprised and mystified and excited by its own mysteries. You definitely can't experience that amazing natural phenomenom by reading a book, essay or academic scrawlings. You just have to let David's outrageously unique film work its magic.