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Inland Empire [DVD] 
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David Lynch drama. Lynch breaks a long silence with a challenging piece of cinema about an actress going through some psychological trauma on the set of her latest film. Laura Dern plays Nikki Grace - an ingénue actress whose latest role - in a Tennessee Williams-esque fright of a film tests her to her limits. The director Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) is a cloying, creepy character. Grace is falling for her co-star Devon Berk (Justin Theroux) but if that was the central plot, this wouldn't be Lynch-land, would it? A parallel storyline shows an earlier attempt to make this film in Poland which ended in tragedy when the two lead players were offed. It's just shy of three hours of David Lynch at his eccentric, unpredictable best.
Though Inland Empire's three hours of befuddling abstraction could try the patience of the most devoted David Lynch fan, its aim to reinvigorate the Lynch-ian symbolic order is ambitious, not to mention visually arresting. The director's archetypes recognizable from previous movies once again construct the film's inherent logic, but with a new twist. Sets vibrate between the contemporary and a 1950s alternate universe crammed with dim lamps, long hallways, mysterious doors, sparsely furnished rooms and, this time, a vortex/apartment/sitcom set where rabbit-masked humans dwell, and a Polish town where women are abused and killed. Instead of speaking backwards, mystic soothsayers and criminals speak Polish. Filmed on video, the film's look has the sinister, frightening feel of a Mark Savage film or a bootlegged snuff movie. Constant close-ups, both in and out of focus, make Inland Empire feel as if a stalker covertly filmed it.
A straightforward, hokey plot unravels during the first third of Inland Empire to ground the viewer before a dive off the deep end. Actor Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is cast as Susan Blue, an adulterous white trash Southerner, in a film that mimics too closely her actual life with an overbearingly jealous and dangerous husband. When Nikki and co-star Devon (Justin Theroux) learn that the cursed film project was earlier abandoned when its stars were murdered, the pair lose their grasp of reality. Nikki suffers a schizophrenic identity switch to Sue that lasts until nearly the film's end. Suspense builds as Nikki's alter ego sleuths her way through surreal situations to discover her killer, culminating in Sue's gnarly death on set. Sue's actions drag on because any sign of a narrative thread disappears due to idiosyncratic editing. Non-sensical scenes still captivate, however, such as when Sue stumbles onto the soundstage where she finds Nikki (herself) rehearsing for Sue's part. In this meta-film about identity slippage, Dern's multiple characters remind one of how a victim can become the hunter in their fight for survival. Lynch's portrayal of Nikki/Sue's increasing paranoia is, in its own confusion, utterly realistic. Laura Dern has created her own Lady Macbeth, undone by her guilt over infidelity. Even though Inland Empire is too long and too random, Laura Dern's performance coupled with Lynch's video experiments make it magical. --Trinie Dalton
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However, if you want to see a film for grown-ups (a rare thing I feel, as even most 18 certificate films treat me like I have a mental age of 3!) that will take some effort in viewing but stay with you for days and weeks (I saw it two weeks ago and can't get it out of my head) then this film is for you. It is as close to a work of art of any piece of cinema I've seen and would look completely at home played on loop in the Tate Modern.
I have no idea what it is about, and I'm someone who will happily explain the plot to Mullholland Drive (it makes that film look like Driving Miss Daisy) but there are scenes in it that are so powerful and memorable I feel that they're tattooed to the inside of my eyelids. The acting is incredible, the use of Digital Video by Lynch is masterful, the plot is inexplicable, the soundtrack is wonderful and I loved it (once it had permeated into my brain after about 3 days).
If your favourite film is "Love Actually" for heavens sake stay away! If you want to see what the most adventurous filmmaker in America is doing with modern technology and fancy a challenge, get this now!
Chased through different settings and universes by a malevolent entity known as The Phantom, her story collides with others, each one with it's own protagonists; A sitcom starring a family of depressed antropomorphic rabbits who constantly talk about time, a group of eastern hookers (who may be living either in the present or in the past), murderous wives and a lonely girl trapped inside an abandoned hotel room.
David Lynch's Ambitious and apparently final movie is a sure treat for fans of the surreal and darkly unsettling universe created by the director's earlier works, filled with trademarks and references, Inland Empire pushes the envelope even further than Eraserhead, right into the subconscious of the viewer; especially for the open-minded to this particular kind of experience.
The plot itself, highly confusing actually, sometimes feels nothing else but an excuse for Lynch's pleasure to showcase his most loved elements; double identities, dancing women, stroboscopic lights, scary glares, smoke and anything included in his Manual of the Weird, but is indeed a great example of self-celebrative cinema; a resume of Lynch's journey through filmmaking; not pretentious at all but a dazzling and unexpected essay of its own.Read more ›
Some have justified this by saying it isn't meant to make sense, it just is. For me that isn't good enough. I want to know whether a certain incident takes place in the main film, the film within the film or within the actress's "inland empire" of the mind. If that question has no answer, I will want to know what all this weirdness, mystery and incoherence achieves. Does it add up to some real insight about this unfortunate lady's mind or does it just tell us that she was as deranged as we feel on leaving the cinema?
Mulholland Drive passed this test. You couldn't express the events of the film as a logical narrative but you felt that the strangeness pointed the way to an understanding of what Lynch was trying to say.
What about Inland Empire then? I wasn't convinced.
A lot of the film consists of shots in dark blurry corridors or unidentified faces in unidentified places. The idea that a film about a stupid person should have a stupid plot, or that a film about a dark and blurry mind should be dark and blurry so people don't know what they at looking at, is not a sound artistic principle.
If I describe to you a weird dream I had comprising a series of weird events, it won't be interesting unless I show how those events are symbolic for actual events or conflicts in my life so that you can see the contorted logic taking place within my mind. I could not identify any such logic in Inland Empire. Maybe a second viewing would have convinced me, but I didn't feel like watching it again.
There seems little point in trying to outline the plot seeing as (a) plenty of other reviewers have done and will do and (b) there isn't one.
Suffice to say, after the relatively straightforward first hour, Inland Empire's undercurrent drags the viewer deep into a 2 hour nightmare involving the Polish underworld, murder, L.A. prostitutes and people in 6-foot rabbit costumes. Themes and variations thereof are repeated and re-visited throughout the film with different people, in different places and/ or at seperate times. Occasionally, Lynch teases the viewer by providing brief glimpses or snippets of information that may give us a clue as to what might be going on. But, just as quickly, they're snatched away again.
It seem pointless even to mention that this film is likely to be very limited in its appeal and the 3 hour length only adds to its apparent impenetrability. But, for those able to keep an open-mind and just delight in being confounded for the duration of the feature, I believe there's no end to the number of times you could re-visit and find new aspects to it. I genuinally felt dis-orientated for several minutes after leaving the film.
I don't pretend to fully understand the meaning of the film (if there even is one), but Inland Empire has stuck in my mind since I first saw it more than 2 months ago. I can't give a film higher praise than that.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Deeply strange, and even more disturbing. This deals with some aspects of living in the general Hollywood area, then jumps back and forward to Poland. Read morePublished 3 months ago by James Caldwell
The Amazon rental stream version is missing the subtitles in the Polish scenes making a very confusing movie even more confusing! Lol.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
More please. Like the one-stars aren't getting catered for.
I'll never forget how it felt to see this in the cinema. Read more
....couldn't make it past the beginning ... will try again later. The first film from lynch i didn't love.Published 14 months ago by Orlock