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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 29 November 2007
I was really hoping for genius in this film, and came away utterly disappointed. While initially blown away by the awe-inspring art direction and intriguing low key tone of the piece, I was ultimately infuriated by the fact that every single shot and line was supposed to be suffused with meaning; a meaning that was often incomprehensible, and every actor talked in the same low, slow voice. It's a trick I often see in American films when they're trying to appear more 'European' and therefore more 'intellectual'. It works as badly here as it does anywhere else. In addition, while the confusion of the film was, at first, genuinely frightening, the tortuous pace and interminable length rendered any kind of suspense completely dead in the water.

While much has been said of Laura Dern's fantastic performance, I can't say it really struck me. It is possible that she was let down by the direction, but I became utterly tired of watching the same distressed/lost look on her face. Although this, along with everything else, can be partly blamed on the ridiculous 3 hour run-time.

Having believed that Mulholland Drive was a genuine work of genius, Inland Empire proved to be a major let-down. The two-tier structure worked more effectively in the former and, playing as it did on many film-noir conventions, the feeling of unreality and uncertainty was engaging, rather than alienating. Ultimately, if you're new to Lynch, I'd go for Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive. If you're a fan of Lynch, I'd just give it a miss.
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on 6 January 2008
Inland Empire, like much of the work of cult filmmaker David Lynch, is cinema in its purest sense; i.e., a trip into the unknown; filled with horror and wonder, pain and emotion, riddled with riddles and worlds within worlds and question-marks that weave in and out of layers of self-reflexive nightmare, drama and imagination. If you're familiar with Lynch's previous work, specifically his loose trilogy of psychological metamorphosis films - Fire Walk with Me (1992), Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001) - then you'll already have a vague understanding of what to expect from Inland Empire and how to best interpret its seemingly formless and meandering "plot". I use the word plot knowingly, as many of the most vocal criticisms of Inland Empire centre on its overall lack of focus compared to the preceding Mulholland Drive or his earlier works such as and The Elephant Man (1981), Blue Velvet (1986) and Wild at Heart (1990).

However, this is clearly a deliberate decision on Lynch's part and as thus cannot really be expressed as a genuine criticism; with the confusing twists, multiple characters, alternative film universe and disturbing swerves from (dark) comedy to horror all being intended to disarm the viewer and create a sense of paranoid confusion that mirrors that of the central character (or characters). It can, I suppose, seem dense and obscure; more of an ordeal to get through than even Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive combined, but still, try to approach it with an open mind and the disarmingly naive idea that Lynch has described the film as "the story of a woman in trouble". Now, note the significance of "the lost girl" that appears in the vague and initially confusing scene at the beginning of the film and the idea of the actress and the significance of the role that she will eventually play. As with Mulholland Drive (or any of Lynch's work for that matter) the film is chock full of clues that point to the specifics of the actual story at hand - however, that said, there is still much room for acres of personal interpretation, thought and analysis.

What the film means is ultimately down to the individual, and as such, the amount of enjoyment you get out of it will probably depend on the amount of work that you put in. So, if you wanted to watch it five times in a row to work out all the various "ins and outs" of the cryptic dialog and sketchy characters, then so be it. Likewise, if you wanted to dismiss the film after a single viewing; criticising it for a lack of clarity and sense of story then again, that's entirely up you. However, don't assume that just because the film didn't work for you that it must be an unmitigated failure (and likewise, anyone who doesn't enjoy the film should not be treated as an idiot). Still, there is plenty here to enjoy for those willing to appreciate the film with the right frame of mind. Unlike many filmmakers, Lynch always strives to produce great art; and like all art his work is entirely subjective, elusive and open to interpretation; hence my review title "anywhere between one star and five..." This isn't the kind of film that can be justified by an arbitrary rating; it will either be a film for you, or it won't. Some films are like that.

In my own opinion, Inland Empire wasn't something that I enjoyed quite as much as say, Eraserhead or Mulholland Drive, with my natural aversion to incredibly long films kicking in during the half-way point (this is almost three hours in length, half of which is in Polish and I watched without subtitles due to a problem with me DVD player - D'OH!). That said, there is still a lot to appreciate; from Lynch's bold use of digital filmmaking techniques and the incorporation of his own short-films and art-installations to offer further sub-textual depths to an already warped and fragmented story. In actual fact, the film often feels more like an art installation than an actual film, with some scenes merely revelling in arcane moments of reflection and visual expression. Other times the story manages to break through and actually drag you in; something that is mostly down to the riveting performance from Laura Dern; who dominates much of Inland Empire and really manages to embody the physical and psychological space of perhaps three to four different characters (adding further self-reflexive dementia to the idea of an actress, playing an actress, playing an actress, etc).

As I've discussed, Inland Empire isn't my favourite Lynch film, but like all of his films to date, it feels like something I SHOULD watch; something I should invest my time with in order to properly pick apart it's various supposed mysteries and experiments with the visual narrative. Like anything of this nature it feels somehow above criticism, though I know deep down that there are elements I didn't quite like or, indeed, understand. But still, who am I to say? Perhaps this won't be the most helpful review ever written - maybe I should have offered some of my own interpretations of the events and scenarios depicted herein? - but I think, by this stage, you will know quite well whether or not this film will be to your personal tastes (yeah, that's a close to three hour experimental art-drama about psychological dislocation! I'll get the beers in then!). Obviously don't watch it if you've never experienced another David Lynch film beforehand, and certainly not if you're looking for something to zone out with after a hard day at work. It might just drive you insane.
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on 31 December 2007
The opening montage alone is enough to intrigue, disturb and wildly entertain. Black and white headless bodies, technicolour dazzle,human acting rabbits in a distintly unfunny sitcom and we're not even past the ten minute mark. Laura Dern doesn't even feature in this spectacular overture but the film is all hers, it's her Inland Empire we peer into and by the end she's watching, literally, with us. Every frame of this film is vital and with more in common with music than convential cinema, demands that we watch, and I mean really look, at what's being projected to us and then re watch again and again. Laura Dern's character talks of men revealing themselves over time, eventually exposing their true nature and that is what this masterpiece does also. In time you feel you understand what you're watching, that you feel your way to a conclusion and it really is a very beautiful thing.
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on 30 March 2007
There will always be a hardcore of Lynch fans who will love Lynch's special brand of wierdness for its own sake or otherwise, but I think this film is his weakest to date. Since Lost Highway his films have become more and more obfuscated and fragmented, paying little mind to coherence of plot or character. Whereas Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway amounted to highly atmospheric and sometimes intensely emotional experiences, Inland Empire feels too deconstructed to sustain interest. All the trademark atmospherics are there, but there is little in terms of character or narrative push to make the audience care. Apparently Lynch wrote every scene before shooting, and with its lo-fi digital technique, it feels like it has been made up as it goes along. Furthermore, at almost three hours, it feels amateurish and pretentious, like a terrible student film extended way beyond necessity.

No matter how abstract the film (and especially at this length) the audience needs a reason to care and Lynch just doesn't deliver one on this occasion. Also, the visual and acoustic techniques that underpin the mood of this film seem largely regurgitated here, and as dislocated and nightmarish as it sometimes is, it never feels authentic. The sense that Lynch has run out of tricks a little is impounded by the cheap quality of some of the production. In one dislocated scene Laura Dern's character finds herself in some sort of brothel, and the lighting effect was obviously generated by shining torches in her face in a manner that recalls the acid trip sequence in Easy Rider. Its kitchen sink standard at times, but Lynch never punches above the weight of the apparent economic restraints. Where the sumptuousness of Lynch's recent productions were engaging in their own right (think of the ink black interior spaces of Lost Highway or the soft focus dreaminess of some of the early scenes in Mulholland Drive), Inland Empire's digital technique draws too much attention to its own limitations.

No doubt fans will spend hours pouring over this movie to draw up numerous allegorical conclusions, and they are welcome to. But is a film rich in symbolism necessarily a good one? Inland Empire is as open to interpretation as it is obscure, but the idea of film analysis as a process of decodification is a dated one. A film's style IS the substance. 'Meaning' interpreted from a film beyond what can be seen or felt is not necessarily attributable to its artifice, and should not be evaluated as such. Inland Empire is a succession of half-baked, self-indulgent non-sequitors that any other filmmaker would be rubbished for. Without a logic even within its own illogical world, it is a tedious mess.
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on 26 September 2014
I have to say, this is the weirdest film I have ever tried to watch.

It's obviously a cult type of movie that will appeal to a specific audience but I have to say, that's not me. It's hard to describe as it is so bizarre! The opening scene where the actors are in a small room and wearing donkey heads made no sense to me? The dialogue is drawn out and stilted. Long periods of silence between each exchange. Odd acting styles. In fairness I have to confess that I only watched about 20 mins of what is a 3 hour movie. I tried zipping through to see if it started to make sense but it seemed the same all the way through.

Oh well, horses for courses?
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on 26 November 2012
Big David Lynch fan I am but to this obscure expressionism I cannot willingly surrender myself. As a youth I spliffed up and sat in front of Eraserhead for 90 minutes of melon - twisting torture and laughed it off. This film goes on much longer than that, all in the half-light of some murky industrial basement, oppressive vibrations, grainy light. The true Lynchites will adore this but I think it is a bad film and one that I know I will never watch again. As for the plot. Something in the dark backlot of a movie studio.
Get away from the movies, David.
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Okay, I probably wouldn't rather watch the risible 90's sitcom "The Brittas Empire" than this film. But, to be honest, it's a close call. Sorry, folks, but "Inland Empire" is, for the most part, insufferably dull.

I have no hesitation in stating that David Lynch is one of my favourite directors. Many of his films could well fit in to my all-time top ten - "The Elephant Man" and "Mulholland Drive" being two notable examples amongst a plethora of cinematic treasures.

Lynch has a reputation for directing visually arresting, quirky, nightmarish and downright EXCELLENT movies. Just check out "Lost Highway" or the aforementioned "Mulholland Drive". Both are suspenseful, gripping, visually stunning and contain utterly confounding plotlines! The very confounding nature of these films means that they can ultimately be enjoyed again and again.

"Inland Empire", on the other hand, simply left me cold. It is shot on digicam, resulting in a muddy picture quality and giving the whole film a distinctly distant nature. Not effective, in my opinion.

Once again, the plot here is confusing to say the least. I usually relish David Lynch's puzzles that are famously "open to interpretation". With this movie, however, I ultimately found that I did not much care what was going on. Tragically, my overriding reaction to this film was INDIFFERENCE.

I don't think this film sits too well in Lynch's catalogue, to be honest. It pales in comparison to his masterpieces such as "Blue Velvet" and "Wild at Heart". Hell, it certainly wasn't worth waiting 6 years for!

If you are looking for an abstract and experimental contemporary movie, Aronofsky's "The Fountain" is a far better bet than "Inland Empire". "The Fountain" is stunningly shot and superbly suspenseful. In fact, it is remeniscent of David Lynch at his finest.

"Inland Empire", on the other hand, is nothing less than a disappointment.
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on 8 September 2007
I'm not stupid and I can appreciate good films (including other David Lynch movies) - this just isn't one of them. I'd been looking forward to seeing this film for ages and now just wish I hadn't bothered.
I've never known a film to make me fall asleep so many times. When I finally managed to stay awake all the way through I was left feeling empty and annoyed that I'd wasted close to three hours of my life watching this pretentious crud. I wish I'd given up and left the room to clean the bathroom like my girlfriend did.
Having said this, I did enjoy the first half an hour...which is why I forced myself to see it through to the bitter end.
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on 19 February 2016
Good film but slightly dated
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on 4 February 2015
OK
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