The Score: 9.5 out of 10
We hear many complain about the mountains of exposition-driven dialogue in Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010), but can you imagine what the film would have been like without it? You do not have to, thanks to David Lynch's Inland Empire (2006). Where Inception takes place on five different levels of reality with continual clues orienting the viewer over its 148 minute running time, Inland Empire takes place on no less than eight levels of reality—perhaps more—with only sporadic clues peppering David Lynch's 180 minute movie.
Inland Empire (2006) Italian Trailer
If this sounds like a confusing plot, then you would be right. Pinpointing what scenes take place in what level of reality and in what sequence of time will certainly fire up your synapses if you are inclined to study this film in a cerebral manner. Many enjoy solving jigsaw-puzzle narratives, others do not. Thankfully, David Lynch creates an experience that operates on different levels of viewer consciousness simultaneously, making Inland Empire (2006) one of the most ambitious movies ever made.
|Memento's Leonard Shelby is Overwhelmed with Guilt Over His Wife's Death, But Cannot Be Certain What Happened|
|Inception's Dom Cobb is Overwhelmed with Guilt Over His Wife's Death, But Cannot Be Certain What Happened|
Although Inland Empire's plot is considerably different from Inception's, something on a primal level connects the two films together structurally. David Lynch and Christopher Nolan seem completely dedicated toward revealing the architecture of the human psyche in their own distinctive ways and within their own budgetary constraints. David Lynch seeks to do it with a bare-bones budget and a camcorder. Christopher Nolan seeks to do it with a blockbuster budget and 35mm/65mm film cameras. And Nolan's increased production values certainly translate through for a lush visual experience, while Lynch's film force mainstream audiences to adjust their expectations when watching.
Creativity and Audience Interaction
|"Everybody says, 'But the quality, David, it's not so good,' and that's true, but it's a different quality. It reminds|
me of early 35-millimeter film. You see different things. It talks to you differently."–David Lynch
Because of this, HD screencaps from the U.K. Blu-Ray release and some production stills from the set are primarily used in our article. The DVD compression process frequently savaged Lynch's source images into an unsightly mess. We wish the U.S. would get their Blu-Ray of the movie released soon, because the DVD's visuals are not rendered well and can be especially difficult to look at for three hours. And although the nature of Lynch's MiniDV source formatting will always result in a picture with less detail than film, a Blu-Ray transfer is necessary to render the images passably well.
David Lynch's New Process Making I.E.
Sony PD-150 MiniDV Camcorder
Film vs. Digital
|"The sky's the limit with digital. Film is like a dinosaur in a tar pit. People might be sick to hear that|
because they love film, just like they loved magnetic tape. And I love film. I love it!"–David Lynch
|Inland Empire's Director Poses with Inland Empire's Principal Cast. Pictured from Left to Right:|
Jeremy Irons, David Lynch, Laura Dern, and Justin Theroux
|Laura Dern Collaborating with David Lynch on the Set of Inland Empire|
|"Each day was a different direction, each day was a different idea because we didn't|
have a script... The truth is, I didn't know who I was playing—and I still don't know.
I'm looking forward to seeing the film to learn more."–Laura Dern
|Pictured: Jeremy Irons, David Lynch, and Harry Dean Stanton|
- We watch the actress Nikki Grace preparing for and performing the role of Sue Blue.
- We watch what Sue Blue actually goes through via the movie within the movie.
- We watch all the women whose experiences and stories Nikki is familiar with that influence the way Nikki plays the role of Sue Blue.
- We watch a woman viewer who is watching the finished film On High in Blue Tomorrows. She is deeply engaged with the unfolding drama on screen and finally experiences an emotional catharsis at the end of watching Sue Blue's story. This fictional character's story has some similarity to issues the woman viewer has been experiencing in her own life.
- We watch this woman viewer's related life experiences, but with the actors from the movie playing out the roles of her true-life drama.
- We watch fragments of an incomplete Polish film titled Four-Seven that was unfinished on account of the tragic murders of the main lead actor and actress. We learn that On High in Blue Tomorrows is based on that original unfinished film.
- We watch the Polish main leads who were murdered by the actress's jealous husband.
- We watch Polish men prepare for the strange conflagration of events about to take place as they channel the murdered Polish actress's spirit and prepare a weapon that Nikki Grace will use to defeat an evil presence that somehow exists within the story itself.
- We watch a group of man-sized rabbits going through the motions of a TV sitcom while an audience of unknown origin (a laugh track) continues to laugh at them during inappropriate moments.
- We watch Nikki Grace traverse through all layers of reality, finally ending her struggle after her performance helps the woman viewer achieve her catharsis.
- We watch every woman, real or imagined whose stories and lives influenced Nikki Grace's performance of Sue Blue, appear to Nikki in a gospel-themed end credit sequence. The evil presence within the story has been defeated and womankind generally benefit from Nikki's fearless and inspirational performance. Thanks to Nikki and the others collaborating on the film, women around the world who watch Sue Blue's story can better avoid falling into a similar hopeless cycle of abuse and death.
HOW CAN THIS BE?
|"Every film is like going into a new world, going into the unknown. But you should be not afraid of using your intuition, and feel and think your way through."–David Lynch|
|The Woman Viewing Nikki's Movie, Probably Also Representing Inland Empire Audience, Too|
Lynch's films do not feel like other people's films, which can be jarring at first. But as you encounter more movies that feel like just more of the same, the unique quality of Lynch's vision becomes more entertaining by comparison. So while we understand why some of you might be tempted to dismiss Lynch's work at first, we encourage you to pass through the kaleidoscope of these articles and view his films with a fresh set of eyes.
Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it." While most filmmakers design a scene to either be serious and dramatic or funny and comedic, David Lynch often designs his scenes to be both. So we recommend accepting the drama and humor of Lynch's movies in equal measure, and let him work on you with his unique brand of gallows humor.
Nikki Grace then makes the rounds of the talk show circuit with her costar Devon Berk. In a funny scene, Laura Dern's real-life mother Diane Ladd hosts the show and intimates that Devon's womanizing reputation and Nikki's close proximity to him throughout the shoot could threaten Nikki's marriage. Nikki deflects, not feeling any special attraction for Devon and rather insulted by the implication.
|William H. Macy Provides an Extremely Brief But Important Cameo Where He Voices a Central Theme of the Movie|
|Justin Theroux, Who Played the Hotshot Young Director from Mulholland Dr. Returns for Another Round with David Lynch, Now Playing the Male Lead in On High in Blue Tomorrows|
|Jeremy Irons Plays the Film's Director, Kingsley Stewart, Who Clearly Stands in for David Lynch Himself|
|Slowly But Surely, Nikki Enters a Strange World as She Delves Deeper and Deeper into Her Character Sue Blue|
|"I always thought of a David Lynch movie as buying a new jazz record. The best way is to let the film wash over you. Sit back and go on that ride."–Justin Theroux|
|Harry Dean Stanton|
Working with David is probably the best time you'll ever have in your life. Contrary to what anyone might think, when you're making a David Lynch movie you don't feel like you're making a David Lynch movie; you feel like you're making a Farrelly brothers movie or something. He's just a really, really fun guy to be around, and everyone that he works around and hires is just a blast. So you just go and have a goof and get serious for the work, but the rest is just gravy. It was really fun."–Justin Theroux
Perfect Blue, Nikki believes she is warning Devon about the dangers posed by her husband who seems to be aware of their affair. She laughs for a second and shouts that this all sounds like dialogue from their film. We then pull back on Devon's strong reaction to reveal they are acting in the middle of a scene being filmed on set. Nikki looks around her and realizes she was acting in a scene, and blurred the line of reality while acting in it. She has unintentionally revealed her affair with Devon on camera and in front of their director and the whole crew.
THE LONGEST RUNNING RADIO PLAY IN HISTORY
Nikki and her associated characters frequently encounter the word AXXoN N written as graffiti at key places throughout the film, without much explanation. At the beginning of the film we learn that AXXoN N is the longest running radio play in history. Although never fully explained, the fact that Inland Empire focuses so much of its attention on prostitutes could be related to this clue. Prostitution often being called the oldest profession in the world.
The character of Sue Blue apparently descends into the depths of prostitution in Hollywood, causing Nikki Grace to confront images, stereotypes, and ideas of prostitutes in her mind while figuring out how to best portray Sue when she becomes one in the end of On High in Blue Tomorrows. Much of Inland Empire seems to dramatize the process Nikki Grace goes through in preparing her character to sink to those depths, which would definitely be a disturbing process for a method actress.
|Julia Ormond Plays Billy Side's Wife in the Movie within the Movie, Who is|
Apparently Hypnotized by The Phantom to Kill Sue Blue
Nikki is despondent and as she gets up and walks away, her director Kingsley compliments her and is worried about the psychological strain the performance has apparently placed on Nikki. But Nikki ignores everyone and heads out across the dimensional planes to confront The Phantom for once and for all.In the Mouth of Madness. Nikki transcends all her realities and even crosses the threshold of the rabbits' apartment. Along the way, Nikki picks up the same weapon the Polish men had forged for her earlier with the help of the murdered Polish actress's spirit and Nikki's husband.
doppelgänger theme of Twin Peaks. Nikki overcomes her fear and destroys this evil presence. After this, Nikki manages to transcend past the TV screen and embrace the woman viewer who had been privately watching the movie at home. In this beautiful moment of triumph, Nikki's achievement crosses over and influences the real life of the viewer. The woman viewer leaves the room and apparently reconciles herself with her husband and son in real life.
Dune (1984), Nikki has allowed her fear to pass over her and through her. Now only she remains. Nikki now exists in an enlightened, happy, and harmonious state of being.
|David Lynch Ends His Film on a Hopeful Note, as Nikki Grace Reaches a Powerful|
Catharsis and Looks into the Camera and Smiles at the Audience
|Which is Similar to Paul Thomas Anderson's Ending for Another Epic San Bernardino Epic Drama|
Magnolia (1999), When Claudia Finally Feels Loved and Smiles at the Audience
|In the End Credit Sequence, a Reunion Apparently Takes Place in Nikki's Mind|
Buffy's Cast Interprets Inland Empire
Fan-Made Inland Empire Montage
The Art of David Lynch
MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)
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