Friday, April 23, 2010

#23-Inland Empire (2006)

Inland Empire

In speaking about Inland Empire, we must speak about it’s complications. The first and foremost being that this film is from David Lynch. Lynch is the creator of the 90’s cult television show Twin Peaks, as well as having three pervious Oscar nominations under his belt. Now, do not let all these impressive accolades fool you, David Lynch is not your typical fancy, high-end drama director, not someone willing to feed you the answers, just so you understand the question. Quite the opposite in fact. David Lynch hates people knowing the answer, or his answer to be precise, often when people ask him about the meanings to his work, his answer is ‘whatever you want them to be.’. Now, having stated this, if you haven’t seen a David Lynch film, do not start with Inland Empire, while this may seem like a negative, it is not. The reason I tell you not to start with this film, is because it is his least accessible, and his most impressive, being that it has no direct, or cohesive narrative. If you would like to watch a Lynch picture, start of with Wild At Heart, The Elephant Man, or The Straight Story, then work your way into Blue Velvet, or Eraserhead, after watching these, you can then fully delve into Lynch’s most luscious works, that include the likes of Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr., and last but not least, Inland Empire.

With no real plot to follow, it is rather hard to explain what goes on. For the first hour or so, the film is rather easy to understand, and a little mystery starts and everything is fine until we reach the two hour mark, then everything just gets weirder, and weirder, until we’ve fully descended into the rabbit hole, but I will try my best. The film opens with a prostitute being led into a dimly lit hotel room, asking the man what is going on, the film fades out, and into another room, this time with proper lighting, but without proper inhabitants. We find three rabbits sitting in a 1950’s art deco house, as if they were on their own sitcom, which it seems they are, with canned laughter coming from an unseen audience whenever one of these strange rabbits speaks. Back in the dusty hotel room, the woman is now crying, sitting on the edge of the bed, watching the television, where we see a strange red-headed woman walking down the sidewalk, we slowly zoom into the TV and watch this woman walk all the way to the home of Nikki Grace, the films main character, all within fifteen minutes.

Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is a film actress, who hasn’t had a successful part in the last few years. This opportunity shifts after she auditions for a role in a promising new film. Upon receiving the part (prophesized by the strange red-head, who unfortunately also prophesized murder) Nikki starts to get into her character of Sue Blue. Her director (Jeremy Irons) begins to tell everyone on set to get ready, because this film will launch them to the top of everyone’s year end list. This is until things go a little awry. Okay, a lot awry. Nikki begins having a real affair with her characters secret onscreen lover (Justin Theroux), they are also told that the film is a remake of an unfinished Polish film, in which all the films creators had died under mysterious consequences. All this while Nikki begins to lose herself in Sue. Not only is this hard for Nikki, but us as well, because David Lynch never tells us when she is acting as Sue, or when it is real life as Nikki, he does this purposefully. Before we know it, Sue is Nikki, Nikki is Sue, and we have no clue what is fantasy and what is reality, nor do we know if Nikki knows what is fantasy and reality. The film is even harder to understand with it’s three hour running length, and darkly creepy elements.

This, in my opinion, quite simply stated, is David Lynch’s magnum opus. It is filled to the brim with metaphors to the film industry which he has been in for years, and never does it slow down. He creates a fantasy within our own reality, making everything that happens seem oddly logical. He makes this woman, who is in dire trouble, someone to sympathize with, a temporary friend that we hold dear, even if we don’t truly know who she is. Lynch does impossibilities so well, we forget that he is going against everything we know; which is perfect. A director of that has this much power is defiantly a force to be reckoned with. There are very few three hour films that I am willing to sit through multiple times, even three hour films that I enjoy (Dark Knight, Magnolia), but Inland Empire is the exception. It isn’t necessarily because I notice something new in the film every time, but because I notice something different from the same thing. I’ve seen the film three times, the first time I walked out deeply confused and with an odd sense of loss in the pit of my stomach, the second time I walked out understanding more of the films theme, but a little depressed, the third time I walked out overjoyed, and very happy, feeling that the I’ve overcome something. I think this idea of changing emotions will be everyone’s experience, assuming they are willing to sit through the film multiple time, which you basically have to, or you’ll just walk out feeling like you’ve missed something.

"Come on baby, do the locomotion"

Not that I am a fan of the Academy Awards, or there picks, much less there wins, I still find it incredibly hard to believe that Laura Dern did not receive a nomination, at least. She has such (a) defined character(s), and pulls it off masterfully. An actress playing an actress playing a character has got to be one of the hardest roles in film history, because you first have to step outside yourself, and act like you are being yourself (one of the hardest things to do in real life), then you have to step outside of that and acting like you’re acting. Not to mention she is playing a character who doesn’t know if she is herself or a character, basically playing both at the same time. By the end of the film I counted Laura Dern playing six different people, or people within the minds of people and this number could be more, could be less. She is able to give each character their own persona and abilities, and is able to get into the mentality of each one, often switching between them each scene, which is an accomplishment in it of itself

This may seem very confusing, and it is. David Lynch gave the film so many literal layers that you have to pick one and stick with it. By the end of the film, you feel as though you’ve completed that specific quest, and next time you will be able to fulfill another, until you’ve connected all the plot strings to get a -hopefully- entire film in your head.

I must applaud Lynch’s writing on this one. Because not because of dialogue, or a specific plot point, but because he wrote each scene the day before shooting. It was originally going to be a set of short films, but eventually grew, and grew as he saw the full extent of Dern’s talent and where the story could go, until finally we have a three hour epic known as Inland Empire. A film that took an abnormally long three years to produce, and compelling all the way through. The direction by Lynch is also amazing as well. He, for whatever reason, knows how to use sound perfectly, or I suppose lack there of. He can completely go without any background noise, or dialogue, and make some of the creepiest scenes in film history. His idea that film is like music greatly shows in all his works. Lynch’s films aren’t about telling a specific story, or sending a certain message, but rather making us feel something. You can break down some of the scariest scenes in Inland Empire (which there are a lot of, even though it is a clear drama), and not find out why you are scared by them. One scene in particular with Dern running down a dirt road in slow motion gives me the chills every time. The picture is also shot completely with digital video, and uses that color pallet to perfection, making every color seem slightly grainy, and washed out, adding to the films dreamlike qualities.

Inland Empire will not be everyone’s cup of tea, in fact, I fear that it will appeal to a very small audience. This being said, that core group of fans will never look at cinema the same again. David Lynch has created something else here, something can induces and displays an amazing range of emotion, and has a certain feeling that floats around the film like a bubble, capturing the audience, an audience that may not understand, or even like what they are watching, but will feel what they are watching. Inland Empire is a film that you have to be ready to watch, one you have to be in the right mind-set for, and one that you want to except, no matter how weird or confusing it gets, you must accept what it is, it is then that you will truly find what lies in the middle of the Empire. Inland Empire is two hours and forty-five minutes of crawling through a dark, depressing, evil, and claustrophobic tunnel, to get fifteen minutes of some of the happiest cinema in history. Inland Empire is one of the best films of the year, the decade, the century, and, of all time.

I Give Inland Empire A:

No comments:

Post a Comment