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RELEASED: 2006, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: 3 hours
DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY: David Lynch
PRODUCERS: David Lynch & Mary Sweeney
MUSIC: Mark Zebrowski
Laura Dern as Nikki Grace
Justin Theroux as Devon Berk
Jeremy Irons as Kingsley Stewart
(also featuring Harry Dean-Stanton in a minor role)
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Nikki Grace is an actress who has been offered a part in a film, playing opposite leading male Devon Berk.
Kingsley Stewart is a very encouraging, supportive film director, but after a few screenshots, informs Nikki and Devon that the movie they are working on is a re-write of an old Polish film which was never completed, due to some sort of tragedy that halted its progress.
Before long, Nikki finds herself caught up in a bizarre, mutating set of circumstance involving strange and perhaps historic Polish people and a group of LA hookers, with a string of events that mimic the tragedy which stopped production of the original, unfinished film.
I think that's what was happening, anyway!
Having seen and enjoyed a few of David Lynch's films, I reluctantly took the plunge into watching Inland Empire, a little put off at first when I discovered it to be three hours long.
I was rather confused initially, as one of the early scenes in the film consists of three adults, two men and one woman, in a living room. The woman is constantly ironing, and the trio talks in flat, monotonous voices to one another. The most bizarre thing is that all three are wearing rabbit heads. From start to finish, these rabbit people made brief appearances throughout the film - with the female rabbit character still doing her ironing - and I was completely unable to fathom out what their relevance or purpose was, but was able to take it in my stride with the realisation that David Lynch both thinks, and makes his movies a long, long way outside of the box.
My confusion continued as the film progressed, and to be honest, I hadn't the remotest clue of what was supposed to be going on, but I was simultaneously transfixed, unable to tear my eyes away from the screen. Usually if something is this baffling, I'll give it say 30 minutes then switch off when the going becomes impossible, but for some reason I allowed myself to withstand, fascinated, the full three hours of this totally bewildering film.
Inland Empire does have a very large cast, but the only characters who make consistent appearances throughout the proceedings are those I mention above, with the lead role of Nikki being excellently and faultlessly played by Laura Dern. She expressed a wide range of emotions with a perfection that would be hard to equal, let alone beat, and it really must have been a very difficult part to play, so she receives my outstanding commendation.
It was also good to see Jeremy Irons, as he's someone I've always had a fascination for, plus it was also good to see one of my Hollywood heroes, Harry Dean-Stanton, although his part in the film is relatively minor.
The film's music for the most part is very avant-garde, consisting of strange percussive noises, hums, buzzes and choral voices. However, a few other little surprises appear, namely, amongst others, At Last by Etta James and Little Eva's The Locomotion. I was quite impressed by two songs at the end of the film, the first being a heartfelt - in an intelligent way - love song, followed by a delightfully unusual reggae-influenced piece. The main avant-garde type score appears, according to the closing credits, to have been snippets of Polish and German music.
It is very difficult for me to say why I found Inland Empire so compelling, bearing in mind that I spent the whole three hours of viewing time with a massive question mark prodding into my skull, utterly unable to work out even the surface of what was supposed to be going on. It could be that I was enjoying the ultra surreal elements, together with lots of clever camera angles and some interesting special effects. The storyline is tinged with very definite sexual undertones, put across in a slightly 'dirty' way, which isn't uncommon for David Lynch. He seems to have a fascination with the underworld, street life and sexual situations which border the exotic, and Inland Empire is no exception in this area.
This is a film which demands the viewer's full concentration, and even with the affording of single-minded focus on what is happening, it is still virtually impossible to understand, yet strangely fascinating at the same time. It isn't something which would in the slightest appeal to people who prefer a solid story with a beginning, a middle and an end, as David Lynch films rarely happen like that, especially this one.
Even as I am typing this now, for some reason I just can't get some of the scenes from Inland Empire out of my mind. It has certainly stuck and made an impression on me, possibly because of its power more than anything else. This is, despite its crazy, disjointed, bitty presentation and baffling storyline, a very penetrating piece of cinema. I'm not sure I'd watch it again, but have no regrets about giving it three hours of my time.
In summary, I would recommend Inland Empire to anybody who likes David Lynch films or is fascinated by very over the top bizarreness, but as said above, if your movie preferences are for all things straightforward, then you'd probably loathe it....and, three hours is a long time to stare at a screen, impossibly trying to make head or tail of something which just isn't your cup of tea.
At the time of writing, Inland Empire can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.75 to £19.99
Used: from £3.43 to £15.94
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I was forced to watch this a few weeks ago by my movie-buff friend who claims it's one of the best films he's ever seen. He's never usually let me down before so I decided to give it a go.
Inland Empire is directed by David Lynch and was released in 2006. For those that don't know, David Lynch also did Twin Peaks many years ago, Blue Velvet and also Mulholland Drive among other classics.
-What the film is about-
It's a bit of a stretch to write a synopsis (and those who have seen Inland Empire will know what I mean) but here is my attempt.
Laura Dern plays Nikki Grace, a successful actress who has just been cast in a movie by a successful director called Kingsley Stewart, played by Jeremy Irons.
Just before Nikki is due to start work on the film, she is visited by a mysterious woman played by Grace Zabriskie (who has appeared in previous Lynch films). The woman tells Nikki that the new film she is making is about her marriage, and she also tells Nikki that she is going to break her marital vows. Nikki says both claims are untrue and she asks the woman to leave. Instead the woman tries to explain how she knows what she does.
Next, we see Nikki on her first day on set with Kingsley and co-star Devon Berk, played by Justin Theroux. As their director, Kingsley informs the actors that the film is in fact a remake, and the original was never completed because the original leads were cursed. We see Nikki and Devon start work in their roles, which we learn is as a couple who are having an affair.
Next, we see Nikki invite Devon for dinner. While she is out of the room, her husband threatens Devon. He says that if he touches his wife, he will make things very 'dark' for Devon.
Confused? It just gets more and more confusing as the film goes on. Next we see Nikki 'trapped' in the film set, and she goes from set to set, making the viewer unsure of when she is acting and when she is being herself.
The film is basically about a loss of identity, and by the end of the film you certainly get that feeling. There isn't any happiness in the film, in fact every scene is more sinister and scarier than the last. Some people like that in a film, but I don't. By the end of the film I just wanted to go to bed but I couldn't sleep because I was afraid I'd have nightmares! Even if a film isn't my particular kind of genre, I can normally still find redeeming factors in it, but with this I can't. It actually put me in really low spirits for days and the film was just one big confusion. Apart from loss of identity, you can't really pinpoint what the film was about. I have no idea what actually happened in the film, I just know it was all pretty grim.
What I can say though is that as usual Laura Dern gives a spectacular performance. This film really shows off her versatility. She uses a variety of different accents and takes on different personas in this film and that's interesting to watch.
And one thing I have in common with David Lynch is a cinematic appreciation of music. I love how in his films he always works a piece of music perfectly into a particular scene, so they go hand in hand. Inland Empire is no exception and there are a couple of treats in there.
Those who are familiar with Lynch films know that he likes to leave a lot of the work to the viewer, that is to say, he likes us to work out for ourselves what the film is about and what he is trying to say. In the films I have seen by him, I have enjoyed this and I think on the whole it's all part of the beauty of a David Lynch production. However, this film just takes it way too far for me. I like to have clear clues in a film, sorry if that makes me a phillistine! So if you're into your avante-garde, ambiguous arty films, this is probably the film for you!
Needless to say, I had a massive go at my friend and told him never to show me any more of these horrible films!
Laura Dern as Nikki Grace
Justin Theroux as Devon Berk
Jeremy Irons as Kingsley Stewart
Grace Zabriskie as Visitor 1
Various interviews with David Lynch
Digital (which made some parts interesting from a film-buff's point of view)
A painful 180 mins :(
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Although I wasn't totally enamoured with Inland Empire, don't let that make you think I don't like David Lynch; I'm a huge fan of his Twin Peaks TV series and films Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet, but unlike others, I'm discerning enough to not simply buy into everything he releases. Inland Empire has some good moments, but borders on pretentiousness and is far too impenetrable to be the masterwork that it could have been.
Revolving around the minimalist premise of "a woman in trouble", Inland Empire introduces us to Nikki Grace (Laura Dern), an acclaimed actress, who spends the vast majority of the film traipsing around L.A. trying to get a film part and then going on a strange, dreary odyssey that is, as you can tell, very difficult to summarise. There are some great dream-like moments sprinkled throughout, but trying to make sense of this is no easy feat, and it feels a lot more muddled than Mulholland Drive, which, while also challenging, had a very clear narrativity.
Inland Empire is certainly a challenging film, if not only for its length, but in attempting to make sense of it. Whilst some interesting ideas were explored, and Dern did very well with the material she was given, this at times felt like a Mulholland Drive retread, and at other times simply didn't explore the most intruiging aspects of the "plot" well enough. I wasn't particularly fond of Lynch's decision to shoot on digital, either - it made the film seem cheap and amateur to me. As a narrative piece, this doesn't really hit home, but as an artistic piece, it's good enough. This film, however, cannot escape the shadow of Lynch's brilliant Mulholland Drive.
David Lynch's 2006 epic film project 'Inland Empire' is not for everybody. It is a very surreal, psychological thriller that starts off with a promise of a comprehensible narrative but it becomes more dream-like, absurd and sometimes nightmarish, as it goes on. It is now three years since the film's release and there appears to be no consensus about what is actually going on, even amongst the die-hard Lynch fans discussing it on the forums. Lynch himself has stressed that we should not try to go about understanding this in the wrong way, we are supposed to FEEL our way through this film. It starts with an image in black and white of a needle on a vinyl record introducing "Axxon n. (reference to this crops up throughout the film) The longest running radio play in history, continues tonight in the Baltic region, a grey winter's day in an old hotel room". The scene changes to a hotel room where we see two figures, with blurred out faces, who appear to be a prostitute with her John. The film changes from black and white to colour at this point as the scene changes to show a brunette sitting in what may or may not be the same room, who may or may not be that same woman, and now we can see her face. She is crying and watching fleeting snippets of sped-up life on her television set. One of those snippets involves a kind of sub-story involving talking rabbits. Don't ask. Another snippet shows the fantastic Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie (Laura Palmer's mother in Twin Peaks) walking up to a big mansion. That big mansion belongs to one Nikki Grace (played to an impressive standard by Laura Dern) we now enter into Nikki's world. She is clearly very rich and slightly snooty but welcomes the Grace Zabriskie character when she calls round unexpectedly, to meet her new neighbour. She is apparently from the Baltic region and her strange way of talking in riddles and omens soon leaves Nikki bemused. Nikki is an actress who has auditioned for a part in a film, but this neighbour seems to know all about Nikki even though they have just started to make small talk, she knows she will get the part and, despite no murder being in the script, there WILL be a murder. She also warns Nikki that 'actions have consequences' which is an oft-repeated phrase throughout the film, and she also speaks about how easy it is to forget these things. A disturbed Nikki asks her to leave. She does get the part in the film, playing alongside one Devon Berk (played by the brilliant Justin Theroux), she finds out that there is a polish gypsy curse on the film, that this is the second attempt at making it because the first two lead actors were murdered. There is this strong connection to Poland throughout the film, with apparent flashbacks to the original attempt to make the film, involving the brunette watching the tv. Things take a sinister and surreal turn when Nikki and Devon both appear to have confused reality with the script of the film. The characters are having an affair, and in real life Nikki and Devon appear to be doing the same, although that seemed unlikely at the start. We now enter into the world of the character Nikki is playing, called Susan Blue, as though it is a reality. The confusion of the viewer as to what is going on in the film serves to communicate the confusion of the characters. Nikki's husband is played by the polish actor, Peter J. Lucas, but this actor also apparently plays other personalities in the film and we are left to try to work out the meaning of this. In the polish part of the story, actually filmed in Poland, Peter J. Lucas is playing the extra-marital lover of the brunette. In Nikki's world, he is menacing, threatening and jealous, as he warns Devon against having an affair with his wife. In Susan's world, Peter J. Lucas is still her husband, but his personality is different, he dresses shabbily and they live in a dingy little house instead of that beautiful mansion. Krzysztof Majchrzak, plays the part of the brunette's jealous, menacing husband, in the polish part of the film. He appears to wield some hypnotic control over what is happening and is a central character, possibly even the source of the curse. Dern's character further metamorphosises into an even rougher character people refer to as 'foul mouthed whore' who talks fondly of a man she once knew with a dick like a rhino. Laura Dern actually plays arguably four different personalities throughout the film. 'Inland Empire' gives a nod to The Shining with some incidental music (which is eerie) and a scene is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard. This was shot on a hand-held, inexpensive, digital video camera and Lynch embraces the lack of clarity that provides, although some viewers will be put off by the lack of high definition, sharp quality they have come to expect from films. He also embraces the lack of clarity of what is actually happening to whom in this film. "..in a frame, if there's some question about what you're seeing, or some dark corner, the mind can go dreaming. If everything is crystal clear in that frame, that's what it is - that's all it is". Some people will always find that attitude pretentious, but I personally love it. You will like this film is you like Ingmar Bergman films for example, because you can still enjoy it even if you have no idea what is going on. In Inland Empire, some scenes are terrifying, some very beautiful, many scenes appear irrelevant. Shot with no script, with freshly written pages handed to the actors each day, we are still assured by Lynch that there is a relation to be found between events. Also stars Jeremy Irons who is great as the director, and the weathered-looking great actor Harry Dean Stanton. Also contains cameos by Nastassja Kinski, William H. Macy, Laura Harring, Diane Ladd (Laura Dern's mum), Mary Steenburgen and Naomi Watts's voice as one of the rabbits. I bet those actors love even a cameo in a Lynch film, probably refreshing after working for all those 'normal' directors. The soundtrack is good, particularly 'Ghost of Love', sung by Lynch believe it or not. I believe that a dvd is available in the US with extra scenes to excite hard-core fans, but unfortunately not the European version. Nearly three hours long, a director with more commercial intentions would have cut it down, but this was his vision. This is what Lynch wishes to be his only clue "We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe." This film is true art.
You are either a fan of David Lynch films or you hate them and being a fan I thoroughly enjoyed Inland Empire. The cast is drawn from some of his big favourites hence you have the excellent Laura Dern and the equally good Harry Dean Stanton appearing in the film.
Dern plays Nikki Grace who is a actress who has just laned a big movie lead role with her male co star Devon Berk being played by Justin Theroux. However all is not what it seems and they actually find out that the film they are going to make is an old film that was never finished after both the lead actors were murdered and the storyline is based on an old Polish folk story. This is where you meet the director of the movie Kingsley Stewart played by Jeremy Irons and the fantastically weird side kick of his Freddie Howard who is played by Stanton. Being a Lynch film you know that some weird stuff is bound to happen and sure enough it does not take long before both the cast and you the viewer find yourself on a surreal and terrifying journey.
This is a wonderfully strange film tha jumps about all over the place and boasts some excellent performances not least from Dern who is a very accomplished actress. Her performance is powerful and expressive and a joy to behold.
There are some truly horrific moments in this film which will have you hiding behind the sofa and there are also some rather funny touches as well which is just classic Lynch. At times the film gets rather claustraphobic and certainly as a viewer I found that I could never really relax which is the sign of a good suspense film which this one most certainly is. The only real draw back to the film is the length as it is too long in my opinion at the best part of 180 minutes.
Inland Empire, produced in 2006, was director David Lynch's first feature length film since Mulholland Drive in 2001 and is shot entirely in standard definition digital video. The cast comprises many Lynch regulars such as Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, and Grace Zabriskie. There are also contributions from Jeremy Irons, Diane Ladd, Nastassja Kinski, William H. Macy, Laura Harring, and Ben Harper. The DVD was rented and disappointingly there were no extras apart from a trailer. Nor is there the option of jumping to different chapters of the movie.
Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is a film actress who's just landed a new role playing Susan Blue alongside Devon Berk (Justin Theroux) in a new film production called 'On High in Blue Tomorrows'. At least that's what the two lead actors are led to believe. Just before the shoot begins, their director Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) along with his weird sidekick Freddie Howard (Harry Dean Stanton), informs them that 'On High in Blue Tomorrows' is actually a remake of an old movie based on a Polish-Gypsy folk-tale. This older movie was abandoned halfway through due to the two leading actors being murdered in mysterious circumstances. Right on cue as this information is revealed strange things begin to happen on set and as the shooting of the scenes for the remake take place Nikki Grace's perceptions of time and space seem to become distorted as she is transported and transfigured through a series of parallel worlds.
Trying to explain what happens next is almost a futile task, but just to give you a vague idea I will try to describe it. On one level Lynch uses the concept of a movie within a movie to puzzle the audience so that we're never sure if we're witnessing a scene from 'On High in Blue Tomorrows' or merely a scene from 'Inland Empire'. To complicate matters further (and I'm guessing here) we also witness at various points not only what appear to be scenes from the original Polish movie but also scenes from the past that occur in Poland. Added to this are dreamlike sequences that appear to take place in modern day America. Laura Dern as Nikki Grace is central to most of these scenes and seems to take on numerous different guises within them. On other occasions one is never sure if events are happening within the fragmented mind of Nikki Grace.
There are plenty of weirdly wonderful or disturbingly sinister characters in this film, some of whom seem to have an important role - most notably Nikki Grace's jealous husband who appears in various guises throughout the film and the cluster of prostitutes that gather around Nikki in various claustrophobic settings. The anthropomorphic rabbits are no doubt the weirdest of the lot and defy explanation. Apparently these rabbit scenes were taken from an earlier short film produced in 2002 and released exclusively on Lynch's website
One important figure is 'The Lost Girl' (Karolina Gruszka) who at times appears as a petrified viewer watching all the events on a TV screen or alternatively appears as a tormented persecuted figure from the past. There is also the strange neighbour who visits Nikki's mansion in the opening scenes brilliantly played by Grace Zabriskie. There were impressive performances all round, the Polish actors (I'm assuming most of them were Polish) in particular were brilliant. But Laura Dern, as she has been so often in her many collaborations with the director, was outstanding in the central role. Her countless facial expressions of puzzlement, bewilderment and sheer horror were truly captivating and no doubt mirrored my own as I watched this film.
Despite the film's predominantly nightmarish quality Lynch still leaves room for his usual quirky humour and those bizarre episodes of perplexing dialogue usually issued from the lips of Harry Dean Stanton:
"Well... There is a vast network, right? An ocean of possibilities. I like dogs. I used to raise rabbits. I've always loved animals. Their nature. How they think. I have seen dogs reason their way out of problems. Watched them think through the trickiest situations. Do you have a couple of bucks I could borrow? I've got this damn landlord..."
Amidst all the confusion there are some beautifully shot scenes, particularly the dream-like night sequences in Poland. There is also some well crafted editing as Lynch twists the story one way and then the next in order to ratchet up the suspense and terror. The usual Lynchian symbols of dark narrow corridors, pink and green interiors, red curtains and flickering lights have never been used more effectively. In a previous review someone criticised the shaky camera work and the use of digital video, but I thought the use of DV hand held cameras fitted the film like a glove and in no way was my enjoyment spoilt. In fact I thought the hand-held close ups and wide angle lenses were superbly effective in the way they distorted the faces of the characters and created a sense of eerie claustrophobia.
Inland Empire might be considered a little lengthy at nearly three hours running time. There probably are some scenes that dragged, but personally I think the running time is only an issue because this is a very challenging film to watch - the plot is a complex puzzle that you're constantly trying to work out but which only gets more complicated as the story unfolds or rather... doesn't unfold. After nearly three hours, this is taxing on the brain to say the least. I guess the advice should be to go with the flow and not try to work out what's going on, but it's difficult not to.
Another reason why you might need a break half way through is that watching Inland Empire can be a nerve jangling experience. From beginning to end the film exudes an eerie threatening ambience - it keeps your nerves on edge for a long time. Some scenes certainly make you jump and more than once I got cold shivers up and down my right side. I confess I did watch the film alone in the dark - perhaps not recommended for those of a nervous disposition - but it's the only way you should watch this film in order to get the full effect.
My one major gripe was the audio quality of the movie. Through much of the dialogue characters are almost whispering to each other or mumbling out words in strange accents. There is Polish dialogue in some parts of the movie for which subtitles are used. Subtitles would have helped with some of the English speaking parts as well - without the use of the playback button I would have missed a good proportion of what was being said. However, in other ways Lynch does use the soundtrack to good effect whereby creepy quiet sequences are suddenly broken by loud music or screams.
In terms of atmosphere and emotional intensity the Inland Empire succeeds brilliantly. There is no doubt that Lynch has had the freedom to do what he likes without none of the constraints that were imposed on him during the making of such previous efforts like 'Fire Walk With Me'. In this respect the film reminds me of the experimental qualities present in Eraserhead. However, sometimes I think Lynch is asking too much from his audience and at times I wonder whether Lynch himself knows what the hell he's doing. Apparently Lynch shot the film without a complete screenplay and each day would hand out pages of new script to each actor. Maybe this is one reason why the film does somewhat lose its way at around the 2 hour mark. It is here perhaps where some of the scenes could have been shortened. On the other hand this lull sets up the film's sublime final 15 minutes. It was this concluding part of the film that I really appreciated more on the second viewing where various loose ends are tied up... sort of. No doubt some will struggle to cope, but for Lynch fans Inland Empire is definitely a 'must see'.
Recently I reviewed the film Lost Highway and stated that I found it to be director David Lynch's most confusing film, I think I spoke to soon. I've finally got round to watching his most recent offering, Inland Empire and let's just say it's in a league of its own. It makes Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive seem like the most clear cut example of storytelling in comparison.
Released in 2006 it could once again loosely be described as a surreal psychological thriller, with a strong stress of the surreal part. Giving a plot outline is quite the difficult task, as I'm still not sure of what was going on in parts, but simply put it stars Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) as an actress who takes on a role in a remake of an old Polish film. She soon discovers that original Polish movie was abandoned during filming after the two lead actors where murdered, thinking that the film is cursed and realising that her life is beginning to mimic the fictional film script, Nikki is driven into madness. That is only a very brief outline of how the film starts but it is a much harder task to describe what else happens without giving everything away.
Inland Empire is nearly 3 hours long, so it's no quick watch, and took Lynch two and a half years to complete, with no studio guidelines or limitations in place. Essentially this means its Lynch at his rawest, no one telling him what he can't do and because of that feels like 3 hours of him just reeling off his imagination.
It is rumoured that a lot of the script is improvised or at most scribbled out quickly before the scene was shot, and the actors are said to have been confused over what was being shot, but just had to take each scene as it came. At times Inland Empire feels less like a feature film and more like something you would see in an art gallery.
David Lynch's other films where confusing, there is no denying that, but the more you watched them (and read about them) the more you could see of the story. Whilst being surreal and dreamlike you can actually see the message Lynch was trying to get across, and it became fun, re-watching a film and understanding it more and more with each watch. I have only watched Inland Empire the once so I can only speculate, but I get the impression this is a film you're not meant to understand, a film which Lynch doesn't want you to "work out".
The film left me confused like no other I've ever seen (and I'm someone who likes a confusing illogical film), and I just don't know what to think of it? Is it an amazing master piece or a massive step to far by Lynch? This may have to be a question you answer yourself. There's no denying it's a wonderful visual spectacle, Lynch is a fine film maker and there are some beautifully shot scenes within this. Long time Lynch favourite Laura Dern is great playing a woman slowing losing her mind (at least that's what seems to be happening) and Jeremy Irons has a short but really good performance as a typically British film director as well.
I am 100% certain that I've missed things during my first watch, and quite possibly major plot points which could have even changed the meaning I got from it, but I don't think I can be blamed for that. If someone claims to fully understand Inland Empire after one view, they are lying. As well as the dream-like logic and general intense weirdness, a lot of it is in Polish with subtitles. Whilst I have no problem with subtitles whatsoever, it does confuse you a bit when nothing is explained and you're just thrown from scene to scene.
It's not that I didn't enjoy Inland Empire, I did, it's a really great visual experience, it's just I didn't get the narrative, but is this important? For some people yes, yes it is and they for one would absolutely hate this. I don't mean to put anyone off but I can't see Inland Empire having much of an audience outside of David Lynch fans, but I may be wrong, but you definitely have to be tolerant of a surreal style.
I've read lots of reviews and articles attempting to breakdown Inland Empire but I am yet to find a theory which I am truly convinced by. Maybe this is what makes Inland Empire such a fascinating film, it just straight up refuses to give up its secrets. It mysterious, dark and an all round heavy going watch, but if you make it to the end it's an experience which is rewarding. If you feel you have the patience I recommend Inland Empire, stick with it and let David Lynch take you into his wild imagination.
Main cast includes;
Laura Dern - Nikki Grace Król / Sue Blue
Peter J. Lucas - Piotrek Król
Grace Zabriskie - Visitor #1
Mary Steenburgen - Visitor #2
Jeremy Irons - Kingsley Stewart
Harry Dean Stanton - Freddie Howard
Justin Theroux - Devon Berk / Billy Side
Julia Ormond - Actress Playing Doris Side
Karolina Gruszka - Lost Girl
Krzysztof Majchrzak - Phantom
Director: David Lynch
Release Date: 9 March 2007(UK)
Running Time: 180 minutes
Certification: 15 (language, some violence and sexuality/nudity)
Available on DVD.
The latest film from American director David Lynch is difficult to categorise - It's a dark and depressing journey which involves alternate realities - but it isn't a sci-fi. Human-esque rabbits in sitcoms, Polish gangsters, and ethereal prostitutes make for a bizarrely unnerving viewing experience. Of course, 'unusual' is what we have come to expect from the director who brought us 'Lost Highway', 'Mulholland Drive', and 'Eraserhead' - yet the aforementioned movies are 'easy to understand' when compared to Inland Empire.
Filmed on a (relatively) cheap camcorder (which adds an eerie and voyeuristic appeal to proceedings), Laura Dern stars as 'Nikki Grace' - an actress taking the lead role in a doomed movie. Dern adds a lot of emotion to her role, but her performance is upstaged by the film as a whole, which is completely overwhelming in its surreal complexity.
At nearly three hours in length, Inland Empire will really test your patience - there *are* many interesting moments, but I wanted the film to end on more than one occasion. This is probably because I was hoping to glean some semblance of story or plot (occasionally you think you've worked out what's going on) - but all too often hope completely evaporates. There are some really arty scenes which are beautifully filmed, but that doesn't make the film any more watchable. Inland Empire is frightening, but not in the way a horror movie is frightening - it's just so dark and grimy, ultimately bringing an air of depression to the confounded viewer. In this sense, the film works, as i'm sure that's what Lynch wanted.
For all you Lynch fans out there, you'll certainly want to see Inland Empire - but it's even harder to follow than his usual productions. I'm not saying that the film is bad, but I couldn't get my head round what was happening - it makes Lost Highway seem easy to watch- and that's saying something... prepare to be frustrated!
- - - - - - -
Laura Dern - Nikki Grace / Susan Blue
Jeremy Irons - Kingsley Stewart
Justin Theroux - Devon Berk / Billy Side
Karolina Gruszka - Lost Girl
Jan Hencz - Janek (as Jan Hench)
Krzysztof Majchrzak - Phantom
The DVD version of Inland Empire can currently be purchased for £7.97 from amazon.co.uk.
David Lynch's latest voyage is an unusual, mind numbing combination of experimental film-making, typical Lynch style traits and headache inducing digital video imagery. As a David Lynch fan for nearly 30 years his latest movie leaves me cold, while the story, acting, and experimentation may have been good the camerawork destroyed any chance this movie had of endearing itself to me.
Laura Dern stars as a popular actress, who through certain strings pulls off the opportunity to star in what could be the biggest movie of all time. No sooner has the movie began rolling however than certain similarities occur mirroring her own life, its at this point that the movies production team decide to explain to her and her co-star (played by Justin Theroux) that many years prior German's had tried to make the picture, however rumours spread across the set that the film was cursed; and shortly after the leading actors were violently murdered. As Dern continues filming she slips into a sort of parallel world, unable to tell the present world from that of the movie.
As Inland Empire started it was filmed with familiar Lynch hallmarks, most notably a sit com on a television where people dressed in Rabbit costumes were the stars, better still featuring canned laughter at parts that clearly were not funny. Follow this up with a visit to Dern's "mansion" by foreign neighbour and Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie, acting all weird, talking with a "potty" mouth, and making snide underhand comments about how Dern managed to secure the role.
While similar activities occurred the Digital Video camerawork really became obvious and its continuous rocking and shaking at first made my eyes hurt, then my head, and finally I became very close to vomiting. And this in my mind is the movies failing, while the likes of Outlaw and other movies shot on DV manage to be shaky but keep cohesive Inland Empire fails dramatically; and the pain of that statement is that I'm comparing the professionalism of David Lynch, to the amateurism of Nick Love who despite having a strong wealth of movies under his wing I'm sure would agree that next to a legend like Lynch is an amateur. I'm sure I'm not the only person in the world to suffer this rare condition; I just hope that none of the others are Lynch fans, for if this is the case he has surely obliterated his audience. The annoying aspect of the DV filming was that it took my attention from the story and put it elsewhere, as a result I was watching at times 20 minutes of activity without having a clue what was going on. I tried to stop the movie and watch something else to settle my head down, but the result of this proved more painful. In typical Lynch style he brings his movie to DVD without chapter stops, his philosophy that you should watch his work all at once rather than in portions; in theory I understand this stand point, however if your going to make pain inducing film-making it might be nice to give people the choice. Having tried to re-start the DVD from the place I was at prior (having ejected the disc to watch something else) I found it incredibly hard to get back to where I was, simply because so many scenes look so similar, and one particular scene keeps coming back with ever so slight variations.
Unlike some of Lynch's similar work Inland Empire has a decent end, but in typical Lynch style this is reached through a series of long and often arduous scenes, possibly the most notable when a street woman holds a lighter to Dern's face. There are also a series of unexplained elements of the story, unless of course I missed the explanation while cradling me aching head and sore eyes. Those familiar with Lynch's work will know the sort of scenes I refer to.
On a side note the appearance of Harry Dean Stanton was a painful one to take in, I have not seen him in anything new for sometime and only a few days earlier saw him in Pretty In Pink, its quite a dramatic contrast unless of course Stanton was made to look older, it was almost impossible to identify him with how I'm used to seeing him.
From what I can make of the performances all were good with the exception of Theroux, who I always feel acts both smug and constipated. Zabriskie was just excellent. Dern in her acting and joint producing role shone. And Jeremy Irons really camped it up, something he seems to do so well nowadays. Diane Ladd is incredibly disturbing as the Joan Rivers style talk show host with an acid tongue and papier-mâché looks. And finally William H. Macy turns up almost as if to point out that he is doing a cameo in yet another off the wall movie.
With a run time of just under 3 hours anyone who watches this all the way through without breaks will certainly have an iron clad constitution. Personally it's something I'll never try again; the camerawork is just far to sickening to make this sort of movie fun for me. When Lynch was making films like Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart he was alone in the marketplace for this sort of film, now however there are numerous contenders for his thrown, so to enjoy that sort of mentality is not such a secluded place now.
If I had one thing to say to Lynch I think I'd have to ask him to go back to using actual film instead of DV; so that an avid fan could enjoy his work again.
I have rated the movie low simply because of the physical effects the movie had on me.
The beauty of the work of David Lynch is that his films work on so many levels; as pieces of surrealist art, as entertainment, and, notably, as extremely accomplished technical achievements also. His debut, Eraserhead, is the ultimate director's film. Lynch drenches his films in atmosphere, menace and mystery, and has always been brilliant in that his darker films are so graphic yet so inexplicit. His work, though inaccessible and superficially puzzling, engages the imagination in this way, and it's often been the case that the films play on the mind long after the final credits have rolled. But despite intense critical appraisal, his newest project, Inland Empire, falls short of these standards.
Although the narrative of Inland Empire is not hugely relevant, the basic premise of the film is that an ageing actress, Nikki (Laura Dern), lands a comeback role in prestigious new film, alongside a dark charmer, Devon (Justin Theroux). However, it turns out that the film is in fact a remake of a cursed Polish production, wherein the two leads were mysteriously murdered by an entity existing within the story. Soon, as she becomes increasingly immersed in the role and attracted to Devon, Nikki embarks on a surreal personal odyssey, one embued with enigma and the weirdness of dreams. As said, the story isn't what's particularly important here, it just lays out a rough sketch for the film, if one can indeed call Inland Empire a conventional film. Rather than a specific story, Lynch favours an overriding theme, one of female fidelity across countries and years, and this is what keeps Inland Empire together, albeit tenuously. The real problem is that Lynch never actually set out to make Inland Empire as a feature film; it was a project that unravelled as he continued to film various segments of it, writing the screenplay in steps. Narrative coherence as a result is extremely sparse, but unlike Eraserhead, this isn't in a particularly good way. Inland Empire comes out certainly as a dreamlike, artistic experience, but unfortunately Lynch went wild with it, over-indulging and doing away with the vast majority of what makes a good film. In the end, Inland Empire plays out like a ridiculously prolonged experimental short-film, and any potential it has in the first act, is soon squandered as it deteriorates into something slow and dull.
It's because the film is so sketchy that it turns out like this. The story isn't really developed enough to absorb the viewer. Whilst comparisons aren't often helpful in judging a film, it's notable that in Mulholland Drive, for instance, the story is unravelled throughout the film, with this constant lurking menace throughout, which is unleashed in all its weirdness in the final act. Inland Empire is the opposite of this; the story is barely given time to get going before Lynch lets the dreamy surrealism overwhelm it, but soon it's not bizarre or chilling or scary, it's just frustrating and repetitive. One gets the feeling that the film is going in circles, repeating the same theme over and over, with the odd variation. In order to make something compellingly weird, there has to be some kind of reality to ground it, otherwise there is nowhere for weirdness to appear out of place. Lynch in Inland Empire seems to be weird for the sake of being weird, and while this may work in segments or short films, it really does not work in a three hour film. His past work is really excellent in this sense because the darkness of these parallel worlds manifests itself in reality, which is what makes it so unnerving. Inland Empire, for all its apparent ambition, does not have this quality.
Indeed, whilst it is epic in scope, with dozens of characters and subplots, the film has very little sense of place. To a certain extent, this may be the point, but unlike in past productions, Lynch does not make a character out of the surroundings, namely in this case Hollywood and Lodz; at times we cannot tell where the film has gone, America or Poland. By no means is it necessary to be spoon fed such facts, but there's a cold isolation that surrounds the set and the characters, and whether that's intentional or not, it makes it very difficult to relate to anything that's going on. The film is full of monologues and often vacuous conversations that try to establish a certain point, namely that of infidelity, which the film just rubs in the viewer's face. Very little new ground is explored and Laura Dern's Nikki's self-revelation never seems to probe deeply, it repeats itself. I keep wondering it I'm missing the point somewhere, but Inland Empire is quite simply dry and emotionless; there's no sense of what Nikki is going through, none of the paranoia of Lost Highway, anxiety of Eraserhead, or selfish guilt of Mulholland Drive. Lynch creates no mood or atmosphere, everything, like many dreams, just seems to be disjointed scenes leading on from the previous ones. He doesn't try many clever quirks as he did in the past, save a few subtleties, making what seems to be quite a vacuous film with little craft involved.
For the man who defined the "director's film", Lynch doesn't do much directing with Inland Empire. His use of music is clumsily inserted into various scenes, he neglects the opportunity to really use the brilliant Angelo Badalamenti's strings, and again, unlike his past films, the songs he uses and how he uses them don't create a mood or atmosphere, adding nothing (apart from the implementation of one very beautiful song). The scenes in the film are not a complex web, i.e. music, editing, lighting, imagery, effects, all combined; they're lazily assembled. Lynch tries a lot of decent tricks with lighting, but never goes for the dreamlike effects of Eraserhead or Lost Highway. It's as if he's making a superior amateur film, with what seems to be a scant budget, which he pulled off in Eraserhead but not here. His use of the DV camera adds something new and different, making the imagery feel much more real and broader in scope in its capturing of detail, but Lynch's mistake is that dreams and nightmares aren't detailed, and in a film dominated by a nightmare it's not very appropriate. There's none of the haze of Mulholland Drive, for example, and his restraint in use of effects (note: not CGI) and intelligent camera tricks hampers the film, so it's not hugely accomplished. On the other hand, when the film completely loses any sense of reality after the first act, one really does feel lost and Nikki's initial confusing of identities is much akin to unconsciously trying to stay awake as you drift into sleep, a nifty touch. But tricks like this are few and far between, and it's hard not to get bored and frustrated by the time the film is halfway through its three hour running time.
And the length would be bearable if Lynch kept his material eclectic, interesting and meaningful, but his choice to abandon narrative when he edited the film together was a bad one. It was not a good idea to have such an undeveloped blueprint; there's nothing to entertain or grip, all Lynch has here is a piece of art with quite a basic meaning. There isn't much to ponder over with regard to interpreting what it's all about, only with regard to how frustrating and endless the whole experience was! Inland Empire is sadly not a rewarding film, even on multiple viewings, as it's just the same repeatedly with nothing to keep up with or look out for. Whilst that may be the case, it's not entirely without merit. Laura Dern gives a brilliant performance as this woman of dual identity and forever remains a strong anchor and medium, showing immense range, although considering she takes up nearly all the 180 minutes, and being as much an acquired taste as David Lynch, if the viewer is no fan then the film may become even more frustrating. The rest of the supporting cast are also great, Justin Theroux seductive as the boisterous Devon, Jeremy Irons brilliantly eccentric and pretentious as the film's director, Peter J. Lucas simultaneously menacing and anguished as Nikki's dual-identity husband, and Harry Dean Stanton comically stoic and stingy as the assistant director. But the supporting cast are horribly underused, a Lynchian crime since they add so much of the humour and weight to the film, as they always do. Instead he goes between dozens and dozens of various characters, who often don't add much as they are undeveloped.
This undevelopment of what's important is the fatal blow to Inland Empire. It's fragmented and unwieldy enough as it is, and it's a massive shame that Lynch didn't make more of it. He went into overdrive in all the wrong places, making something too experimental, something weird for the sake of being weird (his use of clips from his mini-series Rabbits is a prime example of this) and feigning meaning when any meaning is scant. There is so little behind everything that it's impossible to feel fear or emotion for anything that's going on. David Lynch has been accused of being pretentious many times, often without much reason other than that viewers didn't understand his film, but with Inland Empire he truly is being pretentious, and not in a good way. Sometimes it seems like it's all just a joke, since there's barely any understanding to be had, rendering the film really quite superficial and there's nothing substantial to be gained from repeat viewings. For what has been recently been ranked amongst his best work, Inland Empire is only such because of its bold ambition and epic status, but aside from that, what could have been so brilliant lacks so much.
Inland Empire is the first feature-length film from Lynch since Mulholland Drive back in 2001. For those of you who havent seen his previous films, Lynch takes the viewer into Alice in Wonderland (dreamlike) worlds mixed with disturbing nightmares and scenes which struggle to make sense. This film is in my mind his most out there one of all and while its very confusing and more than one viewing is needed to fully appreciate the film, on the whole I found I enjoyed the experience even though my backside didnt.
Plot wise or what there is of one follows actress Nikki (Laura Dern) who lands the part of Susan Blue in a film entitled High in Blue Tomorrows. The film within a film is directed by Jeremy Irons and we soon learn that the film isnt the original that Nikki and her co-star Devon (Justin Theroux) thought it was. We learn that in the original the lead actors died due to something that happened inside the story. From then on the line between what real and whats not becomes blurred as identities are lost, and random seemingly unconnected scenes merge together.
Every once in a blue moon a film comes along and while watching it, it feels like a breath of fresh of air. While Ill admit I enjoy those no brainer types of films where you know whats going to happen around every corner, sometimes its nice to watch in a film that allows you to interpret it in your own way. For those who have seen 2005s The Jacket youll know exactly what Im talking about when I say that the film isnt tied up in a neat little bow.
Visually this film for me features some of the most striking, unusual and at times disturbing scenes I have seen in along time. Its worth mentioning that the film was shot with a Sony DSR- PD150 which for those who dont know is a semi-professional digital video camera. Using this type of camera without a doubt works in Lynchs favour as it just makes each scene reach out a grab you, and the close up shots of the characters at times makes for some pretty claustrophobic viewing.
The film feels very much like a very darkened and adult version of the classics Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, as Nikki/Sue falls deeper into a world full of anthropomorphic rabbits and prostitutes dancing to the locomotion song to name but a couple of many strange events that take place throughout this unique film.
All of the actors in the film put in very solid performances and were very believable in their varying roles. What made their performances stand out for me was the fact that the actors have never hided the fact that they didnt have a clue what the film was about.
Laura Dern was perfect as the much tormented actress that through it all remained a strong and inspiring character for any woman watching.
Justin Theroux as Devon/Billy smoldered onscreen and put in an equally exceptional performance as Derns love interest.
Even the stars who had blink and you missed them cameos and the extras blow me away with their acting, and while in some films I find these characters instantly forgettable these ones stayed with me long after I finished watching the film.
The soundtrack of a film is something else that I often find instantly forgettable, but in this case everything song has its own story to tell and fits the scenes perfectly. Featuring the likes of Nina Simone, Etta James, the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and works by Lynch himself, this is one of a limited number of soundtracks that I own.
Running at an almost bum numbing 3 hours in length in my mind it is far too long.
Dont get me wrong as Ive said theres a lot to gain form watching this, but some of the scenes were necessarily over run and seeing as theres so much to take it an hour could have easily been taken off of this. If you have got 3 hours to spare and are able to get comfortable, then I strongly advise that you watch this in one viewing.
As the film flits from one obscure scene to the next you could easily find yourself even more confused if you decide to watch it in two parts.
I made the mistake of doing this the fist time around and have since watched it again right through. Even now I still cant make up my mind what it was all about, but watching it through a second time in its entirety is strongly recommended.
The main confusion stems from the fact that on the whole you have know idea whether you watching the characters in the past, present or future. Fans of Lynchs other films will of course already be used to this, but for others youll find it a pretty hard struggle to keep with it all.
The film is rated 15 for language, some violence and sexuality/nudity, however I felt that none of this it was over the top or just added for the sake of but people of a squeamish nature might want to stay clear of this film.
If youre already a lynch fan than Id definitely recommend you give this a go, for the rest of you Id still advise you give it ago if you want to watch something thats way different than anything youve probably ever seen before, but in a good way.
Inland Empire is widely available and is available used/new from £9.14 at amazon.
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