Inland Empire (2006)
David Lynch, Dir.
... films to live by ...
A film about film, at least on one of its many levels – Inland Empire is a work in the tradition of Powell’s Peeping Tom, Fellini’s 8 ½, Godard’s Le Mépris, and Altman’s The Player. Of these films, Inland Empire may be the most unsettling. The viewer is nearly always unhinged from any sense of order that is created in the normal atmosphere of watching a film – building a model of the story in one’s head to follow the narrative and understand the happenings and causes. Lynch, unlike other filmmakers, never caters to the viewers’ needs with explanations. He makes the viewer fight for every shred of comprehension and work out his or her own salvation, so to speak.
This is a story about identity – or the loss of. There’s a violence that pulses underneath the film’s skin. And the viewer becomes complicit in this intense and voyeuristic journey – much like Psycho or L'Age d'Or. Characters and setting blur. The camera rarely moves – and that alone is unnerving to an impatient and undeveloped American movie audience. The locations are known and unknown. We’ve been here before – no we haven’t. This is what’s happening – no, wrong again. Lynch builds on this unease. Polish gangsters, a woman in a motel room watching an old television show of people with giant rabbit heads. Lynch tells his story with shadows, light, hallways, doors that lead from one dimension to another. Every sound, every shot, every motion or stillness undermines our need for resolution. That is my favorite aspect of the film. Let me add as well that each subsequent viewing will reveal something new. Another layer.
All the performances in Empire (and I’m including More Things That Happened – which is so much more than deleted scenes) are disturbing, over the edge, puzzling, yet always furtive with possibility for the story. Everything is important, as in most of the Lynch oeuvre, in creating and protecting the mystery of the film. Laura Dern’s performance as Nikki Grace & Susan Blue, which must be singled out, moves in all directions in a masterful way. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed so much emotion, so much of a giving of self to a role. Her work in the film, both brilliant and exposing, should be mentioned with the likes of Renée Falconetti in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Faye Dunaway in Chinatown, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in Fa yeung nin wa, Juliette Binoche in Trois couleurs: Bleu. Dern’s performance is that remarkable. A performance that deserved the most prestigious awards … but received none. That is a crime.
Cast out … this wicked dream … that has seized my heart.