March 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

There’s a very distinct line between entertainment and art. Fundamentally, entertainment serves to entertain and art serves to engage. INLAND EMPIRE (Lynch insists it be capitalised, apparently) is undoubtedly on the art side of the line. The film is by no means entertaining, but it is unquestionably engaging.

Even entering with expectations of being ‘weirded out’ cannot prepare you for the visual and aural onslaught that ensues. The disjointed, hand-cam look of the film suggests a documentary style sense of reality, but this conflicts heavily with the unreal, unsettling images and sounds that Lynch slowly unleashes on the senses over the course of 180 minutes.

What’s more confusing is that after a very odd introduction that hints at what is to come later, Lynch then teases his audience with a semblance of a plot, almost conventionally laid out. An actress, superbly played by Laura Dern, gets a role in a film that turns out to be a remake of a Polish production that ended in the murder of the two lead actors.

This set-up only serves to further confuse as it inevitably inspires the viewer to apply this conventional plot to the seemingly random scenes and images that occur later in the film. Is she just on drugs? Is she gone mad from fear and paranoia? Did she cheat on her husband and is she trying to make sense of it in a dream? Is she experiencing the curse that afflicted the performers of the original film?

The temptation to try and make sense of it all is irresistible, but inadvisable. To truly experience the full effect of the ‘film’, just sit back and let it wash over you. Because that is possibly what Lynch is really trying to get us to do, to think outside of Hollywood, to forget the rules of conventional narrative and to just sit there and experience his warped version of cinema. It may sound very Yoda-esque, but it is only when you stop trying to make sense of it all that it suddenly seems to make sense.

It almost plays out like a three-hour art exhibit with strenuously linked themes. Recognisable currents that feature include an underlying deconstruction of the
Hollywood dream, tangible fear, confusion and paranoia and the borders between reality and fantasy. But again, that’s trying to make sense of it. And ultimately, there may be no real sense to be found, but there is something there.

INLAND EMPIRE may not be entertaining, but that probably wasn’t Lynch’s intention. And while it’s not necessarily an enjoyable viewing sensation, it unquestionably will arouse feelings within you. So intense is this visual and aural sensual barrage that it is impossible not to be affected by it. Whether you leave the cinema confused, disturbed or intrigued, the film will impact on you, without fail. And when a film can inspire such base emotions, for whatever reason, it is surely worthy of something.

Lynch’s roots are in art and it is clear that he treats the cinema screen as a canvas for his abstract thoughts and ideas. And for whatever reason, it works. He not only breaks all the rules of conventional cinema, he makes up his own rules. Literally anything goes in this visually nightmaric portrayal of madness and there is something very liberating, but at the same time disconcerting about this.

Ultimately, INLAND EMPIRE makes for possibly the most unique cinematic experience you may ever have. You may not like it, you may love it, but that doesn’t matter, either feeling is completely valid when it comes to this film. Because either way, it will have touched you in some way and you won’t even know why or how or what you just saw. But you will know that it was important.


Pictures: Top Right: Nikki (Laura Dern) and those girls that appear regularly, seemingly as prostitutes, Middle Left: Jeremy Irons as Kingsley Stewart, director of the ‘cursed’ film, Bottom Right: Nikki and
Devon (Justin Theroux), probably both wondering what the hell is going on

Directed by: David Lynch 

Written by: David Lynch

Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons



Entry filed under: Reviews.

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