"Inland Empire", the new motion picture from alternative cinema pioneer David Lynch may be the closest thing to experiencing dreaming while being awake. In his previous films, Lynch shared glimpses of a surreal world that lies close to the surface of the reality he painted on screen. With "Inland Empire" he crosses over, forsaking conventional linear storytelling in favor of a stream of consciousness type of exposition that challenges viewers in entirely new ways.
"Inland Empire" is a movie that has to be experienced and not necessarily understood. It has been said that Lynch did not use a script and it definitely shows. The only description Lynch has released about the movie is that it is about a Ďwoman in troubleí and to her credit, Laura Dern provides a solid anchor as co-producer and star of "Inland Empire". Similar to the ideas explored in "Mullholland Drive", Lynch shows us many sides of Laura Dernís character. She plays multiple roles in an intricate story web about people in Hollywood, trying to make a movie thatís based on a screenplay from a failed movie project, which was based on an old Polish folk tale. Dern portrays many incarnations of this one character that at times appears to be on both sides of the looking glass.
At the screening I attended, a nearby audience membersí snoring indicated that they may understand "Inland Empire" better than any of their waking counterparts. Instead of a memory of a cohesive storyline, you leave the theater with a box of mental jigsaw pieces that your brain will continue to try and assemble for weeks after viewing. On the way home I noticed that the entire world seemed sharper and in focus, and I wasnít sure if this is because of the contrast of how mundane the real world seems compared to the dreamy nature of the movie, or because of the eye strain watching an the all digital overly pixilated image "Inland Empire" provided for nearly three hours.
As a long time David Lynch fan, I find myself in a paradox. I am saddened to learn that starting with "Inland Empire", he has abandoned celluloid completely. As a master of visual storytelling, I will miss the lush visual luster of Lynchís earlier work seen in such films as "Lost Highway" or "Blue Velvet". However, "Inland Empire" makes it clear that the all-digital approach enables a visionary like David Lynch, to assemble a feature length picture with complete creative control. Itís not to say that he didnít have control on his early films, but the speed and cost effective methods that the digital approach affords seems to allow Lynch to dig deeper and explore directions that he has only hinted at in the past.
Some may question if this degree of unchained freedom is a good thing, or if it only encourages bloated self-indulgent cinema that no one but the art house crowd can appreciate. But for a creator like David Lynch does it even matter if anyone else understands?
While Iíll miss the look of film as much as the cohesive storylines of his past movies, ultimately, I respect David Lynch as an artist and will continue to seek out his creations in whatever format he makes them in. Looking forward to taking on the "Inland Empire" enigma a second time around, for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
© 2007 - Purple - Air Date: 2/7/07
USA - 2006