This week marked the end of my David Lynch challenge and the viewing of the most recent feature film he has directed. Inland Empire is an intriguing film and one that truly summarises Lynch’s entire career.
The narrative of this film is difficult to summarise; in essence it involves a female actress (Laura Dern) who is cast in the lead role of a film. As the film begins production it is discovered it is actually a remake of an older film in which the cast committed suicide. Things then begin to take off as the actress becomes engulfed in her character and begins to lose sense of herself, time and even where she is at. This means that large portions of the film are unsynchronised from the narrative and it a rather confusing film to follow.
Despite its complicated narrative the film is a good film and each scene is obviously meant to mean something, although it is not always clear exactly what. From the start the film is intense and as expected from a Lynch film throws the audience in at the deep end. Throughout the entire film it is difficult to know which parts are fictional (in the story) and which parts of real as there is very little difference.
The film is also beautiful to watch with each shot crafted with care and lit perfectly; several moments are beautiful and look astounding. There are several set-pieces in the film which are ridiculously creepy and cannot be explained; namely the inclusion of clips from Lynch’s own short film ‘Rabbits’, about several people in rabbit suits living domesticated life.
The entire film is truly bizarre and baffles the mind but the look of the film is pleasing upon the eye and the tension that is created throughout is also consistent. Even when I had no idea what was happening it was difficult to look away.
Now I have to be honest and say that for once the narrative was too complex to make the film truly enjoyable. Now I have no problem with non-linear narratives that use imagery to explain what’s going on; as I’ve previously written on this blog I believe Mullholland Drive and Eraserhead to be masterpieces of doing such. The problem with Inland Empire is that it takes this too far; there are too many unrelated characters and stories going on that I struggled to follow anything past the first hour (of which there are three).
Around halfway through the film I was forced to turn to Wikipedia in attempt to explain what was happening and even after reading their summary the film was still a mess. It is said that the film was never written as a feature film but was simply several short films made by Lynch stitched together; this theory makes perfect sense when watching the film as characters seemed to constantly change.
The film also felt too long, at 3 hours in length, it is the longest film made by Lynch and feels it; particularly as there is no straight narrative to follow. It may look pretty but good looks do not make a good film.
The main problem with the film I had however is that there is no common theme within the different sequences, they are truly disconnected. In Eraserhead for (which is probably the closest film in style to this Lynch has made) there is always feeling that each sequence has meaning of some kind and you are left afterwards with thoughts about industrialisation and family. Inland Empire however has no such kind of themes; it is film which doesn’t seem to be about anything and therein lies the problem.
Sadly Inland Empire is a step too far for David Lynch and an overdone film which I don’t see the point of. It is very Lynchian but not in a good sense. The film simply left me with a headache. 2 Lynchs.