Thursday, December 25, 2014

Inland Empire (2006)

IMDb plot summary: As an actress starts to adopt the persona of her character in a film, her world starts to become nightmarish and surreal.
Directed by David Lynch. Starring Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, and Karolina Gruska.

I actually watched this movie a couple days ago, but it took me until now to write the review not so much because I'm lazy but because I really needed time to process it.

So this was the third Lynch I've watched this year, and the progression definitely went from more linear and comprehensible to much, much less (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire). And yet I feel like this was the first one where I actually latched onto the emotional tone of the movie. People praised Mulholland Drive for its atmosphere, but for the most part I felt nothing but coldness and distance, certainly not the creepiness and eeriness others were praising.

With Inland Empire, the two emotions that came through loud and clear for me were guilt and terror. Guilt over things done, possibly done, and not done yet. Terror from something watching or chasing you, something being there, not knowing what time or day it is or perhaps even who you really are. This alone made it more interesting than either of Lynch's previous films.

This, however, is also the only one for which I found a theory/explanation that was satisfying to me. Since Lynch clearly does not like pigeonholing people into one correct answer, I feel it's perfectly valid for me to simply pick the theory I liked best, the one that conveyed the story I thought I was watching, rather than perhaps the one that fits all the answers perfectly. (I'm still not convinced the latter exists for Lynch.)

I talked this one over with my dad, who recommended this to me and is a huge fan of Lynch's work in general. (A transcript of that conversation can be found here, including a spoiler-filled discussion of the IE theory I like best and why. Spoilers for Mulholland Drive and maybe Lost Highway are in there as well.)

When I shared that I didn't like Mulholland and then that I was going to watch Inland Empire, a lot of people mentioned that I'd find Inland Empire harder. And in one sense I did, but in another, the somewhat coherent plot in Mulholland worked against it for me. It masked the symbolic and subconscious aspects of the storytelling. With Inland Empire, it's just... alllllll out there. I feel like it actually may be clearer in its intentions than Mulholland, which tricks you into thinking it's one kind of movie and then saying, "Kidding, you should have been watching it like this all along!" That can work sometimes and maybe even be what people liked about it, but I wasn't amazed enough by the twist to care enough to rewatch it.

Anyway, Inland Empire may have finally given me a bit of insight into Lynch, because here he's not trying to work his surreal symbolism subtly into a plot. Without feigned coherent stories to block my view, I felt like I finally heard what he was trying to say, and the theory I found gave me a new appreciation for even some of his older ones I haven't cared for. I don't know that I can exactly say I *liked* it, but I feel like I *got* it. And that's better than I've done with Lynch thus far.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1018 out of 2284, below A Snoodle's Tale and above Fantasia 2000. This is a very weird one to rank, so that may be completely inaccurate.

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