Inland Empire (2006) David Lynch | Movement Nu 31
Released in 2006, Inland Empire was David Lynch’s first film after 2001’s Mulholland Drive. It is also Lynch’s first film shot entirely in standard definition digital video. The film features Lynch regulars along with many voice-overs for his side projects featured within the film, yes, within the film, (see Rabbits). It is also, arguably and surprisingly my favorite of Lynch’s films (and I am a devoted Lynch fan). To be fair, I watched Inland Empire at a very interesting time in my life. Perhaps that is why it has left such an enormous wake and influence inside of my mind. It captures the dimensions that I find myself slipping into in an “ordinary day”. It has made me realize that these “ordinary days” are actually wrapped in mystery, love and horror almost constantly, without anyone’s knowing.
The film was made without a script, meaning Lynch would hand in freshly written dialogue everyday. “I’ve never worked on a project in this way before. I don’t know exactly how this thing will finally unfold… This film is very different because I don’t have a script.
I write the thing scene by scene and much of it is shot and I don’t have much of a clue where it will end. It’s a risk, but I have this feeling that because all things are unified, this idea over here in that room will somehow relate to that idea over there in the pink room.” – David Lynch
Lynch is the master of shadows, of subtlety in high contrast blacks (see Eraserhead). He plays with horror in a very interesting fashion, similar to Alien in that the “monster” is only hinted at or revealed at the very end. Lynch plays on the psych suspense that haunts more than most. It plays heavily inside of the unconscious of the spectator, pulling him through worlds that exist within his/her own. In this fashion, Lynch is very human. Often viewed as an oddball surrealist genius, Inland Empire along with other Lynch films make me feel differently about him. He is simply very connected with undercurrents of the mind and soul that govern one’s decisions. In this light, Inland Empire tosses the viewer in the shadows of a “lost girl” falling in between lives, in between films and struggling for sanity.
Local actress Nikki Grace (cast by Laura Dern) applies for a film entitled On High in Blue tomorrows. It is later revealed that the film is haunted with a violent past that has never allowed for it to be made. In the original intent at creating On High in Blue tomorrows, both leading roles are brutally murdered.
Days before her audition for the role, she is visited by a mystical, dark Polish woman who claims to be her neighbor. The woman explains to Nikki that she has already won the role. She then goes on to discuss two Polish folk tales, one about a boy who causes evil to be born, and the other about a girl who wanders through an alleyway behind a market and finds a “palace”. The strange lady explains to Nikki violent predictions about her newfound role leaving Nikki laced with goose bumps.
Later on in the film, Nikki finds herself literally getting lost inside of the film, inside of On High in Blue tomorrows along with her co-star, Billie, played by Justin Theroux. Both actors get lost in their roles, seemingly having affairs and waking up in different times, in different places, coming to the realization that the script is in fact haunted and curiously enough, an old Polish tale as well.
If you haven’t seen it, do so. This film will leave your bones chilled. Not because of a “monster”, but because of the ordinary life we live inside and out of our minds that is incredibly haunted. A true masterpiece that I constantly go back to for inspiration and insight.