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INLAND EMPIRE
2006 - David Lynch
France / Poland / United States
121
Opening Shot

A short beam of light from a film projector reveals the title card, INLAND EMPIRE. Notice the way this image is revealed and we find a deeper meaning as this is indeed the first digital film David Lynch has made and the title sequence seems to suggest what we are about to see (much in the way Ingmar Bergman did with a film projector turning on at the opening of Persona- a film Lynch clearly referenced in his previous film Mulholland Drive).

The Film

Inland Empire marks David Lynch's first digital video feature and it very well may be his most experimental film since his masterful 1977 debut Eraserhead. At an uncompromising three hours long and without a conventional plot, Lynch's surrealistic epic will undoubtedly divide audiences. However, fans of the director or those aware of what to expect will appreciate what appears to be a definitive Lynch film as a reflection of his art. The film goes beyond rational interpretation instead becoming a bizarre journey into a subconscious dreamworld of vast possibilities to interrupt. These possibilities are more to be experienced then they are interpreted. Inland Empire rejects a single or even a cohesive narrative, instead overlapping several timeframes and narratives. At once Inland Empire is a film within a dream within a film, reflecting on a woman's role in Hollywood, a murder mystery, an underground world, and several love affairs. Ultimately the film becomes a meditative exploration deep into the psyche and confused subconscious of its character. Playing an actress, an abused wife, and a prostitute Laura Dern gives an unforgettable performance that honestly belongs mention among the very greatest. Dern is brilliantly working on various levels as she intensely pushes through the complicated and terrifying hallucinations and dreams (or nightmares) of Lynch's vision and of her own mind. Stylistically, Lynch expresses the film through his
trademark use of scattered sounds and visuals (notably the expressionistic use of lighting, the obscure close-ups, and the carefully positioned color patterns). Heightened by Dern's sweeping performance, Inland Empire is a surrealistic film that challenges and struggles with you. So much so that in the end all you are left is admiration, and the one thought that is perfectly captured in the final shot (before a wonderfully strange closing credit group dance sequence to Nina Simone's Sinnerman)… sweet indeed!!

The Filmmaker

David Lynch is certainly not a filmmaker for everyone. His films don't always work for me, but there is no denying he is one of the most original artists in filmmaking today. After making some amazing and strange experiential short films in the 1970s, Lynch reached cult status with his debut feature Eraserhead in 1977. The film was made with an extremely small budget and Lynch was pretty much the entire crew. Even as he has approached more into the mainstream, Lynch has always remained unconventional with his approach. If anything his cinema has proven that budget doesn't necessarily limit the creativity of an artist (and in fact sometimes a lower budget gives the artist more creative freedom). Few filmmakers can capture the essence of nightmares, dreams, and fantasies on film as extraordinary as Lynch (along with his idol Luis Bunuel- the master of surrealism). He remains a key figure in American independent cinema and one of the very great visionaries of filmmaking.

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Resources
trailer (youtube)      
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