Vol. 2, Issue #4 March 16th - March 29th, 2007

Film Review: Inland Empire
By: Wilhelm Murg

Reviewing a David Lynch film is rather pointless these days. If you love Lynch, you’ll love “INLAND EMPIRE” (as I understand it, the title is supposed to be in upper cases,) if you hate him, you’ll hate it. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you might want to wait for the DVD just so you can have the bourgeois nicety of having a bathroom break somewhere in the middle of this three-hour (!) nightmare. At this point I’m not sure if it’s variations on a theme or if he’s simply trying to refine this radical style of storytelling that seems to have started in the black lodge of his television series “Twin Peaks” (i.e. “Lost Highway” and “Mulholland Drive.”)

The film opens like gangbusters, with an old phonograph playing obscure dialogue, and then it cuts to a sitcom (?) of rabbit-headed people that makes no sense. Eventually we’re introduced to Laura Dern’s character, an actress working in a film with a cursed script that blurs into her life. As in “Mulholland Drive,” the actors change into different characters, scenes contradict each other, and the audience sits in stunned silence afterward trying to figure out what it all means.

The biggest problem is not the lack of a cohesive story; it’s the fact that there is any semblance of a story at all. It’s like Lynch has been in Hollywood so long that he has to have the bare bones structure of a story while, at his best, such as in his early masterpiece, “Eraserhead,” he was a visionary who simply followed his dreams and nightmares and made a movie. To me, there is no meaning these shards and broken bits of stylized film noir clichés. The film is about the rabbit-heads, the girl that talks about her friend’s vaginal problems while Dern bleeds to death, the screaming faces in the flashing lights, the dark hallways filled with tables from the 1930s, and Grace Zabriskie’s insane facial gyrations. While I’m sure the length is meant to wear down your brain and put you into a dreamlike state, which the does brilliantly, take out the “story” and “INLAND EMPIRE” would have been an amazing 90-minute movie.

Did I like the film? Probably. After two decades of debate I’m even a fan of his ill-fated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Lynch’s films are like Bruckner symphonies, or Joyce novels, they’re not something you just sit down and enjoy on the first encounter, you have to roll them through your mind for anywhere from a few days to lifetime in order to fully digest such mammoth proportions of thought.

Though the film deals with the same themes that show up in all of his works, this is the epic where it all comes together. As I yawned and changed positions in my seat to keep the blood circulating in my legs, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a flawed masterpiece. Ultimately, even at his most disconcerting, Lynch’s films have more power than all the films playing at the multiplex put together. It’s a thoroughly miserable experience to sit through such a great film.

NONzine Reviews Main Page

©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.