Published May 03, 2007Be warned: Inland Empire is pure, unfiltered Lynch and the results are a confounding, mesmerising, titillating, hysterical, harrowing and horrific web of experiences. The entire Lynch playbook is on display here: fuzzy, surrealistic dream states; duality flirting with delirium; disjointed timelines; absurdly askew humour; nerve scraping sonic tension; along with familiar symbols like foreboding red curtains and a mysterious room to shift the focus of reality around mid-film.
It all begins with as abstract and artsy filmmaking techniques as the director has ever used: faces masked in clouds of blur with the camera modulating focus in black and white, setting a scene that may never resemble sense beyond pure sensate experience. Briefly, a coherent narrative emerges introducing Laura Dern as Nikki, an actress looking to revitalise her career with a weighty new role in what she later learns is a remake of an old Polish film said to be cursed and never completed after the two leads were murdered.
What follows is a relatively straightforward build-up of mystery and menace, lasting about 40 of the films 172 minutes. For the rest, youd better love getting mind-fucked. One of Lynchs greatest gifts is his talent for rendering the ordinary alien through deliberate confusion of the senses, drawing strict attention to the smallest details of a scene and measured, stilted, overly frank lines of dialogue that are both hilarious and wholly unsettling.
In addition to Laura Dern, who is utterly fantastic playing confusion, lust, torture, anger and fear with equal conviction, other Lynch alumni make crucial appearances, including Grace Zabriskie and Harry Dean Stanton as lynchpins, of sorts, to the plot, if one could call it such.
More bizarre and uncompromising than anything hes done since Eraserhead, Inland Empire is Lynchs fully realised love letter to the subconscious and an invitation for the viewer to be immersed in a reality one can never fully grasp, only guess at the constructs of. (Ultra 8)