Monday, October 09, 2006

Inland Empire - Spoilers

If you haven't seen the film, I'd reccomend going in cold. Read as little as possible. But, if you have, or if you just don't care, read on for what will be the deepest analysis of this film yet to be done! Or at least deeper than any of the other stuff I've read on the web so far. It's a bit rambling, this is my raw reaction to the film.

A couple of weeks ago I saw The Science of Sleep, a film that feels like a more abstract remake of Michel Gondry's own Eternal Sunshine. It forsakes the polished, Hollywood look of Eternal in favor of a grittier, more abstract narrative that's harder to follow, but rewarding in its own way. Inland Empire does the same thing for Mulholland Dr., at times it feels surprisingly redundant of what Mulholland did, but there's so much other stuff going on, it becomes a unique entity all its own. I would not have thought that you could create a film that would make Mulholland Dr. look tame and mainstream, but that's what this does, the sheer force of its abstract, emotion driven narrative leaves the highly structured dual worlds of previous Lynch films in the past.

The opening sequence is astonishing, drawing you into the film primarily through the booming bass of the ambiient soundtrack. I love the reveal of the massive title, as well as the recurring image of the needle on the record player, a throwback to Twin Peaks. There are so many throwbacks to previous Lynch films here, it can become almost a where's Waldo search, but at this point, I consider Lynch's films to take place in a shared narrative universe. So, much like you can't fault Tim Burton for making another film about a pale outsider protagonist in a world filled with striped black and white, Lynch owns the domain of red curtains, heavy blue lighting, strobes and fragmened women.

From there we jump to a brutal near rape of a Polish prostitute, which leads into scenes from Rabbits. This part of the film is quite good, the abstraction of the faces in the opening scene likely a comment on the mutability of identity, a critical theme in all of Lynch's work. The image of the woman crying as she watches TV is very loaded, and also classic Lynch. In FWWM and Mulholland Dr., the protagonists cry while watching a live performance. Here, the woman cries while watching a TV image, a comment on the use of digital photography? That's possible, but I think it's more designed to tie in with the idea of film as dream.

The way I saw the film's structure is as follows: This woman, who watches the film, was the star of the previous version of the Blue Tomorrows film. In the film, there is a thin line between acting and reality, so her life seemingly merged with that of the character. She observes Laura Dern, a woman who is a fantasy version of herself. So, Nikki/Sue is a composite figure built from the real life of this brutalized Polish prostitute and the imagined life of Nikki, American movie star. However, unlike Mulholland Dr., I would hesitate to assign a simple real/imaginary dichotomy to any of this, there's a kind of symbiosis between the two characters, just as the Polish woman is seen watching/imaginging Laura Dern, Nikki's immersion in the role seems to have to put her in touch with the spirit of the woman who acted in the film before her. The two are symbiotic, and it's in their meeting that the narrative world exists.

So, like Mulholland Dr. the film begins in a kind of fantasy world. Here, Nikki is a successful actress, about to return to the top. The scene with Grace Zabriskie, much as I love her, is the weakest in the film. It's meant to be slow, but it winds up taking forever, with not enough content. I see Grace as someone in the tradition of Philip Gerard, The Cowboy and particularly Louise Bonner from Mulholland Dr., a person with access to higher dimensional powers and a picture of the overall shape of the world. I wish there was a transcript of this movie somewhere, because I'm sure what she says ties in thematically with what went on after, but I can't remember it well enough to analyze it. However, she does cause a shift in perception for Nikki, throwing her into the future through the shift to the other couch.

This leads us to the glory/hollowness of fame sequence, where we observe Nikki and Devon going through the basic rituals of being a star. Notable things here are the hyper-masculineness of Devon and his crew, as well as the difference between Nikki's friends here and the gang of women that crops up around her later in the film. One of Lynch's main preoccupations, in both this film and Mulholland Dr., is the way that Hollywood destroys the dreams and lives of young women who go there seek stardom. But this is her time at the top, where she finds only hollowness and facade. I was surprised to see William H. Macy make an appearance in the film, seemingly reprising his 30s radio announcer character from Seabiscuit.

This whole opening chunk is, for me, the weak part of the film. I've read reviews, mostly the negative ones, that say the film goes off the tracks after the first hour, and that shows that the first hour is the most narrative driven. It's not totally conventional, but things go ahead pretty much linearly, stopping occasionally to play with distinctions between film and reality, as in the veranda conversation between Billy and Sue.

The most important notion for the rest of the film is the idea that the movie they're engaged in is the remake of a Polish film. As we proceed, we see Nikki getting lost in the role, and gradually becoming unable to distinguish the fiction from the reality. However, this is not an original reality, she is going down a path that has previously killed someone. The scene where she says "Our lives are just like the script" is really effective and gives you a sense of her loss of perspective.

I'd place this film into a loose trilogy with Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Dr., all films that deal with women under extreme stress who experience degrees of psychosis and dissolving identity. Inland Empire only confirms FWWM as the major turning point of Lynch's career. Before that, all his films featured male protagonists and fairly straightforward narrative structures. Even Eraserhead is fairly straightforward story wise, if difficult to decipher due to the heavy symbolism involved. But, from FWWM on, we've gotten an increasingly subjective view of reality, with fractured scenes and moments depicting the characters' psyches rather than the real world they inhabit.

Laura Dern has a look that's very similar to Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr., in a few shots they're virtually indistinguishable. He loves deep red lipstick, blue eyeshadow and clearly defined eyelashes. Lynch's 'good' females are almost always blondes. This film doesn't explicitly engage with the blonde/brunette dichotomy he's so fond of, except for the Asian woman's speech about her friend who wears a blonde wig and looks like a movie star in it. Here, the idea of movie star is a persona you can put on and pretend to be, but, it's all an illusion.

Things proceed in a fairly straightforward manner until Devon and Nikki have sex. The lighting in this scene, the really heavy blue, recalls Club Silencio from Mulholland Dr. In Lynch's films, strobing blue light marks the transition between realities, and this scene is a great application of that. It's one of the most striking scenes in the film, and is another moment where a character says that they're going to be some place in the future, then all of a sudden they are there. In this film, there's no distinction between thought and reality, characters move through space and time like a person moves through his/her memories, fragments of everything hanging together, cropping up in the most unlikely places.

Nikki, now known as Sue, is first seen passing through the door on the film set. This indicates that she now exists in a fictional realm. The way the rest of the film plays, this entire episode could stem from Nikki's imagination, or, Nikki could be an invention of Sue. The film seems to be a recurring event within reality, something that entraps its actors into a cycle of destruction as the line between actor and character becomes indistinct.

I hesitate to approach this film in the same way as Mulholland Dr. or even Lost Highway, where you come up with a basic explanation, then sculpt to fit what happens in the film. Here, there's so many layers of reality in play, I feel it's better to follow emotional logic. I'm sure you could come up with a valid explanation for the events, but I don't think one is required. I didn't feel a need to "solve the puzzle" at the end of the movie, which is what Mulholland prompts in a lot of people. After seeing MD, I wanted to find an answer, but, either I've grown or the film is different, and now I'm happy to just accept what happened on its own terms. That's not to say it shouldn't be analyzed, rather analysis can't be based around trying to fit everything into a set framework.

Anyway, at first the new setting is a challenge, but gradually enough is revealed that you can piece it into a decent narrative. Sue's monologue to the mysterious guy is near the end of things. She begins as part of a family with a husband and son. However, her son dies and her husband becomes abusive, then eventually leaves to go off with some Polish circus buddies. I think the Polish elements are designed to show the bleed between the Polish woman and Sue/Nikki, this whole world is a reality shared between the two of them.

Though the world of Sue also reflects Nikki's. She's got a jealous husband, who is apparently jealous for a reason. We don't know enough about the movie that they're filming to understand what's drawn from the film and what's drawn from life. Sue seems to be a 'real' person, while Billy remains his fictional self.

I recognized the trailer where Sue lives from the 'Room to Dream' DVD, which also features a scene that didn't make it into Inland Empire, where some of the girls sing a song in a Lynchian way. The scene wasn't very good, so I'm glad it didn't make the cut.

During this time, Sue spends a lot of time wandering around in her apartment, which bleeds into a backstage area. I love these wandering scenes, I think they're very Lynch, and some of the strobe effects he uses are really intense. A lot of films use similar techniques to make you jump, but here I was scared on a deeper level. Some of the images he uses hit deep and frighten you on some kind of subconscious level.

While wandering, Sue encounters new friends, to replace Nikki's stylish twosome. Now, she's got a posse of Polish prostitutes. In most of these scenes, she's placed at a distance, likely seeing in them a reflection of herself, as things go worse, this is what she's headed towards. The girls talk about "tits and ass," reemphasizing the idea that Hollywood values women based solely on their physical qualities. Of course Lynch has one of them raise her shirt for no particular reason so that the others can comment on her breasts. Hey, it's his perogative. I do like how these girls didn't look like typical Hollywood people, you could really believe that they would be turning tricks out on the street.

From there, there's a startling jump cut to...a performance of the Locomotion! I was not expecting that, but it's one of the most fun moments in the film. There's a ton of heavy sound design, but I would have liked a bit more score. The moments where music is used are great, Lynch remains a master of creating a mood via song.

Sue is getting more frazzled, leading up to her journey to the Axxon club. This is another quintessentially Lynch scene, and I would have actually liked to spend a bit more time there. However, she passes through the curtains and up to deliver her monologue upstairs. Throughout the film, Laura Dern is phenomenal. She has to work such intense emotional territory, without a clear picture of her character of the film in general. But, it works and she equals Naomi Watts' stunning work in Mulholland Dr. The monologue is particularly notable, really brutal stuff.

As the film progresses, we get a recurring motif of phone calls or incidents that are shown from one side first, then shown again from a different perspective. Sue's appearance on the stage is a great example of this, as well as the various interactions with the Rabbitsverse. It's really effective in creating a sense of unity to this intimidatingly large work.

The part of the film that represents the biggest growth for Lynch is Sue's collapse on the streets. He does a great job of making the L.A. streets into an alien dimension, populated by burnt out, broken people. Sue throwing up blood on to the Star may be a bit obvious, but it's a very effective image nonetheless. This leads to the fantastic monologue about Niko, the prostitute with a hole in her vaginal wall. I didn't think the subtitles were necessary here, but the fact that Lynch put them on indicates that what she says is absolutely critical to the film. Niko's story is the ultimate Holllywood dejection tale, she falls to the status of hooker, is abused some more, and ultimately loses that which is essentially female. Yet, when she puts on a blond wig, she can still pretend she's a star. And I love the way her companion punctures the drama by saying "Who wants to hear about this shit?"

This segment makes literal what was symbolic in Mulholland Dr., Diane's fear that she would become a bum on the street. Here, Sue reaches that bottom, all her promise used up and her life exhausted. It's a very powerful scene, and I felt a bit cheated when we pulled back to reveal it as a staged occurence. It's odd to puncture such a sincere emotional moment in that way.

The last chunk of the film continues to play with perception and layers of reality. Sue wanders into a movie theater showing herself on the screen, recalling her previous line about watching her own life like it's in a theater where the lights went down. This also connects her with the Polish woman. The end of the film is backed by an ethereal vocal track, bringing back the feel of the final scene of FWWM. Sue and the Polish woman finally meet, and in that moment the Polish woman sees her reality on the screen. She kisses Sue, who then fades away.

I don't see this as sexual at all, it's more an expression of love and sympathy. For the Polish woman, Sue/Nikki was a fantasy figure she was able to connect with through the act of watching the TV. However, once the reality she's watching becomes her own, she's able to reconcicle her issues and her fantasy is no longer required. I'd have to see it again to see exactly how things play out, but the impression I got was that the Sue storyline was a manifestation of her fears, her worst nightmare of the life she could have. However, at the end she finds herself reunited with her husband and son, in a moment of happiness that recalls Dorothy at the end of Blue Velvet.

For Sue/Nikki, she looks to where her dark future began and sees a more innocent version of herself. The music and general emotion of the moment leads me to feel that she too has went through this nightmare and come out the other side able to see a purer version of herself. Both women experience a collective apocalypse and come out stronger on the other side. Rather than Mulholland Dr., where reality is the nightmare, here, it is the fantasy that houses darkness. This fantasy is embodied in the film, which killed both its leads. To act in this film is to go through total destruction of oneself, the film follows the two women to their lowest ebb, only to reveal that this is not what's real, their worlds are still intact, and the best of them is what survives.

So, thinking about it has led me to an explanation that feels right. In the film, we follow two actresses who signed on to appear in a film based on a cursed Polish folk tale. By acting in the film, they become absorbed into its world of darkness and lose the ability to separate the film from the reality. We see Nikki starting to succumb to this during the pre-blue change scenes. At the end, they make it through the darkness and we find that her 'death' on the street frees her from the spell of the film and frees her to go live her own life. When we next see her Nikki is wearing a blue dress, much like the one that Laura Dern wore in Blue Velvet, and it's meant to evoke angelic purity. Much like Laura Palmer, both of them go through all this awfulness and finds peace in the end.

Following this sublime ending, we get something a bit weird, a dance scene over the closing credits. This is usually reserved for comedy films, but it winds up working wonderfully here. I asked Lynch why he chose to include the scene, considering it so radically alters your mood leaving the theater, and he said "It just felt right." I'd agree, after all the film takes you through, it's nice to have a bit of fun. I like the idea that this party just all of a sudden rose up in the place where the film ended.

Plus, the scene is full of easter eggs for Lynch fans, throwbacks to his previous work. We pan over from the one legged woman to find Laura Haring just chilling. There's a monkey leaping around who looks exactly like the 'Judy' monkey from Fire Walk With Me, Laura Dern is wearing her Blue Velvet dress, and we've even got a guy sawing at a log, referencing both Twin Peaks and Industrial Symphony No. 1. This is all set to a rocking song, with all kinds of strobe going on. It's a whole lot of fun, and actually has some of the film's most dynamic visuals.

So, I think this was a thoroughly successful film. There's a few issues, but those could easily dissipate on the second viewing. Even though some scenes and themes were very close to Mulholland Dr., like the homeless thing, I feel like the looser visual and narrative styles made the old Lynch tropes feel fresh. I've called Mulholland a Lynch greatest hits album, taking pieces of everything he's done and combining them into one great film. Inland uses a lot of the same things, but feels fresh and exciting. It's pure Lynch, his ideas unfiltered by the need to script and structure, and that's the source of the film's greatest successes and its failures. But, I honestly don't think this film would work in a more traditional style, it would be too close to MD, the digital liberated Lynch to go as weird as he pleases, and it's exhilirating to watch.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although Lynch doesn't comment on the meaning of anything in his films during Q and A sessions, talking to him on a more personal level he revealed a few more tidbits. The rabbits are all stuck in the room with the one exeption being the one in the suit. He is the only one that can leave the room. Also, Laura Dern's husband in the film is the rabbit in the suit. When he enters the room its a parallel "rabbit" dimention or something like that. He also told me something along the lines that the polish people are also trapped in their room. I'll post more when I get the chance to pry more out of him. The beauty of Lynch is that as cryptic as he is in Q&A sessions, on set he is entirely clear about the meaning of each and every element in the film.

Patrick said...

Interesting, the idea that the male rabbit can leave would match with the fact that it's the two women characters who are imprisoned during the film. I'm going to have to watch the Rabbits scenes more closely next time to see how they connect with the rest of the film. Certainly the laugh track would fit with the moment at the end when Laura Dern sees herself on the screen, the fact that these people are all on display in some way, and on a meta level, a comment on the nature of film itself.

And it's really interesting that Lynch does have exact meanings for this stuff. That would match with what he said about Lost Highway, the idea that he had an exact conception of the story, but didn't share it with people because he wanted to keep the mystery and let people relate to it on its own terms.

And, I'm just curious, you worked on the movie? That's awesome, what were you doing, and any other stories you could share?

Jim said...

I have a similar view on the film, and I also need to see it again to confirm many of the details.

One thing that seemed like a major detail is the element of "evil being born" and "a murder", indicated by the "new neighbor" lady in the beginning. Later on we find out that the Polish woman's son perhaps died. I'm thinking maybe his premature death was the result of an abortion, since we see the screwdriver being plunged into Sue's stomach as well as Julia Ormond's character. We also have the image of the woman in the dress(I couldn't really tell who it was) lying on the floor with her mid-section ripped open.

I was just wondering what you thought about that aspect of the story.

Also, thanks for the view. It gave me more to think about for the next viewing.

Mariette said...

SPOILERS

Patrick, this is Mariette from alt.tv.twin-peaks. Thank you very much for writing this review. It helped me understand some things I hadn't really gotten yet. I don't have time to post my ludicrously complicated question here yet - I drafted it and it's a total mess - but if you get this message before seeing the film again tonight would you do me a big favor?

Would you check - especially in the closing credits - to make sure the homeless girl on the right is the only Asian girl in the film? That Asian girl was cast as Niko in the film, I'm pretty sure, and I made up a theory to go along with that info. However I visited imdb.com today and there's no Niko listed, and the one Japanese name I noticed on their list seems to be different from the name I very vaguely remember seeing next to the role "Niko."

It's my thought that the Japanese homeless woman is speaking about herself - or herself in a symbiosis with the Dying Degraded Sue - much like the Julia Ormond character with a screwdriver sticking out of her gut was speaking, irrationally, of herself - or of herself in a dying and involuntary symbiosis with and invisible and God-likely powerful Nikki Grace.

My list of things for Lynch fans to watch out for is a lot simpler than the idea I'm hashing out at the moment. If you manage to get this note before I leave I'd be happy to email you my draft of the list before you see INLAND EMPIRE again, but mainly you'd only be interested in the off-camera David Lynch cameo if you didn't notice it the first time and the fact that the instrumental played during the love scenes has some interesting hidden lyrics.

my email addy is mariette_st_simon@yahoo.com

Thanks and have fun seeing it again tonight,
Mariette

Anonymous said...

It's a very powerful scene, and I felt a bit gypped when we pulled back to reveal it as a staged occurence.

Just so you know "gypped" is a derogatory term towards Gypsies.

Patrick said...

Sorry about that, I've altered it.

Anonymous said...

Talking about the rabbits I think that these are the scenes more related with the subconscients part of Nikki/Sue/polish woman´s psyche cause Lynch uses symbols (rabbits) to express some of her fears and/or ideas. I think that they link with the story in many ways. They interact in many layers as well as the film is developped. I think that the rabbits scenesnload some criticism about the concept of traditional family (observe that the woman is just arranging the shirts, the guy arrives and shits on the couch, they almost don´t have any conversation)and farther from the hollywood´s movie industry they also reach TV. These scenes remember, since a satiric point of view, a kind of sitcom showing some elements as empty dialogs corresponded with unexpected faulse laughs. In other layer of significance, this rabbit "family" seems to represent something beyond the classic family, maybe the family of the polish prostitute that also seems to be formed by 3 members (remember that at the end the husband and son appear and they embrace toguether) being the one of the suit the only leaving the room (as the husband did going to work in the circus). According to the impressive review performed by Patrick "at the end she finds herself reunited with her husband and son, in a moment of happiness". In that point, I have asked myself if she really aborted, if this abortion was just one of her fears, if the kid appearing at the end is another son or is the same... or maybe it really does not matters...

Anonymous said...

Much of your ideas about the movie are based on you thinking that "...Tommorrows" is a remake of a Polish film. It is not. It is the remake of a German film based on a Polish folk tale ("Vier-Sieben"). The Polish scenes have nothing to do with the previous movie shoot. Pay more attention to what you call the weakest scene in the film if you want to get back on track.

Ayse P said...

i just watched this again and wanted to note that in the end when the polish woman reunites with her husband i think the son is dead. assuming nikki and this woman share some identity and that we hear from nikki that her son had died, i felt that this woman was suffering a loss of her son as well. but she did not hug the son, just the husband... in fact they both were acting like the son was invisible except for one knowing glance...

also, i in fact thought the scene with grace zabriskie was far from weak was super-fantastic!!

Patrick said...

What makes you say the Polish scenes have nothing to do with the previous movie shoot? Yes, it was based on a German folktale, but Jeremy Irons also talks about how there was an attempt to make the movie, but it was stopped. He focuses more on the idea that it's a remake, not that it's drawing from a folk tale.

Anonymous said...

Thanx for the lengthy review Patrick, it was helpful in assisting in some aspects of the film but I dont agree with you on the opening. I actually found a lot of it more exciting than some of the later scenes in anticipation. I think it was as vitally important as the rest of the film and sets the film on its axis. Madness cannot exist without some degree of sanity and I did particulary like the Lynchian demented Maria Ouspenskaya homage by Grace Zabriskie, it was as humorous as it was chilling.

but thanx again for the post

Masonic Traveler said...

OK, just watched it last night on DVD. From a short form analysis, the film represented the imagined future of Laura Dern, with the coming film role. The reasoning is that the film is encapsulated between the Russian/Polish woman's warning, as it flipped back to Dern sitting on the sofa at the end (with the exception of the wig wearing junkie from Pomona scene right before the credits). the symbol for it being an imagined tale, is that is is, in a sense, the story of Alice through the looking, falling down the rabbit hole, and getting lost in wonderland. the rest of the analysis holds, as it does become a fractured picture of stories, the film, the original, and then the story. the reality lines get blurred, especially towards the end when Dern's character repeats what the woman said about today, tomorrow, or the day before.

the question I was left with at the end was if it was a dream, or the imagined what if when Dern was to be offered the part.

Anonymous said...

This movie was terrible! Does Lynch even know how to edit a film anymore? At least Mullholand Dr. had some great T&A of Naomi Watts in it to make it tollerable but this movie blew chunks. I'm gonna go see "Transformers" instead.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Patrick. I´ve just watched INLAND EMPIRE and I couldn´t create any solid explanation. I´ve read you´ve watched the science of sleep, and I´ve thought we might like the same kind of films. Could you all recommend some of your favourites movies? I know this is not the topic, but I liked Mulholland, I liked The science of sleep and also Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I would suggest Luis Buñuel "El Angel Exterminador". This is the Spanish name, I am from Madrid. Let me know, please. Long life to Lynch...

Patrick said...

I haven't seen The Exterminating Angel, but I really liked some other Bunuel that I've seen. 'Un Chien Andalou' is a classic, and a big influence on Lynch. As for other stuff along the line of Inland Empire and Lynch's work, there unfortunately isn't that much. Alejandro Jodorowsky has done some good stuff, though I don't think it's as consistently good as Lynch. Still, 'The Holy Mountain' is well worth your time.

Takashi Miike's 'Visitor Q,' 'Happiness of the Katakuris' and in particular, 'Gozu' are very surreal, psychological films. 'Gozu' is the most like Lynch, the story of a hitman who goes on a surreal odyssey.

More recently, I watched the anime series Evangelion. It starts out as a very straightforward thing, but halfway through the show, it starts to explore the psychology of the characters. The last two episodes of the show and the subsequent film, 'End of Evanelion' are as powerful explorations of the human psyche as anything I've ever seen.

Archie said...

on the subject of other films similar to that of lynch, maya derren is an obvious influence, with meshes of the afternoon having a strong link with lost highway, even though its a short. nice review man helped alot, need to see it again anyway though. thanks

Patrick said...

Meshes is great. Is there any other Maya Deren you'd recommend? I've only seen that one short.

Anonymous said...

everybody who thinks this movie is enjoyable in the least, should remain in their mental institutions and rot. this movie has zero production value. you retards may think it "portrayed its themes well" but that doesnt make this movie enjoyable in the slightest. while typing this, i had to cut short my own viewing of this film, and go grab some burgers at wendys instead. this movie is terrible

Anonymous said...

The only reason I watched the movie is because I am a David Lynch fan. That being said, its unfair to compare it to his previous works. I started watching this movie with particular ideas in mind as to how the movie would unfold. Just when you think you've got David Lynch's film recipe down, he throws a curve and resets the entire film. This is what makes it a work of art. I admit that I was bored during parts of Inland Empire, but it has relatively little to do with the film and is more reflective of me. Fascinating film. Also, my interpretation of the film was similar to yours, though in all honesty it cannot truly be broken down into a static formula.

The best thing to do is take what little sense you can from it, and just let the rest wash over you. Like a dream.

IZ said...

I think your analysis is pretty spot on, I only have a few things I might add (noting I haven't read other responses yet).

The only issue I had with your analysis is that you said the Grace Zabriskie scene in the beginning had little contribution to the film. During the film I used her words as my main source of analysis. She was the first to foreshadow the idea of murder in the film, and she is the only source of story line for the polish folktale. She spoke of something along the lines of a man (or woman) walking through a passageway and creating an alternate, evil self.

I think a scene worth mentioning that you skipped over was the one in which the polish gyspy's are gathered around a table in sort of ritualistic, candle-lit manner with a distraught looking woman in the middle. They brought in a man who was unable to see the woman, but could hear her. They gave him a pistol and told him to leave, "it's after midnight". He leaves, and a couple of them vanish in the manner of the rabbits. They then do a fade in and out of a shot of the gypsys into the room of the rabbits sitting in the same manner and moving similarly. I imagine this would mean that there is a direct relation between the roll of the gypsys and rabbits.

In the absurd credits dance party, there are a few things you seem to have missed. The woman with the monkey is seemingly the woman with the hole in her vaginal wall. The asian girl specifically mentioned that she had a pet monkey. The woman with the peg leg I think is from Laura Dern's monologue to the stranger, she mentioned that her sister in law had one leg. I couldn't really tell but I think Jeremy Irons was playing the piano.

I think your interpritation of Lynch's movies refering to the exploitation of young women in Hollywood hits the bullseye. The scene where they are interviewed on the dreamy bullshit TV show is followed up by Billy and his friends back stage critiquing Nikki, with particularly fondness to her "nice ass".

I love Lynch's use of droning ominous undertones, they send a shiver down your spine. The entire beginning has it, and there's a scene where Sue is wandering the street with loud pop music in the foreground, but you can still here that droning underneath. It gives in unsettling sense of "something aint right".

The homeless woman on the street seems to have relation to the gyspy's as well. She brings back their line "it's after midnight", and holds a lighter as Sue 'dies' which reminded me of the candles in their scene, Lynch seems to be big on using things (fire in this, scorched motor oil or creamed corn in Twin Peaks) as keys to other dimensions. He also loves to use those dark corners, most of this movie is Laura Dern stepping slowly and carefully around corners from one setting to the next. I also found it interesting that when Sue found the polish woman in the TV room, the polish woman walked the creepy nonsensicle hallways as if she'd been there before.

That's all I can think of now. I watched it last night and my head is still spinning. Thanks for the Analysis, its helped a lot.

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Anonymous said...

Just got done watching this and I had a wholly different interpretation of the ending: I thought that Laura Dern/Nikki has sacrificed herself to set 'Sue' free, and the Nikki took Sue's place in the sort-of purgatory of the room with the TV. Maybe I'm totally wrong.

Anonymous said...

anonymous from january - totally agree with you, this movie makes me cry every time because of the idea of breaking a curse - or at least giving someone who's been in its grips a long long time a chance to be set free.

it's almost like nikki has made a sacrifice of herself to free the polish woman from the room/theater/club/hell....i.e. the curse started with the folk tale (manifested here in the circus dude who hypnotizes people), then moved on to the first attempt at making a film of it - 47 is the room where the cursed woman was kept for so long. the german title of the film version that was being made from the folk tale. i.e. this is heavy sh)t, don't f&ck with it or this is what happens!
somewhere in there the early 1900s polish prostitutes come in there - not sure how yet - i guess they were part of the cursed way back then and they've been alive forever since then? maybe?
i say that since the 2 at the very end are running down that hallway holding hands and looking so happy to be leaving wherever they're leaving.....so moving.....

i LOVE this movie!!

Trippy Traveller said...

Lynch if your reading, then well done your a genius and all, but entertain us a bit more and light on the meaning some times. Look you've started a stream of waffle.

damonous said...

Well, looks like I waited far too long to watch Inland Empire, but Lynch certainly doesn't disappoint. It's funny, too: the pace at which he starts-off on almost dares the viewer to turn it off, as if he is no longer concerned if anyone less than a hard-core fan is watching. Of course, those of us who are, know that it's his classic 'slow slide into insanity/dream-ality', done up to perfection here. There are so many great thoughts in the posts and original analysis above, that have helped assimilate what I've just watched. But, I wonder if much of what everyone's thinking isn't largely off-track. What if, this time, Lynch is not playing with just 'dual roles' with *living* persons, but also with the dead? When we see Laura Dern's character on the sidewalk at the end, was she really performing in a movie, or did she actually die at that moment, and the 'camera pull-away' is in the concoction of some weird state of Hell? Her watching her life on the movie screen (to me) indicates that we've strayed far beyond just 'dreams & imagination'. --I find that Lynch supercharges this movie with more scary, borderline occult imagery than usual, and there are more references to 'good & evil' than he would normally provide. He usually leaves that as subtle things for us to extract, and doesn't outwordly state 'evil is born' (as the old lady at the beginning describes). In particular, the whole "you have a bill left to pay" concept is something that a simple analysis that the 'actress/role' theory doesn't cleanly explain. Moreover, if we do go down the line of the common 'dual role' Lynch mechanism, can we go further and maybe state that Laura Dern is playing a "quad role"? --In other words, that we see not only the actress/reality of the present, but have mixed-in views of the similar actress/reality of the past (the previous attempt to film the tale)? It would explain the house with the dated 50's-era decor. What if the part of the movie where Dern is speaking to the camera/mysterious man is her atonement for sins in the afterworld of the end of the movie (my theory above)? .... The reason I'm leaning down this route is because (as we all know) Lynch is very specific about words and music (among everything else) in his movies. So, why is it everyone is 'ignoring' the significance of the lyrics of the final end-credits song? --Lyrics about "God" and that they should all be thankful for his "power". Maybe because that final party dance is not reality, but is either Hell or Pergatory, and they are hopeful that the "power" can redeem them from where they are.

Donald said...

When the boy went out to play (the man leaving), the evil (the phantom who was the reflection of the man) was born and followed him, wreaking fear and torture on the women. When the girl went out to play, she was lost in the marketplace (Hollywood, the meat market) as though half-born (she couldn't fully materialize in either world). Then, not through the marketplace, but through the alley beyond the marketplace, this is the way to the past. Both Nikki and Sue spend considerable time skirting and navigating the peripheral passageways around these worlds. Finally, being killed, she is able to find the phantom and kill him. This killing of the controlling evil is what breaks the spell and frees the lost girl as well as Nikki/Sue.

Ryan McGivern said...

My feeling about the film:
1) we are all Laura Dern.
2) It is about time, as the film states a number of times
3) we all live re-enactments of a illusion. Myth and 'realities' are one.
4) Dern's character is awakened to the endless cycle of life's web of 'sin'.
5) Dern's death in Hollywood allowed her to follow the mute god to a place of egolessness (self annihilation)
6) This resolve (the act of killing the Phantom/herself) freed the possibility of hope.

Karl Hainer said...

Excellent work Patrick. There is so much more that I want to say and I'm tempted, however I just need to scramble through my collection of DVD's (mainly Lynch) and watch INLAND EMPIRE for what will be (i guess) the sixteenth time. I must say that David would probably enjoy your interpretation of this wonderfully flawed masterpiece, links or eye of the duck scenes from his most contemporary movies and the joy that you experienced when watching his disintegrating identities, mutability of perception(s)and your brilliant open mind. I for one feel like a small child greeting their mother after first school when I get the chance to see a new David Lynch movie, but I am a little worried that if he doesn't deliver another one in a similar style within the next couple of years that I might have to commit suicide or emigrate to Eastern Europe.

Anonymous said...

New eBook reveals David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE. Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/World-Politics-Prophecy-Understanding-ebook/dp/B004LGS7I6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1301503016&sr=8-2

Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion here and I'm glad I found it. Lots of good imput and different perspectives. The rabbit scene for me left a very different impression then what I have read on here. I saw it as a "rabbit hole" especially when the phone rang and the false laughter chimed in. The false laughter seemed to mock the character crying while watching this. Almost as if to say once you cross a certain line we never can return which is why the phone rings, no one answers and then mocking laughter. A line that is constantly used through this film is "actions do have consequences" which ties in beautifully for me in with my interpretation of the rabbits. These lines we cross and decisions we make that have consequences. Derns husband makes it very clear to Devon that his wife is not a "free agent" and despite these warnings they have an affair which is consummated in a scene from the movie they're shooting which during the begins to blend with reality. I think one can argue that even if Devon and her never had an affair outside of the characters they played in the film Lynch is commenting on the fact that even under this context it's still cheating and lines have been crossed and she's now a whore. And isn't that how life is once we indulge in the temptaion or bite the forbidden fruit we seem to travel down that path and now she is tainted and there is no turning back and she will never be clean again. To me this rabbit scene tied that aspect of the film for me. Phone rings, no answer, mocking laughter.

Anonymous said...

The ideas expressed in these past comments are extremely stimulating. As a viewer without a complete grasp on the flick or a complete knowledge of Lynch's works, I can't begin to assert that which I'm not certain of. The last commentator had an interesting point of the whore scenario. Except when I glimpsed the flick she seemed to come close to assimilating with the prostitutes, {e.g. laughing at the ridiculous they found so titillating}, but ultimately turning away from them, as well as having them run screaming from her fatal screwdriver encounter. The other thing that struck me, {having seen Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and some of Twin Peaks}, was in the rabbit scenes, I expected and looked for 'easter eggs'. I'm not certain which scene it was, but when the three rabbits are together, four shadows are cast, each with different ear patterns, judging from the light, and future scenes, this wasn't a secondary shadow, as later in the film, the fourth rabbit shadow is replaced by the silhouette of a woman's head, assumedly Nikki's due to the hairstyle. I'd love to read more views on Lynch's enigmatic clues

October62011 said...

The other thing I wondered about was the mention of 'inland empire' with no actual explanation or definition, as well as no other utterance of the term. Unless I didn't read between the lines correctly, it seemed all but completely unspoken, where as Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, and Twin Peaks had very literal meanings to their overall theme

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It won't really have success, I consider so.

enmi said...

It helps a lot for me to read all these ideas and details. I watched the movie about a year ago, having seen nothing by Davind Lynch before. I was completely overwhelmed, hated it and felt so bad during and after that I couldn't sleep.

The movie has kind of gotten stuck in my head though, and even though i don't dare to watch it again because of how I reacted before, I can't stop trying to figure it out. It's very much a love/hate relationship with this move, or more curiosity than love I think. Thanks!

kyle foley said...

Hi Patrick, Thank you for writing this analysis. I"ve written my own analysis and quoted your work in it. It can be downloaded here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9zzW6-3m2qGLTB5WHRLdldraWc/view?usp=sharing

Anonymous said...

I had just finally made it through "Inland Empire," and found your article in searching for analyses of the film. I have been watching Lynch's films (and, I suppose, following his career) since 1979 ("Eraserhead," projected in a cinema - oh, lordy!), and have come to the conclusion that all that one must really "understand" about his films is their repsective narrative structures; the poetry of the other elements fill-out that "wireframe." For example, I didn't "get" "Lost Highway" nor "Mulholland Drive" until I identified their narrative structures.

In discusing films such as Lynch's, the perils of saying, "This means that," is that some things defy objective analysis; they deserve being permitted room to "breathe" significance on in layers - like dreams which shouldn't be analyzed too much, but whose "meaning" is partly derived from the emotional states they create. Another thing I have concluded about Lynch's films is that they have, increasingly, concerned themselves with the underlying and extentuating "nature of things" and not so much with relating a narrative with clearly-defined characters. "Inland Empire" seems, to me, the most extreme, or penultimate, example of this. The very reason why Lynch himself won't reveal what his films mean to him or what he had intended by them is his respect for his own work's dynmaic evocative and magical power.

(By the way, pardon me, but the word is "masculinity," not "masculineness.")