Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Inland Empire: The Second Viewing

I did a pretty massive writeup on the film after seeing it for the first time, but after a second viewing last night, things are a lot clearer and I think I can fill in some of the gaps lacking in my original analysis.

More generally, I'll just say that this film is not as hard to get as people make it out to be. It's not an abstract bunch of random scenes, though you could just read it on that level and enjoy it that way. The quote I'd apply to this film is "If everything means something, everything means nothing." You could read every single element as a piece of a carefully constructed narrative world, comprehensible with thorough analysis. Or you could just read it as a message from Lynch's subconscious, given meaning only by what we see in it, not from anything inherent in the film itself. Watching it again, it's clear that things are structued in a specific way and you can find meaning in the film.

I said it back when the film first screened, but I'd imagine Lost Highway and even Mulholland Dr. must have seemed completely incomprehensible to the first bunch of viewers. It was only through critical work that a consesus emerged that helped people to understand the movies. This film is the same way, initially critics are puzzled, but as more people see the film, particularly on repeat viewings, it will become more and more clear. I don't think the film will ever be as accessible as Mulholland Dr., but it will be easier to watch and understand. I got a much clearer view of everything the second time through, and it felt much more cohesive, less random, less schizophrenic.

The critical element I missed on my first viewing of the film was 'The Phantom.' Struggling to keep track of who was who, I didn't follow this guy through the movie, and it turns out that he's one of the critical figures. The Phantom follows in the tradition of BOB or the Mystery Man, a figure with some kind of extradimensional power, an embodiment of evil itself who menaces our heroine. Nikki first discusses The Phantom in one of her monologues, she also mentions that he has a sister who has one leg, a figure we'll see crop up later in the film.

I would argue that The Phantom is the 'ghost in the machine' of the Blue Tomorrows story, he's the one perpetuating the curse and destroying everyone who comes into contact with the script. He draws them into the world of the story and imprisons them there. For the Polish Woman, this is literal, she is trapped in Room 47, and I believe 47 was the name of the original Polish script. Nikki's imprisonment is not so literal, she is not trapped in a room, she is trapped in the world of the character, unable to escape and return to her own life. As the movie goes on, things get worse and worse for the character, her initial love affair with Billy goes bad when he rejects her from his house.

It's difficult to figure out how the film works because everyone is playing different characters, and there's a lot of blurring with dreamlogic. However, one thing I didn't catch on the first viewing was the fact that Julia Ormond played Billy's wife. So, at the end of the film when she stabs Sue, it could be that she'd gone insane after hearing about the affair, and driven to kill Sue for that reason. So, the scene at the police station could actually take place after the stabbing. Or, it could be that she went insane, checked into psychiatric counseling, broke out, then stabbed Sue. Alternatively, she could reflect Sue's guilt about having an affair with Billy in the first place.

'Blue Tomorrows' is clearly a melodrama, so it would make sense that the affair within would go wrong and lead to destruction for all people involved. In the Polish story, we see that Julia Ormond has stabbed someone, possibly the main Polish woman, though I'm not sure about that. The whole middle section of the film takes place within the universe of the film, something that I think is critical to understanding what happens there. Sue's affair with Billy made her pregnant and that caused her the problems with her husband. Julia Ormond stabs her where she does precisely because it will kill her child. As a side note, I absolutely love Dern's performance in the street scenes, so incredibly raw.

This street scene is meant to parallel the opening scene with the Polish woman reduced to prostitution. In both cases, the women cheat on their husbands and are made to feel like whores. Their guilt winds up driving them to actual prostitution. I feel like the gang of girls hanging around with Laura Dern are her conscience, embodying her fear of what she's becoming. They also have access to some kind of supernatural energy, the only ones to cross between the Polish storyverse and the American storyverse.

Throughout the film, we see scenes from the Polish version of the film, a parallel universe version of the events with Sue. If you look at them that way, it's much easier to understand what's going on because it's one story, just split between the two characters. However, there's still one scene that's somewhat perplexing, the 'seance' scene. Here, the husband goes to a bunch of people and they seem to channel his wife. I would argue that this is her real husband, seeking his lost wife, he hears her, but cannot make contact. In the real world, the husband does love the Polish woman, as evidenced by their loving embrace at the end. So, this scene may take place in a reality where he's trying to save her from imprisonment in Room 47.

This leads us to the Phantom. As I said before, he is the malevolent force that locks our heroines in the destructive loop of the story world. There's a very fairy tale feel about the idea of the cursed story, like this guy has put this script out there to entrap people in a spiral of suffering and evil. Perhaps he is like the Man from Another Place in FWWM, getting nourishment from the Garmonbozia (pain and suffering) of others. Certainly this script puts the main characters through an awful lot of pain and suffering.

We see The Phantom in a number of scenes, generally moving through the background, but his most critical appearance is near the end. After Sue 'dies,' Nikki returns to the filmset, but she still seems possessed by Sue. She wanders into the theater, where she watches herself projected on the screen. Here, she is confronted with the fact that despite the director calling cut, she remains trapped in the world of Blue Tomorrows, perpetually locked on the screen, unable to return to her own life. This is a state parallel to the Polish Woman.

She moves through some hallways, gets her husband's gun, then goes out and encounters The Phantom. She shoots at him, then, in perhaps the most horrifying moment in any film ever, he stares back at her with a grotesque version of her face. I don't know what it is about that image but it's very, very disturbing. After this, she shoots him again and seemingly blows a whole in his face, at which point he is defeated and we go to a beautiful shot of a purple burst of light suspended in darkness.

Watching this movie again, I was wowed by the photography. The first half hour is a little shaky, but after that, this is absolutely beautiful. The closeups on digital have a clarity and urgency that just isn't present in film. I think we're so used to the textures of film it lost the magic, and the rawness of this DV brings back some of that mystery. It is a striking, and yes, beautiful, film.

So, her defeat of the Phantom frees her from the spell of the cursed movie. Nikki wanders into Room 47 and frees the Polish Woman from her imprisonment. I feel like Nikki is transferring the freedom she received to the Polish Woman through that kiss. And, side note, why can't the Polish Woman have a name? Does anyone know if she does? After being freed, they both are able to return to their homelives, and much like Blue Velvet, the good feels that much better after an excursion into possible darkness. This is a return to optimism after the only hope in death finales of FWWM, LH and MD. I love the way Laura Dern looks at the couch and now sees a pure, idealized version of herself, rather than the utterly broken, dirty one she turned into over the course of the film. Her performance here is on a whole different level from most cinema acting.

To summarize, Nikki is an actress who signs on to appear in a film that is cursed. As she works on the film, she gets caught up in its spell and finds herself trapped in the characters' life, forced to endure a spiralling series of awful experiences. Concurrent with this, a Polish woman has reached the end of the spiral, and is trapped in a hotel room, crying, thinking about what she's lost. Nikki, as Sue, goes through a symbolic death, and the film's story ends. Yet, she remains trapped in that world. She confronts The Phantom, the extradimensional being responsible for the evil in the story, and kills him, thus freeing herself and the Polish Woman to return to their lives.

This leads us into the bravura end credits sequence, one of the most fun scenes in any Lynch film, and also one with some tie backs to what happened previously. Earlier in the film, Sue, in her monologue, said that The Phantom had a sister with one leg. That is the woman we see at the end, who says sweet. Earlier in the film, one of the girls says "Sweet," I would argue that indicates that both the girls and the woman are extradimensional beings, only these ones are not devoted to evil, as the Phantom is. In Twin Peaks, we see a number of characters who just seem to exist, not serve good or evil specifically. The girls cannot help Laura Dern, rather than they convey messages, much like The Man From Another Place or the Giant.

The woman with one leg is clearly tied to the blue haired woman from Mulholland Dr., both stating a word to close out the film. My reading of the final word is that after all the awfulness, Laura Dern's character is just happy to be in this world, all she can say is "sweet."

From there we go over to a woman in a blonde wig with a monkey, this is Niko, the woman referenced earlier in the Asian girl's monologue. Is this monkey the same one seen in FWWM? Do they exist in the same extradimensional universe? It's quite possible, I would argue that this scene takes place in a world like the red room, that is why the Laura Dern we see is dressed in the pure, ethereal dress, it is a moment of transcendence beyond the concerns of mortality. I don't think she's died, rather I think she's experiencing a moment of happiness after her great ordeal. There, Niko can exist as this star idea, rather than as who she actually is. Niko is basically doing the same thing that Diane did in creating Betty in Mulholland Dr., making a successful, happy alter ego to cover up her actual painful existence.

I really love Laura Haring's appearance here. It's so clearly just a bonus for Lynch fans, and that's what makes it great. This scene is just an excess of cool stuff, and her expression is great when she blows kisses to Laura Dern and Nastassja Kinski. The hopping monkey with strobe light is pure Lynch, and one could argue both he and the carpenter tie in with the extradimensional characters of FWWM. Plus, that song just tears it up for the finale, say what you will about the previous three hours, that last minute, where the song goes very quiet, then comes back for the climactic ending with the camera tracking back from Laura Dern through the singers is a great final moment. And, even after three hours, I was wishing the film would just keep going. It's such a wonderful world to get lost in, I didn't want it to end.

So, that's what I got out of the second viewing. Let me now address a couple of points from the comments on my first post.

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 really wish there was a transcript of Grace's speech, I listened closely, but there's so much in the film, it's tough to remember exactly. I suppose the boy who goes out and brings evil could be The Phantom. He would seem to be the source of all evil in the film, and that sort of supernatural birth would be fitting.

As for the son's death, that death happens in the storyworld, in real life her son is fine. So, I would agree that it's likely an abortion, or perhaps her husband beating her forced her to have a miscarriage. Sue also lost her son, which goes along with what I'd mentioned in my original review, that Nikki seems to tap into something in the Polish Woman's actual life through this script. The Polish Woman actually seems to live in the house that Laura Dern inhabited as Sue. In the case of the Polish Woman, her actual life seems to have much more in common with her role in the film. I'll need another viewing to figure that out exactly though, I feel like it's definitely there, I just need to see how the scenes are structured again

I think the critical thing is that both of their experiences represent their worst fears. For Nikki, it's that her cheating with Devon will ruin her marriage and plunge her into poverty and prostitution. She seems to lack confidence in her own ability to be a successful actress, and that's likely why she married such a wealthy man. If he rejects her, she loses the security and her fear is she'll wind up out on the street. This also ties in to her fear of being a whore, if she did marry for money, she would already see herself as a kind of whore, and that's why she imagines herself hanging out with those girls.

For the Polish woman, the great fear is being separated from her husband and child. She sees her cheating, forced upon her by the script, separating her from him, leading to the death of her son and sexual enslavement in Room 47. However, she is ultimately freed from that entrapment and returns to her family.

As for the identity of the woman on the floor, I'm not sure, I'll have to look out for that on the next viewing.

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.

There's certainly parallels between Nikki/Sue and Niko. I think it again is about Sue/Nikki having to confront her own worst fears, the idea that she was just putting on this role of a movie star, like Niko wears the wig, when in reality both of them are dying whores. The screwdriver in her gut would tie in with the hole in Niko's vagina. If we read it as Julia Ormond targetting her uterus, both Nikki/Sue and Niko would lose their ability to have children, and the possibility to find the domestic bliss that Lynch's characters seek. I'm not sure if the Japanese woman herself experiences this, it's unclear why she's sitting out on the street, though if she is homeless, then that would tie in with Sue's ultimate fear. In both this film and Mulholland Dr., Lynch uses homelessness as the worst fate for actresses, to be completely spit out the system and wind up a bum on the street.

Ultimately, all the women in the film seem to be on a spiral towards the streets, where they find prostitution and death. This is likely a result of the Phantom's influence, by destroying him, she frees all of them from that spell. And the Japanese woman is definitely a part of this.

There's so much in this film, if you've seen it, definitely comment, I'd love to discuss it more and expand more on exactly what Lynch is doing.


Anonymous said...

Zabriskie's speech is pretty important. The girl who goes into the alley is Dern, no question.

Then there's the boy who leaves home and creates an evil shadow. The evil shadow is the Phantom, but who's the boy? My best guess is that it's Sue's husband, who appears to have had some past with the Polish circus. They take him back to Poland so he can deal with the fact that the Phantom hypnotized/trapped his wife. So perhaps when he left home by leaving his Polish wife and marrying Sue, he created the Phantom.

geegaw said...

I think Polish Woman is credited as "Lost Girl" in the credits at the end of the film.

Jürgen said...

Patrick, your experience sounds similar to my second viewing, when it felt as if perhaps I was beginning to unlock some of the mysteries of INLAND EMPIRE. But the third time around, I was thrown into complete confusion again. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts--I've added this entry to my growing list of theories on INLAND EMPIRE.

Anonymous said...

My fourth viewing has left me wondering more about the lighting and sources of light (I read something about man-made vs real, and how the lit,lamp symbolizes heaven, purgatory, and hell). Is the phantom in purgatory as well as hell or is he looking for an opening into purgatory where the polish woman is trapped?

Also, I can't find anything on what "L.B." means when it's written, then striken with red line on Dern's hand. You see this when she retrieves the gun from the drawer. It might be in another seen as well, but I can't recall.

Patrick said...

Waggish - The husband would definitely make sense, particularly since at times during the film we see him as an evil, hyperjealous figure, but in the end, when the Lost Girl is reunited with her family, he seems like a nice guy. He's definitely involved in some kind of larger conspiracy.

Jurgen - Thanks for linking to it, and reading your experiences was fascinating. I've got to get a third viewing in, after seeing it the second time, I seriously would have loved for them to just restart the film, I didn't want to leave that world.

And anonymous, lamps have always been a critical motif for Lynch, witness the red lamp in Mulholland Dr. I saw The Phantom as the evil ruler of the story realm in which everyone is trapped. I'm not sure about the heaven/hell/purgatory thing, but I'll have to watch out for it on the next viewing.

And L.B. had me curious as well, I'm not sure what that connects to.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, generally brilliant observations. I just saw IE though have been a fan of Lynch's work from the day I saw then DC premiere of Blue Velvet, 20 years ago or so. I first saw your comments on IE's official site forum (sadly ruined by lack of moderator).

I think you really pinned a lot down. I was glad to see you reassess Zabriskey's role and the importance of her speech--that sort of creation myth she recounts is KEY to the film. As someone else said, Dern IS the little girl who goes to the market but goes through the alley BEHIND the market (we even see her with gorcery bags).

A related mystery is the "debt owed" theme first inititated in Zabriskey's speech--it recurs a few times. Dern has forgotten to pay a debt she owes...hmmm.

The Phantom has the power to hypnotize, as alluded to at least twice. the scene where he is wiggling his finger and uttering some sort of urgent gibberish is insane...he is clearly casting a spell or hypnotizing someone (the Polish girl?)

Great observations. Keep 'em coming.

Anonymous said...

Just a few observations here. I saw the film at AFI the other night with Lynch introducing the film. He and a Polish composer improvised an ethereal keyboard and synthesizer thing while Lynch read off some stage directions. It was very cool.

Curious to hear what people think about the role of time in the film. I believe one of the characters actually says, "It's about time!" at one point (as in, "finally!" but I took it the other way). Zabriskie says something about how it could be 9:45 or Midnight. Later, in Poland, a man asks what time it is and it's 9:45. Lots of talk about yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Unknown said...

I have a theory on the LB (L. Frank Baum?) which ties in with Laura seeing the name Dorothy on the star.... more examples of Lynch's OZ symbolism? I know I'm stretching here, but it just came to me in the shower.... Oh also, I own the exact pair of slipper sandals that laura is wearing in many scenes. They are Paul Frank, and on the inside there's a tag that says "I *heart* (picture of a monkey)"

Infernal Secretary said...

Like most of the symbology and terminology in the movie, "the alley behind the market" is a very loaded phrase. Naturally, it could be a literal reference to the alley behind the grocery market where Nikki gets lost... but one can also interpret the market as Hollywood and the whole image industry in which people, particularly women, are objectified and idealized. The alley behind it (behind this dream world where the human excreta of it are left to rot) is the 'alley', the prostitution which has in fact existed longer than the market itself? Is the market merely a facade for this prostitution. Several incidents in the film seem to suggest that this may be the case.
Let us also remember that this is a creation myth, and the implication may be that women have been subject to being drawn into and lost in the 'alley' from the beginning of time. The glamour and attention from the 'market' is a facade concealing the true peril of the world behind it. What of 'man?' First let me state that we are working with dual natures in general and not entirely gender divides. Zabriskie mentions that the two stories are different versions, and I think this means that the differences in her tales are based less on gender and more on outcome. However, for the sake of helping our interpretaton of the story (and we need all the help we can get) the gender dictinction gives us guidance about who is who in relation to the narrative. When the boy goes out to play, evil, a 'reflection' of his nature, is loosed upon the world. This reflection could be The Phantom: the controlling, malevolent, light-bulb sucking force that seeks to possess and then torments without mercy those that fall. Most people seem to be forgetting about the very first scene with the Phantom (before Nikki/Sue even appears) in which he argues with the older man about wanting an opening and 'understanding.' I only vaguely remember this scene, but I seem to remember clearly that it is the one scene where the Phantom seems to be at the mercy of someone else. It is the one scene where he seems to be at the whim of someone else. It almost seems to be the moment when he gains permission to enter into and disrupt the world.

I want to say much more, but it was a late screening and I have had a few martinis and am devilishly tired... but I urge anyone who has seen this movie to really think about the audience's reactions. What did people laugh about? After all the seeming absurdity, how did people react to stories of brutality that seem to mingle with the absurd? How do the people on screen react to the suffering of others? What do they not want to hear? What do we not want to hear?
Here are a few more wuestions for which I have my own answers, but would love to hear others: if the gun ultimately destroys The Phantom 1) where did it originate 2) and could Sue/Nikki have found it any sooner? She saw that drawer and lamp the first time she entered that house. The other room with the tall (dare I say phallic) lamp is where she first encounters the prostitutes and is shown briefly when she meets Crimp/Phantom in the yard with a bulb in his mouth. (Frankly, in my view, that lamp is possibly the most malevolent appliance in film since The Brave Little Toaster 2).

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I 'researched' 47 on Wikipedia and found that there exists a 47 Society at Pomoma (!) College. Now, if you could only get a bus there....

And, indeed, what is L.B.?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the thing everyone says is "LB" actually says "47", but it's upside down. 47 is of course the name of the original Polish movie.

I love some of your ideas Patrick, but reading your update, I couldn't help thinking "Twin Peaks has a lot to answer for", because I think certain fans of that show (of which I am one) tend to focus too closely on the supernatural elements in its storyline, and then attribute all strange occurences in Lynch movies to the supernatural, whereas I think it's more likely that they are straightforward symbolism. I say this because a lot of people (including Mark Frost, the co-creator of TP) see it as being an allegory about the ravages of child abuse.

Therefore, there is no BOB or Black Lodge in the "reality" of Twin Peaks' narrative, they are instead symbols which are used to tell a story. For example, Leland says that he first met BOB when he was a little boy - and that he "asked to come inside" - it isn't too hard to interpret this as a metaphor for how abused kids often end up as abusers themselves. I think in all of Lynch's films (particularly those made after Blue Velvet) use this type of approach to storytelling - kind of in the tradition of South American Magical Realism, and you don't need to invoke magic or the supernatural to explain them. Twin Peaks was different for two reasons: firstly, it was a huge success, as likely watched by zit-addled teens as it was by kindly old grandmas. With this kind of audience, it simply isn't viable to take the usual Lynch approach and expect people to be able to interpret the symbolism, so he and Frost had to make their symbols "real". The other reason is that, while it may be possible to get away with some opaque symbols in a 2- or 3-hour movie, it's impossible to do over the course of a 30 episode TV show - or at least, not impossible, but difficult to do without ending up seeming slightly ludicrous a la The Prisoner. When you're asking a massive audience to keep tuning in every week, you need to give them a bit more than that, which is why all the Black Lodge symbolism in TP was fleshed out to the point that it became part of the storyline. There is no need to do this for INLAND EMPIRE, Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway - all of those films can be explained without the need for supernatural explanations. Every time you see something impossible happening, it is a reflection of a character's state of mind, rather than some all-powerful demon pulling strings to nefarious ends.....

Patrick said...

But in the universe of TP, the black/white lodge is pretty clearly shown as something 'real,' whether that be a collective mental reality of an actual alternate dimension. We see Lt. Briggs, Cooper and Laura go there at different points in the narrative. Now, you could argue that the supernatural elements arose without Lynch's input and in the final episode he just used that framework to inform the story he really wanted to tell, the corruption of Cooper, or in FWWM, the abuse of Laura.

I don't see Lynch as making a kind of Lord of the Rings story with all classes of mystical beings moving through a fantasy world, but I think you're missing something by trying to reduce all the supernatural elements in his film to strict mental representation. The best genre work always uses genre elements to comment on something in reality, and I think Lynch uses the supernatural characters, in this case The Phantom, as representations of the essential forces and emotions that dictate our actions.

So, you're right in the sense that yes, they are symbols used to tell a 'real' story. But, in the case of BOB, Lynch is using this extradimensional evil to show the evil that lurks within all people, and the way that the cycle of abuse perpetutates itself. That's clearly the intention, but I think it works fine regardless of whether or not BOB or the black lodge are actually real. In the world of Lynch's films, anything we can feel is real.

Anonymous said...

I get what you're saying Patrick, but I already tried to state the reasons why I think they had to make the Black/White Lodge real in TP. I'm certainly not contesting that - it IS real - Coop gets stuck there. But I think originally for Lynch it was a symbol rather than a real place - don't forget, it was first shot for a scene at the end of the European version of the pilot, not to mention the fact that it first appeared in a dream

I'm just saying I don't think it's the case in his movies - I see much more room for seeing the supernatural stuff as metaphorical there - especially given the fact that Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE all have had large segments which many people suspect take place inside characters' minds, or at least are a representation of what's going on in a certain character's mind.

Don't get me wrong though - I love your review dude!

Unknown said...

I could definitely see that point, though I'd just mention that in the European pilot, the red room scene doesn't appear in a dream, it's after a title that says '25 Years Later.' That doesn't necessarily preclude it from being a dream, but it makes things more ambiguous than they were in the series.

But, particularly in the later works, I think he is more interested in exploring interior mental realms than creating any sort of extra-dimensional cosmology.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've really enjoyed reading your review(s) Patrick. I live in England and have only been able to see the film once so far, but hope to catch another couple of viewings when it comes on general release next week.

I still haven't formulated a fixed interpretation of the movie yet (perhaps I never will!), but I have a few ideas knocking around - and plenty of questions. I guess the first thing I was wondering about, is that - if the Lost Girl is the actress from the original, uncompleted version of the film, where is the actor from that version? I mean, we're told that the original was cursed, and the two leads died. So if Lost Girl was the female lead, what of the male?

My main observation about the movie so far is that it is absolutely littered with points of reference to Lynch. As you've mentioned, things like the monkey and the presence of Harring (not to mention dern herself) do this overtly, but there are also many references to the things which influenced Lynch himself - lines of dialogue from Sunset Boulevard, a Lolita poster on the wall of the burlesque club, music used in Kubrick's The Shining (I'm sure you know that Lynch is a big fan of Stanley K) - the kiss scene near the end when Nikki disappears is reminiscent of a scene in Un Chien Andalou.

Speaking of which, I'd say that INLAND EMPIRE adheres to the Surrealist Manifesto more than anything Lynch has done previously. But I still think there's a coherent story in there somewhere, so it isn't strictly surrealism - but maybe the best approach to decoding it is to psychoanalyse it in the way you might look at a surrealist movie, and in that sense I think IE bears more similarity to Lost Highway than other Lynch movies.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, interesting point about the male actor. Perhaps he is the Phantom? Doomed to wander in a zombie-like trance until Nikki can release him?

Anonymous said...

Nice descriptions.


Could it mean?

Light Bulb?

Love Billy?

I thought about it the first time I saw the film (yesterday) going back for round 2 tonight...

Patrick said...

I caught the Lolita poster, but when was the music from The Shining? And I didn't connect the kiss to Un Chien Andalou, but it definitely fits. I remember Lynch mentioning seeing it, so it'd be an homage. And, I'd agree that psychoanalyzing the film is probably the best way to get at it because Lynch's process is so much based on the subconscious. To some extent it's folly to try and fit things into a linear narrative, but if you're looking to go beyond just the impression of events, that's the best way.

As for the identity of the actor, the Phantom would fit. It could also be the blurred out guy from the first scene, as if her version of the relationship is more extreme, literal prostitution, unlike Nikki's adultery. Did that guy ever appear again in the film, I don't remember.

It's playing near me again, so I'm hoping to get another viewing in next week, and I'll try to keep these issues in mind, particularly the apperances of LB. I can't wait for this to come out on DVD, so I can refer to the film to try to figure out these mysteries. But, there is something appealing about no one having access to the film, leaving it to exist as a sort of collective memory, an experience that's different for each viewer.

Rob said...

Some really interesting analysis here. I've seen the film twice this weekend and am still a little dazed and jumbled, but something struck me when I read that "Lb" (surely not Leland/Bob?) might be an inverted "47" of some kind.

[They're not perfect reflections but there is a similarity, and an inversion. There's something about Lynch's doppelgangers, mirror images and inversions that keeps ringing out. There's definitely something in the Phantom being a BOB-like spirit invoked in someone's childhood (a la Leland). Billy also refers to his wife (a killer) as someone who has been with him since he was "a little boy". That's a whole different percolator of fish, however...]

What struck me was that the number 47 also bears something of a resemblance to the respective astrological symbols for jupiter and saturn. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrological_symbol

Jupiter and Saturn's conjunction, in Twin Peaks, opens the door to the Black Lodge ("when Jupiter and Saturn meet, they will recieve you"). I felt like there were several references to the Lodge in IE, not least that the Lost Girl is stuck in a limbo - awaiting a saviour - exactly as Laura Palmer was.

I came out of my first viewing thinking that Nikki had sacrificed herself to release the Lost girl (see the final shot of Nikki, on the couch that represents tomorrow, dressed in blue - she has taken on the burden/curse of Blue Tomorrows). It initially felt like Lynch finally releasing Laura Palmer... but I lost that feeling on the second viewing.

Suffice to say I think this film is a significant revisiting/assimilating of the worlds of TP and MD. I'm fairly drunk at this point so I'll sign off - if there's anything worth expanding upon above... EXPAND.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, I LOVED what you wrote about the fiml being like a collective memory (although I also echo your desite to own it on DVD!)

Rob - I must admit, I didn't notice the LB first time around, and when I heard about it, I became convinced that it must have been an upside-down 47 too. But sadly, that theory would only work if the "b" was in small type, where in fact it is a capital letter, and there is little doubt that it is a "B". Bearing in mind the possible Un Chien Andalou reference, maybe it stands for Luis Bunuel?

Also, thanks for reminding me about Billy's wife being with him sicne he was a little boy! I definitely think there is some significance to that, though I'm not sure what...

Perhaps his wife is "the variation" described by the visitor - the little girl who is "half-born"?

Anonymous said...

I agree. The morphed, grotesque version of Laura Dern's face is really, very, very disturbing. No horror film in recent memory has creeped me out more than that image. I can't get it out of my head.
Great movie experiende. Thank you My Lynch!

c. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c. said...

I'm happy to find you all -- I knew there must be others out there besides me who credit Lynch with meaning; reading your discussion is extremely helpful. Like others here, I saw the movie when tired, and frankly, a lot of the stuff y'all saw completely escaped me. I'd like nonetheless to share some of my own observations and questions. I wrote the following not sure what I'd do with it; it's a horrible initial draft, but I'm hopeful your responses will be illuminating. And, did anyone besides me catch a reference to Dario Fo? (I missed -- at least consciously -- the reference to Bunuel, but he turned up nonetheless in my musings about Inland!) I'll skip the beginning part, which is basically talking about how miserably critics seem to keep failing us. Ok, so here it is; pls be gentle:
[After observing that most critics have declared the movied magnificent meaninglessness.]
You cannot “get” good art or literature, unless you are first willing to take the risk of foregoing coming up with the quick, glib summation. You must, above all, observe – you must especially look for and try to remember that which does not make sense to you.
The fact is, most artists leave plenty of clues to their intentions in plain sight, though not necessarily in the way we expect.
Inland Empire: I’d agree this one’s a challenge, and I don't yet get it, at least not all of it. * * * But I do not believe Inland is meaningless. Here are some things I noticed that I think may be meaningful.
First, I think Lynch is using at least some strategies similar to those he used in Mulholland. I managed to work out the “real” bits of Mulholland based on (1) the fact that in some parts, the acting seemed completely convincing, while in others more conventional, clichéd, less convincing; and (2) the odd scene in the center of the movie with the largely-ignored “director” -- I forget exactly what he said or what transpired, but it tipped me off that he was in some way a stand-in for Lynch.
I am far from fully understanding Inland yet, but. The acting in many scenes is totally over the top — e.g., the v. impt. scene in which the older Polish neighbor woman warns the Laura Dern “Nikki” about things being or seeming out of chronological order (a warning I think we should take seriously in attempting to understand this movie). The older woman’s is possibly the most brilliantly, intensely over-acted bit in performative history.
I also noted red, phallic objects. Again, Lynch used a similar tactic in Mulholland — there was a “real,” lime green key object that was transformed in the young blonde's fantasies – sorry I forget the details. In Inland, I noticed an overly long shot of an unduly red and phallic lamp. I started looking for more such objects, possibly a bit late in the game, but this morning remembered how the Polish husband shoots himself with ketchup. (I’m sure there are other instances; e.g., the black woman with the lighter — was the lighter red?) For this and lots of other reasons, I take the more “real” levels in this film to take place among the Polish characters. (Among other additional reasons, how many native English speakers fantasize in Polish? Many more Poles speak English and might fantasize about Hollywood.)
Lighting is obviously important. Dramatic lighting throughout, weird, interesting lamps, the cigarette lighter, etc.; not to mention the discussion about the lighting for the "movie" in the center of the film, between the Jeremy Irons “Director” (pretty clearly less real, although I’m sad to think that the Polish girl who I think is imagining these scenes has more insight into how Hollywood directors work than I do — I thought she did a darn good job — but Irons’ carefully calculated stubble, etc., and his last scene with Dern, are just implausible — although I can't help suspecting they're also an at least semi-realistic depiction of the normal surreality of Hollywood) and the lighting guy who, if I heard correctly, completely inverted the “Director”’s direction and has to stop to take a crap – my boyfriend thought he sounded like Lynch; I have no idea.
I'm afraid I'm not really v. knowledgeable about film history, but I have half a notion that Lynch is referencing a lot of it, and perhaps esp. his own filmography.
Ok, so then, we also have rubbed in our faces: marketplace = Hollywood & Vine = hangout for whores looking for johns.
In the alley behind the market, “Axxon N.” The only thing I thought of on my own is, an anagram for Anno XX (Year 20)? But googling, I learn Axxon N. is a series on Lynch’s website, which I also learn is what he’s REALLY excited about these days. Another series to be released on his website is Rabbits, which apparently looks just like the Rabbit segments in Inland. [If anyone can think of something significant re- "year 20", I'd love to hear.]
So. I can tell you from my experience analyzing other kinds of texts, titles are very important. Now, me, having created a virtual real estate empire comprising video, photography, digital art, essays, a miniature Shakespeare Festival, and various other works — I’m not surprised to learn that Lynch is now doing the same, only unlike me, he’s going to make money on it. See www.davidlynch.com.
So: [I'd bold this if I could figure out how] could the movie "Inland Empire" be, in part, a trailer for the conquest of cyberspace that will be davidlynch.com?
I’ve got other, even more paranoid fantasies about what David is up to, but I’m too shy to share them fully here. But google “Anno XX”; and didn’t I notice a random reference to Dario Fo in the movie? And the online Brittannica says Fo is best known for his solo tour de force Mistero Buffo (1973; “Comic Mystery”), based on medieval mystery plays but so topical that the shows changed with each audience. And another reference for Anno XX has to do with a letter, which has disappeared, on which a claim of leadership of Outer Head of the Order and Frater Superior of the Freemasons was based [why must Freemasonry turn up everywhere these days].
[My personal belief at this point is that the central figures are the young Polish females -- but I'm not sure which one(s) -- the one watching Polish and other tv programs? the one who greets a returning husband and son with apparently genuine joy at the end? And that Dern is basically a figment of one of their imaginations.
Aspects I like but can't totally justify based stictly on the observations from the movie are that I think there have been a lot of Eastern European young women in real trouble these days (I understand Lynch described the move as being about a young woman in trouble); and politically, Poland has been an extremely interesting place for a while now. A more or less velvet revolution, led by a poet, in escaping Soviet domination; but an "important" ally of Bush in Iraq and as I understand a likely destination for CIA black ops renditions.
Even if we figure out the damn logistics of the plot etc., there's of course still the question of whether all of it conveys any info that might actually be useful or helpful in any way and if so how. E.g., Shakespeare's plays were clearly aimed partly at his royal audience and contain a wealth of valuble info about how to do a good job ruling and generally leading. What does Lynch teach us? I'm hopeful; but even the more devoted are having to jump through hoops to even begin to get an idea.]

Patrick said...

The lighting guy is Lynch, and the Rabbit segments in Inland are taken right from his website series. The people in the rabbit suits, or at least their voices, are Laura Elena Harring, Naomi Watts and Scott Coffey, all of Mulholland Dr.

Also, regarding the idea of Lynch referencing films, particularly his own, I think there's an element of that. MD's Gilda reference was an obvious one, but throughout his work, there's ties to classical Hollywood cinema. I would aruge that this mythological idea of classic Hollywood informs his late period work in the same way that the mythologized notion of small town America informed the Blue Velvet/Twin Peaks period.

And finally, just to touch on something you mentioned earlier, the critical inability to get the film, I think it does reflect a deficiency among those writing about cinema. This is an adventurous, transformative work, yes it's not easy to engage with, but that doesn't mean it's just a bunch of random stuff. I suppose the odd release pattern didn't help, but I really wish the film had made a larger cultural impact. Hopefully it'll get a deeper look on DVD.

Gone said...

"...- all of those films can be explained without the need for supernatural explanations."

I agree that one could interpret these films as such, but why would you want to? The haunting thing about Lynch's work , for me at least, is that blurring of the psychological and the supernatural. That's what makes his films so "horror show."

Unknown said...

Patrick, I agree with you, I think there must be something supernatural involved with Inland Empire. The reasons are simple. Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive explored the inner reality of one of the characters, but the narrative was equally distributed: 50% reality, %50 dream logic. If Inland Empire were the inner reality of say, Lost Girl, 90% of the narrative would be dream logic without the necessary footholds to make sense of the film.

I reached almost the same conclusion as you, 47 is a dimension invented by the Phantom, I perceived it as a version of a fairytale, too. But I think there is one big flaw in your theory. You claim that Nikki is an actress that receives a role and gets trapped in fiction. I don't think that's the case. I think she receives not only her role as Susan Blue, she receives her role as Lost Girl's saviour. If you notice clearly, her life is just a thin facade, just like Betty's in the dream part of Mulholland Drive. There are many things in Nikki's life that are absurd: her not knowing that there will be murder in the movie, her hesitating at telling if it was about marriage, a script called 47, a very opaque love story being based on an old Polish tale, Freddy's mechanical behaviour, the dialogues between her and Devon. So this plain of Nikki's existence as a fictional being is the inmost one, for she knows nothing about reality itself, that's why she sees the curse as a script. As she approaches the truth (the imprisonment Lost Girl is in) she begins to see 47 as what it truly is, a curse. At the end, she kills the monster, so she disappears and goes back to her place, not to a suburban life.

The best explanation I could come up with is that Nikki is an invention of the Polish old men, an invention whose purpose is to help Lost Girl and her husband; the old men weave a story and they even include the Phantom so they can kill him. The Phantom insists on being included in this narrative of sorts (the scene at the beginning) and they fool him, letting him in. The Phantom uses one of the characters (Billy's wife, who is entirely fictional) to kill the "hero" (Nikki) but he ends up killing one of her shadows, Susan, a character that seems to be partially based on Lost Girl's life. The trick is, the old men, Lost Girl and her husband, give vital information to Nikki in the middle of the Susan Blue story, ocasionally stopping time (i.e. when she is a hooker and they all snap their fingers, when she looks through the hole in the silk, etc.) So Nikki must suffer a symbolic death before she can finish her task.

Blua Skeleto said...

Nice theory you have there. This work of Mr. Lynch reminds me of the later works of James Joyce, precisely the last one, 'Finnegans Wake'. The dream-logic, character switches (or characters merging into another), constant referenciality and abundant self-referenciality, and so on.

Has anyone else noticed such Joyceanisms?

Definitely a masterpiece this one.

Patrick said...

Carlos, that's a really interesting theory, it actually reminds me a lot of The Invisibles, in the way that each element in the piece has a specific reason for being there, a specific goal to reach. I think the idea that Nikki must suffer a symbolic death is the critical piece of what you're saying. That's something that many Lynch heroes have to go through, most notably Laura in FWWM. She has to go through this awful experience, suffer a lot, but then she finally sees the angel at the end of the film and is able to ascend, a moment that echoes what happens with Laura and the angel at the end of FWWM.

Anonymous said...

I know it was ages ago you wrote this, but I've recently seen Inland Empire twice and just received it on DVD from Amazon - I haven't watched it a third time yet.

I agree with so much of what you say. Like Agent Cooper figuring out the mysteries of Twin Peaks, the meaning is in the details. I like your thoughts about the Phantom being the ghost in the machine - he definitely is the spell caster (or one of them) - he wiggles his finger and speaks in tongues before we see Julia Ormond.

The male rabbit appears very briefly in the chair where the crooked-glasses man sits. I think the rabbit is the man, entering the "real" world as a human to take Nikki/Sue's "confession" (because actions have consequences). The male rabbit is the only one who leaves and returns to Apt. 47, and whenever he comes back, he gets applause.

Having seen "Rabbits" on DavidLynch.com, I think the rabbits are a waystation state between (re)incarnations. They have to be rabbits before they become people again. At one point we see the cigarette burning a hole in the wall of the rabbits' apartment, as if it's located between the folds of silk.

When the Phantom leers at Nikki/Sue with a lightbulb in his mouth (when she grabs the screwdriver), we get a brief shot of one of the two weird table lamps in the house.

We see the second table lamp on the dresser where she eventually finds the gun. I think both Nikki's husband and the Phantom are embodied in the two lamps in the house. (Remember Joan Chen's character in Twin Peaks dying and her face appearing in the handle of an end table?)

Characters aren't just melding into other people, but also into inanimate objects and other species. People are described as "good with animals" - maybe they are caretakers of those waiting to be reincarnated.

I think Lynch believes in reincarnation and that might inform some of his work. I don't believe in it myself but it's a fun theory for trying to interpret. But these are just theories and there's much, much more to this film.

Thanks for your review.


Anonymous said...

Re: "...there is no BOB in the "reality of Twin Peaks."

Mark Frost says otherwise. You'll forgive me if I give his opinion more credence than yours.

Patrick said...

I think Lynch would differ, and I'd give his opinion more credence than Frost, though admittedly the first 28 episodes of TP are a very different thing than the last episode and FWWM. Looking at the last episode and FWWM, I think it's pretty clear that there's otherworldly beings out there, including BOB, that they're very much real. Before that, it's less clear. But, considering we're discussing this in the context of Lynch's latest film, not Mark Frost's, I'd take his intention over Frost's as canon.

Anonymous said...

Yet another discussion thread regarding Inland Empire:

chris r. said...

Although it is never shown in the movie I assumed the LB with red line through it was from nikki/sue getting her hand stamped at the club. I still have no idea what it stands for though.

Todd C. Murry said...

I thought LB (maybe I'm just being simple here) was for little boy, scratched out because of the abortion. Of course, in my read, I think the abortion is the film's central aspect, and I think the Phantom is a manifestation of guilt the central character has to kill to free herself.

Part of my problem with the film (I don't know how the rest of you feel about this aspect) is the fact that I think there are three scenes in the deleted scenes (sorry, "other things that happened") that are reeeeally informative, and thus you run into the issue of whether they are canonical... you know, do they count. I say yes, and that's why (along with the "vagina hole" speach) I think the abotrion (alternately savage attack with miscarriage) is the central event (unshown) of the film.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this post. I have only watched the movie once so far. I found many of the theories posted here insightful. Now that the movie is available on DVD, I hope more people will add their thoughts. I'll offer up what I saw in it.

I agree with Terry's post in that I have always viewed the more surreal elements of Lynch's films as views into the internal dialogue of the characters. I felt this was also the case with the Nikki character. The film primarily felt like it was moving from the (current) Blue Tomorrows filming to 47 (Polish version) filming with the middle of the film dealing with Nikki losing herself in the role.

I differ from Patrick’s take as I interpreted the group of prostitutes as facets of Nikki and part of her past, rather than a future fear. For me that explains why some of the girls' actions were in unison (the snapping, the dancing). I saw the Zabriskie character's story of the girl in the market was her way of revealing her knowledge that Nikki had been a back alley prostitute and that was how she met her husband. As her husband was a rich, Polish man presumably, he could have secured the role for her. This might also explain why Zabriskie is so snarky during her visit (I know you got the role and I know how you got it). Perhaps Nikki's husband is the descendant of Lost Girl (son?) and wants to break the family curse through his wife’s talent.

Viewing prostitution as part of Nikki’s past, I saw Nikki's savior role and release of the Lost Girl as the cathartic release of both her own past and release of the curse of the movie star that had died making the original film. It seemed that Nikki had a lot to prove taking on the role of Sue and her successful performance and praise by the director freed her of the guilt of not being worthy and of how she came up in the industry.

I also enjoyed the end credit, otherworld celebration dance sequence. It fit into my view of the prostitutes as parts of Nikki, now free of guilt and able to rejoice. The black girls could then be seen as aspects of the homeless woman who held up the lighter to Nikki in the final scene of filming Blue Tomorrows. And as Patrick also noted, the blond wigged woman with a monkey (Niko) is the alter ego of the Asian homeless woman (the 'friend' in the story being herself).

I love traversing the Lynch labyrinth and considering the symbols and underlying logic. This film certainly offers much to unravel.


Anonymous said...

Adding to my previous post, I have another observation on LB and a couple comments on the effects.

I had to watch the movie with the sound low, so I tried to turn on subtitles. The only option is for French (StudioCanal backing), of which I have some understanding so I watched it that way. In French the title of the movie Nikki stars in is "La haut dans les lendemains bleus". Could LB = lendemains bleus"?

I was confounded by a few of the 'horror' effects. The first was the Polish version of Julia Ormond and what I suppose were innards hanging out of her jacket. It looked like a bloody banana or used condom. The second was the Phantom face during the shooting at the end. While I saw it to be a distorted reflection of the 'whore' Nikki, it was so shoddily rendered it was more laughable than compelling. On the otherhand, I thought the blurring of the faces in the opening was artfully and appropriate employed.

If anyone has another take on those effects, I'd love to hear it.


Patrick said...

If you mean the moment where Nikki's face is on The Phantom, I found that absolutely terrifying. I don't know why exactly, but it was one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen in a film.

Anonymous said...

I have only seen it once, so I am still mulling it over... but if I remember correctly the 2 "old stories" of the boy and his reflection and the girl in the alley are essentially the same story (variations?).

Would it be safe to say that the "lost girl" is the one who gets lost in the alley? Dern is also a girl who goes in the alley (on a side note - is this alley similar to the alley in MD? Isn't there an alley behind the restaurant?)

But, couldn't we also say that Dern is the boy and his reflection? When she shoots the Phantom, we see HER face (a distorted reflection).

SHE had an affair (was this her evil? or was she consumed by something evil here? is this the "opening" she created allowing the Phantom to enter? Or, is the Phantom (evil) the consequences for her actions (we are continually reminded that actions have consequences, and that Dern has an unpaid bill).

I'm still working it out... so I am probably talking in circles...

Anonymous said...

(1) - Nikki/Sue are both imagination. Probably "Laura" (the actress) was a immigrant the came to US brought by a pimp that "owns" hollywood (the prostitution business). Like Nikki caracter show us.

(2) - "Laura", working at the hall of fame in hollywood, tell us her story like she was living between two films: The polish film (that represents what happens ALL THE TIME with immigrants coming to work like prositute in US, got murdered, like there was a evil curse) and her wishes (to be a star in movie, trying to make it differente from the past, but she can't scape fate)

(3) - I wanna know what do you thing about this viewing. We can fit the elements into the srory this way.... i guess.

Anonymous said...

just a detail: Polish/Lost Girl's name is Karolina - Nikki/Sue mentions her name saying: "I know Karolina!"

Anonymous said...

Laura Dern is a dead suburban housewife. The whole story is of her falling in love with a married man and her desire to kill her possibly abusive husband. She talks about hiring a hitman with her lover who has money.

She is pregnant and gets an abortion after the affair is over.

She kills her husband in the bed in the suburban house with the gun she takes from the dresser. After that I think she hangs herself.

The whole murder sequence is referenced non-sequentially in the scene in the alley with AxXon ni? and you can see here entry into the hallway is a mirror shot of her entry into the "box" labeled "Action" thru a phonetic reading.

It is also referenced with the view of a person's distorted face and then Nikki's face seen from below as if a POV of someone looking up from a bed.

Her debt is the collective murders of her husband and her unborn child.

We are given many clues that she is dead- one is the scene in the car where she seems to be lying down and listening to the car (hearse) taking her to the hospital/morgue where the strange Green and Red light board is.

The scene with the guy in glasses and the monologue is in the funeral home and glasses guy is preparing the body. When the phone interrupts him, Nikki flees from her reality again. The fingersnapping sequence shows that her delusions are coming to end since they represent "Dorothy" clicking her heels together three times.(There's no place like home). Lynch also has her standing on a star labeled "Dorothy".The whores' snap in the middle of the two sequences of three make the total of snaps "7".

I think she hangs herself and the whole icepick thing is another fantasy from the movie. One rabbit says, "This isn't the way it happened" right before the scenes that lead to the icepick murder. And there is the strange scene of LD's face floating in air seemingly lifeless with eyes staring wide and swaying. Suggests hanging. Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus and the theme of betrayal is rife in this film.

I think the whole Polish movie thing is a real movie that Nikki/Sue has watched that mirrors her life and gives her the inspiration to kill.

The end of the "movie" where Nikki dies while the black woman holds the light moves from that scene to scenes suggesting the last rites being applied or a nurse attempting to save her represented by the girl in white who offers the white robe (which is refused). "God" as the director offers his blessings on her role in life. But this god is Nikkis' fantasy God. Nikki refuses "salvation" because of the guilt she has over her murders she has commited.

Then she moves to a place where people put makeup on her (like a funeral parlor) then to a literal "viewing room" where she is shown her "confession". Only the man in the green jacket comes to her "viewing" and she follows him into a bowels like underground corridor where she relives the parts of her life that determine her damnation- the murder of her husband with the gun and the death of her son through the abortion. The face morphing is the faces of the two murder victims (one a fetus) and her own face since she killed herself.

The optimistic ending with the fahther, son and the Holy Ghost (lost girl??) is another fantasy with LD again running from the truth of her crimes.

I think the "Lost Girl" is a reflection (remember the Eurasian Woman's story) of Nikki's lost innocent self and in her post death fantasy she is seeing herself reunited with a loving family and ascending to Heaven".

In truth, she is doomed to hell represented by the sounds of torment heard while the dangling, twisting woman in red is superimposed over Nikki and morphs into a dancer.

The credit sequence is Nikki in her coffin (the velvet sofa is a velvet lined coffin), hearing the choir sing, but in the end only darkness consumes her. Fitting since she is an adulterer and a double murderer suicide.

This movie had a lot in common with "Eraserhead" and I believe this is close to a distaff version of that film.

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Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add to those asking about what happened to the leading man in the cursed film, no one mentioned that the Polish husband is found on the street stabbed in the stomach. The Phantom then seems to accuse Lost Girl (who he doesn't like to see "out in the street") of having something to do with it. I'm not sure that "Sue" in the suburban story is real. She seems to be inhabiting the role of the Polish wife. She doesn't really know who she is or where she is. She is shocked when the husband spills ketchup on himself as if she dimly remembers him being stabbed there, or foresees it or something. Also, I'm not sure if she's the same woman who talks to the man with glasses. That woman knows what's going on and looks harder than married Sue. I think all these women are projections of women's roles, summed up near the beginning by Nikki's husband telling Devon that Nikki is "bound" by marriage, that she is not free to do as she wishes. That sense of being trapped in someone else's design is what ties all the incarnations of Lost Girl and Laura Dern together.

Anonymous said...

i've watched the film 4 times now and have come to the conclusion it is a film about human thought and the roles good and evil play in it. did anyone else think that the polish girl resembled an angel when Dernes character entered room 47? also the t.v in the room which had been playing the rabbit footage changed to what was actualy happening in the room. I think the way Lynch wrote Inland Empire was to open himself up and let the whole thing come to him, through his subconcious if you like which leads to questions on where thought and ideas actualy come from. which definatly isnt hollywood.

Anonymous said...

If you all thing that the curse finally broke, watch the scene after the Dern's kiss to the lost girl.Is anybody seeing a mirror outside the door where the lost girl is reflected???????I've seen the movie so many times and thought that it has a final deliverance till I saw it in mute,without the fooling everybody soundtrack.No more comments,I'm going to cry now. . .

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MasterOfDeception said...

Hey there! 5 years since the last comment but I recently saw the movie.

So I haven't seen this view mentioned in any explanation of the movie: Nikki not only gets in the position of Sue, but also the previous actress that played Sue and was murdered.The "new neighboor" at the start of the film indicates there's a murder and there's also her husband playing in the film , while Nikki hasn't seen anything like that written in the plot! The murder is the curse getting true, and the husband comment implies that Nikki's husband is also involved somehow in the plot since Nikki cheats on him with Devon.

So the mysterious neighbour probably recalled an old polish tale or some other movies where murder and cheated husbands are involed.

Moreover she indirectly comments on Inland Empire's non-linear time progress : She says something in the lines of "once it's 9:45, then it's after midnight". Both 9:45 and "after midnight" are mentioned in the film laters, when "what time is/was it" is asked. That's a typical Lynch trait, and provokes a feeling of deja vu and might be a hint regarding parallelism.

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DistantJ said...

I know this is an old article, like, very old, but I was pleased to see an interpretation close to my own of the film. I wanted to say, though, your mistake is in thinking the Poland scenes are in an earlier version of the movie. The earlier version of the movie was German, not Polish, but the movie is based on a Polish wives' tale. I think it's pretty plausible to believe many wives' tales have some truth in them, and that the Poland scenes are the true story. Perhaps in order to free the Polish girl, Nikki, as Sue (Nikki's vessel into the story through the American script), has to endure the Polish girl's experiences.

Anonymous said...

the Polish lady says "if it was 9:45. i'd think it was after midnight". later on we see 9:45 in the subtitles and another time someone says it's after midnight, both during intense scenes but since every scene was so intense I don't know how you all got these meanings, but now I feel the need to rewatch it soon! Thanks for all your thoughts, I assumed there was no meaning and the point was just to feel uneasy/terrified for 3 hours, but surprisingly from what I remember some of these points make a strange kind of sense. i just thought the whole story was being watched by the crying girl... I watched the whole Rabbits thing years ago, and this movie has the same way of making things unsettling with just dialogue and music and lighting..........peace!

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