October 13, 2006
Inland Empire, 2006
One of the recurring ideas that resurfaces from the Q&A with David Lynch after the screening of Inland Empire was the sense of liberation that high definition digital video afforded him, and this democratization of the medium can certainly be seen in the film's mind-bending, sprawling, opaque, hallucinatory, sinuous, and harrowing exploration of identity, performance, déjà vu, reality, intertextuality, surveillance, jealousy, betrayal, and fatedness. Indeed, inasmuch as the film can be accurately classified as indecipherable twaddle, it is also a description that defies reductive dismissal. Ever teetering between uncompromising inspiration and overindulgent madness, Inland Empire, as the title suggests, is a journey of interiority - not only of the way sectors of the cognitive brain can be arbitrary probed to recall seemingly random temporal and psychological regions of dreams and memories, but also in the way that the mind then subsequently maps the terrain of these disparate logic puzzle pieces in an attempt to reintegrate the information into some semblance of resolution, to make sense of our own indecipherable subconscious: a hysterical woman fixated on the static pixellations of her television; an eccentric sitcom featuring a rabbit-headed family; a privileged actress named Nikki (in a bold and uncompromising performance by Laura Dern), who is married to a powerful man has learned that she has just been cast in the role of a lifetime; the resurrection of a cursed screenplay that once led to the death of the two lead actors (and whose fate may be again be tempted when a well-known lothario named Devon (Justin Theroux) is cast as the male lead); a woman named Sue (also played by Dern, perhaps in the role of the film character) attempting to outrun her demons. But because of its entrenched irresolvability, Inland Empire, like Claire Denis' L'Intrus (albeit not as thematically distilled and compact), is the kind of film that becomes more intimate and intuitively - albeit abstractly - coherent with (temporal) distance and osmotic assimilation - when the arbitrariness of the seeming non-sequiturs, tangential encounters, oneiric repetitions, parallel images, conflated (and interpenetrating) realms of reality, and self-reflexive humor dissolve into the less concrete, impressionistic contours within the permeable fabric of human memory.