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:: Inland Empire

Whatever may be said about David Lynch, there is no denying the fact that his films are an experience which can never be forgotten. And so it goes with “Inland Empire”, Lynch’s most ambitious and thought provoking film since his 1977 debut “Eraserhead”.

Laura Dern stars as Nikki, an actress who takes on a comeback role in an adulterous love story, which co-stars known womaniser Devon (Justin Theroux) and is directed by Kingsley (Jeremy Irons). When the cast are informed that the film is actually a remake of a Polish film - which was believed to be cursed and then abandoned after its two leads were murdered – Nikki begins a decent into madness as reality and fiction merge. Meanwhile, the film unexpectedly moves back and forth from Poland where a beautiful young woman (Karolina Gruszka) is tormented by a mysterious man (Kryzstof Majchrzak) known as “The Phantom”.

An off kilter film which is as twisted and illogical as the most vivid of nightmares, “Inland Empire” contains a somewhat irritating loose structure which transcends space and time, delusion and reality, as the viewer delves deeper into worlds within worlds. Continuing with the supernatural tone and ambiguous themes found in 2001’s “Mulholland Dr.”, the film also looks at adultery and the consequences of ill advised actions.

Shot over several years on hand held digital video camera, “Inland Empire” was not supposed to be a feature film but a series of short films. Yet Lynch noticed a common theme had developed and it then morphed into a feature. He also inserted his short film “Rabbits” - which consists of a family of rabbit people (played by Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Scott Coffey) set in a sitcom format - for no apparent reason other then to confuse his audience even more.

There was no completed screenplay before shooting began, with Lynch writing new scenes everyday for his actors. With such unorthodox film making – even by Lynch’s standards – the final product is much more open to interpretation compared to anything he has done in a long time. This makes “Mulholland Drive” feel like a run of the mill TV movie. The trick is to connect the dots Lynch has placed on the screen. The problem is that not only are a lot of the dots hidden in far away, deep places, but others are damn near invisible!

The film contains memorable performances by Grace Zabriskie as a tooth-saying, bug eyed neighbour, and by Harry Dean Stanton as a hustler producer. Yet this is Laura Dern’s movie all the way, with Lynch taking her to places that most actresses would fear to tread. It was a welcome feeling to know that no matter what tangent Lynch would go off on, that Dern would be there for the ride, her performance almost like a life preserver keeping the viewer afloat amongst the stormy seas of Lynch’s madness.

I would not go as far as to call this film brilliant or a work of genius. It is way too pretentious, too long, and too confusing for that type of praise. But it is definitely an original and unique watch. Recommended for the hardcore Lynch fan than the more moderate type.