“He never changes, he just reveals.”
This statement, uttered by one of the two character’s Laura Dern plays in David Lynch’s new cinematic nightmare Inland Empire, can also describe the enigmatic director himself. Lynch has always been an allusive artistic force, and with Inland Empire he constantly reveals different representations of inner turmoils often addressed in his other film’s, specifically the duality and conflict of female representation within the Hollywood studio system, achieved more tragically and convincingly in Mulholland Drive. But Inland Empire is a revelation, at least for most of it’s 3 hour 15 minute running time. Consisting of multiple realities, a dynamic and hypnotic score by Lynch himself, and a mesmerizing set of performances by Laura Dern, Inland Empire functions as Lynch’s most complex and dubious mind fuck, an inclusive, specialty blow out for Lynch followers and cult film fans alike. One can’t help to feel people will look long and hard at Inland Empire and try and “figure it out”. I think it’s best left as an emotional experience, not a narrative puzzle.Inland Empire represents Lynch’s first feature film foray into digital photography, creating a sometimes muddy merging of mise-en-scene and a sometimes shockingly strident glow within interiors. I can’t say I prefer it to the layered, wonderfully composed images of his earlier work, but this strategy fits perfectly with Inland Empire as an experience. Lynch utilizes the grainy look of Inland Empire in multiple ways; first using this imperfection of image as a succinct parallel to the many character’s breaking psychosis’, second as a blurring of the many different sphere’s of reality Lynch wishes to explore, and thirdly, and probably most importantly, as a fuzzy reminder of the fluidity storytelling and filmmaking can have, and so often lack in today’s Hollywood system. Inland Empire exists on a grad scale, maybe too big for the film’s own good, opening doors as other’s close, light’s turning off and on as easily as faces blur, character’s recognizing their own faulty outlook on reality. Lynch pits his camera, often from behind/OTS, and in extreme wide angle close-up, more as a way of confronting the fragility of both the character’s and the actor’s playing them in the movie within a movie. Lynch wants to mess with the viewer, in turn calling into question whether or not film can transcend dreams or nightmares. I’d argue Lynch comes close to doing both.While a fascinating ride through a great artist’s mind, Inland Empire is above all a bloated creation. It’s running time and redundancy are exhausting, compelling the viewer to hold tight as multiple scenes play out over and over again with various differences in tone. However stifling, these moments fit perfectly within Lynch’s ideal fun-house, and it’s up to the viewer to go all in or shrivel up and hide. One gets the sense Lynch, who is apparently handling distributing himself, has finally attained the freedom/control he’s desired throughout his career. I’m not sure this situation has created the masterpiece most critics have called his latest venture. But I’d go as far as saying Inland Empire demands to be seen, multiple times maybe, and experienced for the enthralling mixture of German expressionism and Neo-noir it accomplishes beautifully. Above all, Lynch has crafted a lofty and fascinating tale of the many lost souls enhabiting/fighting to survive within the City of Angels, a place that can harbor the best of times, but mostly the worst ones you could ever imagine. I just hope David Lynch reveals a little more change in the future.