Monday, 19 March 2007

Inland Empire - Review by Carmody Wilson

Director: David Lynch
Screenwriter: David Lynch
Runtime: 172 minutes
Certificate: 15
Release date:
9th March

How do you judge a nightmare? Do you score the power of its ability to frighten, the hideous portent of its deeper meanings, its dark reflection of your own experience? Or do you let it lie, festering and stewing at the back of your unconscious, ready to seep its way into your eye-line much later while you dream? David Lynch films, much like nightmares, are beyond analysis, and the latest offering, Inland Empire, is just as ghoulish, gorgeous and ghastly as the most elusive of dark dreams. Laura Dern stars as an actress performing the role of a lifetime in a film with a dark history. Justin Theroux, her co-star, is warned against trying to seduce her by her jealous husband, while Jeremy Irons directs. Harry Dean Stanton asks people for money. Bunnies in human costume sit or stand in a dark apartment, satirizing banality. A homeless woman talks about her friend’s genital deformity. Somewhere, in the background, a train chugs along, probably pulling a load of roiling carcasses. It’s never seen, but oh boy, is it felt.

The atmosphere Lynch builds in Inland Empire, while playing fast and loose with narrative and structure, is so complete and bewildering that all the disparate elements come together in a startling, discursive, wild, beautiful panoply of images, feelings and sounds. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s a thorough viewing experience. Shot with a digital camera, the immediacy of some of the situations makes for uncomfortably intimate viewing, particularly in the scene where Dern’s character is visited by a new neighbour with unsettling news. The closeness of the camera, coupled with the pore-defining clarity of the shots is squirm-worthy. Lynch excels at making something relatively normal, like a neighbourly visit, into something rife with menace. Dern, whose character’s normality is compromised by her extraordinary situation, puts on several faces that are by turns abused, nonplussed and confessional, and let’s just say, the woman earned her pay cheque on this one.

Just as with the maladjust who copulates tenderly with his favorite stuffed animal, Inland Empire is David Lynch’s pervy, nebulous, and oft-misunderstood expression of love. It’s a frightening, rambling, robust film to which no amount of well-intended divination can unearth a true meaning. There’s just as likely to be a dance sequence as a murder with a screwdriver, and the sooner that’s accepted, the better. Even the comforting face of a surprise William H. Macy can do nothing but further alienate and confuse the viewer. Sit back and try desperately to relax, because either way the dark amorphous Lynch cloud on the screen’s horizon will defy any attempt at analysis. That’s the power of the mind’s Inland Empire.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Well done Carmody! Brave task, confronting this film critically. Quite possibly the best review of Inland Empire I've read.