The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.
A blonde actress is preparing for her biggest role yet, but when she finds herself falling for her co-star, she realizes that her life is beginning to mimic the fictional film that they're shooting. Adding to her confusion is the revelation that the current film is a remake of a doomed Polish production, 47, which was never finished due to an unspeakable tragedy. Written by
Art (Not really possible to write a spoiler, but there is an interpretation here)
Lynch has very high artistic integrity.
Lynch will never tell us what any of his films are about - if indeed he knows or would ever admit that a film might be about something in particular. There can be no evaluation of any specific interpretive approach. There must be such an approach, whether conscious or not. Lynch would likely disagree. He's right - and some of the disappointed reviews expressed here by his fans are nice examples of why this is so. I am sure he would also understand and agree with my rebuttal - "Who cares, it's fun"
When fans either gush about the brilliance of a piece of work or resort to name-calling ("pretentious hipsters??"), the film is, like most works of art, not going to allow much of a middle-ground.
A lot of smart and well-written reviews here on IMDb treat the technical aspects of the film. This review is not about HOW the film was done, but rather WHAT the film does.
If you haven't seen the film, try this review on. If it doesn't fit, then I can't recommend seeing Inland Empire. If you do keep reading, get it into your head that there is no spoiler here, really. The interpretation offered below is not even an opinion -it is simply a facile, creative construct I use heuristically for talking about the film after my first viewing.
If you have seen this film, you will probably view the interpretation below as too simplistic - that is, if you got it. That's fine. I do not care, but feel free to send me a note if you want to discuss it. Keep in mind - as I stated above - I am simply using this interpretation as a means for discussion. Don't take it too seriously, I really don't care to defend this.
Laura Dern should win two academy awards for Inland Empire - for Best Actress as Nikki and for best supporting actress as Nikki's role of a lifetime - Susan. But she won't get nominated because this film will be systematically ignored by the mainstream.
Why bring up acting talent so early in the review? Because this inherently non-linear film (though it is more linear and plot driven than Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway) offers one of many possible (possibly an infinite number of) linear interpretations - the film is/could be about acting and losing one's identity in a role. It could all be going on in Dern/Nikki/Susan's head as she comes to grips with what she is doing in the three levels of "reality" portrayed.
If this particular interpretation were chosen, the free association between the roles played by the Polish actress/victim/perpetrator of the film "47" and that played by Dern's actress/victim/perpetrator in "Blue Skies" create a meta-text which, though unseen and unexplicated throughout the film, nevertheless identifies its subject as the disassociation and power of performance and creativity in the production of fiction/reality/drama.
This interpretation is suggested by all of the many seemingly out of place and jarring details in the film - the usual red herrings Lynch throws at us to suggest that there may be some linear subtext in all of the sensual experience offered by his sumptuous, immersive films.
scenes from the Polish film
reenactment of the film by Susan - possibly in her dreams or
The placement of the Polish actress into a couple seemingly disparate
and unconnected roles (which, in fact make the creation of "Blue Skies" and the folklore surrounding its predecessor "47" unite at a different interpretative level)
-The rabbit people performing within the television with an incoherent but suggestive script and an absurd laugh track
and especially their audience (key to this interpretation because of
its chronological placement in the narrative and the identity of the viewer).
-Nikki's opening and closing scenes and Grace Zabriskie's foreshadow which identify closure for the meta-plot.
The seemingly anachronistic white noise and record-cutting scenes and
sound-cues, which occur at crucial transitions between the alternative realities inhabited by Nikki's disassociated personalities.
If any of you find this interpretation compelling and would like to hear more about it, feel free to send a note. It is, in my opinion, just as worthless as any other interpretation of art - probably better left unexpressed and unexplained. But if having something linear to talk about helps you, you are welcome to further pursue it. Do not mistake this interpretation as an opinion. I have no opinion concerning the plot of this film.
For my part, I completely understand the film through and/or without the interpretation above.
Which pathway to the palace (is it Alan Smithee's House on the set?) I might chose, whether through the back alley or the front entrance to the studio (as the interpretation above offers) - I get it - just as I always "get" Lynch more than most directors.
For fellow admirers of Lynch: IMO, This is a more coherent film than Eraserhead, a more upbeat and enjoyable film than Lost Highway, a less commercial film than Mulholland Drive (though it does bear some thematic resemblances largely because both films are overt self-referential interpretations of American media culture). You might talk about it for hours afterward, but this discussion will mostly only help you to know the people you attended it with better. Let it pour through your mind and soul.
No profitable comparison to Lynch's more linear films can be made, although, on a second viewing of IE I may wish to spend some time thinking about the connection between the exploitation themes in Elephant Man and this film.
Of course, the directing, camera work, and especially the sound design are flawless. Goes without saying.
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