Inland Empire


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Inland Empire
"[Lynch] cannot tell the difference between a storyline and a car crash."

I am dreaming about Laura Dern in a stately home in Beverley Hills, with a butler and a string of maids, dressed circa 1930.

For no reason the scene changes and I am watching three actors with rabbit masks on a stage. One is ironing, like Mrs Porter in Look Back In Anger. Another sits on a sofa. The door opens and the third, dressed in a suit, enters. The (hidden) audience claps wildly. Conversation starts.

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“I am going to find out one day.”

“When will you tell it?”

After Dern goes to the studio to start work on her new film, On High In Blue Tomorrows, directed by Jeremy Irons, the dream becomes more interesting. Someone says the project is cursed because the first time they tried to make it, back in the Forties, the two lead actors were murdered.


Soon the dream starts scrambling its pretensions and coming up with confused nonsensicals. Harry Dean Stanton hangs about the set with nothing to do. “It seems only yesterday I was carrying my own weight,” he says, before asking anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot for a few dollars.

When Polish prostitutes in Warsaw start dancing The Locomotion, I feel suspicious. Even in dreams, it is possible to question reality. Dern has stopped making the film-within-the-film – perhaps not – and is living – perhaps not – in a bungalow in the country – perhaps Poland. There is another woman (Julia Ormond) now, who says she has been told by a higher power to kill someone with a screwdriver.

The rabbits are back.

“It was red,” one of them says.

“Where was I?” another asks.

“This wasn’t the way it was,” the third says.

(Loud laughter from audience)

I am suspicious that I am not dreaming at all, but watching a David Lynch film. Except this is not the man who made The Straight Story, Wild At Heart, or Blue Velvet. This is the man who overdosed on Twin Peaks and decided that Lost Highway was too easy to understand.

If it’s not a dream, it is made like one, in which a thousand interpretations can be put upon every scene, all of which have credence. For three hours, I sit desperately searching for a clue to what is going on and decide eventually that Lynch forgot to plug in before setting out on this venture. Either that or he is so embedded in his own conceptual vision that he cannot tell the difference between a storyline and a car crash.

What he does well is make use of the soundtrack to suggest emotions, such as fear and excitement, and his camera stays so close on faces you can see the pores. Such intensity of visual and musical expression is wasted on a plot that implodes in the writer/director’s subconscious before the light of morning can reveal its inconsistency.

The last word goes to Lynch, through the mouth of one of his puppets.

“I’m not too keen on thinking about tomorrow and today is slipping by.”

The clarity is deafening.

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2007
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A married actress falls for her leading man whilst making a film about an illicit affair.
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Read more Inland Empire reviews:

Stuart Crawford *****
Chris *****
Jennie Kermode ****1/2
Amber Wilkinson ****


Glasgow 2007

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