Inland Empire

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David Lynch’s Inland Empire: The Dreamer is both Creator and Spectator.

It was non­sense…” a phrase we often use to dis­par­age a film we’ve had to sit through for one rea­son or anoth­er. We spit out the words vin­dic­tive­ly, and with great rel­ish, to berate the work in a vain attempt to dis­tance our­selves from it, to some­how brush off the expe­ri­ence like some humil­i­at­ing dan­druff.

It was non­sense. Pure and utter non­sense. And if we’ve made a pri­or (severe­ly lim­it­ing) deci­sion both in life and art to seek and cre­ate sense in every­thing we expe­ri­ence, then the absence of sense sig­nals the utmost waste of time, and hence the harsh­est ver­dict with which we would sen­tence a film.

David Lynch’s Inland Empire is non­sense…

… yet is the most elo­quent, most pro­found, most deeply mov­ing piece of non­sense I’ve expe­ri­enced in a long while. And it has been an immense influ­ence on my own work, before even see­ing it. It is a case of, to quote some dia­logue from the film, “not know­ing if it came before or after.” And to quote anoth­er phrase some­one dear and close to me used to describe one of my own recent films: “It is a beau­ti­ful mess.”

Film direc­tor, schiz­o­phrenic, lucid dream­er all have one thing in com­mon: They live in a world of their own cre­ation, both as objec­tive observ­er of and sub­jec­tive ser­vant to that world. They are sur­prised by their own uncan­ny insight into their own minds, con­stant­ly shocked by what that inci­sive insight uncov­ers. This form of con­scious­ness, and of cre­ation, is lit­er­al­ly like stick­ing one’s head up one’s ass­hole.

Through the peep­hole live a fam­i­ly of sit­com rab­bits seen through a burn in a piece of fab­ric con­nect­ing the vagi­na with the inten­stines, the sex with the shit. It is where babies live out their anal stage and where women’s insides glow with new life (or are eat­en out by still­born projects). And it is where the Inland Empire, that val­ley between the porn cap­i­tal of the world and the mec­ca of glitz and glam­or, spreads out, a sliv­er of space between night­mares and dreams. And it is where the space between self-loathing and self-real­iza­tion expands and con­tracts, pal­pi­tat­ing like a beat­ing heart or a cervix or an act of inter­course.

Lynch’s Inland Empire con­tains all of his pre­vi­ous (and pos­si­bly future) films, all of his land­scapes, sound­scapes, mind­scapes, escapes, his half-lives, and all of his arche­types: the woman in trou­ble, the har­bin­ger, the greek cho­rus, the direc­tor, the absent father, the obnox­ious moth­er, the dou­bles, the phones, the dis­con­nect­ed doors, the half-lit hall­ways and the hor­ri­fy­ing beau­ty of it all.

It is three hours of ener­vat­ing, unnerv­ing, exhaust­ing and exhaus­tive dream log­ic told from the point of view of the view­er him­self, not the main char­ac­ter and cer­tain­ly not the direc­tor. It is every­thing and noth­ing. It is sen­su­al. It is sen­si­tive. It is sen­so­ry. It is all forms of sense at once.

It is pure non­sense.

Directed by David LynchStarring  Laura DernJustin TherouxHarry Dean StantonGrace ZabriskieJeremy Irons and Diane Ladd.

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