Inland Empire (film)

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Inland Empire
Directed by David Lynch
Produced by David Lynch
Mary Sweeney
Jeremy Alter
Laura Dern
Marek Żydowicz
Written by David Lynch
Starring Laura Dern
Jeremy Irons
Justin Theroux
Harry Dean Stanton
Scott Coffey
Jordan Ladd
Music by David Lynch, Krzysztof Penderecki
Cinematography David Lynch
Editing by David Lynch
Distributed by StudioCanal
518 Media and Absurda (US theatrical)
Optimum Releasing (UK theatrical)
Rhino Entertainment (Region 1 DVD)
Release date(s) September 6, 2006 (premiere at VFF)
6 December, 2006 (USA, limited)
August 14, 2007 (Region 1 DVD)
November 15, 2007 (Australia)
Running time 179 min (DVD Premiere)
Country United States / Poland
Language English / Polish

Inland Empire (2006) is a surrealistic, psychological thriller film, written and directed by David Lynch. It was his first feature-length film since 2001's Mulholland Drive, and shares many similarities with that film. It premiered in Italy at the Venice Film Festival on September 6, 2006.[1] The feature took two and a half years to complete, and was shot entirely in standard definition digital video.[1] The cast includes such Lynch regulars as Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, and Grace Zabriskie, as well as Jeremy Irons and Diane Ladd. There are also appearances by Nastassja Kinski, William H. Macy, Laura Harring, and Ben Harper. Harring's and Scott Coffey's voices are also heard in the excerpts from Lynch's Rabbits project that are incorporated into the movie.


[edit] Overview

When asked about Inland Empire, Lynch responded that it is "about a woman in trouble, and it's a mystery, and that's all I want to say about it."[2]

When presenting screenings of the digital work, Lynch sometimes offers a clue in the form of a quotation from a translation of the Aitareya Upanishad: "We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe."[3]

Richard Peña, an official at the New York Film Festival and one of the first people to see Inland Empire, has summarized the film as "a plotless collection of snippets that explore themes Lynch has been working on for years," including "a Hollywood story about a young actress who gets a part in a film that might be cursed; a story about the smuggling of women from Eastern Europe; and an abstract story about a family of people with rabbit heads sitting around in a living room"[2] -- Lynch's web-only video series, Rabbits. Peña's perception of a plot involving "the smuggling of women from Eastern Europe" is his own, as the film does not describe such a situation, although there is a scene in which one man asks another, in Polish, if he is selling the woman in the room.

[edit] Synopsis

The film opens with a burst of light from a film projector. The light illuminates the words "INLAND EMPIRE" on the screen. We then cut to a gramophone record playing a voice announcement that introduces Axxon N., "the longest radio play in history, continuing in the Baltic Region, a gray winter day in an old hotel..." (Axxon N. is the name of a projected nine-episode mystery-drama series that Lynch planned to release online in 2002.) A man and a woman converse in a hallway and a hotel room in Poland, but we cannot see their faces. Later in the same room, a crying woman (Karolina Gruszka, credited as the "Lost Girl") watches a sitcom about three rabbit-people (Rabbits). The male rabbit moves into an exquisitely decorated drawing room, where he fades in a dissolve. A bald man (Jan Hencz) tells another man (Krzysztof Majchrzak, whom we later learn is "the Phantom") that he understands he seeks an "opening". The Phantom becomes very agitated. "Good! Good that you understand!"

In Los Angeles, a female visitor (Grace Zabriskie) calls on the home of Nikki Grace (Laura Dern). The woman claims to be her neighbor, and speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European accent. She relates two "old tales", one about a boy who caused evil to be born when he passed through a door, and a variation about a girl who got lost in an alley behind the marketplace. She knows several things about an upcoming role that Nikki does not: firstly, that Nikki definitely has the role, secondly that it is about marriage and murder, and thirdly that her husband (played by Peter J. Lucas) is somehow involved. She speaks of time's indeterminacy - "If it was 9:45, I'd think it was after midnight!" - and points to a couch across the room and says, "If today was tomorrow, you would be sitting over there." When Nikki turns to look, we see Nikki sitting on the couch with two friends. The phone rings, her butler hands her the phone, and Nikki begins jumping up and down with excitement as she is told she has the role. Nikki's husband watches intensely from the staircase.

Nikki and the movie's male lead, Devon Berk (Justin Theroux) appear on The Marilyn Levens Show, a weekly gossip talk show. Devon has a reputation as a Lothario, and both he and Nikki assure Marilyn (Diane Ladd, Laura Dern's actual mother) and the audience that there will be no gossip arising from the film. Later, Devon's associates warn him off seducing Nikki, because her husband is "the most powerful guy around". The film is entitled On High in Blue Tomorrows. The director, Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons), and his assistant, Freddy (Harry Dean Stanton), read through a scene in the script; Nikki's character is called Sue Blue; Devon's, Billy Side. The rehearsal is interrupted when Freddy spots someone poking around in the soundstage. Devon goes to investigate, footsteps are heard running away, and he returns to say, "They disappeared where it's real hard to disappear." This incident spooks Kingsley into revealing a secret about their film: it is actually a remake of a German film based on a Polish folk tale entitled 47 that was never finished because the leads were murdered. Apparently, the folk tale that the screenplay was based on had a Gypsy curse on it, because of something "inside the story". Meanwhile, in a police station, a woman (Julia Ormond) says she was hypnotized into wanting to kill someone with a screwdriver. She then lifts her shirt to reveal a screwdriver protruding from her side.

During the course of making the film, Nikki sinks into her role so deeply that she begins to lose her identity and actually becomes Sue. At first Nikki is the one who is confused, forgetting that she is really speaking lines from her script (to the dismay of Kingsley), then while making love to Devon(or possibly Sue with Billy) she tells him she's really Nikki, after he calls her Sue. Her husband (it is hard to tell if the man is Nikki's husband or Smithy) listens from a darkened nearby hallway. She also tells Billy of her inability to tell the future from the past, and describes the scene that follows in the film. The next day she is in an alley behind a store, and she sees "Axxon N." written on a wall, with an arrow pointing to a door. When she enters the door, she is on the set where she and Devon were rehearsing previously, and she sees herself there: she herself is the soundstage intruder. When Devon comes looking for her she flees into the set for Smithy's house. All Devon can see is a blank wall, and he leaves. Standing in the set for Smithy's house, Nikki finds to her astonishment that the view out of the window is not the studio backlot, but a real garden.

At this point, for the whole middle third of the film, Inland Empire becomes a disjointed series of dreamlike scenes, intercutting between California and Poland. Nine young prostitutes lounge around in Smithy's house, and sometimes teleport Sue to Poland (possibly via the flickering of a red lamp). A plotline of murder in Poland in winter develops, involving the "Lost Girl" from the hotel room and the Phantom (Krzysztof Majchrzak). Sometimes we are back in the Rabbit Room, or in an office at the top of a flight of stairs in an old theater, where Sue pours out her violent life story to a man with crooked glasses (Erik Crary, credited as "Mr. K"). This monologue includes a discussion of the Phantom, a man with powers of hypnosis. The nine women in Smithy's house break out into a choreographed dance to the music of The Loco-Motion, and then disappear. Sue tells Smithy she is pregnant. She tries to call Billy but only reaches the rabbits. In their backyard Smithy makes a barbecue for some local carnival people - with whom he is on the verge of departing for Eastern Europe - but gets ketchup all over the front of his shirt, a stain that looks like blood. When Sue looks into the ketchup, the crying woman, veiled, is seen praying, "Cast out this wicked dream..." (a homage to Lynch's favorite film Sunset Boulevard,[4] which he would show as a double feature with his first full-length film Eraserhead).[5]

The plot becomes more linear during a scene in which Sue goes to Billy's house, and repeatedly tells him she loves him, causing his wife (Julia Ormond) to slap her. A second visitor (Mary Steenburgen) comes to tell Sue that Sue "owes on an unpaid bill that needs payin'." In a nearby backyard, Sue spots the Phantom (who is carrying an orange light bulb in his mouth) and defensively grabs a screwdriver. The Bald Man takes Smithy to a seance with three men who can see the crying girl from the hotel, while Smithy can only hear her. The men give Smithy a pistol. After he leaves, they turn into the Rabbits.

On a street in Hollywood, Sue is suddenly a prostitute; she mockingly imitates the "Lost Girl" from the hotel room. She sees Billy's wife and escapes to a club with a stairwell. She climbs the stairs and launches into her autobiographical monologue once again. The phone rings, and the man with the glasses informs the caller, "Yeah, she's still here...the horse has gone to the well." Sue goes back out to the street, where she emphatically snaps her fingers: "Hey - watch this move." Billy's wife appears, grabs the screwdriver from her, and stabs her with it. Sue crosses the corner of Hollywood and Vine, collapsing on a sidewalk to die alongside some homeless people. The homeless people largely ignore her, and one of them, a Japanese girl, begins a long monologue about her friend Niko from Pomona, who wears a blonde wig and owns a pet monkey, but who "is on hard drugs and turning tricks now." Sue abruptly rolls over, vomits blood on the sidewalk, and collapses again. One of the homeless women lights her passage with a cigarette lighter, and says, "I'll show you light now. It burns bright forever. No more blue tomorrows. You on high now, love." Sue dies. At this point, it is revealed that we are on a film set; Kingsley yells, "Cut!" and a camera retracts. The "homeless" people are revealed to be actors, who get up and depart. Kingsley hugs Nikki, tells her she was wonderful, but Nikki pushes him away and walks off the set in a daze.

Nikki wanders into a movie theater, and on the screen sees the "Lost Girl" for the first time, who also sees Nikki on her television in the hotel room. Nikki sees herself as Sue on the big screen, recounting her monologue, and another scene of the future shows her where the gun is located in the set for Smithy's house. Nikki goes through the "Axxon N." door again, and wanders around in the set until she finds the pistol. She sees the Rabbit Room door with the numbers 47 on them in gold letters. Then she sees the Phantom himself and shoots him four times. Instead of damaging the Phantom, it merely causes him to smile as his face becomes brighter and brighter. On the third shot, however, Nikki's own anguished face is superimposed on his, filling the screen. After the fourth shot, which damages the Phantom, his face is distorted beyond recognition, with a black goo oozing from his mouth as strobe lights flicker. He disappears. Nikki enters the Rabbit Room, which is empty, and sits on the couch. As she stares into the film projector light, her spirit finds the "Lost Girl", kisses her, and disappears. The "Lost Girl" is free to leave her prison; in Smithy's house, she is happily reunited with her husband (Smithy) and his son. Nikki is met by bright light and applause, Nikki's first visitor smiles and disappears, and we see Nikki sitting on the couch in her Hollywood home, smiling calmly (and wearing the same dress that Laura Dern wore during her first scene in Blue Velvet).

The concluding scene of the film takes place in Nikki's house, where she sits with many other people, among them Laura Elena Harring, Nastassja Kinski and Ben Harper. A one-legged woman who was mentioned in Sue's monologue looks around and says, "Sweet!". Niko, the Japanese girl with a blonde wig and a monkey, is also present. The end credits roll over a group of women dancing and lip-synching to Nina Simone's Sinnerman while a lumberjack saws a log to the beat.

[edit] Cast

[edit] Production

Lynch shot the film without a complete screenplay. Instead, he handed each actor several pages of freshly written dialogue each day.[1] In a 2005 interview, he described his feelings about the shooting process: "I’ve never worked on a project in this way before. I don’t know exactly how this thing will finally unfold... This film is very different because I don’t have a script. I write the thing scene by scene and much of it is shot and I don’t have much of a clue where it will end. It’s a risk, but I have this feeling that because all things are unified, this idea over here in that room will somehow relate to that idea over there in the pink room."[6] Interviewed at the Venice Film Festival, Laura Dern admitted that she didn't know what Inland Empire was about or the role she was playing, but hoped that seeing the film's premiere at the festival would help her "learn more."[1] Justin Theroux has also stated that he "couldn't possibly tell you what the film's about, and at this point I don't know that David Lynch could. It's become sort of a pastime - Laura [Dern] and I sit around on set trying to figure out what's going on."[2]

Much of the project was shot in Łódź, Poland, with local actors, such as Karolina Gruszka, Krzysztof Majchrzak, Leon Niemczyk, Piotr Andrzejewski and artists of the local circus Cyrk Zalewski. Some videography was also done in Los Angeles, and in 2006 Lynch returned from Poland to complete filming.

Inland Empire is the first Lynch feature to be completely shot in digital video; it was shot with a Sony DSR-PD150. Lynch has stated that he will no longer use film to make motion pictures.[7]

In an NPR "Weekend Edition" interview, Laura Dern recounted a conversation she had with one of the movie's new producers.[8] He asked if Lynch was joking when he requested a one-legged woman, a monkey and a lumberjack by 3:15. "Yeah, you're on a David Lynch movie, dude," Dern replied. "Sit back and enjoy the ride." Dern reported that by 4 p.m. they were shooting with the requested individuals.

Film critic Roger Moore has noted that Inland Empire follows Mulholland Dr. and Twin Peaks in being inspired by the names of cities or the places in which they're set. "But often they don't have anything to do with the location at all," he adds. Lynch "doesn't let the actual geography of the place interfere with his vision."[2]

[edit] Financing and distribution

Lynch financed much of the production from his own resources, with longtime artistic collaborator and ex-wife Mary Sweeney producing. The film was also partially financed by the French production company Studio Canal, which had provided funding for three previous Lynch films.

StudioCanal wanted to enter the film in the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, but it was not ready in time.[citation needed] Instead, it premiered at Italy's Venice Film Festival on September 6, 2006, where David Lynch also received the Golden Lion lifetime achievement award for his "contributions to the art of cinema." The film premiered in the United States on October 8, 2006 at the New York Film Festival, selling out both showings.[citation needed]

The film has not been widely distributed to theaters. It received a limited release in the US beginning on December 15 of 2006; distribution was handled by the specialist company 518 Media.[9]

Lynch hoped to distribute the film independently, saying that with the entire industry changing, he thought he would attempt a new form of distribution as well.[10] He acquired the rights to the DVD and worked out a deal with Studio Canal in an arrangement that allows him to distribute the film himself, through both digital and traditional means.[11] A North American DVD release occurred on August 14, 2007. Among other special features, the DVD included a 75-minute featurette, "More Things That Happened", which compiled footage elaborating on Sue's marriage to Smithy, her unpleasant life story, the Phantom's influence on women, and the lives of the prostitutes on Hollywood Boulevard.

[edit] Critical reception

Overall the film has been well-received by critics. The New York Times classified Inland Empire as "fitfully brilliant" after the Venice Film Festival screening. Peter Travers, the film critic for Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "My advice, in the face of such hallucinatory brilliance, is that you hang on."[12] The New Yorker was one of the few publications to offer any negative points about the film, calling it a "trenchant, nuanced film" that "quickly devolves into self-parody".[13] Jonathan Ross, presenter of the BBC programme Film 2007, described it as "a work of genius... I think."[14] Damon Wise of Empire Magazine gave it five stars, calling it "A dazzling and exquisitely original riddle as told by an enigma"[15] and Jim Emerson (editor of gave it 4 stars and praised it: "When people say Inland Empire is Lynch's Sunset Boulevard, Lynch's Persona, or Lynch's , they're quite right, but it also explicitly invokes connections to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou, Buñuel and Dali's Un Chien Andalou, Maya Deren's LA-experimental Meshes of the Afternoon (a Lynch favorite), and others".[16] However, Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "the film, which begins promisingly, disappears down so many rabbit holes (one of them involving actual rabbits) that eventually it just disappears for good."[17]

Critics have criticised the film for being recorded in digital video, with Oxford University Press's Chris Hook suggesting that the use of such a medium gave the film an "unsavoury" aesthetic.[18]

Laura Dern received almost universal acclaim for her performance, with many reviews describing it as her finest to date.[19] Lynch attempted to promote Dern's chances of an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination at the 2007 Academy Awards by campaigning with a live cow.[20] She was not nominated for the award.

[edit] Release dates

[edit] Festival releases

[edit] DVD releases

  • August 14, 2007 (United States) (Inland Empire DVD Distributed by RYKO)[21]
  • August 20, 2007 (United Kingdom)[22]
  • October 4, 2007 (Belgium and The Netherlands) (Inland Empire DVD Distributed by A-Film)[23]
  • August 6, 2008 (Australia) (Inland Empire DVD Distributed by Madman Entertainment)[24]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d "david lynch given lifetime award". bbc news. 2006-09-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d Blatter, Helene (2006-09-03). "David Lynch turns his eye to 'Inland Empire'". Riverside Press-Enterprise. 
  3. ^ Guillen, Michael (2007-01-24). "INLAND EMPIRE—The San Rafael Film Center Q&A With David Lynch". Twitch. 
  4. ^ "Visionary and dreamer: A surrealist's fantasies". Cinema 12. 1984. 
  5. ^ Bitel, Anton (2006). "Inland Empire Movie Review". Channel 4 Film. 
  6. ^ Attwood, Chris; Robert Roth (September 2005). "A Dog's Trip to the Chocolate Shop - David Lynch". Healthy Weathly N' Wise. 
  7. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (2005-05-11). "Lynch invades an 'Empire'; Digital pic details a mystery". 
  8. ^ Shea, Andrea (2006-12-17). "David Lynch's Latest Endeavor Breaks New Ground". NPR Weekend Edition Sunday. 
  9. ^ "Inland Empire release details". Film Database. 
  10. ^ "Lynch to Distribute Inland Empire Himself". 2006-10-09. 
  11. ^ Goldstein, Gregg (2006-10-11). "Filmmaker Lynch to self-distribute 'Inland Empire'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  12. ^ Travers, Peter (2006-11-21). "Inland Empire Review". Rolling Stone. 
  13. ^ Brody, Richard (2006-12-11). "Inland Empire: The Film File". The New Yorker. 
  14. ^ Film 2007, 5 March 2007
  15. ^ Wise, Damon. "Reviews Central: Inland Empire". Empire. 
  16. ^ Emerson, Jim (2007-01-26). "Inland Empire". 
  17. ^ Chocano, Carina (2006-12-15). "Inland Empire". Los Angeles Times.,0,3659742.story. 
  18. ^ Dargis, Manohla (2006-12-06). "Inland Empire: The Trippy Dream Factory of David Lynch". New York Times. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Romanelli, Alex (2006-11-15). "Lynch, cow campaign for Oscar; Helmer touts 'Inland Empire' thesp Dern, cheese". 
  21. ^ "Inland Empire (details of USA DVD release)". Ryko Distribution. 
  22. ^ "Inland Empire (details of UK DVD release)". 
  23. ^ "Details of BE & NL DVD release". A-Film. 
  24. ^ "Madman catalogue entry for Inland Empire DVD". 

[edit] External links

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