02 August 2007


INLAND EMPIRE is David Lynch's masterpiece, a three-hour tour de force. As someone who is well known for his lush images, his decision to shoot it entirely on digital video was a bold one. It works.

This film brings together all of the themes and images he's been working with throughout his entire career. Don't go looking for some key that unlocks the plot and makes sense of it all. That misses the point entirely. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. If you want a plot, it's about someone suffering from temporal dysfunction disorder (yes, I just made that up). That someone is you.

I'm hanging out for it to come out on general release. It requires several viewings. There are lots of internal connections, as well many connections to his other works. The internal connections include certain lines that get delivered in different ways by different people throughout the film.

I loved the video quality: its graininess, what it did in different lights. He shot a lot of it himself over a number of years and wrote (and performed) several of the songs. There are lots of great extreme close-ups of people bugging out. There are some amazing compositions. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the middle of the front row, so the screen was my entire field of view. Absolutely brilliant. What a ride. I want to go again.


The criticisms of this film seem to revolve around it being incoherent. I am not impressed by this argument. It's like hassling punk rock for not having concept albums and 20-minute virtuoso guitar solos. I reckon this film is very coherent. It hangs together very well, but does so on its own terms.

I am convinced that the main character is you, the viewer. You need to play your part and put it together in your head. My main evidence for this is the woman at the start and end who is watching tv in a hotel room. She is a surrogate version of you, just as Nikki is a surrogate version of her and Sue is a surrogate version of Nikki.

If you go looking for conventional narrative and conventional characters to relate to, you will be disappointed. It's like those Russian dolls or fractal geometry – a reiteration of the same shape on different scales. It also helps to be familiar with Lynch's other work, the significance of red curtains and strobe lights etc. And, of course, he's using classic avant-garde techniques, so it probably helps to be familiar with them too.

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