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September 27th, 2010


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01:30 pm - Inland Empire
I watched Inland Empire, written and directed by David Lynch. To my mind, this is what Inception should have been like, except that, you know, this is not a popular film and Inception is. But this is a proper film about people lost in nested dreams that are like films, and films that are like dreams.

Explaining what the film is about David Lynch quoted 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."

It's emotionally intense, well made, frightening. A brilliant lead role for Laura Dern, and particularly as there are so few decent lead roles for women. She is not an amazon or a sex-kitten or any female object, she represents the human subject, an 'everyman' figure.

On the negative side, it is three hours long, and there is no coherent plot, though there is a sort of fragmented story. I watched it in half-hour blocks over several days.

The story, such as it is, is that Laura Dern is an ultra-wealthy Hollywood actress, who is cast as the lead in a new film, a bit like Blood Simple, about an affair and a murder. It then transpires that the film is cursed, that it is based on an unfinished German expressionist film whose actors were horribly killed, which was in turn based on a cursed Polish folk story.

It is then unclear whether the film starts to curse her life, whether she is caught up in a real affair and murder involving her husband and her co-star, whether she has a nervous breakdown and thinks the film is true, or whether reality itself is coming apart. Actually this is a bit like Red Shift, but with Hollywood superstars instead of teenagers in Cheshire. She seems to be falling through levels of reality, or parallel lives, each time into greater poverty and degradation. There are also extracts from other films or dreams, some in Polish or Russian. Lynch uses his familiar skill with sound and vision to make the atmosphere foreboding and unheimlich.

There is also a chorus of beautiful slightly trashy ladies who I think represent the forces that sustain and renew the universe: delightful but without pity. There is a sitcom which seems to be set in hell, where all the characters have rabbit masks on. I think this represents the innermost self, and the horror of existence. I do have a feeling about what is happening, and the arc of the story - which I think is redemptive - but your guess is as good as mine.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:happytune
Date:September 27th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
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I remember seeing it at the mac. It was bloody hard work in one sitting, although of course excellent. I did feel that some judicious editing might have been a good thing, though.
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From:communicator
Date:September 27th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
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I remember that. As I watched it I was thinking, this is a strange choice for the guy to have picked for a first date movie.

ETA - did you interpret the meaning of the film the same as I did?

Edited at 2010-09-27 02:47 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:happytune
Date:September 27th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
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Yup, pretty much exactly the same, including the 'but-it-might-not-be-this-at-all' feeling. At least there was plenty to speak about after the film!
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From:spacefall
Date:September 27th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, this sounds good.
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From:communicator
Date:September 27th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
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Good but gruelling and inexplicable. A bit like Eraserhead.
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From:happytune
Date:September 27th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
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And the rabbits are extremely freaky.
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From:cassielsander
Date:September 27th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)

"He must have sown some pretty heavy shit."

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Good thoughts about the film especially the girl chorus, which had completely befuddled me up to now (now I'm only mostly befuddled).

I like the Inception comparison; I'd already put that and Scott Pilgrim on a list of well-made films with no one message or meaning (Shutter Island is another candidate, but I think it actually finds a meaning at the very last moment), and IE stands well as their forebear.

Since you liked my Hamlet write-ups, here's my initial think about IE.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 27th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)

Re: "He must have sown some pretty heavy shit."

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Laura Dern's acting is brilliant isn't it? How she can be expressing horror and/or delight in the same expression. I noticed it for example when she got the phone call from her agent saying she had got the part. She looks utterly terrified, and then you realise she's smiling with excitement. brrr.

I was wondering how much direction Lynch gave the actors, and how much they found their own ways. I think in some scenes they might have tried many different ways, until they found something which seemed right to everyone.
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From:cassielsander
Date:September 27th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)

Re: "He must have sown some pretty heavy shit."

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You're right about that Dern's performance. It seems like both in this and in Fire Walk With Me Lynch found a female attitude that hadn't been on screen before. In that case it was the combination of terror and rage (best shown during Sheryl Lee's dialog in the breakfast cereal scene) that has since been copied over and over.

As to the terrified/excited thing, that's a place where he actually makes the weaknesses of digital video work for him, since often times you just can't make out the pivotal detail of something and the tension escalates.
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From:gair
Date:September 29th, 2010 12:31 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I love David Lynch so much. This sounds great. I am so sick of going to mainstream films and just sitting there going 'But this is JUST SEXIST, why didn't anyone MENTION that'. (Am in very grumpy-feminist phase atm.)
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From:communicator
Date:September 29th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
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Laura Dern is so great in this, and she wasn't even nominated for the Oscar. I hate the way that the maturing talent of great actresses is wasted and belittled by the Hollywood system.

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