Fine filmmaking in Inland Empire

The power of film comes not from plot or dialogue, but from the combination of moving images and sound. Director David Lynch understands this perfectly and made yet another great film to show it. His abstract, psychological-thriller Inland Empire is overwhelming.

The film was released in 2006, yet very few people know about it, mainly because it didn’t have a wide release by a big studio company.

Nevertheless, it is perhaps one of the most ambitious films of the 2000s. At an epic three hours long, the film is shot entirely in digital video. In addition, Inland Empire never had a full script. Lynch wrote and shot the entire film scene by scene. Actors received new dialogue every day, and didn’t know what the film was about or how it would end.

When BBC News asked  Laura Dern (lead actress of Inland Empire) about the film, she said: “The truth is I didn’t know who I was playing—and I still don’t know… I’m looking forward to seeing the film tonight to learn more.”

It’s clear a plot summary wouldn’t give much insight. I’ve seen the film, and though it means something to me on an intuitive level, I can’t conclusively describe what it’s about. On a basic plot level, it involves a woman who gets a role in a movie that might be cursed, adultery, a sitcom with people dressed in rabbit suits, and several different levels of reality (Inception is a child’s toy compared to Inland Empire).

So far, this review has done little to strike the average movie-goer’s interest.  An abstract, surrealist digital film with a rabbit-suit sitcom will turn off many, and understandably so. Still, I invite everyone to experience it—not to search for meaning, but to absorb the images and sounds. Once this “letting-go” happens, the film becomes deeply powerful. No words can describe the wide spectrum of emotions Inland Empire caused in me. I found myself peacefully moved by one scene; and at another, I was so terrified I wanted to turn away from the TV screen (this comes from someone who wholeheartedly enjoys some very disturbing films).

To describe it anymore would be meaningless. Rent the DVD; turn off the lights; raise the volume until it fills the room; and enter Inland Empire. The film is pure creativity and proves David Lynch is one of the most original film-makers alive.

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