Sunday, January 20, 2008

Review: Inland Empire (2006)

Director David LynchDid you know that David Lynch's birthday is today, January 20th? Yep, it is and I'm sure you couldn't care any less than you do right now. In honor of his birthday I had sat down to watch one of his recent films, Inland Empire (2006). I must warn you that this film is a three hour epic and may lose any rookie viewer upon the first trip through watching it. If you haven't seen any of Lynch's other films then you'll be in for a boring trip. I know that it may not be good to start a review with a disheartening warning against the director, but he needs a disclaimer attached to his name. Most of the contemporary mainstream movie goers who are used to watching action films or an 85 minute long remake picture may not understand the vague style that has become synonymous with the name of David Lynch. Of his films that I have seen so far, which includes Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), and Mulholland Drive (2001), all require you to find the bigger them of the story. I have observed that he leans more toward the realm of a plot that is driven by an overarching theme. After watching Mulholland Drive it has come to my attention that it could possibly be one of the more mainstream films that he has created. It relies on a plot, but contains the bizarre method of storytelling that he has built his reputation upon. Of course, Inland Empire is a stone that hasn't been thrown too far from his artistic tree. This film began its origins with a few scenes that were shot on a DV camera. One of the first scenes ever shot was a monologue spoken by Laura Dern who talks with a heavy southern drawl about the tragic events that have happened within her character's life. This inspiration had crawled out into the feature film that has made it to the big screen.

Laura Dern is lost within her own world as her character loses controlAs dull as it was for the time that I was there, I must admit that I lived within the Inland Empire area for about four years of my life. It's an area in southern California that covers most all of the Riverside and San Bernardino counties and a portion of the Mojave Desert. It's dull and boring area because there isn't too much exciting things to do around the area. The only connection the film has with the area would be the shared name. It was reported that David Lynch had chosen the name from a conversation he had with Laura Dern who had mention her husband was originally from the area. The region's name stuck out as a stickler to Lynch's ears and he wanted to use the name for his film's title. Although I would like to think that there were a couple of scenes that were shot in the area, but most of the filming locations were either in the Los Angeles area or in Poland. Go figure!

Regardless of the locations in which the film was shot or how it was comprised (either by script or improvised storyline) the whole meaning of the film has been intended to serve as a spiderweb of stories that are all tangled together. As the viewer you are meant to place your own meaning of how certain scenes are relevant to the film's overall storyline. For example, what was the point of all the scenes with the bunny rabbit sitcom? The only real connection that I was able to capture from my first viewing of the film would be the placement of the furry characters in relation to the placement of the other characters as the screen shot dissolves from one scene to another. In addition to the poignant mise-en-scène there is a slight correlation between the conversations of the bunnies and what happens in the rest of the film. The idea that there is a trio of bunnies who interact with each other as if they were human beings is a distraction that throws the viewer off just far enough to view the scenario with a different perspective that he or she would be accustomed to seeing.

Laura Dern and Justin Theroux in a scenie within a scene from Inland EmpireThis movie has received a lot of discussion, mainly from Lynch fans and from those who are wanting to talk about their personal interpretations of the what the story line is all about. That is one thing that I actually enjoy about David Lynch's films. Just like this one it got me thinking. I don't care much for Eraserhead, but with Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive there is that moment after the first viewing that I didn't much for either one. But after a second viewing I was able to understand Mulholland a lot better. I have a feeling that it will be the same way for Inland. Looking down the road when I have another spare three hours, and forgive me for not have a overbooked social life, I will plan on watching a second viewing of this film. I do wish that it was about forty-five minutes shorter in total running time, but wasn't a tremendous drawback. I've seen a few three hour films, such as Peter Jackson's King Kong remake, that I thought were tremendously painful to sit through for that long of time. The film has to be entertaining and stimulating in order for my attention to be held for the lengthy period of time, and I thought Lynch has done a job well done for this one.
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