Thursday, May 30, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Inland Empire" (2006)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #7

Inland Empire

Believe it or not, the image above is actually one of the least disturbing moments of the film.

So how many of you have heard of writer/director David Lynch? My guess would be maybe one of two of you. He's been making movies since 1977, major features, short films, and even television shows. If you have ever seen one of his films, trust me you'd remember it. Lynch has a taste for the bizarre and the weird, and his films are normally beyond description. "Eraserhead," "Lost Highway," "Wild At Heart," "Dune," "The Elephant Man," "Mulholland Drive" he makes films that sear themselves into your head, get under your skin and slap you right in the face. There is nothing on Earth like a David Lynch movie and I wish he was a filmmaker who appealed to everyone.

"Inland Empire" is a strange film and based upon the image above, you can guess that its a very dark, scary film. He is an artist known for his surreal, dreamlike imagery. That imagery can tip into the moments of nightmares. I personally believe that Lynch is responsible for creating some of the scariest, trippiest, most disturbing moments in all of movies. So if you are in for a wild ride, jump into Lynch's catalog sometime, if you are feeling adventurous. 

"Inland Empire" is a film that is very difficult to describe. It's a three hour long epic nightmare about a woman who looses herself in a cursed movie role. It opens with a man and a women walking into a hotel room, their faces completely blurred. We learn very quickly that the women is a prostitute and the man is a customer. After they conduct their business we see the prostitute, face no longer blurred, crying, watching a program on TV about talking rabbits.

After that scene is done we meet our main character, Nikki Grace played by Laura Dern. She is an actress who had a long, successful career, fell out of the business for awhile but is now looking for way back in. If only she wasn't held back by her controlling husband. One day, a mysterious woman (played to creepy affect by Grace Zabriskie). At first, Zabriskie talks about "old tales" of a little boy and a little girl. What is even creepier about the exchange is that Zabriskie's character knows EXACTLY what is going to happen to Nikki for the next three hours of run time. I'd highly recommend paying extremely close attention to what Zabriskie says, because all the clues to decode the mystery of the movie are in her dialogue.

Before Nikki knows it, she gets the part of a romance movie called "On High with Blue Tomorrows" directed by Kingsley (Jeremy Irons) and she will star along side Devon Birk (Justin Theroux). Devon is a playboy who is known for sleeping around and Nikki's husband makes Devon understand that if he sleeps with Nikki, there will be huge consequences. 

On the first day of on the set, mysterious noises are heard. And Kingsley breaks the news that the film is a remake of an old Polish film which was never finished. The film was abandoned in Poland after the two leads were murdered by unknown killers. Devon and Nikki plan to keep on with production. And things start to get crazy.

How crazy? This is the point the film starts to get disorienting. Nikki begins to loose herself in her role for the movie. We as the audience get lost with her, are Nikki and Devon sleeping together? Or are they as actors shooting a sex scene? We are never for sure, and that makes Nikki uneasy.

So, yes the film is hard to follow. I invite only the adventurous of film lovers to delve into "Inland Empire." The middle hour of the movie is nonlinear, on purpose. But what keeps the audience watching is that we begin to feel Nikki's road down this dark, cursed movie role that affects every piece of her life. That is due in part to Laura Dern, she is the captain of this entire production and it is startling work. She should have been nominated for an Oscar for her work and she should have won it. The rest of the cast is great, but you've never seen anything like what Dern unleashes onscreen in this movie.

The film was shot on digital cameras, which gives the cinematography a very surreal look. It is the perfect way to watch such a dreamlike movie. I give Lynch full credit for making this movie feel like a recorded document of someone's worst dream. It's a beautifully horrifying production.

If you don't like movies where you have to think, that you have to watch several times, then I'd skip "Inland Empire." This is a long mystery of a movie, but don't fool yourself into thinking that the movie isn't about anything. There is a puzzle buried in "Inland Empire" it is up to you as a viewer to decide if you can solve it. "Inland Empire" is the type of movie that after you watch it, you discuss all the possibilities of its mystery with your friends. I would also note that if you don't like scary stuff, I'd skip this too, because this is a macabre piece of storytelling.

David Lynch is the master of surreal mysteries and this is his crowning achievement.

I'd also like to note that "Inland Empire" has THE BEST closing credits sequence ever. So I highly recommend staying for the credits, you'll be glad you did!

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