Inland Empire

Written and Directed by David Lynch
Screening at FACT (6th-12th April 2007)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

If you've seen a David Lynch film before, you'll know what to expect from Inland Empire. If not, don't imagine you're going to leave the cinema thinking 'that was a good story' or even that it was a story at all. Deep in the pit of your stomach, you'll probably feel unsettled by the collage of visuals and sounds, but you won't be able to connect them to anything in your everyday life.

Ok, so here I am, about to attempt a brief outline of a three hour David Lynch film. Wow.

Laura Dern plays Hollywood actress Nikki Grace, who has been offered a lead role in a film called 'On High in Blue Tomorrows'. When she begins an affair with co-star Devon (Justin Theroux), they discover that their project is actually a remake of a film that was never finished, because "something inside the story" went wrong, as director Kingsley (Jeremy Irons) puts it.

That's the first hour. After that, the story kind of collapses in on itself, the threads unravel, and it's probably best to give up trying to understand what's going on. After all, there is definitely some perverse pleasure in watching a film so far from the usual Hollywood formula that it almost hurts.

There could be a plot here. The possibility can't be entirely discounted. But if there is, it might well take five screenings to work it out. That's fifteen hours of your life, and about twenty-five pounds. Who's got that kind of time and money on their hands?

But it is just another extension of Lynch's own formula. The man is clearly transfixed by his own cleverness, but if people don't understand what the hell he's going on about, what kind of cleverness is that? So why does he keep making this kind of film? Well, obviously it makes quite a bit of money. It also scratches his itch to be 'weird' - i.e. not like the mainstream. But if a director isn't saying anything, or even trying to explore their own psychology, then 'weirdness' is just another trick, a knack Lynch has perfected over thirty years.

Paired with a great writer, Mr Lynch might make a great film. Unless and until that happens, he's going to keep making weird films.

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