20 June 2010
I don't know if I got it from the documentary Lynch or I heard it in an interview or I merely inferred it (correctly or otherwise) from the film itself, but in my mind the story goes, Inland Empire was David Lynch working completely without a script. (A quick google/wikipedia search might clear this up for me, but I am without internet as I write this, and anyway whether or not it's true isn't the point.) In my mind, the story goes, this is David Lynch playing Wong Kar-Wai. Shooting from the hip, improvising as he goes, letting the story unfold naturally, rearranging into something intuitive and kind of free-jazz-like in editing. Letting the story be what it wants to be. It's not such a stretch to imagine a man so aggressively in-tune with his subconscious doing that sort of thing. In fact it's almost a surprise he hasn't done that before. Certainly the story behind making a feature out of a TV pilot (Mulholland Dr.) has shades of that kind of story-building. Automatic writing, as applied to a two-plus hour film.
Anyway I bring it up because I watched this tonight while building an assortment of shelving units from Ikea, and so I admit to missing bits here and there, especially any of the storyline that was in Polish -- and yet I'm pretty sure this didn't hinder my viewing of it much. (For one, it's not my first time seeing the film.) It's got some legitimately scary moments, and many more uncomfortable ones that play heavily on the soundtrack or disorienting or uncanny-valley imagery and feel aptly like unpleasant dreams. Story-wise, it's a little disappointing he didn't go from a script, only because there are a couple of storylines in here I would have liked to see fleshed out a little more. But as it is, it's still a beautiful and dark over-the-top cap on Lynch's "Identity Trilogy," including Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and this. And Laura Dern kicks so much ass, playing all the different versions of her character -- or all the different characters, depending on how you look at it.
Now I just wish Mr. Lynch would return to the world of cinema and give us something new, having (perhaps) cleansed his palate after (perhaps) exhausting this particular avenue of storytelling. Or hell, even more of the same. I think I'd welcome that too.