I went to sleep thinking about Inland Empire and now I’ve awakened with Inland Empire still swirling around in my head. I think this is what David Lynch wants from his audience, and it’s hard to argue that his audience isn’t looking for the same thing. Otherwise, why would they continue to watch his movies?
Lynch exploits the voyeur side of the viewer like no other film director, save possibly Hitchcock, and he dares you to keep watching. With Inland Empire, he has created his most difficult and challenging feature yet. The three-hour incomprehensible nightmare is a frustrating and bleak step into Lynch’s world, certain to polarize audiences who manage to sit through it.
No matter what anyone says, the “plot” of Inland Empire is going to have some major question marks regardless of how much you dissect what you’ve seen. There’s certainly a narrative to be found which, although extremely fractured, provides a basic outline of what’s on the screen. Laura Dern plays an actress just cast in somewhat of a comeback role opposite Justin Theroux’s character, an actor with a reputation for bedding his female co-stars. Jeremy Irons is the director of the Southern melodrama-type film, which we learn was first filmed with Polish actors but never finished due to the deaths of its stars. It’s the rest of Inland Empire, meaning the great majority, that borders on incoherence.
Some of the scenes, like the frequent clips in Polish, can be explained, while the significance of others, such as those involving the humanlike rabbits voiced by Mulholland Drive cast members, is much more difficult to find. Truthfully, no matter how much I think about it, those rabbits who appear as if they’re on a soundstage for a sitcom do not seem to fit anywhere with the rest of the movie. That’s okay, however, as viewers have realized that Lynch’s films can sometimes be puzzles with some pieces from other puzzles stuck in there and with other pieces missing altogether. David Lynch certainly doesn’t play by the rules of conventional filmmaking and that’s precisely the reason he has so many admirers. He’s built up a deserved reputation that allows him to make something like Inland Empire without too much of a backlash from those seeking linear narratives and coherent stories.