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my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:51 pm
by moscatomg
Below is my Inland Empire paper for a film class that I just finished. The paper definitely has some flaws, such as occasionally overzealous language and style, which my professor rightly criticized. Still I think there are some worthwhile observations'though of course I am biased. Since this forum was pretty helpful, I wanted to post the paper here (a couple footnotes and cite in the paper give "a shout out" of sorts to the forum, too). If the moderator feels this is taking up room unnecessarily and deletes it, then the paper can also be found at Thank you.

Inland from the Empire: and the Lost Girls Caught Between

With the approach of the two-year mark since its initial release, it may be surprising to learn of the relative difficulty in uncovering much more than a solitary piece of scholarly criticism on the latest major work from one of North America's leading figures in contemporary art cinema. Even more remarkable is this dearth when considering the reception of the filmmaker's earlier output, for which it was not uncommon to have an academic journal devote a significant portion of an entire issue"”as did Film Quarterly almost nineteen long years ago. This present and general apparent reticence may not be without some good reason. Wading through the persistently murky and often clamorous waves of sensations that compose Inland Empire (2006) is at the outset a daunting task.

As the most recent feature film from David Lynch, Inland Empire is the director's most experimental and epic; in all likelihood for the uninitiated, it may be an infinitely bewildering experience as well. If not only on a sheerly technical level, it marks a noteworthy departure for Lynch with how the film was shot entirely digitally on a small handheld camera with a predominately grainy texture"”a method practiced before by Lynch, but only in some recent short films posted on his website. This look of Inland Empire is courtesy of a "PD-150, which is not merely an outdated low-end"make, but rather one that "produces images that look like nothing but video . . . [and] look as if they're decomposing before your eyes"(Taubin 3).[1] Lynch's ambitious marathon could also easily be regarded with incredible frustration as merely the work of an infuriating and overzealous auteur. Indeed, several bitter sentiments have been expressed upon viewing past efforts: Roger Ebert, who some deem that bastion of popular couch criticism, has on at least a couple occasions been more than a little annoyed with the filmmaker, calling Lynch "sadistic"though essentially cowardly with Blue Velvet (1986) and by degrees "shallow"and even "idiotic"in regards to what others viewed to be a simultaneously tender and haunting portrait with The Elephant Man (1980). However, not unlike a finely crafted painting or novel seen with perspective, certain films and their creators can wear especially well with the passage of time"”as such may be the case with Ebert's own reconsideration when he later acknowledged with high praise that the "hypnotic"Mulholland Drive (2001) was all along the film "Lynch [had] been working toward."Still, even with its detailed dream logic and Lynch's reiterated motifs of confused identity and reality, Mulholland Drive also proved to baffle multitudes of mainstream moviegoers attempting to mark another item off their Oscar-nominated viewing checklist; fortunately, though, it introduced that many more aspiring cinephiles to the work of a man who, for a principally independent filmmaker, has been exceedingly productive for roughly thirty years"”with a bit of help from a couple of frequently cited muses, namely caffeine and meditation. But what do those mythic coffee beans, that paradoxically lucid dream state induced by transcendental ruminations, or, principally for this discussion, the canon of previous Lynch films have to do with the ceaselessly enigmatic Inland Empire? These are the swirling pixels part of that same silky fabric (to mix metaphors), or moving canvas"”all at once a vision concomitantly fresh, recycled, and refined. For, truly, "this is David Lynch's film"”the one he's been making since Eraserhead"and hopefully will continue to make (Emerson).[2] Yet this experiment of Inland Empire is evidence of an increasingly cryptic Lynch, even if dealing with some of the familiar concepts; and the otherwise brilliant Mulholland Drive appears, by comparison, relatively straightforward with its tightly defined parallel realms. With Inland Empire, multiple interwoven threads of reality, setting, personae, and the temporal are presented with no small degree of complexity; myriad hidden references are disseminated in the details, whether in dialogue or scrawled alternately in chalk upon metal doors and stamped or tattooed on the back of a player's hand; and, with a final runtime clocking in at almost exactly three hours, it is an altogether massive pastiche perhaps not ill-suited to an admittedly more prosaic, though hopefully no less efficacious investigation by both narrative and setting, often with a return to the auteur themes and formalism evidenced in earlier Lynch films.

Inland Empire opens with a seemingly disparate sequence"”disparate if not for visually fluid transitions created with the frequently free-floating handheld camera movement, which throughout unites a plethora of juxtaposed pictures and worlds often via a type of extended associational montage (and in crude terms Inland Empire tempts to be perceived as just that, only on an utterly grandiose scale). However, substance lies behind the impressive style; as the first spoken or announced words indicate, story is also central, though it may require some deciphering. A record spins and plays a recording of a radio station that proclaims itself "Axxon N, the longest running radio play in history"from somewhere in the "Baltic region."A setting is then described, as from a script: a "gray winter day in an old hotel."The spinning vinyl disc, which evokes some kind of black vortex in the context of later shots and its superimposed appearance and resulting gyre-like effect, may be an especially appropriate first image for a film that proceeds to deal with alternate times, realities, and even supernatural planes"”all with remarkable continuity. Next a hallway, presumably in that same hotel, frames the entrance of a couple (conversing in a Slavic language), presented as two softly obscured blurs. They make their way into a room where a scene begins to unfold with the man talking disparagingly of "whores"and then to the woman as if she is a prostitute. This scene all the while plays out with other shifting images on a television screen in the dark room of a weeping, young twenty-something viewer (credited at the end only with the moniker of "Lost Girl"), as a rising ballad is also momentarily cued, though the song will play again near the film's conclusion. Lost Girl is the first of many devices suggesting a notion of the consciousness that Inland Empire possesses: how the film itself has viewers of its own. The concept is not at all a novel one to address (particularly for Lynch, as seen in Mulholland Drive with the both scathing and playful Hollywood commentary and the Club Silencio's theatre and that sense of spectatorship and illusion alluded to therein), yet for a director to parade this self-referential aspect of the medium at such an early juncture would be rather risky in a more traditional narrative film. However, as demonstrated by the following scene which Lost Girl watches with an initial incomprehension that potentially mirrors that of Lynch's own viewer, Inland Empire is not a traditional film: that much, at least, is plainly evident, as on some dated television soundstage from hell, complete with canned laughter, three (im)properly attired large rabbits speak as normal people but in a dialogue reminiscent of the theatre of the absurd. And not unlike another well known rabbit appearing, disappearing, reappearing, and propelling the initial story along, the rabbit who enters the room only to leave again bookends with his fading figure the last of these brief opening scenes.[3] The villain is thus introduced on the coattails of the rabbit: in an ornately furnished room, a devilish, goateed man talks excitedly"”again in that as yet unspecified Slavic language"”about being transported someplace. (This same man makes numerous subsequent appearances, traversing both time and space, under the different aliases of "Crimp"and predominately as the "Phantom,"the character's credited name.) Standing, he addresses an older man, more subdued and sitting, who responds redundantly, "Are you looking to go in?"The devilish man once more gestures eagerly that yes, "I look for an opening!"Soon after, the room is empty: all but for the rabbit, who also fades again.

If Inland Empire's opening sequence is the prelude for the film, then what follows is the first act (the first of three), a primarily linear one in narrative with a central setting dealing principally with Hollywood and the people of that particularly lofty social set. From a dark to light fade-in, the massive boughs of perhaps an oddly familiar tree first appear. With the rabbits already introduced, and specifically the one rabbit apparently capable and desirous of moving about in circles beyond the confines of the designated rabbit room, Lynch may be calling to mind Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.[4] The popular Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland (1951), though it opens with a bucolic scene, has a similar emphasis on an equally large tree in which a lounging Alice daydreams. Known for paying direct homage in past efforts like Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart (1990) to another children's tale film version about a likewise lost girl with The Wizard of Oz (1939), more than a few subtle but plausible allusions to Carroll's story may be scattered about Inland Empire. As apparent as they become upon multiple viewings (like the swift nods to The Wizard of Oz with the "wizard's hat,"the red high heel shoes, and even Isabella Rossellini's own character's name, Dorothy, "almost lost in the welter of information"in Blue Velvet), such references can prove elusive at first and consequently call for closer examination as they occur (Lindroth 161-162). This expansive tree then is shown just previous to an establishing shot of the sunny, gated mansion that is the residence of Inland Empire's chief protagonist, Nikki Grace. Although a seemingly refined and fashionable actress (played by Lynch favorite, Laura Dern), she is given a contradictorily almost "porn-star name [that] suggests tacky self-invention"(Dargis).

Not yet bearing the burden of those more impugning characteristics or implications, though, Nikki is thus visited by an eccentric "neighbor"speaking possibly with that same Baltic accent or even a "Gypsy"derivative of it. While over coffee served in elegantly green-patterned cups on a silver platter, she introduces herself to Nikki before launching into an ominous account of "an old tale"told, notably, with two variations, foreshadowing the similarly fractured paths that Inland Empire soon diverges on: one is about a boy and the other is of a girl, and both become "lost"in the world and succumb to "evil,"for the boy, or "the past,"the girl (emphasis added). Nikki is visibly upset by the woman's subsequent outburst and equally with her seer's knowledge of the film role Nikki is being considered for, and which she soon discovers she has won"”but only after a surreal and seamless transition segued by the neighbor's prediction and her conflating the temporal concepts of yesterday and tomorrow. "If it was tomorrow, you would be sitting over there,"the neighbor points with a bony finger to the couch where Nikki next appears receiving a phone call about her role. With the camera often situated at a distance from this briefly ensuing action, Nikki's screeching and hopping celebration with her friends is as though a caricature in miniature"”one also punctuated by the butler who, exiting, poses in a parody victory stance. Lastly, a more uncertain aspect approaches with Nikki's husband, Piotrek Król, as he descends hesitantly down the staircase to witness the altogether fabled, hyper-conscious, and intentionally contrived, or rather unreal, scene: ironically, the actress having just landed the big Hollywood part.

Often similarly stilted"”and sharing a sardonic presentation like Betty's dream Hollywood in Mulholland Drive"”the next several scenes develop a great deal of Inland Empire's narrative, though such a conventionally defined term should be used somewhat lightly when applied to a film of such avant-garde quality where that narrative is a conceptualization requiring some decryption. Additional Hollywood commentary and parody are furthered soon after an initial close-up and zooming out of the now legendary white-lettered sign in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. "Champaign and caviar are on its way,"a smiling producer promises the select cast and crew of Nikki's production in a private room somewhere on a studio lot. When it comes to these Hollywood myths, Lynch firmly plants his sharp tongue in his cheek. Later, with an introduction to some other previous Lynch players"”such as Justin Theroux, Nikki's costar, Devon, and Diane Ladd (Dern's mother) in a bit part as antagonizing Hollywood gossip show host, Marilyn Levens"”even the entertainment news show's elliptical slogan "where stars make dreams and dreams make stars"holds some significance to soon be realized. The Marilyn Levens Starlight Celebrity Show also touches upon a key theme of infidelity. Afterwards, backstage of the Levens show where the characteristic off-screen romance is first broached by Levens, Devon's friends warn the reputed gallivanting actor to "keep it in [his] pants"and leave Nikki alone, not least because of Nikki's husband, who is reportedly a very powerful man. However, the chemistry between the two co-stars is salient on their first day of rehearsal"”an also bizarre initiation that finds Nikki perceptibly disturbed by something vague lurking behind "Smithy's set."(Despite only a couple of seemingly offhand references to a presumably off-screen character, "Smithy"is revealed as an essential piece of Inland Empire's elusive narrative; although, as with "Lost Girl,"the revelation occurs only in the end credits.)[5] After a striking reading reminiscent of Betty's audition scene in Mulholland Drive is interrupted by that eerie disturbance somewhere behind the unfinished set, the director, Kingsley (Jeremy Irons), and his assistant, Freddie, disclose the true nature of the script, On High in Blue Tomorrows: the film is, in fact, a remake of an unfinished film "based on a Polish gypsy folktale,"with the title in German translated as 47. With the previous two lead actors having been murdered, the film may even have been "cursed."From this script based on that rumored "Polish gypsy folktale"(also the first really specific reference to that foreign language populating much of the dialogue), Lynch makes an associative transition to Nikki and her husband back at their house later with an older, Polish-speaking couple. The elderly couple refers to Nikki disdainfully as "a half,"which becomes all the more appropriate considering the upcoming split (and how Laura Dern is credited in the end as "Nikki Grace / Susan Blue").

Still in Hollywood, Inland Empire continues to build upon the foreshadowed on- and off-set relationship with Nikki and Devon, as well as the burgeoning affair between their respective characters, Susan Blue and Billy Side; yet the underlying points strung at intervals throughout these romances are ultimately more intriguing and illuminating. For example, a notable episode occurs with a character credited simply as "Doris Side,"the wife of Devon's fictitious Billy Side. In a grim and stifling interrogation room, Doris confesses to a leering detective type. Doris perspires and winces in pain: with likely the first reference to the Phantom and his supernatural powers, she claims how she has "been hypnotized or something"and that she is "gonna kill someone"with a screwdriver"”presumably the one that she then gruesomely reveals is impaled in her side (emphasis added). Overall, the austere scene with its fluorescent lights and humming electricity is fantastic and resembles nothing of the sunny or contradictorily blithely melancholic romance depicted in other early moments of On High in Blue Tomorrows. Not unlike Inland Empire, the film within the film thus evokes the contrast of dream and nightmare or heaven and hell. Also amidst, or rather quite apart from, the warm rapport that increases between Nikki and Devon, an easily overlooked and casual on-set exchange transpires with Nikki and the director. Kingsley speaks playfully of his pestering niece who persists in asking him in "that ancient foreign voice of hers [about] Smithy [and] who is playing Smithy?"Apart from another likely Polish reference"”the Polish language and Poland now inextricably related to the "cursed"film and old folktale"”the question of "who is playing Smithy?"signifies a central issue that not only relates to Smithy (who actually does not have a film credit, whereas "Smithy's Son"strangely enough is credited) but to the entirety of Inland Empire. Formerly seen as prevalent motifs in several prior Lynch productions and films, the confusion and melding of identity and reality figure prominently in attempting to not only discover this mysterious and conspicuously un-credited character of Smithy but also in following the same pursuit of understanding the intermingled nature of "Nikki Grace / Susan Blue."[6] As with those previous projects, a relentless approach appears as being posited again with some of these ambiguously defined characters (their doubles, doppelgangers, and emerging alter egos) and the dream versus reality and good versus evil realms. The intention may well be to leave the viewer somewhere in the purgatories between, contemplating and questioning the experience, and that process can certainly be intriguing as well as gratifying; although, it can just as often prove frustrating to no end. Fortunately, Lynch occasionally provides signposts to guide the viewer on this quest, such as giving the fictional Susan and Billy some rather affected southern accents to help distinguish when Nikki and Devon are in or out of character: e.g. when Devon, sans accent, is frankly addressed by Nikki's husband about the "bonds of marriage"and how "there are consequences to one's actions,"a sentiment earlier expressed by Nikki's neighbor and one that is later repeated potentially on a more symbolic level.

At other times, though, all markers and maps are seemingly tossed out the conductor's window of this serpentine and acid-fueled chugging freight train, because, gradually, most boundaries become blurred. Hollywood (along with all its elements) is slowly being swallowed, or rather it is swallowing "the multiple "˜Laura Derns'"(Taubin 2). The appearance of camera and crew coming into frame still occasionally jolts the flow of an enveloping electric veil, much like the effect of the lip-syncing revelations at the Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive with Rebekah Del Rio or Dean Stockwell's "same baroque affectedness"displayed in Blue Velvet and how each is interrupted, breaking and validating what Honzl termed the dramatic "electric current"(Fuller 16; qtd. in Pavis 160). Very soon, however, the technical moviemaking aspects may just as well be invisible to Nikki, who quickly loses the ability to distinguish between realities once she senses an oncoming affair with Devon when he casually asks her out to dinner"”a proposition immediately and darkly realized by Nikki as the beginning of that much alluded off-screen romance. Shortly after a supposed filmed fireside love scene between Susan and Billy the true horror sinks in: upon Nikki's expressed concern over her husband's potential murderous motive to now kill Devon, she subsequently laughs that "Damn, this sounds like dialogue from our script!"The director's voice then booms from above, and Nikki realizes the throes of disorder swirling around her, as though already engulfed in that spinning black vinyl vortex. Fiction and nonfiction are muddled, Nikki is becoming indiscernible from Susan, and the viewer is about to be hurled alternately through one dark tornado and down another extraordinary and warped rabbit hole.

A slow-motion shot in the most nebulous of nights emphasizes a kiss between Nikki and Devon pitted against a background of the bleakest pitch, signaling a transition to a major scene that realizes the head of the divergent path previously glimpsed and now to be embarked upon. Considering the muddled passion of this blue-lit bedroom performance and the segue of the blurred slow-motion kiss, the initial sentiment misses by some degrees that carnality and the lion's roar explicit in Jeffry's re-imagined love scene in Blue Velvet. Here with Inland Empire, however, confusion is the ultimate sensation expressed"”not passion. Again, a contrast is presented with the shared moment's authentically performed and increasingly realistic dialogue (earlier in the film, forced and unnatural, as though reflecting a comment on Hollywood and its own unreal, even artificial quality). Oddly, the heightened realism in performances also comes amidst a blue-hued surrealism that includes the silhouette of one of the incredible, tall rabbits intermittently shown as a voyeur in the dark, not unlike the viewer of a film.[7] Yet surreal is a simplistic description that too neatly categorizes Lynch.[8] Lynch rarely obsesses extensively with Dalíesque landscapes or even more cinematically appropriate gimmickry like Buñuel's fascinating and earliest experiments (suitably enough, also collaborations with that famously mustached painter). Although the fantastic and grotesque are frequently prevalent: especially with the Lynch short films, along with Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. Rather, Inland Empire, as well as many other Lynch features, focuses on some strange subliminal dimension often belonging"”or at least related"”to the dreams of a sole main character.[9] Even more so with Nikki, it is a dimension with few defined temporal boundaries. In bed, bathed in that blue light coalescing with the glow of snow from a muted television, Nikki speaks, in character, and further conflates reality with fantasy, while time is lost somewhere between. "This thing that happened . . . this story that happened yesterday but it's tomorrow . . . it was that scene we did yesterday,"(suddenly out of character) she trails off once more before a mention of carrying groceries and parking in an alley, which specifically recalls the neighbor's disturbing tale and implies that she, Nikki, is "the girl"about to confront and be lost in "the past."Moreover, as if undergoing some cerebral malfunction, she repeats herself verbatim a second time before muttering about memory and remembering. Then an epiphany jogs her brain: "Devon, it's me, Nikki!"she shouts as though attempting to break through a fast-falling shroud"”but only to his confusion. He addresses her and still appears to know her merely as Sue. Not unlike a dream, this relatively innocuous confusion is replaced by something else; "Billy"has a complete transformation of personality, and his face starts to shake sinisterly with laughter before the image fades.

Until the conclusion of Nikki and Devon's blue bedroom scene, what amounts to an appropriate and relatively linear narrative largely arranged around the film within the film takes precedence in the structure of Inland Empire. A first act of sorts, this Hollywood backdrop now slips off to some remote corner of consciousness for a time, though its heady atmosphere lingers still. The first act completed, the second act begins by landing "Nikki / Sue"in her own personal suburban Oz, or hell. "Plot"becomes increasingly dubious with Inland Empire's secondary thrust, or coil, which more rapidly twists and turns in exceedingly non-linear fashion. A cluster of predominate settings instead centers the precarious narrative and continues to facilitate the exploration of the significant motifs and questions raised therein: the house in the suburbs, an overwhelmingly crepuscular Poland, and the mysterious Mr. K's room upstairs.

The tiny, dingy white house that "Nikki / Sue"(henceforth Nikki-Sue) inhabits encompasses many rooms, lives, and worlds. At first it is "Smithy's house,"as referred to on the set of On High in Blue Tomorrows. Wandering in from the alley with her groceries"”as both the dream and neighbor's tale foretold"”and entering backstage through the "Axxon N"door labeled as such with the scribbled name of the Baltic radio station, Nikki-Sue is thus directed by a similarly scrawled and crooked arrow: indicated via this kind of children's tale instruction to enter, Nikki-Sue loses herself somewhere in the dark, all the time wearing an almost iconic and effulgent green dress. Green actually evolves into some vague but repeated color symbol inside the house: the dated, green carpet mottled like a tortoise shell, the chintzy green bed cover, and those "my heart was wrapped in clover"lyrics sung later with the dancing prostitutes in the drab and dusky den. (To be sure, green materializes beyond the suburban house as well, with the delicate green coffee cups earlier served to the neighbor, the luxuriant greens in the Hollywood landscaping, additional green and white dresses of which Nikki-Sue is so fond, her high-heel green shoes, the great green oil barrel directly outside the Axxon N door backstage, and still more.) Lynch enjoys a rich and varied palette, though, and the possible meanings"”whether the traditional paradise, nature, corruption, or possibly reverting to the personal predilection for The Wizard of Oz and the green hues associated therein"”are simply too many. And as Nikki-Sue slips into another dimension in those dark corridors of "Smithy's house"like Alice initially drifting down the rabbit hole, the abrupt landing when she peers in bewilderment out the much changed window is every bit as peculiar and evocative in its impossible silence of that paradoxically violent, sudden lull when Dorothy hesitantly opens the door to her own kind of "mitigated . . . grotesquerie,"though little is mitigated for Nikki-Sue once the Hollywood fantasy has been left behind (Lindroth 160). In some aspects, Nikki-Sue's suburban, shifting house is not that dissimilar from Dorothy's only seemingly more expansive land of Oz. The free-floating handheld camera"”moving in and out of darkness"”parallels the confounded perspective of Nikki-Sue, at first lost and wandering the gloomy and strangely lit rooms as though still stuck in the backstage maze. Directly upon entering Oz, Dorothy similarly wanders in a daze about the meandering paths that loop here and there around Munchkin Land, pristine and sparkling by contrast to Nikki-Sue's ill-lit house.

On another note, quite apart from such visuals, sound also plays an intriguing and deceptively minor role in the atmosphere surrounding the house. While the sonorous drones and din of industry are occasionally found as a backdrop for other scenes and settings in Inland Empire (and certainly other Lynch films), they appear slightly more distant, even plaintive, when heard in Nikki-Sue's house. Intermittently, a peppering of train or factory whistles noticeably emerges"”not too close but never far away. Lynch has often commented on his affection for a complete and proper sonic experience with film-viewing in general. With regards to his films and specifically these industrial twitters, whistles, and echoes and hums, equal attention should be given: for Lynch continues to utilize these sounds much in the same way he first pioneered their symbolic application back in Eraserhead with Henry's ancient reverberant pipes, as a kind of constant expression of the "unconscious, . . . [a] "˜libidinal plumbing'"that stretches across this dense soundscape of psyche (Conomos 55).

Not irrelevantly"”especially concerning an industry of another sort"”this house is most likely located in the whereabouts of that prominently titled suburb not far from the real-life Emerald City with its own specially curtained chimera and vast imperial reach of illusion. Geographically, the factual town of Inland Empire is parallel and on nearly the same latitude with the powerful, insular industry of Hollywood, separated by less than 50 miles. This suburb is literally and precisely inland from the empire.

Here, too, in this house Nikki-Sue meets strange new characters"”many who are but strange doppelgangers played by the same actors, again reflecting the dream logic of Dorothy's Oz. Affluent, threatening, and cunning before, Nikki-Sue's husband is now relegated more to banalities and blunders. (Not to say Lynch is intentionally drawing such specific links to The Wizard of Oz as he did with Wild at Heart, but this contrast with Nikki-Sue's new husband may call to mind the doppelganger of the brainless Scarecrow.) His foreign accent creates in his voice a goofy rather than menacing quality; and the overall delivery suitably suggests some low position in society such as the inevitable carney he becomes soon after he clumsily stains his t-shirt with ketchup and asks, "Where's the paper towels?"when the roll is visibly just behind him. Of most direct significance to Nikki-Sue, though, is the bizarre chorus of scantily clad and forthright females mysteriously residing in that oddly cavernous den. They are not without their doppelgangers either, as seen later with the gaunt, diseased prostitutes in both Poland and on the streets of Los Angeles by the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Whether imagined or not, the camaraderie and kinship exhibited by these women is infectious and intriguing to Nikki-Sue. Although rarely more than an observer while watching the women in the den, her face exudes the intimate connection she cannot help but feel for them. She moves from perplexity to horror, to awe or perhaps love, and even smiles at their antics and wisecracks. They can haunt her, too, as seen in their ghoulish revelries when dancing to that snappy "Loco-Motion"tune (suggestive of a connection, consciously intended or not, with those whistles sounding off in almost Felliniesque quality somewhere outside). Then the music abruptly ends with that all-too-recognizable sensation Lynch so often creates with his stark use of classic pop songs. Much like Nikki-Sue staring in disbelief at the disappearance of the chorus, the viewer has been skipping along to the edge of a precipice, likely ignorant of the limitless abyss suddenly revealed.

"In the future . . . you will be dreaming . . . in a kind of sleep,"a trio from the den's chorus informs Nikki-Sue; and if she "want[s] to see"then she will "have to be wearing the watch."While Inland Empire is epic enough in its own right, it is significant that this watch (whose hands soon start rapidly spinning backward) potentially connects Nikki-Sue with Lost Girl. Specifically, Lost Girl also buys a watch from the Phantom to try to change her "luck"in the Inland Empire supplement, More Things that Happened"”Lynch's own kind of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There sequel. Furthermore, if the watch-peddling Phantom is, in fact, somehow linked to the lone male rabbit traveling in and out of the rabbit room as earlier implied, then the allusion to Carroll's legendary watch-toting White Rabbit is considerably enhanced. Nevertheless, aided by this watch and the occult enactment of burning a hole with a cigarette through a swathe of silk, Nikki-Sue takes no mere dive off a cliff or down a rabbit hole; she is sucked down a wormhole of almost cosmic proportions.

"This is the street,"one of the chorus girls again speaks to Nikki-Sue and introduces a snowy avenue presumably in Poland. However, Nikki-Sue is far less of a physical presence in this wintery land; her implied role is more as an unseen witness, much like Lost Girl (and Inland Empire's own viewers). While some inextricable bond exists between Nikki-Sue's Hollywood and Inland Empire realms and this Polish netherworld via the cursed script of On High in Blue Tomorrows and its the Polish folktale precursor, little else is so clear. And no place else does the wholly ambiguous temporal impression feel so appropriate. The blood-tinged streets of Lynch's red-filtered vision are seemingly empty of clues"”only people wearing crimson shadows and nondescript coats. This world is utterly devoid of chronological hints, even anachronisms. Later, with a turn of the camera, however, a universe shifts from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to a sidewalk in Poland"”suddenly with prostitutes in outmoded furs and horse-drawn carriages passing by. What kind of Poland is this? Which century are we in? That Baltic radio station claims itself "the longest running radio play in history."Indeed, Lynch's Poland is characterized less by surrealism or dream quality but rather a sense of prehistory, for lack of a better word. More to the point: as with others before him, perhaps film for Lynch is in essence "an orchestration of time"and the satisfaction to be found in its manipulation (Bachmann). These temporal elements are even further accentuated and complicated by the nonlinear interweaving. Thus the associational transitions and montage, as well as the multitudes of doppelgangers, are plentiful: linking the prostitutes of Los Angeles with their Polish doubles, Nikki-Sue's husband with his attendance of a Polish séance, and the figure of the Phantom in Poland with his later appearance as Nikki-Sue's menacing neighbor in the form of "Crimp."(Curiously, considering the Phantom's intimidating presence among women and some suspect prostitutes, "Crimp"may well be an extremely apt perversion of the word "Pimp.") Also, the anonymous Polish murder victim with her intestines grotesquely dangling from her abdominal wound is yet another reference to the similar injury seen first with Julia Ormond's character in the interrogation room and later inflicted upon Nikki-Sue; and once more a symbolic aspect is implied when in her suburban kitchen Nikki-Sue clearly experiences some sharp abdominal pangs likely related to her pregnancy, which is thereafter mentioned much to her husband's dismay.[10]

Finally, one more supposed Polish locale is offered"”this time far removed from the red-lit city, somewhere in a vast rural region populated only by bare trees and scattered tin dwellings. The snow still frozen in patches on the ground, a black Audi with a likely foreign license plate appears with a passenger load including Nikki-Sue's husband. Time has shifted again with the appearance of the automobile, but Poland is the suggested vicinity. Nikki-Sue's husband inquires to a man exiting a weather-beaten shack about the Phantom, who has been tracked to this remote forest. The other man speaks as though the Phantom has just left"”almost vanished from the very same shack. Something is palpably mysterious in these woods. Actually, the man is angered when he first sees Nikki-Sue's husband and thus violently tosses a full cup (perhaps coffee) to the ground. The sheer physics of the place are off kilter, though, and not a drop is spilled when the cup lands perfectly upright. Those supernatural hills of the North teeming with timber are easily recalled from Lynch's cult series, Twin Peaks. Specifically, the ambiance of this secluded Polish shack is reminiscent of those puzzling and also secluded spiritual spheres of the white lodge and black lodge. Meanwhile, the Phantom has disappeared via his sought-after "opening,"perhaps headed on a expedited jaunt to Inland Empire, one of those less than glamorous suburbs of Los Angeles. Out in the woods, the husband seems to sense that the Phantom has left for a purpose: to pursue Nikki-Sue.

Cold and bleak as it may be, Mr. K's upstairs room provides a contrast as a setting; small and limited in its colorless confines, few stylistic liberties are taken with what may largely be an expository device. The total absence of the usual visual flare and distractions is probably necessary when accounting for the wealth of revelations that follow"”or at least the hints at revelations. Apart from further thematic references directly to dreams and infidelity, Nikki-Sue provides some very specific information in her odd, one-sided confession to the bespectacled and mostly mute Mr. K. For clarification on at least one potentially perplexing aspect, she offers in her consistently vulgar speech how her husband "went to some eastern Europe shithole with the fuckin' circus."So this unkempt and bruised shell of a human being is, in fact, the same woman from the suburban dream"”which apparently turned into a suburban hell at some point. Incredibly, this is the very person who, while clearly not the Hollywood Nikki, still managed to flash a healthy smile at people and politely interact with some measure of enjoyment or interest for life. How very, very far she must have fallen. What could possibly have caused such a drastic change in her life? Her answer: "I guess after my son died I went into a bad time . . . when I was watching everything go around me, and I was standing in the middle"”watching it like in a dark theatre before they bring the lights up."This lost boy could therefore be the missing puzzle piece. Plausibly, "LB,"which is later written on Nikki-Sue's hand, represents this Lost Boy.[11] The character of "Lost Girl"indicates this as a not illogical association (emphasis added). Nikki-Sue's abdominal pain and those other more violent abdominal wounds could also symbolize that the child was a stillbirth or "lost"(as the euphemism goes) in pregnancy complications. Still unclear, though, is why "LB"later appears crossed out in red on her hand and subsequently disappears completely then reappears. Nevertheless, a crucial implication has been offered: one to rouse the viewer"”just as Mr. K is roused by another signal, the ringing phone. "She's still here,"he answers with bits of the conversation apparent. "Won't be too much longer . . . the horse is in the well . . . he's around here someplace, that's for sure."Nikki-Sue overhears this, and suspicion washes across her face. The shape-shifting, time-bending Phantom with his powers of hypnosis and invisibility must weigh heavily on Nikki-Sue's mind, as she herself confessed some knowledge about this strange man to Mr. K only moments earlier. Possibly the more frightening prospect compelling her to escape is not that the Phantom is merely "around here someplace,"but instead what if the Phantom has been in the room watching and listening all of this time?

With this invisible evil now in close pursuit of her, the third act begins with Nikki-Sue's early exclamation delivered with a sentiment equal parts epiphany and bathos: "I'm a whore!"Apart from only a couple brief transitions back to Poland and Mr. K's dark room, the third act is also a return, in part, to linear narrative and Hollywood"”or Hollywood's darker underbelly. Inland Empire slowly untangles the threads, and at last Nikki-Sue gradually surrenders, entranced, to her fate. Standing outside on a corner with the diseased and filthy prostitutes so much altered from their relatively healthy and youthful counterparts of the den chorus, Nikki-Sue snaps her fingers three times and the prostitutes reply snapping theirs in equal number. With three clicks of her heels Dorothy is able to leave Oz and return from her epic dream; so, too, Nikki-Sue accordingly undergoes a transformation, or transportation. Immediately thereafter Nikki-Sue is impaled by Ormond's screwdriver"”a screwdriver that should be associated, however, with Crimp's screwdriver that Nikki-Sue ironically grasped for in self-defense when she visited him about "the unpaid bill."Hence a rather obvious phallic symbol is offered with an additionally crude though nonetheless fascinating tragic cycle: as a prostitute, Nikki-Sue earns and lives by the figurative Freudian sword, and now she dies by this symbolic equivalent. To abundantly clarify, an account soon follows, narrated by the homeless Asian girl about her friend, "Nikko,"with "the blonde star wig"who is dying with "a hole in her vagina wall"after likewise prostituting herself out of desperation (emphasis added). This bizarre story of Nikko's disastrous Hollywood fate is made all the more awkward, of course, by the fact that Nikki-Sue is lying there bleeding and coughing up blood during this entire side narrative. Lynch's dark humor veers thusly, so bleak and utterly twisted; it is no small triumph how brilliantly and hilariously this otherwise debase scene can play to an audience.[12] Also exceedingly difficult to fully articulate is how the mise-en-scène of Nikki-Sue's death on the Hollywood Walk of Fame simultaneously pulls in the other direction, toward poignancy. Her death rattle sounds with her head by a pillow patterned with green toads; the black woman with a cigarette lighter provides the funereal "no more blue tomorrows"mantra; and, at the foot of her slumped, lifeless body, a seemingly anonymous sidewalk star recalls the one emphasized only moments ago with the first name prominently displayed as "Dorothy."This is the image that lingers long after the magic spell of the scene is broken by the crane-mounted camera that comes into frame, long after Nikki-Sue wanders about the studio lot and into the theatre still in her trance that began with the three snaps of her fingers, and even well after she walks the labyrinthine halls scattered with sconces to destroy that terrorizing aberration of the Phantom. In the end, it is about this sensation of death"”this release. Whether it is a real or acted death, a slow waking from a dream or performance, or lifting of a curse, it is also a concession of responsibilities (that "unpaid bill"). This cleansing of the past frees that lost girl misplaced somewhere in the vast and timeless space between Nikki Grace and Sue Blue. Wherever and whoever the true lost girl is, as Nina Simone's "Sinner Man"aptly plays its "Power!"refrain that rings more like Freedom! with the contingent of African Americans energetically dancing to the song, Laura Dern's figure sits on the sofa contentedly, emancipated; and with her flaxen hair and "prim blue dress,"she looks more than ever like Alice after the long, fitful sleep (Taubin 2).

Despite this sense of resolution and even the cathartic credit sequence, Lynch once more leaves an array of questions to ponder. If the whole of Inland Empire is a mere figment of some character's imagination, to whom does this nightmare belong? Is this Lost Girl's dream? After all, she watches it unfold in its entirety on screen. Consequently, Lost Girl may represent the viewer. Or Lost Girl could essentially be Nikki-Sue and representative of a past that must be reconciled with all its "consequences,"again like that often equated "unpaid bill that needs paying."But what was Nikki-Sue's unfortunate past? Was she a prostitute? Does the "LB"scrawled on the back of her hand truly signify Nikki-Sue's lost boy that died? Is Smithy yet another moniker for Nikki-Sue's constantly shifting husband; is "Smithy's Son"basically Nikki-Sue's son; and why does Lost Girl embrace this additional doppelganger of a husband, presumably "Smithy,"and "Smithy's Son"at the end? Potentially, this a mythical reunion for a family held captive by misfortune. Yet who or what is the source of the misfortunes and evils of Inland Empire? The Phantom? Most importantly, who is Nikki and who is Sue; of the two, who is the "real"one that houses the persona of the other? Nevertheless, building upon his fascination with the legendary Dorothy and the lore of Oz and now incorporating Carroll's Alice, Lynch has created his own infinitely complex and intriguing lost girl (or girls). "The differences are as important as their similarities,"however; and, unlike Lynch's "radically different"approach, in those fairytale stories "there is never any doubt as to . . . [the] dream state"(Lindroth 160). An absolute certainty, therefore, may never be attained for Inland Empire with what is real and what is not: the gated mansion and the Hollywood career, the suburban Oz, the Polish folktale, or the dregs of prostitution. But with the weighty influences of stories so deeply immersed in dreams and dream logic, Inland Empire appears to be intended as another "sun-drenched fairytale [turned] into nightmare,"or, more specifically, a "Freudian nightmare of evil that threatens to obliterate the "˜good'"(Lindroth 166; Berry 82).

Not surprisingly, Lynch is known as an intuitive and organic filmmaker. He has admitted as much on numerous occasions, most prominently with his recent anecdotal book of sorts, Catching the Big Fish. He adheres to very specific aims, but he balances those aims with flexibility. While by no means so completely improvised as rumored, Inland Empire's script was, in fact, written along with the shooting schedule; fully fleshed out dialogues were begun and finished as close to the night before the scenes were filmed (Dern). With this in mind, how much does Lynch himself understand about the underlying potentiality of the details? About the box and the key in Mulholland Drive, even Lynch wrote "I don't have a clue what those are"(Lynch 115). Yet he may be taking a somewhat facetious stance. In contrast, Lynch remarked on a video rerelease of Eraserhead how no critic or reviewer has ever come close to understanding that film's intended interpretation. Again, the viewer seems to be left questioning the red-herrings or visual "MacGuffins,"whether or not deliberate, and the details that truly merit scrutiny (Scheide 10). In typical yet engaging fashion, Lynch has thus provided the recurring motifs of conflated identity, shifting temporal elements, and a distorted quality of the very space in which characters operate as though in an intricate dimension of limitless psyche"”a mysterious one, which continues to merit study and discussion. Whether or not the answers are of primary importance, these are the questions Lynch has posed.

Works Cited

Alice in Wonderland. Dir. Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. By Lewis Carroll. Walt Disney Prod., 1951.

Bachmann, Gideon. Audio Commentary. 8 ½. Dir. Federico Fellini. 1963. DVD. Criterion Collection, 2001.

Carroll, Lewis [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. 1865 and 1871. Illus. ed. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1946.

Dargis, Manohla. "The Trippy Dream Factory of David Lynch."Rev. of Inland Empire, dir. by David Lynch. The New York Times Online. 6 December 2006. 27 Oct. 2008 <http://>.

Dern, Laura. "Laura Dern's Inland Empire."Moving Pictures. Feb./March 2007. 27 Oct. 2008 <>.

Ebert, Roger. "My problem with Blue Velvet."Rev. of Blue Velvet, dir. David Lynch. Chicago Sun-Times Online. 19 September 1986. 27 Oct. 2008 <

article?AID=/19861002/PEOPLE/41216001 >.

- - - . Rev. of The Elephant Man, dir. David Lynch. Chicago Sun-Times Online. 1 January 1980. 27 Oct. 2008 <


- - - . Rev. of Mulholland Drive, dir. David Lynch. Chicago Sun-Times Online 12 Oct. 2001. 27 Oct. 2008 <

110120304/1023 >.

Emerson, Jim. Rev. of Inland Empire, dir. by David Lynch. Chicago Sun-Times Online. 26 January 2007. 27 Oct. 2008 <


Fuller, Graham. "Babes in Babylon."Sight & Sound 11.12 (2001): 14-17.

"L.B."Online posting. 20 May 2008. David Lynch and Twin Peaks Discussion Board. 31 Oct. 2008 <

1ce5a8f114b0dd9d348afcacd5d58762 >.

Lindroth, James. "Down the Yellow Brick Road: Two Dorothys and the Journey of Initiation in Dream and Nightmare."Literature/Film Quarterly 18.3 (1990): 160-166.

Lynch, David, dir. Blue Velvet. De Laurentiis Ent. Group, 1986.

- - - . Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. New York: Penguin, 2007.

- - - , dir. The Elephant Man. Brooksfilms, 1980.

- - - , dir. Eraserhead. AFI/Libra, 1977.

- - - , dir. Inland Empire. Studio Canal/Absurda, 2006.

- - - , dir. Lost Highway. October Films, 1997.

- - - , dir. More Things that Happened. Canal/Absurda, 2007.

- - - , dir. Mulholland Drive. Les Films Alain Sarde, 2001.

- - - , dir. Twin Peaks. ABC Television. 8 Apr. 1990 - 10 June 1991.

- - - , dir. Wild at Heart. PolyGram Filmed Ent., 1990.

- - - . Supplemental Commentary. Eraserhead. Dir. David Lynch. 1977. DVD. Absurda/Subversive, 2000.

Pavis, Patrice. Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis. Trans. Christine Shantz. Toronto and Buffalo: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1998.

Scheide, F. M. "Alfred Hitchcock, His Macguffin, and the Formalist Style of David Lynch's Twin Peaks."Journal of Communication Studies 11 (1992): 1-14.

Simone, Nina. "Sinner Man."Perf.. Simone, Atkinson, Hamilton, Schackman, and Stevenson. Soundtrack for David Lynch's Inland Empire. Absurda, 2007.

Taubin, Amy. "The Big Rupture."Film Comment 43.1 (2007): 54-59.

The Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Fleming. By L. Frank Baum. MGM, 1939.

[1] As a motif of spectatorship (even voyeurism) appears in Inland Empire, this video-like appearance seems even more appropriate.

[2] Eraserhead (1977).

[3] Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as discussed in the following.

[4] Interestingly, apart from the few entrances and exits of that more masculine-engendered rabbit who may suggest the White Rabbit (and notwithstanding the fact that the animals are, again, dressed and speaking like human beings), Taubin indicates how "these are unconventional rabbits"in their otherwise moored and un-frenzied habits: "they don't run scared and they don't propagate."Rather, "those behaviors are transposed onto the multiple "˜Laura Derns' . . . fleeing through doors and alleyways and up and down staircases, all of which . . . read as so many rabbit holes"(2).

[5] Analysis aside, the mere presence of certain relatively minute details can be difficult to perceive"”even upon multiple viewings. Internet resources such as forums or "boards"are often warily regarded (and rightly so), but one site proved to be helpful by indicating otherwise clandestine facts (i.e. an overlooked end credit). Although much of this particular interpretation of Inland Empire is "independent,"the very impetus to more closely examine "Smithy"was compelled by the discourse at the Inland Empire forum on the David Lynch and Twin Peaks Discussion Board.

[6] Such as Twin Peaks (1990-1991), Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Lost Highway (1997).

[7] Additionally, if this particular rabbit is interpreted as being aligned with the Phantom, as that earlier scene may imply with the man seeking "an opening,"then the appearance at this juncture holds further significance. This rabbit (as the Phantom) may be far more than a voyeur; with his occult powers (detailed later), he could be influencing these events.

[8] This is not to deny, however, some of the surreal elements and influences in much of Lynch's work: generally, those disorienting and fantastic qualities also seen as indicative of surrealism, and, more specifically, details such as "Lynch's deployment of light bulbs, neon signs, wall sockets that are either about to flare up or snap,"which verily "connect him to the Surrealist's use of electric iconography . . . to foreground electricity's relationship to dreams, sexuality, the unconscious, and the psyche"(Conomos 55).

[9] Examples, some more suggested than others: Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks, Diane in Mulholland Drive, Jeffry in Blue Velvet, and Fred Madison in Lost Highway.

[10] Yet another example of the repeated imagery suggesting this significant wound can also be perceived with the husband's accidental ketchup stain, emphasized earlier, though this occurrence seems more general foreshadowing.

[11] As with "Smithy,"the David Lynch and Twin Peaks Discussion Board was helpful in initiating this analysis"”as far as "LB"might represent "Lost Boy."

[12] The audience referenced was in a surprisingly crowded, large theatre at an opening weekend screening of Inland Empire at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa, OK, in early 2007, a few months after the U.S. release.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 5:26 pm
by moscatomg
Not to seem irritable, but already 30 "views" and not one comment or reply? Come on, obviously I crave some kind of readership or attention, or else I wouldn't have risked getting disqualified from an upcoming Comp. Lit. conference by posting it here. Love it, like it, or hate it--please keep the discourse alive. Unless it's just a matter of the paper being too long for anyone to finish reading, which is dismaying but nonetheless understandable.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:29 pm
by Mikeindustry
So far, so good, but you're right - it is long; it will take a while to digest and post a thoughfull reply.

I imagine you'll get a few in a while.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:25 pm
by Annie
Sorry for the inattention. I was just hoping you'd take it as a good thing that it was okay to post your paper. Mikeindustry is right; it will take a while to digest and comment thoughtfully.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:49 pm
by moscatomg
Mikeindustry and Annie--ok, thanks for letting me know and for the reply. I appreciate it.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:14 pm
by applesnoranges
moscatomg wrote:Not to seem irritable, but already 30 "views" and not one comment or reply?

moscatomg: I've been away and I just saw this. And I may have to leave the comfort of my little computer chair again before I can take it all in. Also, there has not been much happening here for a while. So the 30 views may be bewildering but not unusual for a forum. I'm glad you posted it.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:01 am
by applesnoranges
moscatomg: One thing you said caught my attention especially"”you are considering the possibility of a relationship between the rabbit who travels and the man who sells the watch in MTTH. I've never seen anything like that said. Usually the Majchrzak character is seen as the cause of everyone's troubles, starting with Lost Girl, of whom the Gruszka character here is seen as an aspect. And the rabbits are seen as trying to help her. The traveling rabbit seems to run missions for her throughout the story gathering information, delivering messages, etc. For example, since one of the men at the séance fades into him, so he takes the man's place, then he sits down in the chair opposite Mr. K. before Dern's character does. So that seems to be how Mr. K. learned of what was said at the séance and repeats it (though in English) on the telephone.

But if we see the watch seller as one of his aspects, then he becomes the means of Lost Girl getting the magic watch which she teaches Dern's character to use and which ultimately leads to the resolution at the end. So, in a way, maybe seeing it this way is seeing Mr. Rabbit playing the part of the phantom, as the Lucas character plays his part in the beating scene.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:32 pm
by moscatomg
then he sits down in the chair opposite Mr. K. before Dern's character does

I'm not remembering clearly: someone was sitting with Mr. K before Dern's character--was this in MTTH?

So, in a way, maybe seeing it this way is seeing Mr. Rabbit playing the part of the phantom, as the Lucas character plays his part in the beating scene.

The first part of this I think is what I was trying to articulate...but I think you're saying more than just Phantom=Mr. Rabbit, right? By "playing," you don't mean simply they are the same: you're talking about assuming different roles, right? And that's pretty interesting, since that seems a common Lynch theme.

Also, those pesky rabbits are still so vexing--apart from a likely general allusion to Carroll and the potential connection of the traveling aspect of that particular rabbit linked to some "real" counterpart(s) like the Phantom. It feels so questionable to read too much into the rabbits when we know they were initially just an isolated short work of Lynch's....though on the other hand, the juxtaposing parts of Mulholland Drive were so masterfully pieced together over time by Lynch in probably a similar fashion.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:34 am
by Fall_of_Sophia
What if the rabbits are guardians (of some sort)? Guardians of the place the Phantom would like to enter. Also Nikki enters the Rabbits' room after dispatching the Phantom.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:49 pm
by snikgrif
I have just read your paper and enjoyed reading it. I have re-watched the film and the strange thing about it, is, that it certainly seems to be a gorgons knot that can be unraveled somehow. In the back of my mind it seems to make sense, maybe it's the picking up of repeated lines and images throughout the film causing an illusion of making sense to me, I don't know? It is certainly a compelling film to watch and a film I find fascinating. Concerning Alice in Wonderland isn't there also a warping and shifting of time and space? I must get a copy and study it. This posting is in place of one I posted earlier on a connection, but on re-reading it a couple of hours later didn't make much sense, when at the time I thought it did?? A bit like me and Inland Empire really.

It is surprising, like you say, that there haven't been more in depth articles (or even a book, as this may need one) on theories, psychology etc. I can only guess that it is still way too complex a puzzle to thoroughly unravel with satisfaction, for any analysts willing to put their name to it. Like you say in your second to last sentence '...a mysterious one, which continues to merit study and discussion.' Let's hope so. I will go now and hope for a flash of insight.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 7:02 am
by snikgrif
Ah yes, just refreshed myself on the Alice in Wonderland story. I see that the story is in Alice's mind while she sleeps, which I see parallels Inland Empire, Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway (as well as Wizard of Oz). The narratives are the anxious and sometimes tortured dreams or ruminations of a character in each.

Are there other stories like this, for children, that have quite an adult bases on the workings of dream logic?

It all makes me think of Andre Breton and the early surrealists, with there attempts to tap the dream/sub-conscious world with their art. Having Dr.Sigmund Freud as one of their guides on all things to do with the psyche, books like 'Interpretation of Dreams' and the such.

Also, is there such thing as a script of IE written up anywhere, I know there wasn't one while shooting the film. Just wondered if one has been done since, or is it all wrapped up in copyright laws?

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:41 pm
by applesnoranges
moscatomg wrote:
then he sits down in the chair opposite Mr. K. before Dern's character does

I'm not remembering clearly: someone was sitting with Mr. K before Dern's character--was this in MTTH?

No, it happens immediately before Dern's character comes in and sits in the same chair. When the rabbit sits there, we do not see Mr. K. but it's logical that he would be there opposite.

The first part of this I think is what I was trying to articulate...but I think you're saying more than just Phantom=Mr. Rabbit, right? By "playing," you don't mean simply they are the same: you're talking about assuming different roles, right? And that's pretty interesting, since that seems a common Lynch theme.

Yes, I was just going with what I thought you meant. People don't usually think the rabbits have anything to do with the phantom because they seem to be helping Lost Girl. But it occurred to me that during the beating scene when Lucas says she doesn't know who he is, he means just that. It's like a bridge between Inland Empire and OHIBT: Lucas, an actor in IE, is talking to Susan, a character in OHIBT. She thinks he is her husband but from Lucas' point of view, he's only playing the part of her husband there, to mimic the Polish scene, both of which Lost Girl watches on TV. So, I was just considering the idea that something like that was going on with Mr. Rabbit. It's not the way I normally think about the movie, but I thought you were suggesting that Mr. Rabbit was playing the part of the phantom there in the sense that he is speaking for him and his desire for an opening. Normally, I would say that he is there reporting to Mr. K. about what went on in the séance (he was one of the old men), which is why Mr. K. repeats lines from the séance on the phone.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sun May 03, 2009 6:36 pm
by moscatomg
I've got a paper on my teeny tiny Wordpress page that discusses the Lost Girl motif in Disney's Sleeping Beauty--my recent obsession with this theme/motif being initiated and inspired largely by Alan Moore's graphic novel and the curiously credited character in Inland Empire.

Re: my Inland Empire film paper

Posted: Sun May 03, 2009 11:30 pm
by Carl
I feel that 'the Rabbits' sitcom is yet another iteration of the 'old story.' The leads in the older versions of this tale can communicate with those playing their roles in newer versions, and use this ability to help end the curse.
LG ( the instance of her who in MTTH buys the lucky watch) teaches a later actress, Nikki, how to 'see' --an older iteration of the story--from her imprisonment in the chracter of Sue.
**I think about who the Visitors are.