Grace Zabriskie in Inland Empire (dir. David Lynch, 2006).
Inland Empire is as much an installation piece as a narrative film--a sense heightened by Lynch's (allegedly permanent) switch from celluloid to digital video. Think a murky marriage of a subdued Cindy Sherman and a more expressive Bill Viola. It is still a narrative film as well, however, however blanched-out and discandied that narrative may be. To be precise, it's both a narrative film in the usual sense and in the sense that it's "concerned with," if not obsessively "about," narrative and its discontents. A hyper-naturalistic monologue by Laura Dern could be seen as the closest thing the film has to a center, though Dern plays more than one self, and the self that performs the monologue is not the first one we meet. Also, more than one actor seems to occupy the same structural position inhabited by Dern's personae (a trick Lynch fans should be fairly used to by now). It's presented as a mystery, but it's a mystery that the viewer can only "solve" through recourse to absurd supernatural anti-logics. It's never reducible to "whodunnit," or even "what happened." Events must be treated as coded symbols, persons must be read as interchangeable signs--and about halfway through the film, the story as such dwindles to a vanishing, played-out speck under the mass of this cryptographic disemplotment. The story is essentially supplied in its entirety after about an hour and a half, and what emerges in its place is crushing barrage of sound and color--or the absence of color and light altogether, save for dim flares and sudden flashes. At the outer limits of whatever investment in representational continuity and coherence Lynch maintains, through the dark hole of a television tube, a family of stylized rabbit-people assume near-static posts in a square proscenium, their minimalist dialogue occasionally punctuated by incongruous bursts of canned laughter emanating from the occluded space of ... where we ourselves sit. Of all the uncanny suggestions in the film--and there are many--this may be the most unsettling: that the purest source of the terror that fuels Lynch's imagination is the inaccessibility to us (the deictic us defined by the configuration of the screen/viewer relationship) of our own responsive motivations and sympathies.
Labels: David Lynch