David Lynch at his most unrestrained produces Inland Empire, a brilliant, mysterious, perversely fascinating film.
Three hours of mystery, surrealism, off-kilter direction and general strange in what could be described as a definitive film for the director.
Memorable scene follows memorable scene, all of are intertwined in perverse, dreamlike fashion, in a film that seems to makes sense somehow but in none of the traditional ways. Non-Lynch fans need not apply, however; film is entirely inaccessible for mainstream audiences.
Plot? Not really. We start with actress Nikki Grace (Laura Dern), making a film with director Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) and co-star Devon Berk (Justin Theroux), supposedly a remake of a Polish movie in which the leads were murdered with a rusty screwdriver.
We then follow Susan Blue, the character Dern is portraying, and some Polish prostitutes (scenes from the original film?), and oh yeah, clips from Lynch´s Rabbits, a short film series featuring people in rabbit costumes spouting disjointed dialogue backed up with a disturbing canned laugh soundtrack.
And it all means something, or so we think. Lynch´s greatest achievement, here and in the previous Mulholland Drive, is to tease us with this mystery, have us desperate to figure it out, when there´s no natural mystery, it´s all filmmaking; this is a film about the puppeteer and his techniques, rather than the puppets that we see on the screen.
Handheld digital camerawork, necessary due to budget restraints but used to full effect, is still something of a disappointment; film lacks the raw beauty of much of Lynch´s previous work. Experimental, industrial soundtrack is creepily effective and recalls Lynch´s first film, Eraserhead.
Dern is outstanding in the performance of her career; rest of the cast fully capable, with familiar faces (and voices) abound. A surrealist masterpiece.