Opening 26 Apr 2007
If you are looking for a “star rating”, you are looking in vain. This is an experimental film by art house director David Lynch, and I feel it is to be judged – if at all – on a different level.
The subtitle of the movie is A Woman in Difficulties, which refers to Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) who was once a famous actress. She is overjoyed when director Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) offers her the leading role in his new film. Her co-star is the charming, dark-haired Devon Berk (Justin Theroux). At the set they are told it is the remake of a film that was never completed as the two leading actors were mysteriously killed. Alas, soon enough, strange things start happening; lights flicker for no reason, noises cannot be explained, doors get locked. Nikki, by now fearful and anxious, becomes totally involved in her role as Susan Blue. She wants to give her best performance and to make a successful film. In her single-mindedness she starts to confuse reality with fiction, drifting off into a dream world. Her past – or Susan Blue’s – mingles with the present, but at the same time suggesting it could be a look into her future too. Laura Dern is to be admired for her strong performance in portraying convincingly the many faces of Nikki/Susan (?).
After 172 minutes I was totally exhausted. This is not only because of the length of the movie but mainly because it is packed with constantly changing sequences without apparent connection. Confusion and tension build up; the unexpected could happen any minute. It is in the eyes of the beholder to find out what it is all about. It was never the director’s intention to give the viewer a “story” to watch. This film is best described as a mysterious, psychological thriller with no fixed storyline, but instead looks at different human behaviour patterns, hidden fears and dreams, in which David Lynch used material filmed in Poland, France and the United States.
Inland Empire received a Special Award from the National Society of Film Critics for the “Best Experimental Film” and was awarded the “Future Film Festival Digital Award” at the Venice Film Festival. (Birgit Schrumpf)