Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Inland Empire (2006)

I don't have a lot to say about Inland Empire, but it strengthens the feelings I'd had about David Lynch previously. He's excellent at producing an unsettling atmosphere, and creating films that feel like dreams (and often nightmares), but as far as putting together a narrative, his approach leaves something to be desired.

I'm not saying a film has to be idiot-proof - that it can't be difficult or intellectually challenging - but it should provide you with enough pieces and coherence that a sharp mind, at least, can put most of it together by the time the curtain falls. Not this pretentious "everything's a symbol/metaphor" crap, requiring hours of meticulous analysis to concoct a coherent theory of how to put the story together, that is only one of many equally valid theories (given the overly vague evidence).

And this whole "the director's not talking" nonsense - I appreciate a film that engages the viewer and remains open-ended, but I also respect an artist who has something concrete to say with his work, and who isn't afraid to clarify or answer a few questions, rather than keep silent to "protect the air of mystery," or more likely cover up his own uncertainties. I just like a film that actually means something - something you can figure out just by watching it, not after reading a book that attempts to decode it.

Still, that having been said, there is room for directors like David Lynch in this world, and his style is utterly refreshing, so I can't criticize him too harshly. If he is a flawed genius (and what genius isn't?), he is a genius still. And Inland Empire - as inscrutable as it is - journeys into a pretty dark place (regardless of the missing how or why), crafting a haunting atmosphere of psychological terror that even had me reminiscing about Silent Hill.

David Lynch could make some fantastic horror movies if he tried - but he'd have to want to, to want to tell a coherent story, and one that aims to terrify as much as speak to the human pathos using the symbols of artifice inherent in dreams and the art of moviemaking - his favorite subjects, it seems. I mean, I can pick up the broad strokes of Inland Empire - an actress in a role that gets mixed up with reality, and some trauma about an unborn child (?). But there's just not enough exposition to fit the pieces (some of which enter pure batshit mindfuck territory) together.

But, Lynch seems to be more about making the viewer feel, rather than understand (in fact, in lieu of understanding) - except on an instinctual, subconscious level - and that is something he accomplishes in spades. The atmosphere and mystery is so captivating that it keeps you glued - although staying in that place for a full three hours, which this movie reaches, without much semblance of a meaningful story to follow, seems a bit much to me. But for better or worse, you come out of watching a movie like this feeling moved, yet wondering at the same time - what the fuck was that all about?

And that's David Lynch for you.

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