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Scott, M. (2008). Inland Empire directed by David Lynch Studio Canal, 2006, 180 min.. Fort Da, 14(1):110-119.

(2008). Fort Da, 14(1):110-119

Inland Empire directed by David Lynch Studio Canal, 2006, 180 min.

Reviewed by
Mark Scott, Ph.D.

The thing is I don't know what was before or after I don't know what happened first and it's…it's kinda laid a mind-fuck on me.”

Susan Blue/Nikki Grace (Laura Dern), the protagonist of Inland Empire, speaks this line to a mostly silent male interlocutor, Mr. K (Erik Crary), whom she has been told might be of help to her, well over two-thirds of the way into this three-hour-long film. She speaks for herself and for us, the audience. We are more than happy, by this point in the film, to identify and empathize with her. Looping temporality, ambiguity, incoherence of narrative, distortion of space and time, strands of plot that intertwine and bleed into one another, clues that do not cohere and non sequitur spouting human-size rabbits: in short, the awe of witnessing a dream (nightmare?) pulls the viewer into an unbalanced psychological space from which we seek respite.

Reactions to Inland Empire gravitate to what appear to be opposite poles, yet are more similar than not. By some, the film has been dismissed as incoherent, self-indulgent, or just too weird — not worthy of being taken seriously. Others ambitiously mount an effort to “understand” the film because of their discomfort in managing the idea that there may not be a coherent narrative. If one only looks and thinks hard enough, it must be there. The impulse is the same for both camps — a plea for a psychological point of entry to find a space in which to dream (Ogden, 2005). Can one find meaning in Inland Empire, or is that the point of the film — let's see what we have if the requisite components of meaning are stripped away and we are left with repetitive and assaulting visual and aural sensations (i.e., a surface with no depth) (Sekoff, 1994).

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