Monday, December 04, 2006

What's Happening In The Inland Empire?

So, courtesy of a Russian Website and, latterly, You Tube, the trailer for Inland Empire is finally available to view online – but what are we to make of these images? What do they mean? What is the context? What are we getting for our hard earned cash? As it happens, I saw the film at Venice, so I can talk you through the trailer shot by shot and attempt to explain what you're seeing.

It will help to know before we begin a little of the ‘plot’ of the film. In quite a similar vein to Lynch’s previous feature film outing, Mulholland Drive, the events revolve around a female protagonist (Laura Dern) whose identity seems to be in question (or even in a state of breakdown). The events of the film don’t conform to a straightforward narrative but rather, like Eraserhead, move through a number of episodes through which the protagonist wanders, shifting identity as she goes. Dern is variously a well-known actress in Hollywood, a ghost in 19th Century Czechoslovakia, a whore and trailer trash from the Inland Empire region of California.

Shot-by shot, this is what the trailer is showing you:

1. Grace Zabriskie and Laura Dern.

In this scene Laura Dern is a famous actress with a lovely home in the Hollywood hills. Zabriskie plays a new neighbour, with an indeterminate East European accent, who invites herself in for coffee and begins a rather disturbing monologue. She tells Dern that the film she is about to start work on is a remake but that the original was never completed because of mysterious deaths that occurred around the filming.

Here we see tell-tale signs of the slightly less than competent camerawork that dogs much of the film – this camera-in-the-face technique recurs throughout and is at least consistent, if not mildly annoying. The subsequent shot of Dern is at least some evidence that Lynch hasn't completely lost his grasp of the spatial relationships between shots.

2. POV camera peering around a door.

Many of the sequences in the film are linked by this kind of shot. Dern wanders from room to room in a mysterious house which is, at various times a) her mansion b) a brothel c) a trailer trash home in the Inland Empire d) a house on the set of the film she is working e) a mysterious house in the Czech Republic and f) a dirty tenement building where she is questioned by policemen.

Anyone familiar with Lynch's work will recognise the iconography of this room and its function.

3. A distressed Dern on a street at night.

The street is none other than Sunset Boulevard where, towards the end of the film, Dern's character works with a group of prostitutes and announces, with disgust and desperation, that she is a whore.

4. A creepy looking head.

This is actually Dern also. At two points in the film she comes face to face with herself, the second self suddenly distorting via the magic of computer trickery. It is an odd effect, and one that you would think went out with Acorn computers, but the second instance near the end of the film is a genuinely disturbing moment which still had me shaking at the thought of it two days later.

5. Rabbits.

Of course, this has been seen before on the David Lynch website, but what function does it have in this film? It is a TV show that one of the characters – an unnamed woman who may or may not be the 'real' incarnation of Dern’s character – watches throughout the film. When the rabbits leave the room they are in they enter the 'real' world of the film. An allusion to Alice in Wonderland here?

6. Blue Dern.

This is in the mysterious house, and here we see Dern transfixed by its mysterious nature.

7. Heavily made up Dern with pink wall.

I think the lights shining on Dern's face are torches as she wanders through the mysterious house in the dark. I'm not certain if we know who holds these torches. I have a feeling it's the group of whores who inhabit the house at times and treat us, the audience, to a rendition of the locomotion at one stage – complete with dance moves.

8. A grainy, black and white image of a gramophone record playing.

This image appears at the beginning and end of the film – perhaps serving as an amalgamation of the Man in the Planet and Henry's Fats Waller album from Eraserhead – an indication that the world of the film has been put in motion, that the events playing are ‘fabricated’ or perhaps just a mood-setting device using the aesthetic of the grainy sound and image. Probably all three.

So there you have it. As you see, far from containing a bunch of plot spoilers, we have done little more than create more mysteries for ourselves. Will these mysteries be solved? Well you'll have to wait and see Inland Empire for yourself to find out. I would recommend seeing it at least twice though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to this very much. Wish it wasn't shot on consumer video though. Did that aspect bother you at all while watching the film? I guess Lynch could make it fit with his style.