Inland Empire

I just came back from the last showing of David Lynch’s latest movie, Inland Empire, at the Gartenbaukino, a wonderful cinema built in the 60s here in Vienna.

What can I say? The movie lasts 3 hours. My ass hurts. The most frightening moment was furtively looking at my watch and seeing I had another hour to go.

Seriously. Although I had absolutely no clue what was going on, I was continuously amazed how Lynch makes movies like nobody else. The images, the locations, the people, the lighting, the sounds, the… story, for want of a better word, the atmosphere… at no time did anything happen that I could reasonably expect from having seen other movies (including art house and avant-garde movies). Nobody does barely lit rooms and ominous drones like Lynch.

Roger Ebert can explain the appeal of the movie have someone explain the appeal of the movie the way I can’t, which is why he is a famous movie critic and I am not:

As they pass before you, you recognize the familiar stock images, characters and dramatic templates — often employed to build suspense, deliver a shock, jerk tears — from a million other movies, especially the climactic moments in noir thrillers (like the one on TV at the start of “Blue Velvet”), melodramatic serials and soapy romances. There’s the dark hallway, the shadowy stairway, the gun in the drawer, the seduction scene, the portentious expositional dialogue, the bedroom/sex scene, the ominous foreshadowing…. But here they’re deliberately disjointed because the usual connective tissue has been moved, removed or replaced.

And I like that. I like it a lot. Just like Pirates of the Caribbean 3, except there it probably wasn’t intentional. To let causally unrelated images and sounds wash over you… it is refreshing. You can’t think, so you have no choice but to feel.

Lynch knows all stories are all in our heads; we make them up and then inhabit them. “Inland Empire” plays with our movie-fed storytelling expectations line by line, shot by shot, scene by scene, even reel by reel (pay attention to those changeover marks in the upper right). He toys with the building blocks — establishing shots, reaction shots, POV, and especially closeups — to get us to look at them in unfamiliar ways. It’s poetry: We recognize the individual units of meaning, but the grammar and syntax have been altered.

And in case you were wondering (I sure was): Inland Empire is a region in California. Pomona is inside the region. And we all know about Pomona after seeing Inland Empire, don’t we?… OK, we don’t know anything about Pomona.