Inland Empire – FELIX, Victor

This would handily be the strangest film I have ever seen. The amount of scenes spliced together is innumerable and seemingly disjointed, as if they were illogically positioned (of course, this is not the case: I am sure David Lynch was deliberate in their arrangement). The dialogue did not help, either, in connecting the scenes. There is, however, still a sense of narrative progression all throughout the movie. It was also not too difficult to pinpoint the major themes the film tries to address. I noted that it dealt with marriage, infidelity, fantasy, prostitution, curses, revisiting the past, and suffering.
The scene at the start with the old Polish woman helped a little in watching the film. She recounted two parables: “A little boy went out to play. When he opened his door, he saw the world. As he passed through the doorway, he caused a reflection. Evil was born. Evil was born, and followed the boy.” and “A little girl went out to play. Lost in the marketplace, as if half-born. Then, not through the marketplace – you see that, don’t you? – but through the alley behind the marketplace. This is the way to the palace.” I understood the first one to mean a pseudo-warning: a man that reflects the world becomes evil, or a man that is of the world is evil. The Bible teaches us that goodness cannot come out of worldliness, or that one must choose between either the world or God. The second parable, on the other hand, I could not put my finger on. Possibly, it suggests that the market is a consumerist lifestyle and that one cannot be fully human, or be fully born, if one is lost in the marketplace. This is reinforced whenever the film repeats that living in the future results in forgetting one’s past troubles or debts. The alley behind the market place could suggest a path that transcends the consumerist lifestyle, and so it leads to the palace.
From the blog of Patrick Meaney, I was able to understand the film better. He asserts that the woman who is watching the television is actually the actress in the first making of the film, where the curse supposedly started. This makes sense because later on in the film, she is shown to be reunited with a man and a boy, suggesting that this is her husband who might have been murdered. Also, the character of Nikki is seen at one point to be kissing the girl, suggesting that they have both experienced the same thing and are of mutual understanding.
I really enjoyed the layers of the film, albeit I didn’t come to a full understanding of it. The scenes which meld Blue Tomorrows with the life of Nikki, or in other words when the audience isn’t sure whether or not Laura Dern is Sue or Nikki, was very perplexing. Also, whenever the film parallels the crying girl in the room with Sue/Nikki it was also equally puzzling. Lastly, the character of the Phantom, pulling the strings and orchestrating Nikki’s troubles, revealing himself in the different worlds presented in the film, surely left the viewer in shambles.
The scenes with the rabbits were a recurring motif in the film. Again, from Patrick’s blog, I found out that the male rabbit which leaves the room is actually the husband of Nikki and that the two other female rabbits are Nikki and the crying girl. Additionally, it is only the male rabbit that can leave the room, reinforcing the sense of imprisonment of the two female characters. From what I was feeling at the time, I understood the rabbits to be a symbolism for the whole film, in that Nikki was falling into a rabbit hole like in Alice in Wonderland or The Matrix, and that she was in for a wild ride. Well, true enough, my expectations were realized.
The film, and I think that most of the class would agree with me, contained the funniest scene this semester. Of course, I am referring to the scene with the three homeless people (a pleasant surprise when I saw Terry Crews’ cameo!) watching Sue die a slow and painful death. I think what made it so humorous was its juxtaposition to the earlier scenes, and the film’s lack of blatant humor up until that point. Honestly, any humor at any point in the film would have been much appreciated; it is good to see that David Lynch had the foresight to place this scene in response to the possible expectations of the viewer.
I would say that I wouldn’t watch the film anytime soon, but I would certainly watch it again, considering I have stockpiled a few answers to some questions I had in the first viewing. I actually found the film to be a good one, once I understood it. The triumphant look on Nikki’s face at the end, wherein she stares at the old Polish lady after her victory over the almost-incessant torment, was just priceless. In its entirety, I didn’t find the film to be a bad LSD trip but rather a severe nightmare wherein when you wake up you realize you are safe and sound. It wasn’t just a wild ride for the character of Nikki, but for the audience also. It was visually stunning: there are scenes which I will remember for a very long time like the Phantom getting shot, the Rabbits in the living room, and when Nikki looks through the hole in the silk. To this day, I am at disbelief to what I witnessed. Honestly, there isn’t a film like it.

Inland Empire – DE LEON, Pristine

Inland Empire is unquestionably the hardest film I have ever watched. Not only is it difficult, it is almost impossible to fully understand.

The difficulty came from its counter-cinematic qualities that I still am not used to until now. The entire film plays in narrative intransitivity, made up of breaks and fragmentations, making it too difficult to follow the plot. It isn’t even a dreamlike sequence; it is nightmarish. There were very lurid images, as those in nightmares, like the clown in the end and the Polish woman in the beginning. It made it not only disturbing, but exceedingly frightening. Instead of affecting pleasure, it gives off displeasure, which is very counter-cinematic. We can hardly even relate to Nikki, the main character, the “woman in trouble.” We feel estrangement instead of identification. I, for one, cannot feel sympathy for her when I cannot even understand her—as she cannot even understand herself. Whether she was Nikki or the real life Susan, neither she nor we cannot be sure.

If there had been characters in the film that I had been amused of, they would be the bunnies. No, I did not understand them either. But their presence contributes a mystical element to the film. They cannot be hamsters or horses or anything else. Their being bunnies reminds me of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Here we can see a cultural text in conversation with the film. As I have read in one of the blogs concerning Inland Empire, it’s as though Nikki had jumped into the rabbit hole and entered the other side of the looking glass.

This jumping into the rabbit hole facilitated the confusion and mystification that was to suffuse the entire film. It happened gradually. Distinctions in time and space gradually became blurry as the film progressed. In the earliest parts containing the narrative of Nikki Grace, the cause-and-effect sequence of the narrative was still clear. She was visited by the Polish woman, she learned that she got the part of Sue in the movie, she and her co-actor were interviewed in a TV show.

It was when they first read the script with their producers that things started to get confusing. As they were reading, an occurrence similar to what was in the script happened. There had been a noise, presumably someone in the backstage. Further along, their lives increasingly overlap with the story. What was happening to the characters was happening to them.

As they “enter” the story further, Nikki slipped further into the rabbit hole and into that otherland -Wonderland wherein the distinctions of time and space veritably collapses. There is no longer linear time, much less a linear narrative, which delineates past, present and future or even morning and evening. There are only occurrences happening erratically.

Reality, film, and hallucinatory fantasies also occur indistinctively. The way a scene was filmed when the scene was supposedly part of On High in Blue Tomorrows, the cameras and directors were not included in the frame so as to confuse the viewer further. There was also no making out if a scene was actually happening or if it was only a segment in Nikki’s hallucinations.

Overall, the film was extremely, insanely confusing. It showed the nightmarish sequences of the human mind as it sees reality through the human eye and as it slips through fantasies through the mind’s eye. These fragments of reality happen in a sequence which facilitates an experience ratified with confusion, having no distinction but only continuity. With that, it outlines rather rawfully the internal workings and complications of the human mind.

Inland Empire – CANLAS, Punky

Hearing the introduction given to us before the film Inland Empire was shown – with the trauma from the previous film still lingering within me – only made me expect nothing but the worst from what we were about to watch. I decided to follow the advice given to us, focus more on the images presented rather than the words being said. Everything about this film confused me, and all that was taking place seemed to go by extra slow. I left class in a daze; and although I have yet to experience acquiring a really bad LSD hit (ha-ha just kidding), I am pretty sure that watching Inland Empire is even more damaging than this. Having said that, I did not enjoy one bit of the movie, and do not plan on seeing (or talking about) Inland Empire ever again.

There were two elements to this film that I did not understand at all; First, the “bunny show.” I did not understand how this was, in any way, related to everything else in Inland Empire. The only thing we did know was that this was a sort of sitcom.  Next, the scene/s wherein this unnamed woman is watching a television show, and in the end, reunites with her family. I am not really sure if her evident misery had to do with how the program she was watching affects or “touches” her, but I am quite confident that this also had to do with not being with her family. Also, I kept wondering whether the main movie (with Nikki and Devon) was just something on television as well, and not “real” at all (meaning that Inland Empire was a film within a film.. Within a tv show?).

Moving on, I know I said the film totally confused me, but there were still parts/scenes I could connect to each other, and kind of made sense. First, this only made sense to me by the middle of the film, but the creepy Polish lady who visited gave Nikki some sort of foreshadowing as to what may happen to her once she gets the part she auditioned for. During that particular scene, I was so creeped out, I almost stepped out of class because I did not think what the lady was saying made sense anyway. However, I stayed and (as the film progressed) realized that the woman being talked about in the lady’s little “story” was Nikki; and how she, if not careful of her actions, could face grave consequences. Next, it was very well shown that the “actions” mentioned previously has to do with infidelity. We do not just see this between Sue and Billy, but also Nikki and Devon. The main consequence would obviously have to do with getting caught. Lastly, it became clear at some point that Nikki “lost herself” in her character, Sue. There were scenes shown wherein she would say something, then realize that this sounded like something from the script they had. The line between reality (Nikki) and fantasy (Sue) was getting blurry. In the end, I believe this drove her insane.

To end this, I would like to share that the only scene that truly stuck to me from Inland Empire was that of when Nikki was dying on the sidewalk; and the homeless lady and couple did not care to help her out at all. It was funny how they were able to carry on with their very shallow conversation (which was going nowhere) despite the graveness of the situation they were in, but this was more of an annoying kind of funny. Finding out that this scene was just an act annoyed me even more.

Inland Empire – YAP, Alaine

This film is something I wish I had not experienced. I don’t even know what to say about it aside from it’s like a really messed up attic made even more messed up by a tornado. All throughout the film I was worried of what I was supposed to write about for my blog entry with such a movie. It was definitely a first for me. I got the flow of the story in the first half. I could still point out when the film was showing reality or the shooting of the film inside. I started to lose track of what was going on after the sex scene between Justin Theroux and Laura Dern. After that I just went through the film not even bothering to get a grasp the connection between everything.

I get chills down my spine when the sitcom of the weird rabbit shows. First thing I asked was why rabbits? All I knew about them is that they’re cute, fluffy, and they reproduce quite fast. I found it really creepy. The way they move so slowly was irritating.

There seemed to be another blur on fantasy and reality that happened in the film regarding Laura Dern’s character in the movie she is starring in similar to the one in Brazil.

It was really insane when all of a sudden as Laura Dern was dying, I see a camera on the top side and what went through my head was, “Oh my God, You gotta be kidding me.” I was already eaten up by the absurdity of what was happening during the death scene and then suddenly I found out it was part of the act. But it wasn’t the end yet. Laura seemed to be still caught up in some strange trance. In this part, everything started to connect; the seemingly separate scenes of the rabbit, the Phantom, the girl in the opening scene staring into the TV, but still nothing made sense to me.

In the end, I wasn’t sure which parts of the film really happened and which ones were all in Laura Dern’s head, or if Laura Dern is even real. This would be the first film shown in class that I would admittedly say I disliked. It got me so confused and I didn’t get a point in the end. Maybe I found some of the scenes funny, and loved some of the clothes and shoes Laura Dern was wearing, but that’s it. I’d never watch this film again. But I would surely recommend this film to my deep thinker friends who might enlighten me somehow about this film.

I’m surprised that this film was just recently released in 2006. I thought it to be a nineties film. I wonder how other people reacted after seeing this mind-blowing film. But my biggest wonder is whether Lynch meant for his movie to not make any sense at all and see how many people would pretend to “get it” and call it brilliant. That would be interesting.