Inland Empire (2006) by David Lynch is not a film to understand but experience, similar to The Holy Mountain (1973) or The Mirror (1975). This is as far as the comparison between these films goes because they are all vastly different. There is something to be said about experiencing a film, for that is a way to understand a “film”. To better express this point, even if one knows what a film is about one will still go see the film. This is because they want to experience the film on its own terms.
I cannot tell you what this film is about except from the sub-title of the film: A Woman in Trouble. This film goes through familiar territory of Lynch similar to his other films such as: Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Lost Highway (1997). There is re-doubling of scenes and characters, where a character finds his or herself in a moment they already experience but from a different perspective. One may be able to understand this film if one has a firm understand of Mulholland Dr. or Lost Highway. There is a scene in Inland Empire where Laura Dern’s character mentions going up a lot of stairs to get to the small dim office she is now standing in. This reminds me of a similar moment in Franz Kafka’s The Trial (1925). To view the film as absurd in the Kafka sense seems to give the film some clarity, at least for this viewer.
It is hard to say if this film is a master piece or not. At time it feels as if it is, then at other times it feels as if it is not. My biggest complaint is the film is 179 minutes long. I generally have no qualms about the length of a film but for a David Lynch film this 179 minutes can seem much longer. There is also the issue of the film being shot on a professional-consumer camera. At times this helps the look of the film and its atmosphere but other times it hinders the film in making it seem cheesy or cheap.
I would have a hard time recommending this film to others because I do not know many people who would watch it, all the way through. If this would be your first David Lynch film I would recommend something else. If you are already a David Lynch fan I’d say go for it. Inland Empire gives the viewer an unshakable experience. When the film ends the viewer has gone through a tantamount of emotion but lands softly. By the end of the film I did not feel cheated, but satisfied.