The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Caden Sierra
Caden Sierra
Sports Writer

Hey. My name is Caden and I'm from the Chicagoland area.  I'm currently going into my 3rd year at NMU.  I'm a multimedia production major with a double minor in journalism and criminal justice. For as...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

Lynch’s tangled plot works well

“Inland Empire” is every bit as funny, terrifying, confusing and beautiful as a great David Lynch film should be. The film, now out on DVD, is Lynch’s follow-up to his 2001 masterpiece “Mulholland Drive,” and he somehow manages to take schizophrenic pacing and direction to a whole new level.

The plot itself is convoluted at best, and totally indecipherable at worst. The film’s tagline — “a woman in trouble” — is about all the viewer really knows for sure. “Empire” continuously switches genre, from comedy to murder mystery to art house impressionism, but there is always a dark sense of foreboding that adds a real terror to the movie. The film opens with a disturbing Polish folk tale about evil: A boy passes through his door, causes a reflection and evil is born. Evil follows the boy.

Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”) gives a fantastic performance as Nikki and Sue (it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the others begin), and Lynch campaigned for an Oscar nomination on her behalf.

The other characters pass by without much effect, and they exist only as a backdrop for Nikki’s (Sue’s?) descent into darkness. Throughout the movie Lynch cuts to scenes of three people in rabbit suits, complete with nonsense dialogue and inexplicably a canned laugh track.

Story continues below advertisement

The narrative is pretty straightforward for the first 45 minutes or so, centered around the production of a cursed movie, “On High in Blue Tomorrows.” But things break down quickly, and the last two hours are as confusing as anything Lynch has ever done. The onslaught of sound and image makes “Mulholland Drive” look tame by comparison, and the movie becomes genuinely frightening.

Like Alfred Hitchcock, Lynch understands that there are plenty of things scarier than onscreen violence, and he instead relies on dark rooms, an unnerving soundtrack and his non-linear story to create fear in the viewer. The incoherent story actually works to his advantage, because watching it gives the impression that literally anything can come next.

One of the movie’s scariest moments doesn’t use violence, special effects or even dialogue. Instead it shocks the viewer with an actress on an empty stage; it’s an impressive feat. By this point Lynch has abandoned any jokes that lightened the mood in the first part of the movie, and the last two hours take place in almost total darkness.

Unfortunately, Lynch is again plagued by a story that is far too confusing for anyone to understand. Complex, multilayered stories are well and good, but when Laura Dern finished the movie (and she was in nearly every scene), she said she had no idea what it was about.

Co-star Justin Theroux (“Mulholland Drive”) said he “couldn’t possibly tell you what the film’s about, and at this point I don’t know that David Lynch could.”

When even the people making a movie can’t explain the plot, that’s a problem. And yet it is a testament to Lynch’s sense of image and direction that the movie is powerful in spite of being totally bewildering.

There is enough substance to make out the bare elements of a story, but it feels like the narrative Lynch had in mind is much richer than what the average viewer will be able to take away from it.

David Lynch has always made difficult films, but “Inland Empire” plays out like nothing short of a living hallucinatory nightmare. While it would be nice to have a story to follow, Lynch’s manipulation of mood and atmosphere is truly stunning. “Inland Empire” isn’t for everyone, and at three hours long it’s a pretty major commitment.

But whether the movie inspires adoration or derision, it will be hard to walk away unaffected. And if you’re into impressionism, you might just come away with a new favorite director.

More to Discover