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The Quick Explanation
While the non-linear structure of Inland Empire may seem intimidating when compared with traditional movie storylines, the narrative thrust of the film was summed up by David Lynch with four simple words: “A woman in trouble.” The attempt to connect every narrative thread in Inland Empire would prove fruitless as Lynch didn’t even assemble a master script that tied all these events together—he crafted the film over the course of several months as ideas came to him. “There are very specific ideas,” Lynch said in an interview with Richard A Barney, “…and a job to do to translate those ideas, to be true to those ideas.” Inland Empire is an amalgamation of characters that represent these ideas—these themes, these fears and anxieties, these desires, this existential dread. Sure, the spatiotemporal space of the film is random and scattershot and non-linear. But the ideas are consistent across all the situations that plague the characters played by Dern. And like any classic story, there is indeed emotional catharsis at the end for her.
If there is a coherent story in Inland Empire, it lies with Nikki, who is hired for a film and then loses herself in the character. Nikki is an aging actress looking for a comeback, and her latest film, On High in Blue Tomorrow, could be her ticket. But before she gets the job, Visitor #1 shows up at Nikki’s home and says some strange things. Visitor #1 envisions a murder will take place in the film, which causes Nikki to have a vision where she secures the lead role. From that moment forward, the rest of the film is a symbolic display of Nikki’s chaotic mindset upon accepting this role. Her goal is to finish a movie that is a remake of a movie that was never finished called 47. By completing this movie, she can free the “Lost Girl,” who is trapped in the movie that was never completed.
This serves as commentary on acting in general, as the art requires an actress to tap into the deepest recesses of her mind to inhabit a character. This would unavoidably force the actress to dig up some buried, unwanted memories that are essential to realizing the character. The entire movie is then Nikki’s journey to come out the other side of this character her original self—or perhaps, thanks to this arduous cinematic journey, a much more realized and assured version of herself. When the movie is complete, she and the Lost Girl can embrace and laugh and sing and dance. Emotional catharsis.
- Laura Dern – Nikki Grace / Sue Blue
- Jeremy Irons – Kingsley Stewart
- Justin Theroux – Devon Berk / Billy Side
- Harry Dean Stanton – Freddie Howard
- Julia Ormond – Doris Side
- Diane Ladd – Marilyn Levens
- Peter J. Lucas – Piotrek Krol / Smithy
- Grace Zabriskie – Visitor #1
- Mary Steenburgen – Visitor #2
- Karolina Gruszka – Lost Girl
- Krzysztof Majchrzak – Phantom
- Ian Abercrombie – Henry, The Butler
- Nae – Street Woman
- Terry Crews – Street Man
- David Lynch – Writer and director
What does the title Inland Empire signify? How does it relate to the movie’s intentions and storyline?
Themes and Meaning
Discover themes that help us define Inland Empire’s commentary, message, and meaning.
Confused by the ending of Inland Empire? Our comprehensive explanation will clear up any lingering questions.
Delve into the important motifs that highlight the most critical moments of symbolism in Inland Empire. Coming Soon.
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Questions and Answers
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