Mysteriously Floating across Dark Channels By Sandra Perovic

in 63rd Venice International Film Festival

by Sandra Perovic

The environment of Venice channels recalling shots in Lynch movies was an ideal place for crowning the prince of mystery and darkness. ”If life is odd, why shouldn’t that also be movies?”, these are words of the great film expression innovator through whose lens, four decades ago, surreal scenes with diverse freaks began to be seen vaguely. After Six Figures Getting Sick in 1966, Lynch introduced the alphabet of his film language. The Grandmother and next two movies, The Amputee and Eraserhead (that fully introduced him to international critics and the public) were just a hint of what lies in the head of the then young director, who finally at the end of the summer of 2006, at the 63rd Mostra, received his deserved Golden Lion for life achievement.

“I am not an animal, I am a human being!” is the sentence on which America couldn’t be indifferent when Lynch turned the story about Frederick Travis, The Elephant Man, into a film. An anti-Hollywood director, the father of an authentic way of making movies in the USA, besides paving the way for Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers, also revealed talented, charismatic actors like Kyle MacLachlan in Dune. The style explicitly pointed to the author’s vision of unspoiled people, illustrated by their simplicity. Lynch favourite and former partner in life Isabella Rossellini dazzled in Blue Velvet and contributed to intensifying the impression in film by one of the directors who influenced most the contemporary movie imagination. A cut ear was just the beginning of a mystery hidden in velvet voices and red draperies covered with smoke. That is how motifs that are still present in Lynch movies were created. In that bizarre story the character of director’s weakness could be vaguely seen – Laura Dern who besides other superb performances like Wild at Heart contributed to that great magician’s work that won The Golden Palm at the Cannes Festival in 1990.

At that time, one of the most innovative directors who influenced the modern imagination turned to TV production. He began with American Chronicles, and a year later devoted time to the anthological piece in his career, Twin Peaks. It is the story of agent Dave Cooper and local female high school students who are submerged into the secrets of the human mind. It revealed to us the extent to which Lynch had gone into the Tibet philosophy. At that time it was finally clear that, in the phase of film creation, Lynch gives himself up to his subconscious, not through accidental dreams creation, but through the technique that he had been learning from Tibetan wise men for years.

In his next movies he also opened the door of another room, The Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, and proved that through experiences gained through meditation, he wanted to present them to us through the most simple language and pictures. At the same time, he himself occasionally had problems to overcome real and filmic nightmares. That is the case with his new movie Inland Empire, which had a world first performance at 63rd Mostra, in the out-competition program. Darkness, sound, silence, mysterious beauty that is sometimes transformed into horror – all these are common elements that can be recognised in his newest piece. It could be defined in the shortest way: The Greatest Hits of David Lynch.

Old friend, Laura Dern, the main actress and co-producer of the movie and British gentleman Jeremy Irons, through the inspirational representation of their characters – actress and a film director – help us to find out on which horizons of consciousness David Lynch is currently floating. The main focus of the Inland Empire story (the name of an L.A. Suburb, between San Bernardino and Riverside, where numerous Hollywood studios are located) is again a female character. It is a story about a mystery inside parallel worlds that decipher woman – in trouble and in love. In a well-known form of Movie within the Movie, it mixes in a confused way and replaces interior space characters and events. Lynch, in a more explicit and brutal way than ever before, takes us behind the curtain, stimulating us to reveal a new world – dark, mysterious, rationally hard to describe and with exhausting visions (the movie lasts 137 minutes). Lynch himself admits that there was no fixed screenplay, since every day new ideas were born. Within them, Laura Dern followed Lynch to the tiniest details. Bearing in mind the action, the multi-layered-ness of the movie and the chronology of events in it, it is more than obvious that Inland Empire wasn’t created in continuity (it was shot over a two and half year period).

On the foundation in which he introduced to us the main female character – an actress who is supposed to act in a movie that reveals her life and experience – Lynch builds up a slightly confusing other idea in which the real and surreal interweave. The sensuality of certain scenes is opposed to the chaotic and violent environment in which they occur, and then he turned our thoughts and memories on a third thing, while on the screen the fourth was going on. It sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Story, dream and abstraction are the foundation of this odd labyrinth in which the viewer has to find his way out, not making it visible that he has to overcome and realise that. For the pictures and spectacles here are mixed, compared and annulled, which is so typical of Lynch. Much in this film, whose different understanding and interpretation is allowed like variation on the theme, cannot be explained (for instance, the theatre scene with rabbits in a chamber environment). Lynch himself honestly says that even he is not capable of explaining everything he portrayed in the movie. Neither viewer nor critic can say for sure what exactly the author wants to say.

However, if we speak about the visual impression of Inland Empire, it is certain that by using digital technique and big grain, the authentic, specific Lynch expression was achieved. Electronics helped him to experiment with picture and sound; that along with music, play the dominant role in the movie, decipher riddles, compensate words and initiate from time to time the flow of emotions that true lovers of Lynch’s moving pictures depend on. Inland Empire is the product of an inflaming vision and imagination and is among those movies after which some people will wonder if everything is all right with the director and become worried about his mental health, while others, passionate and true lovers of the stature and work of a great author will state that this is another masterpiece. It all depends on whether you like Lynch or not, whether you can assimilate another mysterious, disturbing and intellectual journey. This movie is probably the best example in what way art, that is film, approaches the problem of the surreal world, showing that many codes in reading out the level of real cannot be automatically applied in this space. However, to have the strength to enter that space at the same time means to decipher codes of the real.