Inland Empire is the film where David Lynch says goodbye to narrative and sends the viewer dancing down the rabbit-hole of his psyche, (there are actual rabbits) landing us in a grimy hall of mirrors where the half-remembered stars of his dreams clash in the night. Since a dream is like a treadmill, or a stuck record needle, the inhabitants of this world are confined to speaking in an abstract dream-English, made up of a frustratingly small allowance of words and ideas compact enough to fit on the turntable of the unconscious mind. The film's conversations -- over three hours worth -- consist of non-sequiturs, run-on sentences and story fragments. The goings-on are often inscrutable, although sexual content is one of the few consistent clarity boosters. Take one conversation, where a female character played by Laura Dern sits in a darkened interrogation room and recounts an attempted rape. Her story flows forward; the record needle doesn't skip. Other characters speak stiff monotone English, devoid of spark, but her accent and personality, preserved in the memory, are colored in.
That accent is Arkansas white-trash; she bounces the 'f' in 'fuck' off her bottom lip with each usage, as if to preserve its sexual power. Her sentences are declarative and informational, like "I kicked his nuts into his brain." Compare this to another conversation, between two suburban neighbors, where the lack of electricity is palpable and the small-talk full of circular logic; we can see the camera fighting boredom in that scene, pushing in hard on their faces, striving valiantly to maintain focus and stay awake, before the whole thing collapses and is re-absorbed back into the memory pool. This is Inland Empire, for better or worse; a hard and bruising tumble down the neuron branches of an uncompromising painter of moving pictures. Monotony and wheel-spinning are standard in Lynch's world, but if you're so inclined, think of that as the admission price for what comes later: a sharp lightning charge into the center of the director's brain, where the dream neurons flash-pop like the bulb of a table lamp in a cheap hotel room.