film journal: screen culture and David Lynch

Inland Empire (2006)

David Lynch’s film Inland Empire, which I had first viewed in the theater back in 2006, seems to argue for a certain kind of death for film. Utilizing digital video and hundreds of takes captured between Poland and Los Angeles over two years, the “film work” seeks out new possibilities for contemporary screen culture. The “raw” look captures the feel of Dogma 95 films like The Celebration (Thomas Vinterberg 1998), and the horror-esque feel of the Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez 1999) but blends the real and surreal as if this is what video was meant to do (and I’m thinking here of the work of Johan Grimonprez where images of the past range from television commercials and dreams to political newsreel). Lynch blends these aesthetic dimensions together, as he always does, by focalizing “a woman in trouble” (which is the extended title of the film). Any focus on books will deter the viewer from David Lynch’s stylistic mark, which is that images are triggered and captured, always escaping some desire to be read. What we can read, from the front of the DVD set, is that there is “a woman in trouble”. This critique of reading is also a critique on film conventions. In one scene, the troubled Laura Dern phones an alternate fictional dimension where a rabbit-costumed family watches television. In the scene, a traumatic situation is met with an audience laugh track. If one reads the scene according to convention, one moves beyond the film’s dark underside. Lynch aborts convention to disarm reading habits.

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