No director has ever worked closer to his unconscious than David Lynch and, facilitated by the use of amateur digital-video technology, his three-hour Inland Empire takes this blandly enigmatic filmmaker as far inland has he has ever gone. Inland Empire is as personal as a diary film; it’s all but free-associated and the sense of present-ness is contagious. Lynch shot scene-to-scene without a script, beyond a 14-page monologue for Laura Dern (recorded in a single 70-minute take and interspersed throughout the finished film), off and on for three years before enlisting French television to underwrite the completed work.
It’s an understatement to call Inland Empire Lynch's most experimental film in the nearly 30 years since he completed Eraserhead. Cheap DV has opened the artist’s mental floodgates. Inland Empire is suffused with dread of . . . what? Sex, in Lynch, is a priori nightmarish. But there's a sense here that film itself is evil. Movies are all about editing and acting, which is to say, visual lies and verbal ones, and Inland Empire insures the that viewer is cognizant of both. Lynch's notion of pure cinema is a matter of tawdry scenarios and disconcerting tonal shifts. Everything in Inland Empire is uncanny, unmoored, and out of joint. The major special effect is the creepy merging of spaces or times. The heroine’s persistent doubling and Lynch's continuous use of “creative geography” reinforce the sense that he assimilated Maya Deren's venerable avant-noir Meshes of the Afternoon at an impressionable age. And like Meshes, Inland Empire has no logic apart from its movie-ness. – J. Hoberman
Perhaps most renowned for penning intelligent Village Voice film reviews for over thirty years, J. Hoberman seems a ubiquitous presence in contemporary film criticism and history. He has taught cinema history at the Cooper Union in New York City for over two decades, acted as guest programmer and curator in museums and theaters throughout the country, and his articles appear regularly in Artforum, Film Comment, the London Review of Books, the Nation, and the New York Times. He has been involved in the writing and editing of a dozen books, including his latest Film After Film: Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema? (Verso, 2011). The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome back J. Hoberman to discuss his recent volume with one of the key films discussed within it, David Lynch’s Inland Empire. A book signing will follow the screening and conversation.