Against many interpretations, I hold that Lynch’s brilliant Inland Empire is a statement about the possibility of hope. This is at a purely philosophic level a retreatment of the way we speak of time but holds a personal spiritual element of how one faces life.

The ‘time’ that I feel Lynch forwards here is not about sequence of events calculable, measurable, and linear but wholly spawned through the relations of conscious beings and the self-conquering of those beings’ ego illusions.

The film begins with Future watching the parade of Samsara’s cycle of suffering. The illusion is that ‘time’ is changing, but from the view of anticipating newness and true freedom unlocked from ego, the human experience and history is a sham of repeated failures and cycles of violence and corruption.

We are told in a number of ways, with one prophetic character stating as much clearly that the film is ‘about time’. It is a tale of one hero’s journey (Dern) through pasts, total commitment to the present through her art, and finally through her renunciation of the cycle of ego she releases an opportunity for change–a true future.

I see Dern as awakening to the reality that everyone is synonymous with another in terms of their imprisonment in Samsara. A key moment may be when on the sound stage with her director (Irons) and fellow actor (Theroux) they learn that their project ‘has been done before’ and ‘ended in murder’. It this transitional moment that our Hero later returns to and revisits.

In a promotional interview for the film Dern states that she may be playing ‘three characters’ or ‘all of them’ and hints at a support for this interpretation.

Another key element is the green watch. Here we have the time message repeated with the color green perhaps standing in one of its mythic meanings corresponding to the Green Knight of medieval literature. In one story, Gawain takes on the Green Knight’s challenge to kill him, with the warning that if he does not succeed the Knight will have a free swipe at Gawain with an axe before New Year’s. Well, Gawain of course can’t kill the Knight and when the tables are turned as the deal prescribed, Gawain gives his neck freely only to be released.

So too does our Hero give all to her art (in this case acting) despite all costs and in the face of immanent mortality only to be released into newness.

Another key is a moment in the Rabbitsverse where we see again the livingroom of the rabbits and one dressed in a gown brings in two candles. I take this to be an allusion to Shabbos, a ‘suspension’ of time, a transformation or divine time for even in the next scene we see the Hero meeting for the first time with God.

This God figure may seem irreverent in its silence and seeming lack of care or attention to the plight presented by the Hero. God stands mute to her, speaking only over the phone as if within the Heavenly Council or among God’s angelic host. However, it is this ‘Mute God’ that eventually leads the Hero towards her culmination, her great triumph. This occurs in the movie theatre scene where she follows God’s beckoning up a staircase to meet The Phantom/Ego.

The Phantom/Ego has been a mysterious figure up until this final moment, also wearing Green and leering in shadows. The Hero ‘kills’ The Phantom/Ego and is allowed to face the burgeoning/anticipating Future. The woman the film opens with, Future, embraces The Hero and the Hero Past/Present/Ego dissipates and unlocks what unfolds next: A mythic ‘reunion’ where Future embraces an idealized family (using heteronormative and nuclear family structure which are mythic tropes that shouldn’t be taken to be prescriptive for a Hero) and we then see a celebration/curtain call/Apocalyptic Age Turning through the credits where everyone has stepped back and seen the ephemeral and illusory nature of existence (soundtrack is Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”).

Of course there are huge statements about the exploitation of and violence against women especially through a critical eye on class, but Lynch keeps the journey open enough so that many forms of violence and social injustices are within purview including race.

As a whole, the film is beautiful, touching, challenging, and ultimately requires a personal investment and invites to a personal transformation. It is a spiritual film speaking in the language of myth and archetypes that gently nudges its viewers to give capriciously, generously, and without fear to their art while removing themselves from ego. A transcendent and enduring film of great detail and nuance, it evoked from me a trancelike state through much of it that, like the best of spiritual literature, was singly horrific and divine.

Advertisements