In art, to a master, nothing in anyway portrayed is insignificant to his work, nor to producer/director, sometimes screenwriter, David Lynch, even to his body of work. For the connection of a number of movies have come to represent more than trend, more than outlook. There are interpretive connections. This may be behind the gifted actress’s, Laura Dern’s defense of him at the Venice Film Festival over Inland Empire. Denying a need for Lynch to explicate the film she asserted, “I think he believes – which I’ve found very rare in filmmakers – in the intelligence of the audience, that they’re intelligent enough to discover the film and what it means within themselves.” “what it means within themselves”, perhaps a reflection on the very title itself.
If we take that nothing is insignificant that is portrayed in this film, it becomes very difficult to write a review without giving too much away, thereby defeating the purpose of a review. While this reviewer would love nothing better to do than to write a twenty page explicaion de text of it, that would rob potential viewers of establishing their own coming to terms with the movie and, as intimated by Dern, “to discover the film and what it means within themselves”.
It is recommended this not be the first of Lynch’s movies you see, that you see a couple, at least, of his earlier films. By doing so you will discover devices he uses, has even pioneered, to enhance effect and to imply, sometimes, meanings extending beyond the immediate storyline.
The sinister introduction, almost as if in Greek drama, is heralded in the personage of a neighbor’s visit, a role graced by the accomplished Grace Zabriskie. Her prescience to see into an otherwise dubious future unsettles the glamorous actress, Nikki Grace, played by Laura Dern. With a very convincing Polish accent this supposed neighbor outstays her welcome long enough to detail some quite compelling details the viewer will see coming true as the story line develops but that will primarily be helpful in helping discern the acting of Nikki, as she satisfies her role in a salvaged movie production and the actual storyline continuing beyond.
Beginning with the prediction that this movie part, one she was in anticipation of getting, had been given her, this prescience further rings chillingly true when it is learned that the script for this movie is from a salvaged Polish one, one in which the two leads were killed while in production.
Jeremy Irons has the role of director, although contributing slightly to the storyline unfolding. Again, little is more, so the focus becomes more and more dominant on Nikki Grace and the multi-dimensional interplay between her, her role, and a set dynamic gradually assuming its own life. Woven into it all is the phantom character played by Krsysztof Majchrzak, played as a focal point for evil similar to how Lynch develops the role of Bob in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. However in this case we have an evil personna whose “mind fucks” produce hypnotically controlled assassins and administer to an extra-reality of presumed captive souls, the residue perhaps of some admixture of former Soviet secret police with Polish folk superstition coloring. David Lynch hasn’t far to go to find aberrant origins for putting the bizarre into life, the bizarre most don’t want to enter into bedtime. Lynch however, will employ this vehicle as one for delivering a social consciousness in a way not yet passe’.
The viewer must presuppose two sets of fictional roles upon entering the story, not falling back into a complication of which is playing at the time. Added to this comes the extra-real perception extending from one role to the other. Susan Blue, Nikki’s role in the salvaged production ascends flights of stairs to share concerns with a removed third party, much like a Catholic might seek a confessor. This happens while in the production and then without it. But the consciousness of both Susan and Nikki, express in both. Just as the overlap between her role with her leading man and the perception of it becoming realized outside the production find expression in a confrontation that might be taken the same way and leading, perhaps, to the same doomed result experienced when the first attempts at production ominously failed.
There are forces aligned towards tragedy and forces aligned to prevent the haunting cycle upon which all phantoms feed.
Then there is a focal point for a most complex action core in the roles Laura Dern serves so magnificently it is almost a fault, this is if you might wish to sleep soon after this movie’s end.
Intelligent Quotient, not age should be the gradient used to determine suitable viewers unless you’re under sixteen, even if precocious. Slight nudity, graphic language throughout, intellectual intensity that dummies will find unforgivable. If you had problems with Lost Highway leave this one alone. After all even most find the expression of genius offensive until assured its not meant that way. Forgiveness comes in about ten years or after the death of the genius. Yes, Mr. Lynch, I’m referring to you. Just don’t expect me to sit through Eraserhead for you.