The David Lynch Challenge: Decoding Inland Empire (Part 2)
Episode Two: Decoding Inland Empire (Part 2)
If you have not read the first part of this post, read it by clicking here. If you haven’t seen David Lynch’s terrific film Inland Empire, watch it NOW before reading ahead, and remember to keep an open mind. A very open mind. If, after watching it, you have questions, hopefully I can put together something resembling an answer.
Many of you, after seeing this film, may be asking… what’s with the rabbits? They pose the most stumping question of them all, perhaps, and hopefully I can shed some light on the issue. The scenes with the rabbits are directly taken out of a 45-minute short film Lynch directed in 2002, aptly named Rabbits. It consists of these rabbits, sitting around and occasionally moving, saying disconnected phrases in a completely random order. It’s like we’re hearing parts of a conversation, except all the lines are mixed and jumbled up, like an anagram. It’s a puzzling and perplexing feature, but an interesting and thought-provoking one as well. So why has Lynch put these short clips in his feature film? It’s my understanding that he’s reinforcing an important statement about the film that is touched upon many times: that there really is no timeline, and that time itself cannot be trusted. The rabbits are in a type of purgatory, from which they cannot escape, and time for them is running short. They are unaware of their situation, but can sense that something is very wrong. This is similar to the way Inland Empire makes the viewer feel, and that important non-linear storyline is just being reminded to us by using these rabbits. It helps if you watch Lynch’s short film, which was originally released as a short series of episodes. You can watch Rabbits on Google Video by clicking here. Warning: If you’re going to watch it, do not skip ahead. Please. It’s important to sit down and listen very carefully to everything that’s being said. This is a test of both your attention span and your memory span.
Anyway, back to IE. Another enigmatic detail which recurringly pops up throughout the film is the appearance of the letters “AXXON N” on a wall, with an arrow pointing through a doorway:
If you were a Lynch fan in 2002 (which I, surprisingly was not. Well… I was fifteen.), you may have known that he was going to release a short series on his website called Axxon N. It never got released, as Lynch was busy developing the basic plotline into Inland Empire. Anyway… at the beginning of the movie, a record is seen playing. The voiceover says it is playing “Axxon N,” the longest running radio play in history. Then we cut to a blurred scene of a man summoning a prostitute to his room. This prostitute is the Lost Girl, who we see at various times throughout the film watching the movie’s entire events in the hotel room on a TV. She seems to be new at the prostitution game, and is perhaps a much younger, more naive and inexperienced version of the now Hellish, world-weary Susan Blue. Back to Axxon N… The explanation, once thought about, appears to be fairly simple. Axxon N marks a doorway to a different place… a different TIME, perhaps even a different parallel universe. It reflects what the old Polish lady said to Nikki near the beginning of the film… remember. “A boy passed through a doorway and evil was born. A girl passed through an alley to a “palace,” and yadda yadda.” This is a reflection of that. The entire film from Nikki’s first appearance seems to be relatively chronological until we see AXXON N on a wall as Nikki/Sue is walking to her car with groceries. Nikki (or Sue) also tells us that when she saw this “writing” on the wall, she remembered something. Axxon N seems to be almost definitely a gateway, a deux ex machina (did I use that right?) that is extremely dangerous if tampered with. Axxon N also reappears much later on through the movie as the name of a nightclub that Susan (or Nikki???) enters to go to see the Man with Glasses — a police detective — and tell her ‘monologue.’
Now… the film’s tagline is “A Woman In Trouble.” What is the trouble? It could be various things, but one that keeps coming to mind is the unresolved issue of the Phantom. He seems to be a “hypnotist,” and a very dangerous person. In the monologue, Nikki/Sue tells of Billy, her lover with whom she is cheating on her husband and to whom she falls pregnant. She mentions he is good with animals (so, too, seem to be various characters, including Harry Dean Stanton’s Freddie) and acquired a job at a Polish circus from his skill. Nikki talks of a man at the circus, called The Phantom, who could easily trick people and disappear quickly. He is a hypnotist, as I mentioned, and he is out to get Nikki/Sue. He hypnotises a woman, “Billy’s” wife, to stab Nikki with a screwdriver and kill her, but this only kills her “character,” Susan. The real Nikki is still alive and at the end of the movie goes to get revenge on the phantom by shooting him, before passing through a door marked “47” (the name of the unfinished Polish production) and finding the Lost Girl in her hotel room, freeing her, and herself.
So there. That’s much of the movie explained, but certainly not all of it. The rest, including some of the Polish scenes which I’m just now beginning to grasp, shall be left to your imaginations, which are stronger than any singular man’s opinion. Hopefully this was of some benefit to you however, and hopefully it will prompt you to re-watch this fantastic, misunderstood movie.
So… what did you think of my opinion? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on May 10, 2011, in Filmmakers, Movie Reviews, Movies and tagged Confusing Movies, David Lynch, Decoding Inland Empire, INLAND EMPIRE, Laura Dern, movies, Non-Linear Storyline, The David Lynch Challenge, Understanding Inland Empire. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.