Time plays a key role in Inland Empire, as well as Rabbits.
Jane asks, "What time is it?" The studio audience laughs uproariously.
The First Visitor, pontificating on her forgetfulness, says, "I suppose if it was 9:45, I’d think it was after midnight."
After walking out on a fight with his wife, the Lost Girl's lover waits for her on the street. She misses their rendezvous, because her husband is brutally beating her. A man asks him what time it is, and he answers, "9:45."
When the circus men show up at Smithy's backyard party, one of them says, "It's 3:00."
After Smithy takes the Phantom-killing gun, one of the Polish men yells, "Right away! It's after midnight!"
Jane says, "It had something to do with the telling of time."
Street Person #1 asks what time it is. Street Person #2 says she does not know, but says, "It's after midnight."
When Nikki enters Sue's house and finds the Phantom-killing gun, the clock reads 12:09. When she exits, it is 12:13.
Watches are a recurring motif in the film, and moreso in the deleted scenes.
The Lost Girl tells Sue that if she wants to "see," she needs to be wearing "the watch," and to burn a hole in silk with a cigarette, then to fold the silk over and look through the hole. Sue later performs this exercise, allowing her to see into the past. The watch is stopped at 10:09, but when Sue looks through the hole in the silk, the hands start to fly.
The Second Visitor wears a watch which is identical to Sue's. It reads 9:52, even though Sue's wall clock shows that it is 2:34.
More Things That Happened (Deleted Scenes) Edit
When Smithy is planning to go out one night, Sue tells him, "It's 11:30."
The Phantom, seemingly in modern day at a party, offers to sell the Lost Girl a watch. The Lost Girl has heard that they bring good luck; he tells her they do if she gives something. He sells her one for $25, and tells her she has to hold his hand to get good luck.
Sue tells Mr. K, "That guy…he’s been comin’ round. It’s like it was. You know what. Sellin’ watches again."
Sue says she likes to eat ice cream around 10:30 or 11pm.
Sue says that she was forty-one in 1960, and she is freaked out because she lost a bunch of years.
The Darkened Room Edit
In The Darkened Room, a short which inspired several elements of INLAND EMPIRE, a girl yells at a crying girl who is seemingly imprisoned in a room, similar to the Lost Girl. The other girl berates the crying girl for buying a watch. She says, "Those watches weren’t even working watches." She says the crying girl bought the watch out of "some horseshit paranoia crap about how it’s gonna do this or that. Now look at you. You’re wrong."
The phrase "after midnight" seems to symbolize death, or being dangerously close to being too late for something.