We all know what happens in INLAND EMPIRE; indeed, we all see the same events. Yet there is little agreement about what those events actually mean. In this section, everyone is invited to submit his or her own interpretation of the movie and answer the question: What does INLAND EMPIRE mean?
One Mind Theory Edit
Submitted by Theespear
I will submit my own considered interpretation and I invite comments from all. I start with the movie's title. "L'impero della mente" is the Italian translation of the title and it literally reads as " Empire of the Mind". For me, Inland Empire is a description of a person's mind. Whose mind? the movie's protagonist. I believe David Lynch has taken the 1st person narrative technique to it's logical conclusion and presented us a story by showing us exactly what is going on in his protagonist's head for the literal three hour for which the movie runs.
I call this approach the "One Mind Theory" because it focuses on the events coming from the point of view of a single confused, saddened, fearful and increasingly unhinged mind. The mind of the Woman in Trouble (WiT). So in Inland Empire we stay ENTIRELY inside this single mind. There is no commentary, no clarification, no explanation, no 3rd person perspective as in the other Lynch movie (such as Mulholland Drive). In Inland Empire we remain entirely INLAND. Because this is so, we never get to know the film's protagonist like we do Lynch's other protagonists like Diane Selwyn in MD for example. We don't know the WiT's name; we don't really know what she looks like, we don't even know what language she speaks or what nationality she is. Why? because since all we SEE are her THOUGHTS, we cannot be sure if those thoughts are" true, correct, or presented or intended to be viewed as literally true.
All the same, from the events we witness going through this WiT's head repeatedly we can surmise some really crucial FACTS about what is bothering her. First, in the movie we see several narratives involving a marriage, adultery and death. The characters change, the place and times change and some details of the affairs change but the basic facts of ADULTERY and DEATH do not. The true beauty of this movie is reviewing the disparate scenes in IE and making them "make sense" within the framework of this WiT's experience.
When you do it correctly, you will understand that the Rabbit Sitcom, is the WiT's attempt to personify her adulterous pregnancy; that the Prostitutes represent the WiT's still present sexual libido; that the barbecue scene represents the fear the WiT felt for her lovers. after she realized she had inadvertently revealed her adultery to her husband by telling him she was pregnant. When you see the 'Empire of the Mind' properly you will recognize Visitor #1 as a little more than a gentle reminder of the WiT's guilt due to killing her own husband " Brutal Focking Murder!" she says. You will also see Visitor #2 as another reminder of her child's death this time" Do you know a man called Krimp?"
If you continue forward, you will realize that there is a cyclical structure to this woman's thinking: After all we start and end Nikki's Story from the same couch after Visitor #1 employs "the magic"After Nikki, we see yet another Dern (The Lady in Blue a ballerina or acrobat) about to start the same way Nikki did. We also know that Nikki's story is VERY similarly to Susan, indeed Nikki's husband appears to have precisely the necessary qualities Susan's lacked: he is rich, powerful, connected, strong willed and most importantly " does not allow his wife ANY freedom to stray. This is ALL so that Nikki will not have the affair that Susan and all the others before her had too.
It is all ONE STORY being churned up over and over and over in this poor woman's head as she struggles with her GUILT. Here is what I make of her TRUE story. Our WiT had an affair, became pregnant even though her husband was infertile. So when she told him she was pregnant ( hoping to cheer him up) she inadvertently revealed her indiscretion to him. He then spied on her, found out about all her lovers and when he confronted her about them one day after work, they fought and she killed him at about 9:45 pm. Later that night ( after midnight) she lost her early pregnancy (perhaps because of a screwdriver wound to her stomach). When the police arrived she claimed self defense and they believed her and let her go.
Because she was NEVER prosecuted for either her child's or husband's death, her conscience has continued to bother her for a decade after these events. She goes over various scenarios, different versions of this story over and over again in her head. This guilt has driven her mad and THIS is the real Trouble she is in now.
So for me this movie is NOT about NIkki or Susan or Lost Girl or Smithy or Piotrek. They are all merely the names the WiT's mind has given to characters in her PAST real life experience as she recalls them. They MAY be the names of the REAL participants or they may be names the WiT is picking up from the TV programs she is constantly watching everyday in her hospital room. Oh, did I forget to tell you, I believe the WiT is currently in a sanatorium of sorts and in a catatonic stupor sitting in front of a TV that us always on? Now where did I get all that from.? That, is the beauty and fun of this movie!
Inland Empire is an examination of the process of GUILT from within the human mind!