The Phantom (Krzysztof Majchrzak) is the primary villain of the film. He has supernatural powers, which include the ability to exercise mind control over people. Of Polish origin and unknown age, he is apparently bitter over an affair his wife had long ago, and he uses his powers to force others to recreate the scenario, while holding his former wife prisoner. He is also known as Crimp.
Things That Happened Edit
The Phantom (or the man who would become him) lived in Poland in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. He was an angry man, and was physically and verbally abusive toward his wife, beating her brutally on at least one occasion.
He may have used his powers to cause his wife's lover's wife to murder his wife's lover. He learns of the killing quickly, and takes pleasure in it. Shortly after the killing takes place, he runs into his wife on the street. He tells her, “I think you don’t recognize me…my manner.” She responds, “That’s true. You seem different.” He says that she seems different, too—he’s used to seeing her in their home, not on the street, at night. He then tells her there has been a murder, and he thinks she knew the person. He don’t know the name, but he has seen her with this person. She is upset. Though unspoken, it seems clear that they both know her lover has been killed.
The Mansion Edit
The Phantom speaks to Janek in a mansion room which seems to exist on an unearthly plane (the beginning and the end of the meeting are signaled by Jack, and both men seem to materialize in the empty room of nowhere and then disappear). They speak in Polish; the Phantom seems very agitated. Janek asks if the Phantom is "looking to go in," and the Phantom agrees: he is looking for "an opening." Janek says he understands, and the Phantom repeatedly yells that he is glad Janek understands, while Janek fades away in a blur.
Sue's World Edit
The Phantom covertly observes "Sue" and Billy having sex for the first time in Sue's house. Nikki is already partially trapped in the world of the film, but still knows that she is Nikki and thinks she is on a film set.
The Phantom toured with Cyrk Zalewski, a traveling circus in the Baltic region which also employed Smithy. The Phantom's job was to work the crowd up and bring them in closer, doing "some sorta thing on people," according to Sue. In this persona, he was a marine from North Carolina. He had a sister with one leg. One night he got in a bar fight, and while the entire bar (including much of the circus troupe) was arrested, the Phantom disappeared entirely, escaping arrest.
Smithy and Janek try to hunt the Phantom in Poland, going to a trailer park in the woods where they expect to find him. They find Gordy, who angrily tells them that he is gone, and that he "talked, mumbled something about Inland Empire."
At some point after Smithy left, the Phantom lived next door to Sue under the name "Crimp." He may have had other family members, as Sue says, "They was called Crimp." Having never met the Phantom, Sue seems to be unaware that he and Crimp are the same man. The Second Visitor, after telling Sue she came about an unpaid bill, asks if she knows Crimp. Sue walks into Crimp's backyard. He emerges from behind a tress with a lightbulb in his mouth and advances on Sue ominously. The lightbulb gives Sue a flash of her red lamp. She grabs a nearby screwdriver and runs away. He stops advancing and observes her retreat with his hands in his pockets, seemingly amused. As soon as Sue is gone, he disappears.
After dying as Sue, Nikki enters a supernatural space upstairs from a movie theater. The Phantom stalks behind her. Sue finds a gun stashed in a drawer with Smithy's green coat. In a hallway, outside of Room 47, the Phantom confronts Nikki, and she shoots him multiple times. At first, he seems only to smile, although his face is bathed in a white spotlight and he stops moving. He then suddenly has a deformed version of Sue’s face, looking insane, on the inflated surface of his head. Then he has a strange deformed sick-looking clown face, with black eyes and blood pouring out of the red mouth. Some bubbles flow up out of the mouth.
More Things That Happened (Deleted Scenes) Edit
At an unknown location, seemingly in modern day and during a party, the Phantom sits on a cushion on the floor of a lavish house below a painting of a naked woman reaching up toward heaven; at the top, an angel’s wings and his arm, holding a sword, reach down. The Phantom stares at a girl, who sees him and walks away in fear. Some version of the Lost Girl approaches the Phantom and sits down. She claims not to speak Polish, so he switches to English. He asks if she wants to buy a watch, and opens his coat, displaying several. The Lost Girl has heard about them: they are magic and bring good luck. “They tell time,” responds the Phantom. “What more do you want from watch?” He says they only bring good luck if you give something. He tells her to give him $25, and to hold his hand for two seconds. She is uneasy. He promises her good luck, and that he will “look over” her. “Don’t you understand?” he asks. She says that things aren’t going so good for her, and she needs some luck, but he is creeping her out. He says that what she heard made her curious, and now she has come to him. There have been many others. She says he scares her, and she thinks she won’t buy the watch. “It’s your decision,” he says. She asks what happened to the others who bought the watches. He says they have what they wanted. She takes money out of her shoe and hands it to him. He holds out a watch—and holds her hand, with the watch and the money inside. He strokes her hand. Above is the painting: the woman’s bloody feet are on a cliff side, with a devilish arm gripping the cliff, seemingly climbing out of Hell.
The voice of the Phantom taunts Nikki while she is on the phone with Devon. She wears sunglasses inside, and seems incredibly out of it, lying on the floor next to her bed. Although he speaks in Polish, she seems to understand him. "You don’t remember?" he asks. Nikki asks where he is. "Do you understand?" he asks. Nikki insists that she didn't kill anybody. "But are you sure?" asks the Phantom. "Tell me everything." Nikki says, "I’ve never been there. I don’t know where that is." The Phantom responds, "Phantom: Isn’t it so, right?" The Phantom says, "It glows within me. Like gold." Nikki brings up “last night ” to Devon, and the Phantom says, "It could have destroyed a dream, right?" Sue says that she isn't going to listen to him if he doesn't show her where he is.
Immediately following this scene, Sue tells Mr. K, "That guy…he’s been comin’ round. It’s like it was. You know what. Sellin’ watches again."
- Although the character is credited as "Phantom," he is only referred to by this name at one point in the film: Sue knows him by this moniker from his circus act.
- The Mansion scene was one of the earliest scenes in the Poland shoot. David Lynch had conceived the séance scene , the first scene in the Poland shoot, and was looking for a location to shoot it. As seen in the Lynch 2 documentary, the Camerimage crew showed Lynch the location for the séance scene, which had the "Mansion" room right next door. Lynch liked the séance room, but was incredibly impressed by the "Mansion" room next door, saying that he had to go home and write for that room.
- When Krzysztof Majchrzak arrived to shoot the "Crimp" scene, he wore a pair of glasses that Lynch hated. Majchrzak insisted that he needed a prop. Lynch went to his cupboard and found a little piece of broken tile, a rock and a red translucent lightbulb. He gave Majchrzak his choice between the three items, and Majchrzak chose the bulb. Lynch then took away the other two: "I wasn't going to let him have those anymore." (Source: Catching the Big Fish, David Lynch, 2006, Penguin Group, p. 140-41.) Interestingly, an on-set photo from Lynch's 1986 film Blue Velvet shows Dennis Hopper (who played that film's villain Frank Booth) with a lightbulb in his mouth.
Abusive Husband Theory Edit
Submitted by Mr. Reindeer
INLAND EMPIRE is primarily a story about domestic abuse, as evidenced by its tagline, "A Woman in Trouble." The Phantom, as the film's primary antagonist, is the ultimate manifestation of the abuser. An abuser often guilts and shames his mate, making her feel like any problems in the relationship are her fault, and that she deserves his verbal and physical abuse due to some sin/transgression. Similarly, the Phantom brutally beats the Lost Girl, but when she seeks love elsewhere, he torments her by orchestrating her lover's murder, then trapping her in limbo (presented as a hotel room), powerless and forced to watch the "consequences" of her "sin" play out over and over.
Furthermore, abusers are expert at convincing friends, family, and others in their circle that the abused is the one at fault. In Lynch's world, the abuser is endowed with supernatural powers, so he is literally able to force his outlook upon the entire world through the curse. In his worldview, the Lost Girl's infidelity was the catalyst that set off a series of tragic acts, and he seeks to tear down women like Nikki/Sue by showing that all women are unfaithful.