Inland Empire and fear of death

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Inland Empire and fear of death

Postby tmurry » Thu Mar 16, 2017 1:17 pm

(spoilers, of course) My basic framework for understanding the complexities of Inland Empire boils down to "actress performs three-level inception to solve the problem of original sin." One of the great things about this origami of a movie is the way you can fold it in different ways and in different shapes and still have it be beautiful, but my default is to start with the actress. She may lead to a glamorous life, but she has the same structural problems as a woman as anyone else and, since she is in a "face" business, perhaps more so in some ways. She has a jealous husband, seems to have some needs unmet, is confined by typical societal structures for women, may have had a miscarriage/abortion that she does not know if she regrets, and has to deal with the possibility that she is losing the thing that gives her a sense of purpose to aging. She begins submerging herself in the role of a woman who has woman problems, then crosses over into that woman's "life" which becomes very real to her and has issues that are the same issues that the actress herself has to work through (she brings herself into the role). As she begins to "wake up" in this world, she realizes the story has a deeper root that she begins to connect with. This leads back to an archetypal showdown in order to free the lost girl who represents all at once her own fettered self, the ghost trapped in the story, and the spirit of all women in the collective unconscious, trapped by the rules and patterns defined by society/civilization.

This has worked for me as an approach, and allows me to have fun sifting through all of the numerous layers of "things that happen." The bottom line is that there is a taint in the universal field that was polluted in the gaining of consciousness/dawning of civilization that created an uneven situation between men and women. Between the discussion of visitor #1 and the sell-you-a-watch deleted scene, I (as a Judeo-Christian, Western thinker) found this (root pattern) easiest to process as a telling of the Garden of Eden story. I have mostly viewed this, prompted by all of the sub themes involved, through the lens of sex and anger necessitated by the concept of ownership. The boy who has to go out and find an opening, a split to an evil version caused by the need for a domestic and commercial face, and the girl who has to transactionalize sex (marriage, prostitution) in order to get to the palace. This works well with much of the film including the focus on time (watch as a symbol of order and slavery to the machine, that old story about patriarchal society taking over for matriarchal society when they learned how to use a calendar), the transactional nature of the watch scene, the inability to find the opening and jealousy being the reasons for the anger and violence, and a close reading of the part of the fall of man story that extends from Adam and Eve being ashamed of their nakedness to Cain and Abel.

I know that was super dense, but the point of this post is not that. I watched Inland Empire the other day with a mormon. He had heard me talk about it previously, so may have been primed as to the Garden of Eden take, but he quickly picked up on that aspect and expanded on it in a direction that I had not heard before. This is to say that apparently LDS teaching on the garden of Eden suggests there may have been more humanoids then Adam and Eve, but everyone was walking around suspended without the idea of death or time's passage. They are like ghosts who don't know whether it's 3:45 or after midnight. In this doctrine, apparently (correct me if I'm wrong), the recognition of mortality or even actual mortality itself comes from the act of eating of the fruit and this is presented as both horrible (Paradise is gone) and the source of all that is good in human life (the ability to have a family and children, which was not possible before). He saw that reflected in the movie with the actress' concern with her age, the presence of the ghosts who are not aware of time, the general dread of impending murder that people live under, and had an alternate take on the Phantom as the more general Angel of death. In this reading, the sexuality takes a backseat to an original fall from grace that has us running from death. In this take, the ending is one of embracing death and a return to timeless eternity, I guess. The focus becomes on peace with this, resolution with the idea of sex and children as part of a tapestry, and explains the presence of the "old looking" Laura Dern on the sofa, in the credit sequence, and in that one Natasha Kinski deleted scene.

Normally, if I happen upon a new interpretation I digest it for a while, and see how it fits in with all the other interpretive strands. But, seeing as I'm posting places right now, I thought I'd throw this out and see if anybody has any kind of opinion on this. Have you ever considered the possible interpretation that inland Empire is basically about our relationship to death and a return to the eternal timelessness of the universal field?
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Re: Inland Empire and fear of death

Postby Metamorphia » Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:30 pm

I think you're right about many things.

The Garden of Eden allegory is actually fairly explicit imo (and if you watch the Lynch One documentary you see him saying about reading the bible while writing IE for inspiration).

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