Inland Empire (2006)

Watching the documentary, LYNCH (one), that’s included on Criterion’s gorgeous release of David Lynch’s Inland Empire, we hear Lynch himself say that this film is “an experiment.” BUT he also makes it very clear a couple of times that it is NOT an experimental film, though many viewers would probably still classify it as such. Call it what you will, but when comparing it to Lynch’s other beloved films there is no doubt that it is, in fact, an experiment for the auteur (and that is in no way a bad thing).

"it is a journey into the subconscious mind…or perhaps it is something else"

Inland Empire is definitely Lynch’s most abstract work but also his most ambitious. The non-linear storylines, Laura Dern’s compelling and maddening double persona, some musical numbers (yes, you read that correctly), the cryptic language of some rather unnerving human-like rabbits in a portrait of domestication, and of course the moodiness of a Lynchian atmosphere that we all know and love. And ON TOP of all that, it is all shot on a low-quality DV camera that almost anyone in the late 90’s and early 2000’s could have had. The simplicity of the technology is quite fantastically exploited while also having a captivating lead actress that is able to totally embody a woman spiraling into madness (even if Dern herself didn’t exactly know what the film was about like the rest of us). And somehow in the chaos of it all, Inland Empire has a hypnotic quality that reels you, and by the end, you find your own meaning within the wholly unique experience.

Dern starts off as an actress, Nikki Grace, who gets the lead role in the film On High in Blue Tomorrows. She’s simple, good-natured, and enthusiastic. But as time goes on, she turns into something else. It is revealed that the film Nikki Grace stars in isn’t an original script like she was told, but it is actually a remake of another film. Turns out, when they were originally making the film in a different country, the two leads were killed. After that, there was a superstition that the story was a cursed one, but they go on filming this new version anyway. This is the only real, concrete storyline you can for sure gather from this film.Inland Empire (2006)

After all of that is revealed, the rest of the picture feels something like a sublime nightmare. Dern takes on a new persona of Sue Blue, but we cannot really distinguish between when she’s Sue and when she’s Nikki. Reality becomes distorted. We, like Nikki/Sue, don’t know where/who/when she is. Are we just witnessing her corrupted memory in non-linear fragments? Who are all of these seedy people she encounters? What do the rabbits mean???

Yes, you will be left with more questions than answers. And yes, you will also be in complete awe of Dern’s captivating performance that is at its peak whenever the film cuts back to the monologue of trauma that she confesses to a stone-faced policeman. (I, too, would sit on a corner of Hollywood Boulevard with a giant sign and a cow to campaign for her Oscar nomination). But no, I will not tell you what the film is about. You must decide for yourself.

Look, I’ve seen this film twice now, and even on the second viewing, I still could not predict what was going to happen from one scene to the next. Perhaps it is a journey into the subconscious mind…or perhaps it is something else. It is crazy, moody, eerie, but so beautiful in a lot of ways. Despite the low visual quality of the camera, Inland Empire is still able to pull off some memorable and shocking visuals - and audio - with Lynch’s eye and ear. The three-hours feel never-ending but somehow manage to fly by, like you’re waking up from a really deep sleep when you’re having a visceral dream. I, personally, could be hypnotized by Inland Empire over and over again with great pleasure.

Inland Empire is now available on Blu Ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

5/5 stars


Inland Empire (2006)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- March 21, 2023
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

“Strange, what love does.” The role of a lifetime, a Hollywood mystery, a woman in trouble . . . David Lynch’s first digitally shot feature makes visionary use of the medium to weave a vast meditation on the enigmas of time, identity, and cinema itself. Featuring a tour de force performance from Laura Dern as an actor on the edge, this labyrinthine Dream Factory nightmare tumbles down an endless series of unfathomably interconnected rabbit holes as it takes viewers on a hallucinatory odyssey into the deepest realms of the unconscious mind.


Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, this restoration coming from its original DV tapes underwent a very long a multi-stepped process until it finally got David Lynch approved. If you want to know more, then check out the booklet included with the release. But for now, I’ll just tell you that the 1080p transfer, especially considering the technological limitations of the camera, looks great. Fine details show up surprisingly well and the colors have a nice almost muted tone that accentuates the grittiness of a lot of the landscapes and characters. Overall, I have no complaints and after about 10 minutes of watching it, you forget the quality and enjoy the experience. Afterall, Lynch approved this newly restored version himself, so who am I to find fault in it?


The Lynchian sound! With the 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio and uncompressed stereo soundtracks, the newly remastered audio track was done by Lynch and original rerecording mixers Dean Hurley and Ron Eng. As with his other films, Inland Empire, despite the visual limitations, pulls no punches with the deep, eerie growls of the atmospheric sound design that shake the low ends of your sound system. Ambient sounds, score, and dialogue also come in clear and are mixed well. The sound mix film lovers revel in!


Though commentary excluded, there is enough extras included that will absolutely send you spiraling further and further down the Lynch rabbit hole of weirdness and greatness. Plus, there is a new and absolutely delightful of Lynch regulars Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan as they share their stories and admiration for their beloved director and friend.


  • None

Special Features:

  • Two films from 2007, LYNCH (one) and LYNCH2, by blackANDwhite, the makers of David Lynch: The Art Life
  • New conversation between actors Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan
  • More Things That Happened, seventy-five minutes of extra scenes
  • Ballerina, a 2007 short film by Lynch
  • Reading by Lynch of excerpts from Room to Dream, his 2018 book with critic Kristine McKenna
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: Excerpts from Richard A. Barney’s book David Lynch: Interviews

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

Inland Empire (2006)

MPAA Rating: R.
180 mins
: David Lynch
David Lynch
Karolina Gruszka; Krzysztof Majchrzak; Grace Zabriskie
: Mystery | Drama | Fantasy
A Woman in Trouble
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm a whore. Where am I? I'm afraid!"
Theatrical Distributor:
518 Media
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 6, 2006
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 21, 2023
Synopsis: Inland Empire is a complex Hollywood nightmare, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is an actress preparing for her biggest role, a Hollywood movie from an acclaimed director (Jeremy Irons)opposite an amorous leading man (Justin Theroux). When she finds herself falling for her co-star, she realises her life is starting to mimic the fictional film they're shotting. Adding to her confusion is the revelation that the current film is a remake of a doomed Polish production that was never finished due to an unspeakable tragedy.


Inland Empire (2006)