Lynch Discusses Babbling Bunnies, Dancing Hookers, Laura Dern
By Robert Hilferty
Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- David Lynch, the master of weird, perplexing movies, has directed his loopiest film yet.
``Inland Empire'' stars Laura Dern as an actress visited by a strange Polish gypsy. She soon gets lost in different dream worlds, shuttling between Poland's past and Hollywood's present, taking on several identities and having close encounters with talking bunnies and dancing prostitutes. She also finds one of her incarnations at the center of a murder mystery.
I spoke with the 60-year-old director earlier this month after the movie was screened at the New York Film Festival. (It will be released Dec. 15 in the U.S.) Lynch was dressed entirely in black and sported a graying doo-wopper hairdo.
Hilferty: Where does the title come from?
Lynch: It comes from a conversation I had with Laura Dern, who said her husband grew up in the ``inland empire.'' That's an area east of Los Angeles. As soon as she said it, I said, ``That's the name of this film.''
Later, my brother found a scrapbook covered with dust in my parent's log cabin in Montana. It was my scrapbook from when I was 5 years old, and on the first page there's an aerial view of Spokane, Washington, where I lived as a kid. Underneath it said, ``Inland Empire,'' so I figured I'm on the right track.
Hilferty: The title suggests an interior dream universe.
Lynch: ``Inland Empire'' conjures up a thing, but it doesn't really need to be talked about. It's a beautiful two words.
Hilferty: The move pushes the envelope of different states of consciousness, jumping around in time and space. How did you come up with this beguiling narrative structure?
Lynch: At first I didn't know how the idea for one scene related to the idea of the next scene. It wasn't until seven scenes that I saw the link, and the whole thing started to come together. It's not a normal way of starting a feature film.
Hilferty: This is your first time using digital video. How was that?
Lynch: It's lightweight. It has automatic focus and 40- minute takes. The crew is smaller. You move like lightning speed compared to film. I can drift in and out, and feel a thing. It's the most beautiful sense of freedom, getting deeper into a thing. It's a blessing. Digital is a beautiful miracle.
Hilferty: There are several scenes of three people wearing rabbit outfits.
Lynch: Those are real rabbits.
Hilferty: They appear to be performing a play in front of an audience, which laughs at questions they ask like, ``What time is it?''
Lynch: When you stop to think about it, it's quite a funny question.
Lynch: Well, we won't go into that.
Hilferty: Your film plays with time.
Lynch: The word ``playing'' is a beautiful word, but it implies a frivolous thing, which this isn't. Time is so beautiful. There's always a past and a present, and an implication of a future. So cinema can go anyplace. Stories can hold all kinds of times. Time is your friend.
Hilferty: There's a Polish dimension to your film, and some of the music you use is by Lutoslawski and Penderecki, which lends the feeling of mystery and horror.
Lynch: I attended the Camerimage Film Festival in 2000 and fell in love with the city of Lodz, Poland. It used to be the textile capital of the world. Because of the beautiful location and the mood there, I started thinking, ``I should shoot a scene here,'' which I did. And so that led to many other things.
Hilferty: Hollywood also figures big. The famous hilltop sign is one of the first things we see. Laura Dern plays an actress. Is this movie in some way a parable of Hollywood?
Lynch: Not specifically. Ideas do pop up because of a place, and I've been living in Los Angeles since 1970. I love this town and the fictitious memory of the golden age of cinema.
Hilferty: After shooting with digital, will you go back to celluloid?
Lynch: Never. Our future is a digital future.