Author Topic: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis  (Read 31336 times)

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chalfont

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #75 on: December 30, 2013, 08:55:37 AM »
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Where is "the eye of the duck" in IE?

SamFZGames

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #76 on: January 17, 2014, 12:42:13 PM »
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Sorry to dig up an old topic, but I'm new here, love this movie, and wanted to talk to people about it and help form theories.

I noticed people talking about AXXON N and where it comes from...

I would happily dismiss it as "a cool image Lynch had in his head whilst meditating once", but considering that he had planned to create a web series with the name "AXXON N" before merging the idea (along with the Rabbits) into Inland Empire, I think there's more meaning in it than that.

Something a friend and myself noticed was that in both instances where it was written down (in chalk on a doorway right before all the otherworldly stuff begins, and in embossed letters on another doorway before Nikki confronts the Phantom), the "O" is small, or lower case, like this: "AXXoN", and the second N is always separated from the other letters, down to the right:

"AXXoN
              N"


In Michael T. Lidstone's book on the film (which I personally find to be a huge over-analysis, which, while it certainly has it's moments, doesn't seem to quite appreciate how Lynch makes his films... just a personal opinion) looks at Vladimir Propp's famous Mythology of the Folk Tale, which Lynch is apparently a big fan of, and, after originaly being a little bit unimpressed by the book's suggestion, after looking into it myself, there seems to be more to it than I thought... Because Propp uses symbols for common elements in folk tales (think of it like the Monomyth, only with more possibilities and outcomes) which can actually be put together to make a math-like formula to show a story's structure. They usually look like this:



The reason I gave the theory a second thought was because looking at the symbols, I noticed that Propp's "o" is always small/lowercase whilst most of the other roman letters Propp uses are capital (including A, X and N).

If you convert AXXoN N into a Propp formula you get this story:

  • A - The villain causes harm or injury to a member of a family (Variation 11: The villain casts a spell upon someone or something)
  • X - An "unclear element" - Something unusual/unknown/unexplainable occurs
  • X - Same as above
  • o - The hero arrives home (or in another country) and is not recognised
  • N - The "task" is resolved
  • N - Another(?) "task" is resolved

That sounds kinda good to me - the phantom puts a curse on a woman (which I think could be his unfaithful wife, but that's for a whole other discussion), which sends her (and later Nikki, hence the second X) into confusion/the unknown, Nikki has to lose her identity (become unrecognised) to defeat the Phantom and save them both. I wondered if the two X's were the two women lost in the unknown, and the two N's are the task of freeing/redeeming the lost girl and also slaying some of Nikki's own inner demons. I can't quite think why the second N is one line down from the rest of the letters, but it must be significant if it was that way on both instances.

So I guess the simplest way to think of this theory is that AXXoN N, if translated to Propp form symbols, could mean "A journey into (and back out of) the unknown", representing the way Inland Empire is a whole new structure of story.

Maybe I'm talking a load of rubbish, but the small "o" really stood out to me, I read that Lynch is into Propp, and the small "o" is consistent with Propp's structure of myth symbols. I'm really curious about the separation of the last N, it's even pronounced "Axon N" the only time it's ever spoken audibly (right at the very beginning of the movie), further emphasising the devide between the two N's (so it's AXXoN N, not AXXoNN),  if my theory has any ground, I wonder what the significance of the two resolved tasks being so separate is, or if it's implying that AXXoN is the main story and that a completely separate task is resolved due to it all... Any thoughts?

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #77 on: January 17, 2014, 01:58:51 PM »
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Bravo!  :yabbse-thumbup:

As you suggest, that all seems like a stretch at first, but we don't actually have any reason to be so dismissive. Lynch is supposedly so spontaneous and intuitive, but really, I believe that less and less the more work is done on this movie. Your post is perfect evidence of this.

I don't believe for a moment that Lynch has told the full story of his creative process. Maybe it's false modesty, maybe it's exaggeration on his part, or maybe it's misdirection. Perhaps he'd just rather hide those intricacies for fans to discover later. That shouldn't be surprising.

If anyone knows of instances of Lynch being more candid about mapping things out etc., post them! I really haven't watched or read enough Lynch interviews.

Anyway I think you're onto something. And you're definitely right that the second N is meant to be separate. Maybe having it offset underneath is simply a way to emphasize that separation. I always liked the offset aesthetically; it makes it seem more gritty and sinister like it was scratched on the door by a demon or something.

As for the formula, I don't see anything to disagree with. You make a good argument. The fact that Lynch is a fan of Propp does seem like a smoking gun.

About Lidstone... he may have some interpersonal challenges (as shown by his brief stay here), and his book does cross that line of overanalysis so dramatically that it begins to read like straight parody of academic writing, but that doesn't mean he's completely wrong. The part of his book about folktales is really good.
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SamFZGames

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #78 on: January 17, 2014, 04:30:25 PM »
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Thank you!

Wow, it's cool to see the authors of two great Inland Empire analysis' in here, it's a real shame that Lidstone had some problems accepting that some people didn't want his book and got himself banned, because I thought he had some pretty interesting theories on some parts of the film (a couple of which I subscribe to myself since reading his book), it's a pity he took people's disagreement to heart.

Anyways, Jeremy, I loved reading your analysis, I read it a few weeks back, nice to stumble upon you "in person" (online)! Some of it cleared some of the film up a lot for me, but I couldn't agree with the most fundamental part of your version - the idea that Nikki is a construct and Sue is the real person. If you'll allow me to, I'd love to talk to you a little more about that idea though.

My problem with that idea is that, in the nicest way possible, it feels like you basically tried to apply the twist from Mulholland Drive to Inland Empire without really looking at IE as a separate entity to it (many people refer to IE as a sort of followup to MD but once you get past the "actress in hollywood" part I can't imagine the two being much more different!). The thing is, the theory that Mulholland Drive is a dream until Betty becomes Diane (which I STRONGLY believe to be true) has a couple of huge clues/anchors in the movie, moments which pretty much confirm the theory. The first shot of the film is a PoV shot of somebody going to sleep on a pillow, there are constant references to being "in a dream", the cowboy says "time to wake up"... Inland Empire, at least as far as I can see, has no tangible clues that Nikki is a construct and that Sue is real (if you can point a few out, I'd love to hear them).

On the contrary, after Sue is "killed off" in the alleyway scene, she is referred to as Nikki from that point and it is Nikki who slays the Phantom and she even appears in Nikki's home again at the end. After her death on Hollwood boulevard, Sue seems to be no more. I, myself, find that I interpret Sue as Nikki's way of understanding the Lost Girl, her "Americanisation"/"remake" of her so that she can experience her life in a way she'd understand it.

And yes, I definitely believe that Lynch knows what he's doing, and that Inland Empire is not neccessarily just 3 hours of nonsensical things that Lynch thought would look cool on film. Thing is, every time he's interviewed, for whatever film, he just waves his hands around and talks about "ideas", but from time to time he's been clear that Inland Empire has a clear-cut story and even though he shot scenes not knowing the outcome, there was a moment when a narrative came together, and Barry Gifford revealed a lot about Lost Highway that Lynch kept secret, so I believe Lynch just intentionally keeps everything under wraps so we can continue to interpret things our own way. Likely he learned a lot when the network forced him and Mark Frost to reveal Laura Palmer's killer in Twin Peaks and it essentially killed people's interest in the show. It's true, too, once Ben Kingsley revealed the entire plot through exposition at the end of Shutter Island, it was over, but Mulholland Drive STILL has me thinking to this day.

OH, and, a quick thought on Lynch mapping things out a little more, never forget his 10 clues for Mulholland Drive. Those clues seem like the words of a man who knows the answers to his mysteries, and as I mentioned, he has been quoted to say that Inland Empire has a clear cut story in it somewhere, and that although it was shot as the script was being written, there was a moment where it all came together.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #79 on: January 17, 2014, 07:01:46 PM »
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My problem with that idea is that, in the nicest way possible, it feels like you basically tried to apply the twist from Mulholland Drive to Inland Empire without really looking at IE as a separate entity to it (many people refer to IE as a sort of followup to MD but once you get past the "actress in hollywood" part I can't imagine the two being much more different!). The thing is, the theory that Mulholland Drive is a dream until Betty becomes Diane (which I STRONGLY believe to be true) has a couple of huge clues/anchors in the movie, moments which pretty much confirm the theory. The first shot of the film is a PoV shot of somebody going to sleep on a pillow, there are constant references to being "in a dream", the cowboy says "time to wake up"... Inland Empire, at least as far as I can see, has no tangible clues that Nikki is a construct and that Sue is real (if you can point a few out, I'd love to hear them).

On the contrary, after Sue is "killed off" in the alleyway scene, she is referred to as Nikki from that point and it is Nikki who slays the Phantom and she even appears in Nikki's home again at the end. After her death on Hollwood boulevard, Sue seems to be no more. I, myself, find that I interpret Sue as Nikki's way of understanding the Lost Girl, her "Americanisation"/"remake" of her so that she can experience her life in a way she'd understand it.

The unraveling that happens as the movie proceeds in its first hour is to me its greatest delight and completely central to its meaning. The "gazes of emerging reality," the way the facade falls away piece by piece until Nikki finds herself in Sue's world... I guess this is an Occam's razor situation where my interpretation seems the most logical explanation that I feel is not meaningfully contradicted.

Who/what calls her Nikki at the end? Kingsley, but who else? (It's been a while since I've seen the movie, so I could be forgetting.) Kingsley is of course going to call her Nikki; he only exists there as a ghost image tempting Sue to indulge the "Nikki Grace" fantasy. But Sue is in the middle of a total existential epiphany. She dismisses and ignores him precisely because she knows he's not real and not important. The faux-death caused her to realize she was dead for real. This is immediately followed by her seeing Lost Girl "as if she sees herself," which she can now fully digest because she knows she's dead. (I'm not sure if you disagree with this part, but if you do I could go on and on about it.)

I guess what's important is what states she's in, which we still might disagree on. My interpretation has been that Nikki/Sue is in three states in the movie, separated by (A) the "Sue meets Nikki" moment and (B) the faux-death on Hollywood Blvd.

I don't really view any of those states as incarnate reality, since I believe she's dead at the beginning and any scenes that might represent her incarnate life (which, if they exist as such, are clearly mixed with "reliving" scenes like the barbecue scene) are not happening in real time.

That she is dead at the beginning seems self-evident to me, if only because the unraveling in that first hour is so dramatic and clear. The gauzy dreaminess that is evident in almost every scene starts to become more troubled, and as Nikki walks into that darkness, it's like falling into a pit of complex reality, confronting this post-life journey that finally can't be avoided any longer.

I just find it hard to buy another explanation. Can you lay out your interpretation of her states? What state is she in at the beginning, if not some kind of dream or death state? Because I'm not sure I could ever buy that as reality. If that is reality, what actual thing precipitates the transition and sends her on her existential journey? Does she die walking away from the table read?

Anyway, speaking of Mulholland Drive, I'd be interested in your opinion on that too. I did a brief analysis a long time ago but have been thinking about revisiting it and seeing which parts I'm wrong about.
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SamFZGames

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #80 on: January 19, 2014, 03:16:22 PM »
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Thanks! I will head into that thread soon and give my opinions :)

In the mean time, responses to your thoughts on IE:

I think your theories are awesome, don't get me wrong, but similar to your theory on Mulholland Drive, I think they seem more like "a great interpretation" than "he's cracked it!", if that makes sense.

Quote
Who/what calls her Nikki at the end? Kingsley, but who else? (It's been a while since I've seen the movie, so I could be forgetting.) Kingsley is of course going to call her Nikki; he only exists there as a ghost image tempting Sue to indulge the "Nikki Grace" fantasy. But Sue is in the middle of a total existential epiphany. She dismisses and ignores him precisely because she knows he's not real and not important. The faux-death caused her to realize she was dead for real. This is immediately followed by her seeing Lost Girl "as if she sees herself," which she can now fully digest because she knows she's dead. (I'm not sure if you disagree with this part, but if you do I could go on and on about it.)

Yeah, I can see what you mean with that one, and it'd make sense why she ends up in the Rabbit room (47) and why she looks quite sombre, but then not long after that, she is back in the mansion with Grace Zabriskie's character, and I don't think that moment would exist if the fabricated character of Nikki had been 'purged'.

But I think my belief in the twists of these films is slightly different to yours - I felt that after I "cracked" Mulholland Drive (and ended up with the same explanation most people seem to now), there were so many clear-cut, and obviously intentional, clues in there (if a chunk of a movie begins with a head hitting a pillow and ends with somebody waking up I think that makes the dream theory very clear), and I feel that if Lynch had decided that Nikki was a fabrication, he'd put something much clearer like that in there. If anything I feel like Nikki clearly enters and then "returns from" Sue's reality. Not to demean your theory, it was a brilliant read, and a huge chunk of it helped me to form a better understanding of the film, I'm just not sure that particular idea helps to make things any clearer, in fact I think it presents new problems. That being said, if you apply the "unreliable narrator" idea to IE then a lot of the odd moments in it certainly start to fit in better.

Quote
That she is dead at the beginning seems self-evident to me, if only because the unraveling in that first hour is so dramatic and clear. The gauzy dreaminess that is evident in almost every scene starts to become more troubled, and as Nikki walks into that darkness, it's like falling into a pit of complex reality, confronting this post-life journey that finally can't be avoided any longer.

I can buy that one, I don't subscribe to it (yet) but it does work. A part of me feels that some of the dramatic elements are lost if it's all just a dying dream or afterlife though. Sometimes I think about that idea though - Nikki/Sue could be going through her post-life journey, paying off her "unpaid bill" (and this would explain why Camilla from MD shows up at the end). Sometimes, just for fun, I imagine it being Diane Selwyn in the afterlife, where her "unpaid bill" is what she did to Camilla. It's silly, but it can be fun thinking of it that way, especially with the Camilla cameo.

Quote
Can you lay out your interpretation of her states? What state is she in at the beginning, if not some kind of dream or death state? Because I'm not sure I could ever buy that as reality. If that is reality, what actual thing precipitates the transition and sends her on her existential journey? Does she die walking away from the table read?

Right, you ready? :D

My strongest interpretation of Inland Empire (the one which I find it doesn't contradict too much, makes me enjoy the film the most, and the one I mostly found myself seeing in it the very first time I watched it) is best explained by comparing it to the Silent Hill video game series.

The town of Silent Hill has a very lovecraftian origin, contains a hellish purgatory which a person is called to and has to endure to sort of attone for things they've done, but the special thing about Silent Hill is that it's very subjective - rather than just punishing a person by having things jump out of the shadows, they essentially take a journey into the darkest parts of their own subconscious. People, creatures and even geometry morph into metaphorical manifestations of a person's fears and regrets. In Silent Hill 2, the protagonist's own intense, repressed guilt for something he did is given physical form and terrorizes him with a giant blade. Silent Hill also uses abstract images and things to 'mock' the character. It's usually left up to interpretation whether or not the character is even alive.

Why do I compare it to this? Well, I believe that the Phantom's curse is very similar. It sends Nikki into a world of confusion, causes her to completely lose sight of who, where and even when she is (to the point where at times I like to say "If you think you understand Inland Empire, you don't understand Inland Empire" because being lost and confused is the whole point of Nikki's journey). The "Lost Girl" is experiencing this curse already, and after reaching it's peak, ends up stranded in the hotel room, possibly unable to leave. Nikki has been chosen to redeem and free the lost girl by "remaking" her experience (via On High in Blue Tomorrows), "becoming" her (Sue is her vessel through which she becomes the Lost Girl and relives her experiences in a way an American would understand) and defeating the Phantom with the help of the Rabbits. I believe Piotrek is pulling the strings of this whole thing to try and bring the lost girl back (hence the seance and always appearing to be watching it unfold). A lot of moments in the Polish story mirror moments in Sue's story uncannily, and when you add the scenes from "more things that happened" they become even more uncanny, which leads me to believe that Sue is Nikki reliving the Lost Girl's experience. So the Phantom's curse sort of sent the Lost Girl into "Silent Hill", and by shooting the movie, they're sending Nikki in to 'retrieve' her (and I believe Nikki had to become unfaithful with her co-star to 'trigger' it). I also partially believe that neither the Lost Girl nor Sue ever became prostitutes, but rather the prostitutes (who all seem to break the forth wall a little, as if they see things a different way) are a manifestation of the Phantom (or the girls themselves) calling them "whores" for committing adultery...

There's a lot more to it but I try to keep things simple and brief (relatively!!), I hope you found some of this interesting!

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #81 on: January 19, 2014, 04:20:30 PM »
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Interesting! I have a lot of responses to that, including some defenses... Unfortunately I don't think I'll have time in the next few days to put it together, so stay tuned I guess.

But for a lot of this, I think it comes down to legitimate differences in the way we prefer to interpret the movie, with the meaning remaining largely the same.

Just briefly, this is one important difference: You prefer to see Nikki on both sides of the Sue journey, but I prefer to see that final "Nikki" as Sue/Nikki after she's achieved enlightenment, fully crossed over, etc. since that seems to be what's happening in the final series of processes. So I view that as totally distinct from the Nikki we meet in the beginning, the one that's deeply confused and being badgered by the visitor.

You would probably respond that, of course that's true, but they're both still Nikki, and the second one is enlightened after her weird Sue journey. I think that's totally legitimate and fairly persuasive, but the reason I'm not willing to buy it personally is that I feel like "Sue's journey" is designed as a gauntlet of spiritual progress through a specific incarnation with Lost Girl watching along. It would lose so much of its meaning for me if it were simply a fiction designed to teach Nikki about things. Why not teach her those things through an actual incarnation, not a hallucination? It seems more harrowing and meaningful to me that she has been trapped in a post-life journey for so long.

The "I lost a bunch of years" clue is key to me here. Along with the time period incongruity between Nikki and Sue. It makes sense chronologically that Sue has been on a post life journey for many years. Those feel like concrete clues to me.

The alternative, that the Sue hallucination/fantasy/curse is arbitrarily retro, is unconvincing to me.

Well, I didn't think I'd go on, but I did. I think I'll still have more to say later.

I'm definitely eager to hear your opinions on Mulholland Drive. I'm open to thinking I'm wrong there, since I haven't spent much time on it.
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SamFZGames

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #82 on: January 29, 2014, 08:40:18 AM »
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Hey Jeremy

No matter how I interpret the movie (and my "Silent Hill" one always fits almost perfectly when I watch the film), I still have trouble properly incorporating the Lost Girl into things properly. Most of my 'loose ends' tend to come from her.

Anyways, something I've been thinking about Inland Empire is that, since Lynch came up with ideas for segments, filmed them, then worked out how they all connect later on, it's worth considering where those ideas would have came from and why. He's also said most of his ideas now come to him through transcendental meditation, so I think it'd definitely be worth studying the reading of dreams and the visions known to be associated with meditation. I bought a copy of the film for a friend of mine who practices transcendental meditation and has studied it and read all about what the different visions mean and how they link, asked him to tell me how he interprets it. Some of the moments I described to him he's said are quite similar to what he has been through during meditation, including seeing a person take on the form of a freaky version of one's self, which is then blinded/absorbed by light. The image of the Phantom Laura Dern nightmare face freaked him out also because he said it reminded him a lot of when he met his "shadow self" in a trance (something to do with bettering yourself is to find the darkest part of yourself or something, and meet it). He also talked to me about how it has appeared as a different person (the Phantom?) and that he was often terrified to go near it even though it wasn't directly posing any threat to him at the time (the Phantom doesn't ever actually physically attack Nikki, but he inspires deep fear in her when she comes near him). Apparently the idea is to merge with/integrate this "shadow self" to gain better understanding and more control of the darker side of being a human, or sometimes it's even just seeing it and accepting it. I think this connects to a concept in Jungian psychology, the "shadow". I will read a bit more about it when I have some more time:

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"The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself" and represents "a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well". If and when 'an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in others such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions ...[a] painful and lengthy work of self-education".

I'll definitely be interested to see what he has to say about the film. Lidstone was right in saying we should read a bit into Polish and gypsy lore if Lynch did, and I think we should also look into the method Lynch used to get the ideas, since he practically let his subconscious write this movie in a meditative state.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #83 on: January 29, 2014, 10:58:00 AM »
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Fascinating stuff!

Maybe that early doppelganger is just what you said, an early emergence of the reflected evil we see in the Phantom's face. It's the simplest explanation and causes less headache than a lot of other possibilities.

I'm interested in what Lynch said about ideas coming to him through TM. Any particular interviews I should check out?

You reminded me I need to respond to the Mulholland Drive thread...
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SamFZGames

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #84 on: February 07, 2014, 11:46:40 AM »
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I've been trying to source these interviews I mentioned, but not getting much luck right now, I guess I'll have to ask that you take my word for it for now, but I'll keep looking.

Interestingly, the other day I stumbled on an article which, at one point, insisted that Lynch believes in reincarnation, and Googling "David Lynch reincarnation" seems to return a couple of results where people mention that he believes in it in interviews with him, though I can't seem to find the sources of when he has originally said he does. That interested me, though, because for me that brings a much more solid link between the Lost Girl and Nikki/Sue, and her "unpaid bill" could potentially be sins inherited from her past self...

Unfortunately none of the UK releases of IE contain "More Things That Happened", but I obtained a copy of it (through means I won't discuss here...!) to watch, since a lot of websites imply that the deleted scenes that make up MTTH are supplementary and canonical, and they did seem to clear things up quite a bit when I last watched it, so I may go through MTTH again and report back here.

IE is a real mind-boggler, whilst I believe Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway are quite clear once they've "clicked", IE seems to present a never-ending labyrinth of loose ends (which is kind of fitting since it's all about confusion).

Something I say to people watching IE sometimes is "If you think you understand Inland Empire, you don't understand Inland Empire", because I believe the curse attached to the phantom is a curse of madness, that the accursed would lose their grip on time, reality and their identity, and so we (the audience) go through the same crisis as Nikki/Sue/Lost Girl, following a narrative thread which keeps getting tied in knots and splitting apart, but retaining just enough coherence to keep us TRYING to follow, so that we don't give up and pass it off as a mess of meaningless scenes, but we find ourselves lost, frustrated and uneasy. I think that this unease, frustration and total confusion builds us up to prepare us for the Laura Dern scary clown face phantom scare at the end, which is all the more effective after nearly 3 hours of despair.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not in the Roger Ebert "there is no meaning, Lynch just makes a bunch of stuff the thinks is cool and presents it as a film" camp, I resent that suggestion, and as you wrote in your HALFBORN analysis, it's lazy, but I think "Nikki/Sue gets completely lost in a world of confusion" is an appropriate explanation for a lot of the film, I just feel that the link between the Lost Girl and Nikki/Sue is something tangible.

I also try to avoid some of the "Nikki is a construct of sue" theories (though I really enjoyed reading yours and I'm willing to be convinced if I can find a clue as prominent as the clues I mentioned from Mulholland Drive) because my gut tells me Inland Empire is more simple than we think, and that we can't see the forest for all the trees when we look TOO deep into it. I don't know why, but whenever I watch it, the "characters A and B only exist in character C's head" trope doesn't seem to sit right with me.

I notice that when the Lost Girl is watching the TV at the beginning, several times it shows her witnessing the rabbits and the events of the film, but then reveals that she's just staring at static. I'm not sure if by staringing at this static she is able to meditate and see into Nikki/Sue's world, if the TV is supposed to be switching to and from static, or if it's to imply that the entire thing is in her head, but I struggle to buy the idea that it is all inside of Lost Girl's head due to the way the ending pans out, since Nikki and Sue still seem to "exist" after she is freed.

Gah, Inland Empire hurts my brain.

crumbledfingers

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #85 on: February 16, 2014, 11:30:28 AM »
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Jeremy, first I want to thank you for your original analysis. It stands up to what is presented in the film and supplementary materials. And I wanted to chime in on a few topics that you did not give as much attention to, that I think may improve your thesis overall. Or not. I will let you (and the forum) decide.

1. The Phantom in Sue's universe has a name, and a rather descriptive one: Crimp.

In fact, I'm almost positive that Mr. K.'s line on the telephone before "He's around here somewhere" is not "hmm?" as you suggest, but "Crimp?"

The visitor with the watch confirms this as well,just before Sue investigates and encounters Crimp with his light bulb.

As an allegory, I think of Crimp as a metaphorical "crimp in the fabric" of time and space, which Lynch connects to his imagery of the silk being folded over upon itself. As to the meaning of this bit of wordplay in the larger context of IE, I don't really know. I just believe it is probably significant because of its repeated mention from several characters.

Crimp, as a possible reincarnated form of the abusive man in Old Poland, may indeed be from North Carolina originally in Sue's timeline, and the fact that his one-legged sister appears briefly in the ending credits lends a little support to the idea that Sue was correct about his history.

2. Billy, like the Lost Girl, looks different from his counterpart in the original series of events. In other words, just as there is no Laura Dern in old Poland, nor is there a character played by Justin Theroux. What do you make of this? The other pieces of the drama recur with the same appearance, sometimes multiple times (Piotrek).

It makes me wonder if Billy is more important than he appears. Sue chides him as being immature in their interactions, as you point out... doesn't she actually call him a "little boy" at one point? That would cast another layer onto the story told by the new neighbor.

It would also be another phrase whose abbreviation spells "L.B." Did you notice that a red line is crossing out those letters when Sue picks up the gun? I can't tell if the line was there before.

3. What about that screwdriver? It looks like the Lost Girl used it in her original murder in the stairwell. Then the hypnotized woman has it protruding from her abdomen. But in the actual assassination, Sue has it, having found it in Crimp's backyard, and the woman takes it from her first before stabbing her. In the Lynch 2 featurette, David is seen making it from scratch out of a mould or something, so I feel like it represents something, some kind of transfer between characters. Not positive about what it means.

4. Who is Sue's son and how did he die? This part of her monologue is shown twice, the second time literally in a "dark movie theatre". Is it a reference to the son to Smithy and Lost Girl, who appears at the very end? Or her own unborn child, Billy's, who is clearly never allowed to gestate even to the point where Sue starts showing signs of being pregnant? I feel like the film would have worked perfectly without this tidbit, and without the boy at the end, so it's frustratingly apparent that I'm missing something.

I think this film is largely Lynch playing with tropes that suggest deeper significance but are in fact only vaguely meaningful. The repeated phrases often linger unresolved, seemingly recurring just for the sake of making the viewer ponder. "Look at me, and tell me if you've known me before!"

6. Lastly, another sense of "half-born" that wasn't included in your analysis: Nikki confesses to Piotrek's parents that she doesn't speak Polish, to which his mother immediately remarks "a half..."

RT

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #86 on: February 20, 2014, 05:17:56 PM »
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First of all, thanks JB for the amazing and complete analysis. I had done something similar for Mulholland Drive. But INLAND EMPIRE just fried my brain  :) ...
I've printed your analysis (hope there's not a problem) and already read it twice, while taking notes.
I will watch the movie again tonight. Trying to connect all the dots.
Still, there are some points that didn't make too much sense to me.

1 - Your presentation of the sentence: "A little boy went out to play. When he opened his door, he saw the world. As he passed through the doorway, he caused a reflection (not ghost or evil are mentioned). Evil was born. Evil was born, and followed the boy."
The Visitor #1 do not mention any ghost or evil while talking about the "reflection". So why do you assume that the reflection is The Phantom.

2 - Why is The Phantom real in Old Poland (the cheated husband) and then turns himself into The Phantom (the keeper in purgatory and "guide" to Sue)? Something to do with the "entrance/door" he was talking with Janek in the beginning of the movie? Was this in some way his own purgatory? Saving these connected souls because of the man he killed? (young Smithy in Old Poland)

I will watch the movie and keep in touch. Thank you very much for your work.

PS - I noticed you talked about a Lost Highway analysis. Is that one around here somewere? If yes, were could I find it. Thanks again ;)

SamFZGames

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #87 on: February 21, 2014, 10:33:17 AM »
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Holy guacamole... I'd been going over Inland Empire in my head for a while now and right now the hairs on the back of my neck have stood up, because a theory has popped into my mind that potentially explains everything... I mean, I need to watch it again now but going through it in my memory I can't find a single scene which doesn't make sense with this theory, including in More Things That Happened... I'm not going to claim I have the solution or anything, but this is the most solid one I can put to it yet and if it's anywhere near true, David Lynch has made one hell of a dark movie right here...

So I was looking through some other people's explanations of things, reading people's theories on what AXXoN N could mean, and JB's Halfborn analysis (this one helped me a lot, JB!) and... God, I MAY be onto something here... I'd love to hear your opinions on this...

So I'm going to go ahead and try and explain this conclusion I may have come to and the elements that lead me to it.

The most popular interpretation of AXXoN N seems to be that it's supposed to mean "axon" - the connector of synapses and nerve cells. If AXXoN N acts as a doorway or portal, or a 'connector' between the different realities in the film, and it means "axon", then perhaps this is a strong clue towards the film being very psychological/mental, and less spiritual.

Like other people I've also applied logic from Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive (since I believe these two have been "solved" for the most part) and the "tropes" included inside of them... I used to see Inland Empire as quite a spiritual movie with the rabbits and the phantom, but I always felt it seemed a bit strange that Lynch would follow a first person film about a psychogenic fugue and a similarly first person film about a person's dream/fantasy with something spiritual. Both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are about people who have gotten lost in another reality they have created for themselves, but both are told from the PoV of this character, invoking the "unreliable narrator" trick. This also dates back to Lynch's first movie, Eraser head, so this is obviously a style of storytelling he holds dear.

I'm sure nobody's going to contest that Inland Empire goes down the unreliable narrator route; I doubt anybody out there thinks that every single thing Nikki/Sue sees is physical or chronological, but a lot of us have been looking at the Nikki/Sue connection as something more akin to Lynch's previous masterpieces whilst looking at the rabbits and the phantom as something more spiritual. I'm actually not so sure about that part anymore...

Lynch also has repeatedly said that with Inland Empire he shot lots of "ideas" as they came to him, including bringing in ideas from his web series' and his cancelled web series AXXON N, but then at some point during development, he worked out how they all connect, so now it's up to us to try and see the connection he did and work out what the true meaning behind the film is.

The most interesting thing about Inland Empire, in my opinion, is the way that even though it hits a point where nothing makes any sense anymore, you still care enough to see if Nikki/Sue makes it out of it all alive. When she is vomiting blood, you feel her pain, when she's scared and alone, you worry for her, and you want to see her come out of this safely. When she meets the phantom outside room 47 it feels like a "final encounter" and when she meets the Lost Girl it feels rewarding, it's as if we're all seeing the story subconsciously the same way Lynch did, but we're not able to rationalise it.

Notice the theme here? Subconscious.

Here's the part which suddenly brought everything together for me - If Lost Girl and Sue/Nikki are "soul mates" or "reincarnations", why do Piotrek, Krimp and Donna appear in all of the timelines as different people, and why do some things which are supposedly flashbacks to Lost Girl's life, seem to get so muddled up with Sue's, and even Nikki's? In More Things That Happened, why do some characters seem to just change completely, to the point where one character who is seen to be Polish through most of the film, claims she doesn't even speak Polish, why do some people remember things happening to others in the future, why, even after we believed things to be resolved, do doorways still lead to completely different places, which should be miles apart, and why, oh why, does the whole thing end up in a room full of characters believed to have no connection with one another, all having a party in Nikki's mansion? It's as if a whole bunch of different characters' stories are getting muddled up with each other, and merging at the end.

Let me quickly refer to Eraserhead, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive again, and the way they're presented - In each case, what the character believes to be happening, is played on screen as if it truly is. So when Fred has created a whole new existence and world for himself in Lost Highway, the movie takes places within that world until things fall apart again - the movie is what Fred himself would have been experiencing. Similarly, the weird stuff that goes on in Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive is all seen through the character's PoV as well. I also think back to a great episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where for one episode it's implied that the entire vampire slaying story and all of the characters are all in Buffy's imagination, and that she's been in an asylum the entire time, with the supposedly canonical side of the story saying that this itself was an illusion caused by a demon, but the episode never quite explaining if the demon was faking it, or if she genuinely has imagined the whole thing and will continue to forever (holy crap, it's pretty stunning TV, please go and check out that episode if you haven't seen it), and a fun psychological slasher film from a while back, called Identity, in which [SPOILERS] all of the characters being killed off turn out to be the multiple personalities of one man, and the murders are the result of a psychology session, in which his psychiatrist is having him mentally 'kill off' each one of his multiple personalities [END SPOILERS]. Finally, I wanted to mention the fantastic psychological horror game for the Nintendo Wii, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, in which [SPOILERS] the protagonist is revealed to have died 18 years ago, and that you had been playing as a delusion in the mind of his daughter, who just can't let go of him, whilst the world you see turns to ice as the young girl tries to "freeze" her delusion in place[END SPOILERS].

In all of those examples, it's approached as if the person living a fantasy or alternate personalities, sees an entire living breathing world in front of his or her eyes which is thoroughly convincing, and the movie/game/show is "set" in that world until either a psychologist starts to break it down, or the delusion can no longer sustain itself.

Alright, I'll get to the point now. I believe that Inland Empire may be about a mentally ill woman with a whole bunch of different realities and personalities in her mind, as does occur in real psychiatric cases, and that almost nothing in the movie is physically real, though events in reality are affecting the things occurring in the film.

Let's call her Laura Dern for now...

Nikki the actress? Laura Dern.
Sue? Laura Dern.
The Lost Girl? Laura Dern.
The Rabbits? Laura Dern. At least one of them is.
The Prostitutes? Laura Dern.
The Phantom? Probably Laura Dern.

The murders may have occurred for real, notice how she is given several counselling sessions in a small, dank room. Prison cell? Psychiatric ward? (She DOES have a stamp on her hand...) She confesses several violent crimes to him in a foul-mouthed manner, without really showing much remorse or intent to keep secrets, a way a prisoner would, right? At first I thought Jack Rabbit was the counsellor, but it's clear that Jack Rabbit sits down in Laura Dern's place, on her side of the table.

Laura Dern's character has several personalities inside of her mind, each in their own world... A list of some of them:

  • A woman living in Poland (who is sometimes Polish), who can't stop staring at a TV (notice how she's in a room which she doesn't seem to be allowed out of...)
  • A rabbit (or three rabbits) who live in a situation comedy
  • Susan, an ageing southern beauty and adulteress
  • Nikki, a successful actress who is coming towards retirement

There are more amongst the movie, I think several are also split into different versions of themselves too.

My girlfriend, who has been in mental health (for something very minor, but she met people who were full blown Schizophrenic) once told me that a person with Schizophrenia (not split personality disorder, though that can be a part of Schizophrenia) will turn the people around them into 'characters' in their fantasy/fantasies. One person might be "the mail man", one might be "my daughter" etc., even though they're just neighbours of theirs, counsellors, or people in the psychiatric home with them. For me, this explains why Piotrek, Krimp and Doris all appear to play different characters in different places and times.

In fact, based on how protective and controlling he is, and how he seems to just be "watching" all of the time, I wonder if Piotrek is Laura Dern's character's psychologist.

So, that gives an explanation to the worlds and characters and their connection, but what's happening? Well, something is happening, I believe it to be her going through therapy, hence the scenes where she talks about her past to a counsellor of some sort, and how they seem to outright interrupt the movie in random places, which is causing her realities to start breaking down, getting confused with each other, merging. Nikki starts to make a movie about Sue, Sue starts to see the prostitutes and finds herself in Poland, the Lost Girl starts seeing Nikki's movie on TV, each girl starts to 'become' the others, each starts to show up in the others' worlds. Oh look! The thing that connects each world is an AXON! ...Is it spelled AXXoN-N because it's broken and jumbled?

The Phantom is her most dangerous personality. He's the murderous one, who 'hypnotises' other women (her other personalities) into committing murders (I'm not sure if the story of the adultery and following murder is something which truly happened and is in her memory or if it's another construct, but I think it'd be safe to assume she's guilty of murder). He's the most important one to be gotten rid of, to prevent any more "BRUTAL FUCKING MURDERS".

The rabbits stand in a room and talk incoherently about something bad that happened... A murder of some sort... A man in a green coat... I'm going to find out one day. When will you tell it?

So what happens? Well, when Nikki's movie is made, some personalities are removed/resolved. Sue is killed in Nikki's movie. Stabbed and left to bleed to death. Nikki "wraps" and finishes her movie. Laura Dern's character (notice the "LB" stamp has returned, the only other time it's seen is during her counselling sessions...) confronts and kills off the Phantom, who doesn't go down easily (notice how dark, deep and winding the rooms and corridors are on the way to him, as if he's deep in her mind, and yet Smithy's house is right through the doorway behind him), but with a bright, blinding light, he is defeated, and as he goes down, he shows her a contorted version of her own face ("I AM YOU!!! THIS IS ALL YOU!!!"). She enters the sitcom to find the rabbits gone, and an empty auditorium (the sitcom has come to an end), she comforts the Lost Girl, sending her to her estranged family (oh look, one is Piotrek again), and as she stares into a light, her remaining personalities and constructs all come together in one room, free from the Phantom, and party. Is this all a therapy session? Has her psychologist(s) gotten her to destroy the destructive part of her, the Phantom ("It shouldn't be much longer now", he says), and to take out some of the other roadblocks in the process? Was the Lost Girl a more innocent part of herself which was locked away in a hotel room?

I'll have to give this one and MTTH a good, thorough rewatch, but at this moment in time I can't think of anything in the movie which doesn't actually work with this idea.

Finally, Lynch has explained in several movies that the name, INLAND EMPIRE, refers to the internal mind (Inland = Internal) as well as the place. If somebody has the link to one of the interviews in which he mentions this so I can cite it I'd be grateful. He also repeatedly says it's about "a woman in trouble". Not "women in trouble", "a woman".

If anybody is impressed with this (and doesn't think it's ridiculous), I'd like to invite you guys to watch the movie (and More Things That Happened) again with this interpretation in mind, and see if we can find any more evidence for it, or contradictions. It could be fun.

empire  (ˈɛmpaɪə)
 
n
1.   an aggregate of peoples and territories, often of great extent, under the rule of a single person, oligarchy, or sovereign state


Inland Empire. An "aggregate of peoples and territories"... "inside of the mind"...





Or maybe I've just gone mad...

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #88 on: February 21, 2014, 02:37:05 PM »
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That could be true, but, I don't know, I just don't feel the pull with this one. It feels unneeded, and maybe too blankety. I try to resist the "it's all in his/her head" or "it's all a dream" interpretations. That's my bias. I don't like 'em. And I'm having really bad flashbacks to Sucker Punch right now.

So much would be drained from Inland Empire for me if I bought that. And it doesn't feel right; it doesn't make sense that it's all just stuff in a crazy person's head. The movie completely works when you accept the grounded elements, so why reject them?

Here's the part which suddenly brought everything together for me - If Lost Girl and Sue/Nikki are "soul mates" or "reincarnations", why do Piotrek, Krimp and Donna appear in all of the timelines as different people, and why do some things which are supposedly flashbacks to Lost Girl's life, seem to get so muddled up with Sue's, and even Nikki's?

The likenesses and repeated characters have always been central to my interpretation. They're living new lives in different roles simply to have those experiences. That kind of thing usually goes with a belief in reincarnation; the point is that you keep living lives to gain a diversity of experience, thus continuing to develop and perfect your soul, etc.

In the film, some of them end up on the other side of the same conflict, which seems to have obvious spiritual purpose. Both Old Poland and Inland Empire have the scenario with the abused/unfaithful wife, her tragic lover, the cheated spouse, the infertile spouse, and the cascade of death that results. Two things change: which spouse is abusive, and how the murders play out.

As for the muddledness, this goes to your point about the unreliable narrator, although I'm not sure the narrator is a character, and I'm not sure the concept of "a narrator" applies especially well to this film. If we forced ourselves to nail it down to one character-narrator, it's Lost Girl in purgatory, certainly not Nikki/Sue.

Anyway, that muddledness is a result of us basically seeing everything, the whole mess. There is not a distinct point of view, as such. We see the Nikki Grace illusion, then we see Sue's reemergence and post-life journey, potentially at least partially through the eyes of Lost Girl, we of course see Lost Girl's perspective, and we continue to see Sue's post-life journey poignantly mixed with and compared with Lost Girl's life, as if influenced by Lost Girl's perspective but also as if it's being fed to Sue as she reviews her life. The mixing is the point, because Sue and Lost Girl are connected souls, gaining insight from each other's experiences throughout the film. You can see that message and that mechanism happening so clearly almost from beginning to end.

It the film isn't a literal representation of spiritual mechanics, it is at least using them, very explicitly but perhaps figuratively, to express its ideas about progress through experience, enlightenment through reflection, self-actualization, and everything else.
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Re: HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis
« Reply #89 on: February 21, 2014, 03:52:57 PM »
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I am so excited... I've solved it today. Well, 98% of it.
I will work on it and post it here.
Just some topics.

The Rabbits ARE the key. Check who they are.
The Rabbit-Man, the Rabbit-Woman (his wife) and the Rabbit-Maid. Now this is in Room 47 right? The name of the script-polish tale? 47. So I believe the fairy tale, or whatever, to be represented by the rabbits. The Rabbitt-Man is having an affair with the Rabbit-Maid. His wife knows. Well this story is shared by the two lead characters of the film. Two connected souls. Lost Girl & Sue. But they have different roles in it. In Sue's case, she is the Rabbit-Maid, Billy the Rabbit-Man and Doris, The Rabbit-Wife. Check what they say. "I have a secret".... And the wife won't truly see what he means , she talk about something else. The audience laughs. The rabbit -maid : "When will you tell her?" ... :)
Now for Lost Girl... And this just blew my mind away and scare the shit out of me.
"Who is she?" we ear the prostitute guides ask Sue. Well I think she (the wife of old poland Smithy) is not the character of "Doris" look alike. She is Old Poland Smithy's wife. Yes. But his wife is in fact the Lost Girl. A woman who was cheated and couldn't have kids (funny thing, this "role/curse" was later passed on to Smithy, the "reincarnation" of her husband :twisted: ... karma?). Her husband was having an affair. With who? The maid. And who was the maid? Doris look alike. So... Lost Girl, kills them both. Mad... We see her being "attacked " by The Phantom. Evil?! ... I think so...
She shares another fate with Sue. They both become prostitutes. In fact. And that's what the images in the beginning of the movie are about. She working. The Phantom/Crimp is the hard part. He could be her pimp (not on the streets... the safety of safe our house) but is just strange. Is the one thing it is weird. But I think the little boy tale makes more sense with this: A boy (probably the husband, ... well both husbands in the film) went to play and passed through the door, causing a reflection (probably the two, at least, phantoms that appear). Evil was born (THE PHANTOM) and follows the boy(s) ... following Smithy even when he runs away (I will talk about that later) to Poland and in Inland Empire, with Sue (that sees him in the house next to smithy's). And follows Billy and Old Poland Smithy (they both die at the hands of Evil).

Now about the Sue's story. (This is not one thing after another, in the same day. Probably happens during several days)
She cheated her husband with Billy and got pregnant. She told her husband about it he reacted badly because he can't have kids. Sue feels lost. She went and talk to Billy. He dismisses her and his wife snaps when she understands about the affair, Evil (crimp/phantom) takes over her. Sue goes back to Smithy's house. They talk and she and Smithy plan to kill Billy (OK, this is strange, but please stay with me on this). She calls Billy and he goes to her house. The scene from the beginning takes place (the scene with Nikky, Devon, Freddie and Kingsley). So:

Devon: Why you cryin?
Nikki: I'm sorry, Billy. I'm so sorry.
Devon: What?
Nikki: Oh, shit. Look in the other room.

In the other room is Smithy, who shots him.
Sue is affected by it but she think that things will go on just fine. She's pregnant, Smithy will accept her son etc...
But in the next day (after she relives what happened the day before, when Smithy poors ketchup in his shirt) a troupe of Poland circus men appears.
They all talk about something going wrong, or bad. I believe Smithy's called them, some people he knew from Poland,  to help. He will go with them. Leaving to another country. Escaping...
Sue is alone. She talks to her guides while Reliving this and we ear "We thought he was tho one", ...
So without work at Billy's house, she starts selling her body.
Doris, Billy's widow, snaps too.  And she kills Sue. Sue is now in Purgatory without destroying Evil (aka crimp aka phantom). Who had destroyed her soulmate (Lost Girl) and imprisoned her in her own purgatory because of both murders (the maid and her husband). Without paying the bill...

In the end, Sue shoots Evil (Phantom) who was trapping and destroying Lost Girl. She then meets with Lost Girl, her soulmate or reicarnation, and each one founds their Paradise/Palace.

Lost Girl will live forever with her husband Smithy and their son (her son too I believe,... hey, it's Paradise right?  :-D)...

And Sue will go on as her "alter ego" Nikky in her dreamhouse, not reliving her past even with her husband Smithy and the visits of his parents (I think) tormenting her. She can live happilly ever after being Nikky with all the characters she loves and created in her own story.

What do you guys think...
Help, please? Sorry about the English... I'm into this for 48 hours non-stop ...

 

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