HALFBORN: An Inland Empire Analysis

Started by Jeremy Blackman, May 18, 2009, 09:03:10 PM

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This clearly impartial observer with an IP address from the same town as Mulligan has convinced me! Reinstatements all around!
My house, my rules, my coffee



Quote from: Wavecrest on August 03, 2013, 06:40:51 PM
I read Jeremy Blackman's post and it explained nothing.  I bought Lidstone's book and it explained everything.  Not here to pick a side because I don't know either of them, just came across this on Google looking for new stuff on Lynch.  I read this thread and then went to Amazon and Lidstone's book blew me away.  Just sayin!

Should also note that it's halarious to read people on IMDB guesse and make up wild theories about the movie.  Especially about AXXoNN...my university library has the book Lidstone identifies as being the source of it and I went through it and he's definitly correct on that.  When I saw the movie again I thought it might be ruined for me but I just enjoy it more now.

this is "halarious".. what a fucking nutjob!
under the paving stones.


World Citizen

I just registered to thank you, Jeremy, for this wonderful interpretation. Usually when I watch a Lynch movie it goes like this:

  • watch it - feel like I'm in some sort of M.C. Escher picture
  • don't actually try to make sense of it in a way like "this is the story. this is the meaning"
  • instead: try to connect some pieces together, try to give some meaning to some elements (like the rabbits)
  • read some thoughts from other people on the internet
  • watch the movie again
  • feel happy when some elements make more sense to me/connect better now
  • also feel happy, that there's still much left that I can't quite grasp which keeps my mind stimulated in subsequent watching sessions

I will never have real "closure" on a film like Inland Empire and will never be able to tell the "story" of the film to another person. I'm happy about that too.

Reading your thoughts on Inland Empire makes me instantly want to watch the rabbit shorts (which I kind of "kept for later" until now) and of course then watch the film again.

Some thoughts going through my mind right now regarding the rabbits. My first impression of the rabbit room when I first watched the film was: "Waiting room? Lodge? Spirit (rabbit) going through the door?"

  • there's one male rabbit and two female
  • repeated characters (not counting the phantom of course): one male, two female
  • different roles of these characters in old and new poland
  • "This isn't the way it was." - Jane Rabbit (because in the new poland version some roles are switched?)
  • Have there been any calls? (will we be called for another "round"?)
  • "I wonder who i will be?" (which person? or which role (infertile spouse, cheated spouse,..))
  • "Were you blonde?" (which person did you "play")

So I'm still wondering: is this some kind of waiting room in purgatory where these 3 main protagonists wait for the "next go-around" in this game of "when will the bill be paid?"?  And is lost girl really the first version of the abused, unfaithful wife or has this been going on for ages since the old folk tale was created/the curse was cast?

Not really looking for an answer here, just sharing my thoughts on this (although you're of course very welcome to give your opinion on this).

Again: thank you very much, Jeremy, for all your work on this interpretation. It definitely adds to may enjoyment of Inland Empire!

Jeremy Blackman

Excellent, thanks!

That Jane Rabbit quote ("This isn't the way it was") really stuck with me too, which is why I relished citing it at the beginning of my "Dream Origin" section. It's a great piece of prose that cuts to the core of the movie. I don't remember when exactly Jane Rabbit says that (it's just during one of the long rabbit scenes, right?), but it's as if she's pointing out her own figurative nature, which makes it pretty funny. I think it also refers to the reliving mechanism itself, which transforms actual events from Sue's life to draw out meaning from different angles.

This I think is mostly what makes the film so beautifully complex. Unlike Mulholland Drive, which distorts reality and rewrites history with its rose-colored fantasy full of excuses and absurd rationalizations, Inland Empire has a dichotomy. The Nikki Grace fantasy, which is mercilessly obliterated, and the reliving, which is so mysteriously dark and complicated, negative and positive, and seemingly unending.

I am pretty busy the next couple days, but I want to respond in more detail...

World Citizen

Thanks. And take your time. I will surely come back to this thread after I watched it again (and the rabbit stuff).  :yabbse-smiley:

World Citizen

Ok, just watched the complete rabbit stuff, here are some thoughts:

First a quote I found on the internet:

"In many mythic traditions, rabbits and hares were archetypal symbols of femininity, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. But if we dig a little deeper into their stories we find that they are also contradictory, paradoxical creatures: symbols of both cleverness and foolishness, of femininity and androgny, of cowardice and courage, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. In some lands, Hare is the messenger of the Great Goddess, moving by moonlight between the human world and the realm of the gods."


The solo scenes  of Jack and Suzie: both times they say "something's wrong". Both times they mention the smiling teeth.

The solo scenes of all three: The burning match in the background. They start some sort of chant. They disappear in the end.

Smiling teeth: reminds me of Sue's/"phantom reflection Sue"'s face of smiling teeth. Suzie sings: "Dark smiling teeth". The face of your own evil.

The burning match: reminds me of burning the hole in the silk. Does it open up a hole in their "inner cage" in order to realize and overcome their evilness?

The chanting/humming: Jacks "Oh, Oh, something's wrong, oh" which turns into "Ommmm" followed by humming. The chanting of all three characters and especially the "Ommmm" reminds me of chakras as part of transcendental meditation. The whole solo scenes to me have a strong feel of realizing/understanding. Meditating to overcome the inner evil and achieve purity?

I would like to quote from your interpretation: " The funny thing is that the faces are the same, but the roles are very much switched around. It's quite possible, in fact, that we can extend the Lost Girl/Sue reincarnation to some of the other characters—to Smithy and Doris Side at the very least. Yes, I'm suggesting an ensemble reincarnation. It's as if the characters from the massively tragic Old Poland drama are made to experience the same story again, but this time—in Inland Empire—from different points of view."

Audience laughter: when they refer to time. They wonder how far they've come in their process of getting free from this purgatory. This is met by laughter because they still believe they can resolve this by waiting for something outside to remedy their situation.  Laughter when Jack asks "did he say anything?" No, dude, you can't "solve" this by having others tell you the "truth". You have to find it inside yourself.

Applause: when they free themselves in the solo scenes by facing (all that talk about darkness, fire, blood, etc...) and overcoming their evilness. Problem with this: I can't quite fit in the massive applause when they enter through the door. Is it for coming back? Doesn't make sense because being in the room means they still fail to reach enlightenment. My guess is the applause is for the things they did outside, playing their part in the ongoing "realization process".

Puzzling this together:

The three characters/rabbits all reincarnate. But with switched roles. Why? To get enlightenment by experiencing the "drama" from another perspective. As you wrote in part 3: "There would be obvious spiritual reasons for this — expansion of experience, development of empathy, perfection of the soul, and good-old-fashioned karma."

When the three rabbits are in the room together, waiting to go for "another round" they try to understand but fail. They still keep their secrets ("Noone can know"), they are still trapped in their incomplete state of mind.

In the solo scenes, they begin to understand. When they reach enlightenment, they simply fade from the waiting room/purgatory. They don't go out the door, because that's not the escape route. It's the inner reflection and understanding that frees them.


Hi, Iv'e just registered, firstly for saying JB that I respect your amazing work!

I was watching it few years ago, and it was a kind of disappointment for me as a lynch fan, I guess mostly because
it look to me as an unsolved mystery, and also because of the DV cam look.. :/

Few years after, I became a cinema student, and now doing a seminar on complex narratives - what led me
to watch it again - It still was a difficult experience, but also arousing for understand the core of
this film.

My seminar work is about the relation between this movie and transcendental meditation.

Your work helped me alot!

There was an interesting comment of DBeyond on the second page, which left without any answer.. (the evil Mulligan disturbed..).. maybe if you can write something about it.. thank you!


Jeremy Blackman

Quote from: DotanG on September 10, 2013, 11:56:56 AM
Hi, Iv'e just registered, firstly for saying JB that I respect your amazing work!

I was watching it few years ago, and it was a kind of disappointment for me as a lynch fan, I guess mostly because
it look to me as an unsolved mystery, and also because of the DV cam look.. :/

Few years after, I became a cinema student, and now doing a seminar on complex narratives - what led me
to watch it again - It still was a difficult experience, but also arousing for understand the core of
this film.

My seminar work is about the relation between this movie and transcendental meditation.

Your work helped me alot!

There was an interesting comment of DBeyond on the second page, which left without any answer.. (the evil Mulligan disturbed..).. maybe if you can write something about it.. thank you!

Excellent! Thanks for the kind words.

I guess when I first saw it in the theater I enjoyed the punishing experience... both the confusion and the DV look.

I will look at DBeyond's post now...

Jeremy Blackman

Quote from: DBeyond on April 08, 2013, 08:43:45 PM-> I liked the fact that you imply that the actors are fake and the characters are real. That's funny and has a ring of truth to it, but I think this thought has miss guided you in this part. Clearly Sue and Nikki are linked by the same body and Sue is aware of Nikki and vice-versa.

If you're accepting Nikki Grace as an entity, realize she's a construct. It's uncontroversial that Sue is imagining herself as Nikki, right? Or am I taking that for granted? That's the first domino that falls in the movie; Nikki realizes that she is actually Sue, and that Nikki is a construct.

Quote from: DBeyond on April 08, 2013, 08:43:45 PM"At 1:13:50, Sue looks down and sees a more desperate version of herself sitting on the floor, looking up with terrified eyes. Is this the same doppelganger? Is this a representation of the prostitute state?"

This is Sue looking at Nikki, in fact there are 2 ways you can look at this:

1- Nikki got insane, that suffocating rubber clown suit.
2 - Or that's Sue, and she is dead inside, she is going to kill Smithy - whatever the reason is, murder is never a sane thing to do. It's not good for the soul.

In that scene they both see each other. In fact I think Sue's conscience grows after doing that silk thing, a very spiritual thing, and she is going to put a stop on that "spell" that forever-repeting-tape.

So in the walk of fame, I always saw it has a mirror of what could have been. Remember that Doris is going to kill, who ever is the one on the other side, Sue or Nikki. But she doesn't know that something has changed and she will die for it.

Putting the Sue/Nikki confusion aside...

That doppelganger could very well be Nikki flickering back into existence, however briefly. I think that would make sense. I'll have to watch the movie again to see if that phenomenon would have any meaning in those particular scenes. Those are some of Sue's most desperate moments... maybe she's tempted to relapse back into the Nikki fantasy.

Quote from: DBeyond on April 08, 2013, 08:43:45 PM2 - Who is the blurry-faced man in the opening hotel room scene?

There is one thing you didn't mentioned on the explanation and to me it helped a lot figuring a lot of the things out.

I know they shot things on Poland and the movie (the original) was on Poland, but what you are seeing is the 47 the GERMAN film. That's what Kingsley says.

So what you call Old Poland is infact 47 the german movie. The blurry opening scene is a scene from that film. Lost-Girl was a character in that film and she became trapped in it, that's why Sue goes to that apartment.

In a way you can see that corridor has a big hotel (Lynch likes hotels for metaphors, like on Lost Highway) with lots of rooms and in those rooms there's always the same story, the lost of innocence or the never-ending-repeting-story of INLAND EMPIRE in all it's different versions.

That's also an explanation for the Rabbits. Kingsley says that the original GERMAN film was based on a POLISH FOLK Tale, so it's ok for it to be filmed in Poland and in Polish. But the rabbits are the FOLK TALE.  There's a tale in Poland about 3 rabbits being a representation of god, or whatever suits you better.

But your thoughts about them being in the PURGATORY are real and it fits all of this. In fact I already had notice on the "Rabbits" show that they all talked in the past, so I always assumed they were dead.

And if you pay attention the Rabbits have the EXACT same HOUSE has Sue's, only in Green. For David, green is the divine, hope, and all that comes it with. And they play the film again.

So if I explained myself just right. Polish Folk Tale (origin, Rabbits)->47(GERMAN FILM)->On High on Blue Tomorrows (REMAKE).

I think David's smallest mistake was having the Old Poland scenes in POLISH, it would ring in peoples mind if they were talking in GERMAN. Maybe he just found that out latter.

In fact you can see Jack The Rabbit on the same table has Nikki/Sue, that's the beginning of the story, like Visitor #1 just said, "a boy...and then the variation".

In fact in the beginning Jack The Rabbit gets out of the house and then it appears the PHANTOM, it's all ok: the reflection and EVIL followed the boy"

Wow, this is some good stuff... thank you for that. I feel bad now that I forgot to read your post initially. I certainly wouldn't have had to buy Mulligan's ebook, which by comparison doesn't deal directly with the film at all. Hopefully you come back and chat some more.

In fact I think this was the major thing that hadn't quite crystallized for me. I mean I guess it was there, but it was a bit fuzzy. Perhaps this doesn't reveal anything completely new, but it definitely brings the core of the movie into sharper focus.

I'm impressed (and honestly surprised) that these loose ends are being tied up so clearly. How is that even possible, with the intuitive way Lynch claims to have made the film? I suspect false modesty, because things are simply fitting together better as the film is further analyzed.


I think I may like this thread more than I like the film.

Maybe it's time to watch this sucker again.
it's not the wrench, it's the plumber.

Voo de Mar


I want to say I enjoyed JB your "Halfborn" analysis of the movie (excluding color of the background - I hate reading on black  :)). If you've analyzed other Lynch movies, please give me proper links, I'd like to read them too. My question to all other members of the board: is there an interesting article/thread comparing "Blue Velvet" & "Lost Highway"? I've recently re-watched these three movies, and it puzzles me whether it's purposeful connection between 'Jeffrey Beaumont' & 'Pete Dayton' when they're displayed on deck chairs in the gardens.

I've got two rather unimportant remarks though, considering "Halfborn":

1) I think "soulmate" is an inadequate term to the relation between Lost Girl & Sue. They aren't neither "soulmates" nor "soultwins", but I'm not sure which term suits the best to their connection since I'm not a specialist of the "incarnation stuff".
2) In the "After Midnight" explanation of the Part 4, you mention Visitor #2 referring to Visitor #1 (played by Grace Zabriskie)

I'm native Polish speaker so I'm eager to help if something written in Polish, related to the IE requires translation.


Notice that the gun is placed on a green coat when Laura Dern's character picks it out from the drawer.


Sorry, I don't have time to read all the previous posts to find out if what I'm going to say has already been covered.

First, let me thank Halfborn for the great analysis of Inland Empire.

Regarding one of the on-going mysteries you mentioned on Page 4 of the site, what Sue says at 1:52:22, if you turn on
the French subtitles options the translator puts in Tu ecoutes?  I guess it means, "Are you listening?" To which Billy answers No.

Now, maybe Sue (or Dern) stumbles are her line and they kept the garbled (due to the character's stress) intact.  Some how the French
translator translated the right word.  I'm pretty sure the garbled word starts with "L" and ends with "ing" or "in'" in a southern type pronunciation.

So "Are you listening?" might be the best resolution that mystery.