[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/inland-empire4.png]]
[[caption-width-right:350:A woman in trouble...]]

-->'' ''[=AXXoN=] N.'', the longest running radio play in history. Tonight, continuing in the Baltic Region, a gray winter day in an old hotel...''

In Poland, a prostitute and her customer (their faces blurred) talk in a hotel room. In the same room years later, a woman cries and watches a sitcom starring three rabbits. An actress, Nikki Grace, in Los Angeles gets a visit from her neighbor and the next day gets the part in a movie, ''On High In Blue Tomorrows'', which turns out to be a remake of a Polish film based on a Polish folk tale ''47'' where the leads were murdered. Nine prostitutes lounge around a house. There's a murder, a mystery, and a woman in trouble.

Possibly Creator/DavidLynch's most incomprehensible and terrifying film since ''Film/{{Eraserhead}}''. Its production was unusual: Lynch shot the film in bits and pieces, without a complete screenplay. He would simply hand the actors new pages each day. When asked what it was about, Lynch ([[ShrugOfGod who never explains his films]]) simply quoted from the Aitareya Upanishad: "We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe."
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!!The film provides examples of:

* ArcWords: Several, including "the horse to the well" and "look at me and tell me if you've known me before". They can be hard to spot, though, since they're often mumbled or spoken in Polish.
* AnachronicOrder: The film isn't linear, and ends up seeming more like a fever dream than anything else because of it.
* AxCrazy: Nikki's husband [[spoiler: Nikki/Susan herself begins to show shades of this late in the film.]]
* BilingualDialogue: Some dialogue is in Polish
* CallBack: A handful towards earlier Lynch works.
** The ending has some towards ''Series/TwinPeaks'' and ''Film/MulhollandDrive''.
** The conversation between the homeless black woman and the Asian girl is a reference to Lynch's short film ''Darkened Room''.
** [[spoiler: The second twisted face that shows up in the climax is reminiscent of [[Film/{{Eraserhead}} Henry's baby.]]]]
* {{Chiaroscuro}}: Used very effectively.
* {{Cloudcuckoolander}}: an example:
--->'''Nikki''': Are you enjoying yourself, Freddie?\\
'''Freddie Howard''': Well... There is a vast network, right? An ocean of possibilities. I like dogs. I used to raise rabbits. I've always loved animals. Their nature. How they think. I have seen dogs reason their way out of problems. Watched them think through the trickiest situations. Do you have a couple of bucks I could borrow? I've got this damn landlord.
* CreatorCameo: The lighting technician Kingsly was yelling at is the voice of DavidLynch.
* DarkIsNotEvil: Many interpretations of the film indicate that the creepy rabbit people and the strange women that appears at the beginning of the film are actually trying to help the Lost Girl...But being a film of David Lynch you never know.
* DreamSequence: It's possible the nearly entire thing is inside Nikki's head.
** DavidLynch wrote it as he went, without knowing where he was going with it to see what would happen. As in, he pretty much let his subconscious direct a movie. Naturally, the result is probably the closest a movie will ever come to emulating a dream.
* DroneOfDread: A majority of the movie's score, with the exception of some [[SoundtrackDissonance weird]] choices, and in one case a ScareChord manages to hang around through half of Music/{{Beck}}'s ''Black Tambourine''.
* EarlyBirdCameo: The ballerina dancer seen at the end shows up again in Lynch's short film ''Absurda'', and the lone shot from that movie looks remarkably similar to one used near the end of this one.
* FilmNoir: parts of the film mimic the genre, especially scenes of a private investigator.
* GainaxEnding: TheOtherWiki's description of the ending: "The concluding scene of the film takes place in Nikki's house, where she sits with many other people, among them LauraElenaHarring, Nastassja Kinski and Ben Harper. A one-legged woman who was mentioned in Sue's monologue looks around and says, 'Sweet!' Niko, the Japanese girl with a blonde wig and a monkey, is also present. The end credits roll over a group of women dancing and lip-synching to Nina Simone's ''Sinnerman'' while a lumberjack saws a log to the beat." So...yeah.
** This trope is debatable though, considering that the rest of the movie is no less strange.
* GreekChorus: The troupe of prostitutes that show up throughout the film, some of whom give (cryptic) comments related to Nikki's predicament.
* HairRaisingHare: the ShowWithinAShow ''Rabbits''.
* LeFilmArtistique.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: A very strange example, considering that it's practically impossible to tell which of those characters are real and which are not, and several actors play visually identical, yet separate characters.
* LostInCharacter: Happens to Nikki on several occasions, it's hard to tell which scenes are real and which are parts of the film within a film.
* MagicRealism
* ManlyTears: The wealthy Polish character played by the same actor as The Phantom has these in one scene. It's implied that [[spoiler:he's just killed his wife's lover (Nikki and Sue's husbands in the American segments).]]
* MindScrew: ''And '''HOW!''''' It's ''[[SerialEscalation above and beyond [=Eraserhead=]]]''
* NightmareFace: Rife with UncannyValley.([[spoiler:Immediately followed by another one that looks like a fetus bleeding from the mouth.]]) The rest of the film does this to several characters with lighting tricks.
* NoPlotNoProblem: This movie was produced without a script. Very frequently Lynch would just show up on the set and gave people their lines, clearly having written them no more than a few hours before. When people would ask him what the film was supposed to be about he would respond with a cryptic poem. The general consensus is that [[spoiler: there is no plot]].
** Though there isn't a coherent script, whether there [[spoiler: isn't a plot]] is questionable and not as relevant as one would expect. It's inarguable that there's several recurring motifs and characters, though. See WritingByTheSeatOfYourPants.
* NothingIsScarier: This film will give you nightmares just from buildup alone. You see it's runtime? About two-thirds of that is soul-crushing buildup and atmosphere.
---> '''Nikki''': Damn! This sounds like dialogue from our script!
* PrecisionFStrike: BRUTAL FAUGHKING MURDER!
* ProsceniumReveal: The cry of "That's a wrap!" and the applause after [[spoiler: Creator/LauraDern's "death scene"]].
* SelfParody: Many have suggested that this film has elements of SelfParody to it. Given that the film is completely [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible messed up]] it would be hard to separate parodying elements from others, but some moments do seem ''ridiculously'' Lynchian, such as the ''Locomotion'' scene. This of course doesn't diminish the film being terrifying [[NothingIsScarier beyond]] [[MindScrew all reason.]]
** The Barbecue scene....just....what?
** The Phantom standing around with a lightblub in his mouth. Nikki walks up to him, gets scared, grabs a screwdriver, and runs away.
* ShoutOut: To ''Film/SunsetBoulevard'', one of Lynch's favorite films.
* ShowWithinAShow: The three rabbits sitcom [[spoiler: Susan's story is zig zagged like a motherfucker.]]
* ShrugOfGod: David Lynch doesn't like to talk about his movies, and when asked about ''Inland Empire'', he replied that "it's about a woman in trouble and it's a mystery and that's all I want to say about it."
* SpiritualSuccessor: To ''Film/MulhollandDrive'', and ''Film/{{Eraserhead}}''
** Also, there are similarities to ''Anime/PerfectBlue''.
* SuddenMusicalEnding: Of all the films to have one.
* SurrealHorror: Emphasis on the surreal. And the horror.
* SurrealHumor: See SelfParody.
* UnusuallyUninterestingSight: In one scene, a pair of homeless women discuss taking a bus to Pomona while Nikki lies bleeding to death in the street next to them.
* TheQuietOne: The bespectacled interviewer, who spends most of his scenes mutely staring at Nikki/Sue. He speaks exactly once during the entire film.
* WhamLine:
---> '''Neighbor''': Is there a...murder...in your film? \\
'''Nikki''': Um, no, that's not part of the story. \\
'''Neighbor''': I think you are wrong about that. \\
'''Nikki''': Sorry? \\
'''Neighbor''': BRUTAL [[PrecisionFStrike FUCKING]] MURDER.
* WorldOfSymbolism: Possibly Creator/DavidLynch's favorite setting.
* WritingByTheSeatOfYourPants: The film was written on a scene-by-scene basis, making for a rather surreal "story." The interview segments were apparently filmed first, with the rest of the film revolving loosely around them.
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