DVD Review: Inland Empire Page 4
Inland is a terrific reference disc. Many of the scenes are filled with out-and-out murk, and if your TV isn't properly calibrated, you're not going to have any idea what's going on. (As a public service, Lynch, as he did on his Eraserhead DVD 2000 and Short Films discs, includes a TV-calibration drill in the main menu. This will definitely do the trick for people who never bother to tweak their sets, but you'll still want to use a full-fledged test DVD to get the best results.) Beyond this, though, the subtlety of the photography - which is just short of miraculous, given that it springs from palm-sized camcorders - and the impact of the protean array of shooting styles will be completely lost on a poorly adjusted set.
On the audio side, you'd be hardpressed to find another movie disc that can give your surround sound setup a better workout. (Inland cries out for a high-def release with a PCM or losslessly encoded soundtrack.) Of course, there aren't any battle scenes or fighter-jet flyovers - but whoever said that subjecting yourself to a merciless sonic bludgeoning is the best way to appreciate your system? What you have instead is a singularly imaginative soundscape, both natural and wholly synthetic, that traverses the gamut from the lowest lows to the highest highs, and at times leaps instantly from the faintest whisper to the loudest roar. (Just venture a minute into the main titles to experience what I'm talking about.)
Lynch eschews aural gimmickry, always using sound in the service of Inland's emotional impact. And while it's hard to imagine hamfisters like Michael Bay or Tony Scott spending much time thinking about the expressive possibilities of dynamic range, it's a subject that visibly moves Lynch. Consider this impassioned monologue, from the disc's "Stories" section:
"It would be very great to have the potential for massive volume - and real tasty quiet. You know, the dynamic range - you don't do it for the doing of loud for loudness sake, but sometimes, just to have that power reserve would be so great - but, like, unreal reserve, just [puts his head in his hands] shudderingly loud. And solid - [looking up again] no distortion. Just ripping the screen off. Just beauty. [shakes his head]"