INLAND EMPIRE Murders in ‘On High in Blue Tomorrows’

two_chalfonts

Sparkwood & 21
Mar 22, 2023
15
20
So having watched IE + the missing pieces again recently, I was wondering a lot about what the film within the film is actually about.

There's a decent attempt made on this IE wiki page:

On_High_in_Blue_Tomorrows

It's interesting that Nikki tells visitor #1 that there's no murder in the film, because I think the film + missing pieces implies that there is..

- in the main film, there's a guy with a moustache lying on the ground, stabbed
- Billie's wife turns up at a police station, stabbed
- Sue gets stabbed in the street, towards the end of the film
- in the "more things that happened" scenes, we also see Billy lying in the street, stabbed

So what's going here? Is this that Nikki hadn't read the script, or is this the "curse" of the film, playing out?.....

How many people die in the film?
 

Mr. Reindeer

White Lodge
Apr 13, 2022
775
1,740
So having watched IE + the missing pieces again recently, I was wondering a lot about what the film within the film is actually about.

There's a decent attempt made on this IE wiki page:

On_High_in_Blue_Tomorrows

It's interesting that Nikki tells visitor #1 that there's no murder in the film, because I think the film + missing pieces implies that there is..

- in the main film, there's a guy with a moustache lying on the ground, stabbed
- Billie's wife turns up at a police station, stabbed
- Sue gets stabbed in the street, towards the end of the film
- in the "more things that happened" scenes, we also see Billy lying in the street, stabbed

So what's going here? Is this that Nikki hadn't read the script, or is this the "curse" of the film, playing out?.....

How many people die in the film?
Full transparency, I wrote most of that wikia. Just because I felt like there should be a resource out there about the film beyond what existed at the time. I did my best to objectively describe what's onscreen, but due to the inherent nature of the film, a lot of what I wrote is obviously pure conjecture and my own interpretation of events (some of which I probably don't even agree with anymore).

But yeah, my opinion is that the film On High in Blue Tomorrows didn't involve a murder in the script Nikki received. But because the curse is embedded in the story, the events of the film eventually evolve and change to reveal the murder storyline. That's how I see it.

What's interesting to me (and I've never really been able to crack) is who performed the two murders in the old-timey Poland section of the film. We see the "Who Is She?" woman stalking up a staircase with a screwdriver (seemingly the same staircase that Sue/Nikki takes to Mr. K's office). We hear her scream. Then we see her in very dark lighting seemingly having been stabbed. After this, the Phantom sees Lost Girl on the street and tells her that there's been a murder, and we see Smithy/Piotrek seemingly shot through the head, with spattered brain matter around him.

First of all, who played the "Who Is She?" woman? I'm not great with faces sometimes, especially with the dark lighting and low quality. I think maybe it's Julia Ormond, but she looks so different from her other scenes due to the wig and old-timey clothing. Then sometimes I think it's Karolina Gruszka (the actress who played Lost Girl, playing into the identity confusion). Or sometimes I think it's Ormond in one shot and Gruszka in the other. I can't decide. And then, there's a later weird shot where Lost Girl and two of the Valley Girls are standing on a snowy Polish street, and there's a mysterious woman seemingly just watching them resentfully, and the camera lingers on her. Who's that?!

Anyway, actor identities aside. Presumably, "Who Is She?" woman is on a mission to kill Lost Girl and/or Smithy, since she previously threatened to not let them be together. So what actually happens? Does she see Smithy’s corpse and kill herself? Does someone else kill her (Lost Girl?)? How does she get stabbed? We see in the present (or some version of the present) that Doris (Ormond) stabs herself, although that doesn't seem to be what "really" happens in the film since she's later fine.

And then, who shot Smithy? The Phantom, I assume? It's all pretty confusing.

And yeah, we see Theroux stabbed in More Things That Happened, but no indication whether this is Billy (his in-film character) or Devon (the actor in the “real” world).
 
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two_chalfonts

Sparkwood & 21
Mar 22, 2023
15
20
What's interesting to me (and I've never really been able to crack) is who performed the two murders in the old-timey Poland section of the film. We see the "Who Is She?" woman stalking up a staircase with a screwdriver (seemingly the same staircase that Sue/Nikki takes to Mr. K's office). We hear her scream. Then we see her in very dark lighting seemingly having been stabbed. After this, the Phantom sees Lost Girl on the street and tells her that there's been a murder, and we see Smithy/Piotrek seemingly shot through the head, with spattered brain matter around him.

Watched the film again last night, and you're right, I'm really not sure who that was walking up the stairs at that point.... It's probably my favourite part of the film, I love the costumes in particular.

Maybe this really is Lynch's most perplexing film?! I suspect a lot of people don't have the patience to work out what's going on, but I personally like a challenge.

It feels a bit jaded to think that Lynch didn't really make a coherent film in the editing suite. He clearly had a ton of footage to work with.
 

two_chalfonts

Sparkwood & 21
Mar 22, 2023
15
20
...by the way, do we have any idea who stabbed Doris?

I've absolutely no clue where in the timeline this scene is, or whether we're watching a scene from 'On High On Blue Tomorrows', or something else.

v39yOnJ.jpeg
 

Mr. Reindeer

White Lodge
Apr 13, 2022
775
1,740
...by the way, do we have any idea who stabbed Doris?

I've absolutely no clue where in the timeline this scene is, or whether we're watching a scene from 'On High On Blue Tomorrows', or something else.

View attachment 800
I believe it’s implied that she stabbed herself (and possibly that her earlier Polish counterpart did the same). But as to where in the timeline it takes place, I’m not sure it’s possible to say for sure. It doesn’t seem to fit with the later Hollywood Blvd. sequence, on a literal sense anyway.
 

tudwell

Sparkwood & 21
Apr 12, 2022
18
28
Yeah, I always got the sense that the movie being made changed in nature as Nikki/Sue's journey progressed. The Sue (if it is Sue) talking to the man in the glasses seems a world away from the one working for Billy. Not just in general demeanor but even in her accent - it sounds a little lower-class to me than it did in the beginning. In the beginning she can at least hobnob with her superiors; while she's working for Billy and clearly of a different caste, she doesn't seem entirely out-of-place. The Sue talking to the man in the glasses feels like total (to be un-PC) trailer trash that would never be able to blend in with the upper classes. Feels like a different person, even if it's meant, on some level, to be the same person. And that's to say nothing of the sudden and unexplained leap to Los Angeles. And why Billy's wife would follow her all the way there just to stab her with a dang screwdriver. It's all very dream-like in the way the boundaries and focal points of the world shift over time, sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly.
 

tudwell

Sparkwood & 21
Apr 12, 2022
18
28
Maybe this really is Lynch's most perplexing film?! I suspect a lot of people don't have the patience to work out what's going on, but I personally like a challenge.
It's funny but I think in some sense it might actually be the simplest of Lynch's late, reality-bending films. Underneath all the surface chaos is a pretty simple Hero's Journey kind of thing. Nikki (wittingly or not) accepts the call to the journey (in accepting the script), ventures into the underworld (the chaotic nightmare of intersecting realities that makes up a good chunk of the film), defeats a great evil (The Phantom), and returns with some otherworldly knowledge that allows her to be at peace in this plane.

And actually, according to Martha Nochimson, it's all spelled out right there in the intro when the Polish lady (Grace Zabriskie) tells the story of the little girl who finds a path to the palace in the alley behind the marketplace. According to Nochimson, at least (I haven't investigated it independently), these were terms Maharishi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, used to explain and translate Hindu concepts. The Marketplace is Maya, the illusory physical plane we currently inhabit. The Palace is what transcends this physical reality, the great stillness at the ground of being, Lynch's Unified Field. The girl (Dern's character, obviously) finds a secret path to go from the marketplace to the palace. Nikki quite literally finds a path in an alley behind a marketplace, which sends her on some reality-bending adventure, only to return to her (rather palatial) home at the precise place and time she began, sitting across from that original conversation with the Polish woman - only now she's at peace as the last beautiful strains of Krysta Bell's Polish Poem play.

Obviously there's much to be found in digging into the details of that nightmarish chaos and how it might all fit together, but at its core it's a pretty simple story. More so, in my opinion, than Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway, which for me always end up resisting any narrative thrust quite as linear or straightforward as Inland Empire's Hero's Journey thing.
 
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two_chalfonts

Sparkwood & 21
Mar 22, 2023
15
20
Having just watched some of the missing pieces again, I sense that Nastassja Kinski's character is another woman in the film who was seduced by Billy. (I really love that scene, I can't understand why Lynch cut it from the main film! 💔)

Billy seems to be a bit of a ladies man in the film. Sue must surely be finding that conversation very awkward, given that she's clearly also fallen for Billy.

Interestingly, I notice that in the wiki entry, there's no mention of the scene where Sue turns up at Billy's house and delivers the "don't you remember anything... How it was" line.

I'd be interested to know if you think those 2 x scenes happened outside of the film. I could be wrong but I thought that the latter of those 2 x scenes was definitely part of the film within the film.
 

two_chalfonts

Sparkwood & 21
Mar 22, 2023
15
20
So, just to be clear, I think what happens is that Billy has an affair with both Sue and Nastassja Kinski's characters.

Billy's wife finds out (from Sue turning up at their house), stabs Sue in the street, maybe stabs Billy too (given we see him dying in the street at one point), gets arrested and reels off her "I've been hypnotised or something" police interview.... where she reveals she's stabbed herself too!

What a crazy film! 😂
 

Mr. Reindeer

White Lodge
Apr 13, 2022
775
1,740
The Nastassja Kinski scene seems to be in Nikki’s mansion. I don’t think it’s part of the film within the film.
 

two_chalfonts

Sparkwood & 21
Mar 22, 2023
15
20
The Nastassja Kinski scene seems to be in Nikki’s mansion. I don’t think it’s part of the film within the film.

Yeah maybe, but she says "he said his name was Billy", so I genuinely think it's part of OHIBT.

The only "Billy" we come across in the film is Devon's character, Billy. I do think one of the most interesting parts of the film is not knowing whether we're watching an OHIBT scene being filmed, or a scene with Nikki outside of the filming.

The names used in those scenes are our only guide.
 

Mr. Reindeer

White Lodge
Apr 13, 2022
775
1,740
I think there are a lot of overlapping and repeating realities in the film. For instance, the hotel, which we see in Axxon N., then again in the Nastassja Kinski segment. The name Billy is clearly meant to evoke the character from On High in Blue Tomorrows, but I’m not sure it’s as straightforward as two women sleeping with the same man. Just one more repetition of the cycle, with some similarities to the other ones. I take Dern’s reaction there more just as being unsettled and disturbed by the story and by Kinski’s tone, partially because it stirs something in her and she recognizes her own links to these events on a subconscious level even if she hasn’t lived it yet, but also partially just because Kinski’s story and the way she describes her mindset is clearly full of poor decision-making that would concern a friend. But the beauty of this film is that it’s all open to interpretation.
 
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