Today I am featuring my all time favorite director of film and series. This man needs no introduction to those who are fans of his works or art yet some may not know yet of this extravagant artist who shows us that it’s ok to get lost in dreamscapes. Anyone who has watched any of his series Twin Peaks or films like Lost Highway will know what I’m talking about. David Lynch is also a very positive person and patient with his staff and film crew, allowing them to get the best out of themselves.
David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, painter, musician, writer and actor. His films led to him being labeled “the first popular surrealist” by film critic Pauline Kael. A recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 2019, Lynch has received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, and the César Award for Best Foreign Film twice, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival. In 2007, a panel of critics convened by The Guardian announced that ‘after all the discussion, no one could fault the conclusion that David Lynch is the most important film-maker of the current era’, while AllMovie called him “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking”.
Lynch initially studied painting before he began making short films in the late 1960s. His first feature-length film, the surrealist horror Eraserhead (1977), became a success on the midnight movie circuit, and he followed that by directing The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), and Blue Velvet (1986). Lynch next created his own television series with Mark Frost, the popular murder mystery Twin Peaks (1990–91), which ran for two seasons. He also created the film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), the road film Wild at Heart (1990), and the family film The Straight Story (1999) in the same period. Turning further towards surrealist filmmaking, three of his subsequent films operated on dream logic non-linear narrative structures: Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), and Inland Empire (2006). Lynch and Frost reunited in 2017 for a third season of Twin Peaks, which aired on Showtime. Lynch co-wrote and directed every episode, and reprised his onscreen role as Gordon Cole.
Lynch’s other artistic endeavors include his work as a musician, encompassing the studio albums BlueBOB (2001), Crazy Clown Time (2011), and The Big Dream (2013), as well as music and sound design for a variety of his films (sometimes alongside collaborators Alan Splet, Dean Hurley, and/or Angelo Badalament; painting and photography; writing the books Images (1994), Catching the Big Fish (2006), Room to Dream (2018), and numerous other literary works; and directing several music videos (such as the video for “Shot in the Back of the Head” by Moby, who, in turn, directed a video for Lynch’s “The Big Dream”) as well as advertisements, including the Dior promotional film Lady Blue Shanghai (2006). An avid practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM), in 2005 he founded the David Lynch Foundation, which seeks to fund the teaching of TM in schools and has since widened its scope to other at-risk populations, including the homeless, veterans and refugees.
David Keith Lynch was born in Missoula, Montana on January 20, 1946. His father, was a research scientist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and his mother, Edwina “Sunny” Lynch was an English language tutor. Two of Lynch’s maternal great-grandparents were Finnish-Swedish immigrants who arrived in the U.S. during the 19th century. He was raised a Presbyterian. The Lynches often moved around according to where the USDA assigned Donald. Because of this, Lynch, moved with his parents to Sandpoint, Idaho, when he was two months old; two years later, after his brother John was born, the family moved to Spokane, Washington. Lynch’s sister Martha was born there. The family then moved to Durham, North Carolina, Boise, Idaho, and Alexandria, Virginia. Lynch adjusted to this transitory early life with relative ease, noting that he usually had no issue making new friends whenever he started attending a new school. Of his early life, he remarked: “I found the world completely and totally fantastic as a child. Of course, I had the usual fears, like going to school … for me, back then, school was a crime against young people. It destroyed the seeds of liberty. The teachers didn’t encourage knowledge or a positive attitude”.
Alongside his schooling, Lynch joined the Boy Scouts, although he later said he only “became a scout so I could quit and put it behind me”. He rose to the highest rank of Eagle Scout. As an Eagle Scout, he was present with other Boy Scouts outside the White House at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, which took place on Lynch’s 15th birthday. Lynch was also interested in painting and drawing from an early age, and became intrigued by the idea of pursuing it as a career path when living in Virginia, where his friend’s father was a professional painter.
At Francis C. Hammond High School in Alexandria, Lynch did not excel academically, having little interest in schoolwork, but he was popular with other students, and after leaving he decided that he wanted to study painting at college. He began his studies at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C., before transferring in 1964 to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he was roommates with musician Peter Wolf. He left after only a year, saying, “I was not inspired AT ALL in that place.” He instead decided that he wanted to travel around Europe for three years with his friend Jack Fisk, who was similarly unhappy with his studies at Cooper Union. They had some hopes that they could train in Europe with Austrian expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka at his school. Upon reaching Salzburg, however, they found that Kokoschka was not available; disillusioned, they returned to the United States after spending only two weeks in Europe.
Back in the United States, Lynch returned to Virginia, but since his parents had moved to Walnut Creek, California, he stayed with his friend Toby Keeler for a while. He decided to move to Philadelphia and enroll at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, after advice from Fisk, who was already enrolled there. He preferred this college to his previous school in Boston, saying, “In Philadelphia there were great and serious painters, and everybody was inspiring one another and it was a beautiful time there.” It was here that he began a relationship with a fellow student, Peggy Reavey, whom he married in 1967. The following year, Peggy gave birth to their daughter Jennifer. Peggy later said, ” Lynch definitely was a reluctant father, but a very loving one. Hey, I was pregnant when we got married. We were both reluctant.” As a family, they moved to Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, where they bought a 12-room house for the relatively low price of $3,500 due to the area’s high crime and poverty rates. Lynch later said: We lived cheap, but the city was full of fear. A kid was shot to death down the street … We were robbed twice, had windows shot out and a car stolen. The house was first broken into only three days after we moved in … The feeling was so close to extreme danger, and the fear was so intense. There was violence and hate and filth. But the biggest influence in my whole life was that city.
Meanwhile, to help support his family, he took a job printing engravings. At the Pennsylvania Academy, Lynch made his first short film, Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) (1967). He had first come up with the idea when he developed a wish to see his paintings move, and he began discussing doing animation with an artist named Bruce Samuelson. When this project never came about, Lynch decided to work on a film alone, and purchased the cheapest 16mm camera that he could find. Taking one of the Academy’s abandoned upper rooms as a workspace, he spent $150, which at the time he felt to be a lot of money, to produce Six Men Getting Sick. Calling the film “57 seconds of growth and fire, and three seconds of vomit”, Lynch played it on a loop at the Academy’s annual end-of-year exhibit, where it shared joint first prize with a painting by Noel Mahaffey. This led to a commission from one of his fellow students, the wealthy H. Barton Wasserman, who offered him $1,000 to create a film installation in his home. Spending $478 of that on the second-hand Bolex camera “of [his] dreams”, Lynch produced a new animated short, but upon getting the film developed, realized that the result was a blurred, frameless print. He later said, “So I called up [Wasserman] and said, ‘Bart, the film is a disaster. The camera was broken and what I’ve done hasn’t turned out.’ And he said, ‘Don’t worry, David, take the rest of the money and make something else for me. Just give me a print.’ End of story.”
With his leftover money, Lynch decided to experiment with a mix of animation and live action, producing the four-minute short The Alphabet (1968). The film starred Lynch’s wife Peggy as a character known as The Girl, who chants the alphabet to a series of images of horses before dying at the end by hemorrhaging blood all over her bed sheets. Adding a sound effect, Lynch used a broken Uher tape recorder to record the sound of Jennifer crying, creating a distorted sound that Lynch found particularly effective. Later describing what had inspired him, Lynch said, “Peggy’s niece was having a bad dream one night and was saying the alphabet in her sleep in a tormented way. So that’s sort of what started The Alphabet going. The rest of it was just subconscious
Learning about the newly founded American Film Institute, which gave grants to filmmakers who could support their application with a prior work and a script for a new project, Lynch decided to send them a copy of The Alphabet along with a script he had written for a new short film that would be almost entirely live action, The Grandmother. The institute agreed to help finance the work, initially offering him $5,000 out of his requested budget of $7,200, but later granting him the additional $2,200. Starring people he knew from both work and college and filmed in his own house, The Grandmother featured a neglected boy who “grows” a grandmother from a seed to care for him. The film critics Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell wrote, “this film is a true oddity but contains many of the themes and ideas that would filter into his later work, and shows a remarkable grasp of the medium”.
In 1971, Lynch moved with his wife and daughter to Los Angeles, where he began studying filmmaking at the AFI Conservatory, a place he later called “completely chaotic and disorganized, which was great … you quickly learned that if you were going to get something done, you would have to do it yourself. They wanted to let people do their thing.” He began writing a script for a proposed work, Gardenback, that had “unfolded from this painting I’d done”. In this venture he was supported by a number of figures at the Conservatory, who encouraged him to lengthen the script and add more dialogue, which he reluctantly agreed to do. All the interference on his Gardenback project made him fed up with the Conservatory and led him to quit after returning to start his second year and being put in first-year classes. AFI dean Frank Daniel asked Lynch to reconsider, believing that he was one of the school’s best students. Lynch agreed on the condition that he could create a project that would not be interfered with. Feeling that Gardenback was “wrecked”, he set out on a new film, Eraserhead.
Eraserhead was planned to be about 42 minutes long (it ended up being 89 minutes), its script was only 21 pages, and Lynch was able to create the film without interference. Filming began on May 29, 1972, at night in some abandoned stables, allowing the production team, which was largely Lynch and some of his friends, including Sissy Spacek, Jack Fisk, cinematographer Frederick Elmes and sound designer Alan Splet, to set up a camera room, green room, editing room, sets as well as a food room and a bathroom. The AFI gave Lynch a $10,000 grant, but it was not enough to complete the film, and under pressure from studios after the success of the relatively cheap feature film Easy Rider, it was unable to give him more. Lynch was then supported by a loan from his father and money that he earned from a paper route that he took up, delivering The Wall Street Journal. Not long into Eraserhead’s production, Lynch and Peggy amicably separated and divorced, and he began living full-time on set. In 1977, Lynch married Mary Fisk, sister of Jack Fisk.
Lynch has said that not a single reviewer of the film understood it in the way he intended. Filmed in black and white, Eraserhead tells the story of Henry (Jack Nance), a quiet young man living in a dystopian industrial wasteland, whose girlfriend gives birth to a deformed baby whom she leaves in his care. It was heavily influenced by the fearful mood of Philadelphia, and Lynch has called it “my Philadelphia Story”.
Due to financial problems the filming of Eraserhead was haphazard, regularly stopping and starting again.
Eraserhead was finally finished in 1976. Lynch tried to get it entered into the Cannes Film Festival, but while some reviewers liked it, others felt it was awful, and it was not selected for screening. Reviewers from the New York Film Festival also rejected it, but it was screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where Ben Barenholtz, the distributor of the Elgin Theater, heard about it. He was very supportive of the movie, helping to distribute it around the United States in 1977, and Eraserhead subsequently became popular on the midnight movie underground circuit, and was later called one of the most important midnight movies of the 1970s, along with El Topo, Pink Flamingos, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Harder They Come and Night of the Living Dead. Stanley Kubrick said it was one of his all-time favorite films.
After Eraserhead’s success on the underground circuit, Stuart Cornfeld, an executive producer for Mel Brooks, saw it and later said, “I was just 100 percent blown away … I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. It was such a cleansing experience.” He agreed to help Lynch with his next film, Ronnie Rocket, for which Lynch had already written a script. But Lynch soon realized that Ronnie Rocket, a film that he has said is about “electricity and a three-foot guy with red hair”, was not going to be picked up by any financiers, and so he asked Cornfeld to find him a script by someone else that he could direct. Cornfeld found four. On hearing the title of the first, The Elephant Man, Lynch chose it.
The Elephant Man’s script, written by Chris de Vore and Eric Bergren, was based on a true story, that of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in Victorian London, who was held in a sideshow but later taken under the care of a London surgeon, Frederick Treves. Lynch wanted to make some alterations that would alter the story from true events but in his view make a better plot, but he needed Mel Brooks’s permission, as Brooks’s company, Brooksfilms, was responsible for production. Brooks viewed Eraserhead, and after coming out of the screening theatre, embraced Lynch, declaring, “You’re a madman! I love you! You’re in.”
The Elephant Man starred John Hurt as John Merrick (the name changed from Joseph) and Anthony Hopkins as Treves. Filming took place in London. Though surrealistic and in black and white, it has been called “one of the most conventional” of Lynch’s films. The Elephant Man was a huge critical and commercial success, earning eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay
After The Elephant Man’s success, George Lucas, a fan of Eraserhead, offered Lynch the opportunity to direct the third film in his Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi. Lynch refused, arguing that Lucas should direct the film himself as the movie should reflect his own vision, not Lynch’s. Soon, the opportunity to direct another big-budget science fiction epic arose when Dino de Laurentiis of the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group asked Lynch to create a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965). Lynch agreed, and in doing so was also contractually obliged to produce two other works for the company. He set about writing a script based upon the novel, initially with both Chris de Vore and Eric Bergren, and then alone when De Laurentiis was unhappy with their ideas. Lynch also helped build some of the sets, attempting to create “a certain look”, and particularly enjoyed building the set for the oil planet Giedi Prime, for which he used “steel, bolts, and porcelain”.
Dune is set in the far future, when humans live in an interstellar empire under a feudal system. The main character, Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), is the son of a noble who takes control of the desert planet Arrakis, which grows the rare spice melange, the empire’s most highly prized commodity. Lynch was unhappy with the work, later saying, “Dune was a kind of studio film. I didn’t have final cut. And, little by little, I was subconsciously making compromises” (to his own vision). Much of his footage was eventually removed from the final theatrical cut, dramatically condensing the plot. Although De Laurentiis hoped it would be as successful as Star Wars, Dune (1984) was a critical and commercial dud; it had cost $45 million to make, and grossed $27.4 million domestically.
Lynch was contractually still obliged to produce two other projects for De Laurentiis, the first a planned sequel to Dune, which due to the film’s failure never went beyond the script stage. The other was a more personal work, based on a script Lynch had been working on for some time. Developing from ideas that Lynch had had since 1973, the film, Blue Velvet, was set in the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina, and revolves around a college student, Jeffrey Beaumont (MacLachlan), who finds a severed ear in a field. Investigating further with the help of friend Sandy (Laura Dern), he discovers that it is related to a criminal gang led by psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who has kidnapped the husband and child of singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and repeatedly rapes her. Lynch has called the story “a dream of strange desires wrapped inside a mystery story”.
Lynch included pop songs from the 1960s in the film, including Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” and Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet”, the latter of which largely inspired the film. Lynch has said, “It was the song that sparked the movie … There was something mysterious about it. It made me think about things. And the first things I thought about were lawns—lawns and the neighborhood.” Other music for the film was composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who wrote the music for most of Lynch’s subsequent work. De Laurentiis loved the film, and it received support at some of the early specialist screenings, but the preview screenings to mainstream audiences were very negatively received, with most of the viewers hating the film. Lynch had found success with The Elephant Man, but Blue Velvet’s controversy with audiences and critics introduced him into the mainstream, and it became a huge critical and moderate commercial success. The film earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Woody Allen, whose Hannah and Her Sisters was nominated for Best Picture, said Blue Velvet was his favorite film of the year.
Around this time, he met the television producer Mark Frost, who had worked on such projects as Hill Street Blues, and while talking in a coffee shop, Lynch and Frost had the idea of a corpse washing up on a lakeshore, and went to work on their third project, initially called Northwest Passage but eventually Twin Peaks (1990–91).
A drama series set in a small Washington town where popular high school student Laura Palmer has been murdered, Twin Peaks featured FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (MacLachlan) as the investigator trying to identify the killer, and discovering not only the murder’s supernatural aspects but also many of the townsfolk’s secrets; Lynch said, “The project was to mix a police investigation with the ordinary lives of the characters.” He later said, “Mark Frost and I worked together, especially in the initial stages. Later on we started working more apart.” They pitched the series to ABC, which agreed to finance the pilot and eventually commissioned a season comprising seven episodes.
During season one Lynch directed two of the seven episodes, devoting more time to his film Wild at Heart, but carefully chose the other episodes’ directors. He also appeared in several episodes as FBI agent Gordon Cole. The series was a success, with high ratings in the United States and many other countries, and soon spawned a cult following. Soon a second season of 22 episodes went into production, but ABC executives believed that public interest in the show was decreasing. The network insisted that Lynch and Frost reveal Laura Palmer’s killer’s identity prematurely, which Lynch grudgingly agreed to do, in what Lynch has called one of his biggest professional regrets. After identifying the murderer and moving from Thursday to Saturday night, Twin Peaks continued for several more episodes, but was canceled after a ratings drop. Lynch, who disliked the direction that writers and directors took in the later episodes, directed the final episode. He ended it with a cliffhanger (like season one had), later saying, “that’s not the ending. That’s the ending that people were stuck with.”
Also while Twin Peaks was in production, the Brooklyn Academy of Music asked Lynch and Badalamenti, who wrote the music for Twin Peaks, to create a theatrical piece to be performed twice in 1989 as a part of the New Music America Festival. The result was Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted, which starred frequent Lynch collaborators such as Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage and Michael J. Anderson, and contained five songs sung by Julee Cruise. Lynch produced a 50-minute video of the performance in 1990. Meanwhile, he was also involved in creating various commercials for companies including Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and the Japanese coffee company Namoi, which featured a Japanese man searching Twin Peaks for his missing wife.
While Lynch was working on the first few episodes of Twin Peaks, his friend Monty Montgomery “gave me a book that he wanted to direct as a movie. He asked if I would maybe be executive producer or something, and I said ‘That’s great, Monty, but what if I read it and fall in love with it and want to do it myself?’ And he said, ‘In that case, you can do it yourself’.” The book was Barry Gifford’s novel Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula, about two lovers on a road trip. Lynch felt that it was “just exactly the right thing at the right time. The book and the violence in America merged in my mind and many different things happened.” With Gifford’s support, Lynch adapted the novel into Wild at Heart, a crime and road movie starring Nicolas Cage as Sailor and Laura Dern as Lula. Describing its plot as a “strange blend” of “a road picture, a love story, a psychological drama and a violent comedy”, Lynch altered much of the original novel, changing the ending and incorporating numerous references to The Wizard of Oz. Despite a muted response from American critics and viewers, Wild at Heart won the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.
After Wild at Heart’s success, Lynch returned to the world of the canceled Twin Peaks, this time without Frost, to create a film that was primarily a prequel but also in part a sequel. Lynch said, “I liked the idea of the story going back and forth in time.” The result, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), primarily revolved around the last few days in the life of Laura Palmer, and was much “darker” in tone than the TV series, with much of the humor removed, and dealing with such topics as incest and murder. Lynch has said the film is about “the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest”. The company CIBY-2000 financed Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and most of the TV series’ cast reprised their roles, though some refused and many were unenthusiastic about the project. The film was a commercial and critical failure in the United States but a hit in Japan, and some critics, such as Mark Kermode, have called it Lynch’s “masterpiece”.
After his unsuccessful TV ventures, Lynch returned to film. In 1997 he released the non-linear, noiresque Lost Highway, which was co-written by Barry Gifford and starred Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette. The film failed commercially and received a mixed response from critics.
Lynch then began work on a film from a script by Mary Sweeney and John E. Roach, The Straight Story, based on a true story: that of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), an elderly man from Laurens, Iowa, who goes on a 300-mile journey to visit his sick brother (Harry Dean Stanton) in Mount Zion, Wisconsin, by riding lawnmower. Asked why he chose this script, Lynch said, “that’s what I fell in love with next”, and expressed his admiration of Straight, describing him as “like James Dean, except he’s old”. Badalamenti wrote the music for the film, saying it was “very different from the kind of score he’s done for [Lynch] in the past”.
Among the many differences from Lynch’s other films, The Straight Story contains no profanity, sexuality or violence, and is rated “G” by the Motion Picture Association of America, which came as “shocking news” to many in the film industry, who were surprised that it “did not disturb, offend or mystify”. Le Blanc and Odell write that the plot made it “seem as far removed from Lynch’s earlier works as could be imagined, but in fact right from the very opening, this is entirely his film—a surreal road movie”.
The same year, Lynch approached ABC again with ideas for a television drama. The network gave Lynch the go-ahead to shoot a two-hour pilot for the series Mulholland Drive, but disputes over content and running time led to the project being shelved indefinitely. But with $7 million from the French production company StudioCanal, Lynch completed the pilot as a film, Mulholland Drive. The film, a non-linear narrative surrealist tale of Hollywood’s dark side, stars Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux. It performed relatively well at the box office worldwide and was a critical success, earning Lynch Best Director at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival (shared with Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Best Director from the New York Film Critics Association. He also received his third Academy Award nomination for Best Director. In 2016, the film was named the best film of the 21st century in a BBC poll of 177 film critics from 36 countries.
With the rising popularity of the Internet, Lynch decided to use it as a distribution channel, releasing several new series he had created exclusively on his website, davidlynch.com, which went online on December 10, 2001. In 2002, he created a series of online shorts, DumbLand. Intentionally crude in content and execution, the eight-episode series was later released on DVD. The same year, Lynch released a surreal sitcom, Rabbits, about a family of humanoid rabbits. Later, he made his experiments with Digital Video available in the form of the Japanese-style horror short Darkened Room. In 2006, Lynch’s feature film Inland Empire was released. At three hours, it is the longest of his films. Like Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, it does not follow a traditional narrative structure. It stars Lynch regulars Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton and Justin Theroux, with cameos by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring as the voices of Suzie and Jane Rabbit, and a performance by Jeremy Irons. Lynch has called Inland Empire “a mystery about a woman in trouble”. In an effort to promote it, he made appearances with a cow and a placard bearing the slogan “Without cheese there would be no Inland Empire”.
On October 6, 2014, Lynch confirmed via Twitter that he and Frost would start shooting a new, nine-episode season of Twin Peaks in 2015, with the episodes expected to air in 2016 on Showtime. Lynch and Frost wrote all the episodes. Since the last episode of The Return aired, there has been speculation about a fourth season. Lynch did not deny the possibility of another season, but said that if it were to happen, it would not air before 2021.
Lynch is reportedly working on a new project for Netflix under the working titles Wisteria and Unrecorded Night. He is set to write and direct 13 episodes with an $85 million budget; production will begin in May 2021 in Los Angeles.
“I look at the world and I see absurdity all around me. People do strange things constantly, to the point that, for the most part, we manage not to see it. That’s why I love coffee shops and public places—I mean, they’re all out there”.
Lynch has said his work is more similar in many respects to that of European filmmakers than American ones, and that most films that “get down and thrill your soul” are by European directors. He has expressed his admiration for such filmmakers as Federico Fellini, Werner Herzog, Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, and Jacques Tati, along with Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder. He has said that Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard is one of his favorite pictures, as are Kubrick’s Lolita, Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Herzog’s Stroszek. He has also cited Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls and Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End as influences on his work.
Several themes recur in Lynch’s work. Le Blanc and Odell write, “his films are so packed with motifs, recurrent characters, images, compositions and techniques that you could view his entire output as one large jigsaw puzzle of ideas”. One of the key themes they note is the usage of dreams and dreamlike imagery and structure, something they relate to the “surrealist ethos” of relying “on the subconscious to provide visual drive”. This can be seen in Merrick’s dream of his mother in The Elephant Man, Cooper’s dreams of the red room in Twin Peaks and the “dreamlike logic” of the narratives of Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.Of his attitude to dreams, Lynch has said, “Waking dreams are the ones that are important, the ones that come when I’m quietly sitting in a chair, letting my mind wander. When you sleep, you don’t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made or discovered; a world I choose … You can’t really get others to experience it, but right there is the power of cinema.” His films are known for their use of magic realism. The motif of dreams is closely linked to his recurring use of drones, real-world sounds and musical styles.
Another of Lynch’s prominent themes is industry, with repeated imagery of “the clunk of machinery, the power of pistons, shadows of oil drills pumping, screaming wood mills and smoke billowing factories”, as seen in the industrial wasteland in Eraserhead, the factories in The Elephant Man, the sawmill in Twin Peaks and the lawnmower in The Straight Story. Of his interest in such things, Lynch has said, “It makes me feel good to see giant machinery, you know, working: dealing with molten metal. And I like fire and smoke. And the sounds are so powerful. It’s just big stuff. It means that things are being made, and I really like that.”
Yet another theme is the dark underbelly of violent criminal activity in a society, such as Frank Booth’s gang in Blue Velvet and the cocaine smugglers in Twin Peaks. The idea of deformity is also found in several of Lynch’s films, from The Elephant Man to the deformed baby in Eraserhead, as well as death from head wounds, found in most of Lynch’s films. Other imagery common in Lynch’s works includes flickering electricity or lights, fire, and stages upon which a singer performs, often surrounded by drapery.
Except The Elephant Man and Dune, which are set in Victorian London and a fictitious galaxy respectively, all of Lynch’s films are set in the United States, and he has said, “I like certain things about America and it gives me ideas. When I go around and I see things, it sparks little stories, or little characters pop out, so it just feels right to me to, you know, make American films.” A number of his works, including Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway, are intentionally reminiscent of 1950s American culture despite being set in later decades of the 20th century. Lynch has said, “It was a fantastic decade in a lot of ways … there was something in the air that is not there any more at all. It was such a great feeling, and not just because I was a kid. It was a really hopeful time, and things were going up instead of going down. You got the feeling you could do anything. The future was bright. Little did we know we were laying the groundwork for a disastrous future.”
Lynch also tends to feature his leading female actors in “split” roles, so that many of his female characters have multiple, fractured identities. This practice began with his casting Sheryl Lee as both Laura Palmer and her cousin Maddy Ferguson in Twin Peaks and continued in his later works. In Lost Highway, Patricia Arquette plays the dual role of Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield; in Mulholland Drive Naomi Watts plays Diane Selwyn/Betty Elms and Laura Harring plays Camilla Rhodes/Rita; in Inland Empire Laura Dern plays Nikki Grace/Susan Blue. The numerous alternative versions of lead characters and fragmented timelines may echo and/or reference the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics and perhaps Lynch’s broader interest in quantum mechanics. Some have suggested that Lynch’s love for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which employs a split lead character (the Judy Barton and Madeleine Elster characters, both portrayed by Kim Novak) may have influenced this aspect of his work.
His films frequently feature characters with supernatural or omnipotent qualities. They can be seen as physical manifestations of various concepts, such as hatred or fear. Examples include The Man Inside the Planet in Eraserhead, BOB in Twin Peaks, The Mystery Man in Lost Highway, The Bum in Mulholland Drive, and The Phantom in Inland Empire. Lynch approaches his characters and plots in a way that steeps them in a dream state rather than reality.
Lynch is also widely noted for his collaborations with various production artists and composers on his films and other productions. He frequently works with Angelo Badalamenti to compose music for his productions, former wife Mary Sweeney as a film editor, casting director Johanna Ray, and cast members Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Nance, Kyle MacLachlan, Naomi Watts, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie, and Laura Dern.
David Lynch has recently given a Masterclass on directing which is a very interesting watch. A person could learn a thing or two if one would be interested in pursuing a career in the field of dreamscapes.
Some perceive his work to be somewhat weird or odd. I like weird and odd as it unlimits my way of creative thinking. It’s because of people like him I’ve learned to think and write “outside the box”. David Lynch, a one-of-a-kind unique persona, a great director, you gotta love the man…
Check him out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas