Lynch on Lynch (2005 revised edition) Chris Rodley, editor
Faber and Faber
Trade paperback, 322 pages
Includes filmography, television credits and art exhibitions, bibliography, index
This revised 2005 edition covers discussions of all of David Lynch’s feature films (as well as the TV show Twin Peaks) except Inland Empire (2006). These interviews conducted by Chris Rodley shed much light on Lynch and his concepts of filmmaking, but don’t expect the director to tell you what any of his work actually means. If you understand and appreciate that going in – and if you enjoy Lynch’s work – you’re going to get a lot out of this book.
Rodley begins each chapter with a short essay about each of Lynch’s major works before sitting down and delving deeper, interviewing the director. The first chapter, “Shadow of a Twisted Hand Across My House,” focuses on Lynch’s childhood and painting, allowing readers to gain some very useful knowledge as to what makes Lynch tick. The second chapter, “Garden in the City of Industry,” takes readers on the journey that was Lynch’s formal and informal education, showing how those experiences led to several of his short films. Not only do we see here the beginnings of Lynch’s first feature film Eraserhead, but we also start to understand some of the long-running concepts, philosophies and themes Lynch explores in all his work.
Those concepts, philosophies and themes – including transcendental meditation, loss of innocence, dreams vs. reality, explorations of the unseen parts of society, the allure of industrial landscapes – begin working themselves out in a way that makes you realize after awhile that you’re learning Lynch’s language. Lynch isn’t going to give you the “answers” to his films, but he’s going to give you enough of himself to help you arrive at your own interpretations of them.
Maybe that’s why many of Lynch’s films have not been popular with a large section of the filmgoing public. Yes, many of these films are considered “weird” and confusing, but that can’t be the entire explanation. Lynch is challenging us, trying to get us to look deeper, to peer under the surface of the weirdness and make our own discoveries.
I’m reminded of a film I watched just days ago, Under the Skin (2013) by Jonathan Glazer. This is a film I want to discuss with other people who have seen it, but I don’t want it explained to me. Lynch feels the same way about his films. Over and over, he tells us that “explaining” his work would take away from the magic and I think he’s right. Again, the more you know about Lynch – much of which you can learn from these interviews – the more you’ll understand and appreciate his work.
Throughout the book it becomes clear that Lynch has developed a comfortable rapport with Rodley, so much so that when Rodley asks a question or makes a statement that’s off-target or out of bounds, Lynch – instead of launching into him – responds with something like “That’s not the way to look at it” or “No, it wasn’t.” And some topics – such as how the baby in Eraserhead works – are completely off-limits, which again, is part of the mystery.
Know also that Lynch on Lynch assumes readers have seen the films discussed, so spoilers abound, particularly in the case of Twin Peaks, which is currently receiving renewed interest as a result of the recent Blu-ray upgrade of the show and the announcement of a new Twin Peaks series in 2016. If you don’t want to know who killed Laura Palmer, skip Chapter 7 (and probably a few after that as well).
I don’t profess to know what Lynch’s religious worldview is, but clearly (at least in most of his films) he wants viewers to come to grips with some very dark areas. From the Lynch films and television I’ve seen (so far about 75% of his work), I believe he’s seeking light in the midst of darkness, that he’s looking for some sort of redemption. Some of his work ends with hope, or at least a glimmer of hope. Other works feature characters that delve so deeply into darkness there’s almost no hope of them ever emerging from it. Maybe that’s one of the things he’s trying to show us, that the darkness can be terrifying, so much so that reality becomes confused or distorted. Yet I believe Lynch understands quite a bit about the fallenness of the human condition, that there’s something in us that yearns for light, for hope, for something better. Regardless of what you think of him, Lynch is a filmmaker who can’t be ignored and reading Lynch on Lynch opens up Lynch’s fascinating world, which also can’t be ignored.