ZDavid Lynch has been making full-length feature films since 1977. His last so far “Inland Empire”, came to the cinema in 2006, that was 15 years ago. For a filmmaker who was nominated four times for an Oscar and then got it in 2019 for his life’s work, for the bearer of two Golden Palms and a Golden Lion for his life’s work, so for a movie legend like David Lynch that is actually not that much output.
What else could the man not have done: “Star Wars – The Return of the Jedi Knights” was offered to him by George Lucas when the first two “Star Wars” films were already world successes. Lynch refused. Instead, he made another science fiction film, the novel adaptation “Dune – The Desert Planet”. “Dune” got off very badly in the criticism, and Lynch himself didn’t like it either – he had to cut out an hour at the end. The “Twin Peaks” film and “Lost Highway” were also flops, financially speaking.
Why does it matter in the end? Because nobody who has seen “Dune”, “Mulholland Drive” or “Blue Velvet” ever forgets these films again, even if the thread of the plot sometimes gets lost when you watch it again. No Netflix series has created a television myth like it “Twin Peaks” (1990–1991), a mystical small-town Whodunnit whose script was written by David Lynch with Mark Frost and whose soundtrack, as almost always with Lynch, comes from the composer Angelo Badalamenti. When “Twin Peaks” was reissued with a third season in 2017, the late sequel turned out to be even stranger and darker than the original – it wasn’t a retro look into the always quot-mad world of “Twin Peaks”, but a cool one, sometimes shocking stare into an incomprehensible, somber present.
David Lynch has a strong instinct for the undercurrents of the American dream in their current form. You often only notice that when you look at the details. So the minor character Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, the hippie psychiatrist from “Twin Peaks”, a conspiracy theorist in season three, known as “Dr. Amp “broadcasts an insane podcast, with messages that could have been concocted by the Capitol stormers of the Trump era. Lynch as a prophet? He is not a political filmmaker in the strict sense, but an extremely alert one.
Lynch’s film worlds are unmistakable, the sound just as important as the production design and dialogue. Perhaps his greatest talent is creating memorable and headstrong characters and giving great actors the space to deliver the performances of their careers, whether they’re Kyle MacLachlan or Dennis Hopper. Lynch does not let himself be guided by a story, but by an idea that he tries to get closer and closer to while filming. The result is a degree of weirdness that other directors lack, a reserved, unpredictable and therefore strangely happy horror made up of Roy Orbison songs, apple pie, neat hairstyles, perverted killers and torn ears.
Where does it come from? How do you become like that? Over the years there have always been opportunities to experience Lynch in other media. He brought out a book on meditation and creativity, opened a nightclub called Silencio in Paris, he painted, printed, sang. Lynch exhibited his art, which mainly includes painting and lithography, in large, renowned museums. The cracked gloom of many of these canvases seemed to testify that someone had looked into real darkness, that he was familiar with the depths of the human soul at close range. But that is probably not the case. “My childhood,” he once said, “consisted of elegant single-family houses, avenues, the milkman, building castles in the garden, humming planes, blue skies, garden fences, green grass and cherry trees”.
David Lynch was born in Missoula, Montana, the son of an agricultural scientist and a language teacher. The family moved around a lot, Lynch himself speaks of a close relationship with nature that was imparted to him through his father’s work – a knowledge that perhaps explains the very famous attitude at the beginning of “Blue Velvet”. The camera descends from a manicured suburban lawn into the teeming and cruel world of the earth’s crust, as if into the unconscious of suburbia. David Lynch’s private life has remained somewhat opaque despite his psychologically compelling and also disturbing works. Four marriages and a relationship with the star Isabella Rossellini are known, but no scandals, home stories or tabloids, no addictions or outbreaks of violence. On his YouTube channel he reads the daily weather report and promotes meditation.
In 2005, Lynch founded the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, and he has even written a book about it. It says that suffering is by no means a better artist, and that Van Gogh would certainly have created more if the circumstances hadn’t been so bad. “Ideas are like fish”, says “Catching the Big Fish”: “If you want to catch small fish, you can stay in shallow water. But if you want to catch big fish, you have to go into deeper waters. “
For the director, these deeper waters are not in the real sea, but in his own consciousness. David Lynch has been practicing transcendental meditation for decades, and he dedicated his book “Catching the Big Fish” to his guru, “His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi”. The TM movement, for whose meditation courses high prices are charged that rise significantly with the increasing degree of initiation, became better known in Germany through Lynch when the director wanted to buy the Teufelsberg in Berlin in 2007. The rubble with its disused radar station from the Cold War was intended to serve as a location for a TM university, where one could study natural sciences but also meditation techniques. The project failed.
Fortunately, you have to say. The awakening messages may make his work possible for him, but in the real world the artist would probably have gotten lost. The universal artist Lynch, who also designs furniture and makes music, says he is not religious despite all the admiration for transcendental meditation. The nature lover with the distinctive head of white hair, who grew up in the rural expanses of Idaho, Montana and Virginia, has long felt at home in Los Angeles.
Why? Not because of the stars and palm trees, but because there, gliding by car through the endless flat metropolis, you can feel the spirit of the past, the silver screens and old Hollywood, the history of film. David Lynch, who turns 75 today, has long been part of it.