If there’s one word I would not use to describe the films of David Lynch, it is “simple”. The American auteur has the blood of surrealist filmmakers like Luis Buñuel running through his directorial veins, and his films are as bizarre as would expect. With movies like Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, and Mullholand Drive, Lynch has been unnerving and bewildering audiences for over 40 years. His fragmented narratives and incorporation of dreamlike imagery have made him one of the world’s most important experimental filmmakers and truly modern auteurs. His style is so unique the word “Lynchian” had to be coined simply to describe the sinister and surreal juxtaposition of the macabre and mundane that defines so much of his work.
It’s no wonder that so many audiences have left a Lynch film screening asking the question: “Did you understand any of that?”. Often, Lynch’s films seem to be deliberately designed to trick, manipulate and puzzle their audiences. It’s as though he’s asking you to put down the roadmap and accept that you are completely and utterly lost. Therein, he seems to suggest, lies true freedom.
It is the bewildering nature of Lynch’s unique form of cinema that prompted one press official to ask him to advise audiences on how to best experience his films. In response to that question, Lynch said: “You should not be afraid of using your intuition and feel your way through. Have the experience and trust your inner knowing of what it is.”
His advice suggests that you are entering into a pact with the director when you sit down in the cinema. This pact states that you, the audience, will offer yourself up entirely to the director, and, in return, the director will transport you somewhere completely mind-altering. As Lynch explains, truly great cinema has the power to access a part of the human brain inaccessible through mere linguistic means.
In his own words: “Cinema has such a beautiful language. But YOU have the gift of words. Cinema is a thing that deals with things that are beyond words, and it’s so beautiful. And so, to go with cinema is the same kind of thing you go with music, but the intellect travels along with it. It’s fantastic. It talks to you, but not with words alone.”
Lynch suggests that, in this space beyond language, the true power of cinema can be found. Like Bunuel, Lynch seems to believe in the power of a purely imagistic filmic language, one in which meaning is conveyed not through words but the juxtaposition of shots. For Lynch, the best way to travel through his films is to submit to that sequence of images entirely.
“Just go in open and just go in and have an experience in a different world. It’s the most enjoyable thing to go into another world and discover it,” the director concludes.