“I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always
red ants underneath.” – David Lynch
Multi-talented American filmmaker David Lynch, who is also a painter, musician, sound designer, actor, singer and photographer, is revered for his brilliant films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive as well as his cult classic television series Twin Peaks. His work is critically acclaimed, with Lynch being labelled as the “first popular surrealist” and collecting a cult following in the process. In 2007, a panel of critics assembled by The Guardian concluded that Lynch is “the most important film-maker of the current era” and cemented his place in the annals of cinematic history.
Over the years, Lynch has been associated with a number of bizarre projects like a 1997 pregnancy test commercial he made in his trademark surreal style but the one this article highlights is right up there with the rest of his uniquely strange works. The acclaimed filmmaker directed an avant-garde musical play called Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted with music by Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise.
The film tells the story of a heartbroken woman (played by Laura Dern) who floats over an industrial wasteland and sings ballads of love after her boyfriend (Nicolas Cage) leaves her. Made before the unprecedented success of his cult-classic TV show Twin Peaks, it is the footage from an original play which was presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1989. The experimental work is named after a series of complex mosaics in geometric shapes designed by Lynch. He made them while he was studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and called them Industrial Symphonies.
Often seen as a spiritual companion to his 1990 film Wild at Heart because it also co-stars Dern and Cage, Industrial Symphonies No. 1 is a hallucinatory dream that explores the concepts of love and pain in the modern dystopia. Julee Cruise plays “the dreamself” of the heartbroken woman who sings beautifully, even singing from the inside of a trunk of a car at one point. Many of the songs from the musical were recycled in Twin Peaks, including two of Julee’s recordings “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” and “The World Spins”.
“She’s [Cruise] got a great voice and when she sings soft and pure, it’s just what the doctor ordered,” Lynch said. “You know, the music is going along and it’s making pictures form in your mind. Build those pictures, put them up and play the music with it. If it gave you a feeling inside your head, it might do the same to others. To make a distant interpretation or intellectually try to understand them, it’s sort of not what it’s about.”
Watch David Lynch’s experimental musical, below.