“The concept of absurdity is something I’m attracted to.”—David Lynch
Lynch, often described as “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking” for his pioneering approach to cinema, is highly celebrated for creating iconic pictures such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and more. While the aforementioned work was good enough for Lynch to earn an honorary Academy Award, the filmmaker has never been shy to transmit his skills into other aspects of visual art—even if that does come to commercialised filmmaking.
Having previously created advertisements for coffee, pregnancy tests and Gucci, Lynch was approached by sportswear company Adidas to help bring them up to the level of their competitors and propel them into a new, youthful audience. The commercial, produced by advertising agency Leagas Delaney, is said to have earned Lynch in excess of $1million for directing the project. As reported by The Guardian at the time of release, it is believed that the German sportswear company approached Lynch with the task of getting “the young to re-appraise the brand without losing the hardcore sports enthusiast.”
Lynch’s response was to create The Wall, a typically surreal and unusual short film which “shows the hell and heaven a long distance runner experiences in going through the pain barrier.” The barrier, of course, was represented by the wall.
The commercial arrived as Adidas’ attempts to match their big rivals, Reebok and Nike, who were ploughing millions into the advertising and professional athlete endorsement world. The clip was the first advert from Adidas to run on British television for nearly a decade.
Nicholas Ind, who is cited in Antony Todd’s book Authorship and the Films of David Lynch: Aesthetic Receptions in Contemporary Hollywood, claims that while the fee of $1million was an eyebrow-raising figure, it was mainly the lure of a high profile director to mainstream commercials which cause the shock. Ind wrote: Cult filmmakers don’t make TV advertisements [since] they tend to be too iconoclastic and anti-consumerist.”
Lynch, however, wasn’t about to change his unique style aesthetic for any project and, typically, delivered something quite bizarre. See the clip, below.