A Beginner's Guide To The Weird World Of David Lynch
April 13, 2018|Ariel Rodriguez
He's a cult favorite and a critically-acclaimed genius.
In the surrealist horror movie Eraserhead (1977), a deformed woman steps into the light and sings about heaven while standing in a hellish looking place. A roasted chicken gushes black blood when pinched with a fork, and a mother gives birth to an inhuman baby. There are screams, odd characters doing strange things, and a dark and grotesque reality that resembles a nightmare. This was David Lynch’s first motion picture, which became a cult classic, especially as a midnight movie cinematic phenomenon.
Lynch became a very popular American filmmaker. He has been called the “most important director of his era,” and has received multiple awards for his works in the film and TV industry. Besides making films, he is a painter, musician, actor, and photographer, but he is not entirely recognized for all that. What people remember about Lynch’s works is his weird, bizarre, and mind-twisting images transmitted throughout his films. He can either cause a person to break down in tears, laugh out of sympathetic emotions, or fear falling asleep at night after watching one of his horrific movies. He has never made a normal film about normal events, and he always tries to send a hidden message in his stories. He contrasts beauty and horror, normal elements with unusual ones, and the distortion of reality with dreams.
To understand his surreal way of doing films, we have to start with Eraserhead, where the main character is an introverted, timid, and insecure individual called Henry Spencer. He is about to become a father, and he suffers from hallucinations – the perfect setup for Lynch to do his magic. Surprisingly, Spencer fears fatherhood, and the entire movie revolves around that idea, constantly making references to birth and reproductive organs. But that’s not all, when the child is born, it resembles an reptilian creature that Spencer considers killing. What is so interesting about this film is that instead of scaring viewers, Lynch wants to send a message about a fear of fatherhood. The baby's inhuman appearance illustrates a father’s insecurities about health, obligations, and the stress that comes from taking care of a child. It is worth mentioning that during the making of this movie, Lynch was about to become a father himself.
The Elephant Man (1980)
After that, Lynch was asked to direct the story of Joseph Merrick, a deformed man who is rescued from a Victorian freak show in London by a doctor who sees the beauty within him. In The Elephant Man (1980) Lynch reuses the element of fear to transmit another message: prejudice, labels, and mischaracterization. It was a hit, and soon after that, Lynch was asked to direct another film, but this one almost ruined his career. It is the disappointing Dune (1984), where Lynch was taken out of his comfort zone and forced to put marketing before art. In the process of making this film, he lost his vision and control over production, and it made him to swear he'd never compromise his art again. Two years later, he was back on track with a new film called Blue Velvet (1986), where he makes use of his favorite element, fear, and tells the story of a performer who enjoys the company of abusive partners. One of the most iconic scenes from this movie is the opening scene, where he illustrates an idyllic 1950s quickly turning into chaos.
Blue Velvet (1986)
Lynch's movies have violence, distortion of reality, and a signature dark humor always at the end of a scene, but most importantly, his movies depict fear as a medium of expression. For example, Eraserhead (1977) depicts the fear of fatherhood, The Elephant Man (1982) depicts the fear of appearances, and Blue Velvet (1986) depicts the fear of pleasure. These factors made Lynch’s style recognizable and famous. Of course, there are many other movies we could mention, but these were the ones that launched his career. He also had the wildly popular TV show, Twin Peaks, in which he carried the same essence and surrealist style that made his movies a success. Although it was cancelled after two seasons in the 1990s, it was brought back in 2017. His work has always been strongly criticized for his fearless way of taking on issues that others do not, but that’s the reason why so many movie fans love him, and his legacy keeps on entertaining newer generations.
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