Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we dive into the wild, weird, beautiful, and terrifying brain of David Lynch. This article originally ran in 2017 and has been updated.
David Lynch is about mood. He’s about feelings. He’s about triggering something deep within all of us. For over four decades, the American filmmaker has twisted the senses of his audiences, blurring whatever lines exist between reality and somewhere else. It’s why he’s often considered an eccentric auteur, an untraditional talent in an industry that capitalizes on the traditional. But for all his quirks and chaos, there’s an assured vision, one that isn’t going for the weird for weird’s sake, and that’s what separates him from anyone who opens a strange door to simply find strange.
“I learned that just beneath the surface there’s another world, and still different worlds as you dig deeper,” Lynch once explained of exploring his grandfather’s apartment building in Brooklyn. “I knew it as a kid, but I couldn’t find the proof. It was just a feeling. There is goodness in blue skies and flowers, but another force — a wild pain and decay — also accompanies everything. Like with scientists: they start on the surface of something, and then they start delving. They get down to the subatomic particles and their world is now very abstract. They’re like abstract painters in a way.”
Whether he’s subverting the soap opera with eerie mountain towns or chewing on voyeurism through ripped ears, Lynch is always digging at and cracking whatever surface we may or may not have known was even there. While we don’t always fully grasp what he’s wrestling with — see: anyone who was involved with or has seen 2006’s Inland Empire — it’s impossible not to at the very least admire what he’s brought to the silver screen. Every go-around, Lynch offers a divine experience, and as such, there are few filmmakers more deserving of a complete dissection.
To paraphrase Frank Booth: “Here’s to David!”
— Michael Roffman