The closest thing to auteur you’re ever likely to find.
The closest thing to auteur you’re ever likely to
For years the
term ‘auteur’ has been deliberated over.
Since its inception in Caheirs du
Cinema in 1954 the idea of an auteur has been almost as widely embraced as
it has been rebuked. For all its
detractors the idea that one person can have ‘authorship’ of a film is
bordering on absurd. After all
there are so many creative elements that go into making a film how can one-person
claim authorship over it? While
such a debate will rage on until the end of time there are few directors whose
body of work one can look at and claim they are the nearest thing going to an
Auteur. Hitchcock, probably, John
Ford, maybe, but David Lynch? If there is such a thing as auteur then
Lynch is it.
Lynch is a
surrealist master. His films
contain imagery, the likes of which Dali
would be proud to call his own.
From the mutant baby of Eraserhead
to the Robert Blake’s Mystery Man in
Lost Highway this is a filmmaker
operating on a different artistic plane to the rest of cinema. Even his relative straight films,
represented here by the often underappreciated Dune, contain ideas far beyond anything normally considered for
mainstream film. Dune deals in
prophecies of doom, giant worms and infants more powerful than the mind can
process, Star Wars this is not.
Lynch deals in dreamscapes and in particular nightmares. His films are those moments halfway
between a deep sleep and awake. You’re
never quite sure which one you’re in but in both realities you are aware of the
other. His films have the innate
ability to unsettle you in ways even the most blatant of horror films do not
even come close. It’s not about
gore, shocks or ghosts but about a primal instinct that something horrendous is
about to happen. Lost Highway is the
very definition of this. A film
which itches its way into your subconscious without ever allowing you to fully
grasp its narrative.
Indeed it is
Lynch’s intentional ambiguity that makes him the most Marmite of
directors. You’re either going to
buy in to what he does and worship at his altar of weird, or you’re going to
run screaming in the hope that the smell of coffee doesn’t send you spiraling
into a nightmarish relapse of his warped visions. Lynch does not look to answer questions but poses them in
such a way as to force the viewer into seeking out their own thoughts on the
events. It is fair to say those
looking for answers will draw a blank, but those seeking ideas will bask in his
dark glory. After all which other
filmmakers have had the nerve to make a backwards speaking dwarf a key
character, or have characters suddenly disappear for no discernable
reason? Some have tried, Richard R Kelley’s Donnie Darko is the closest anyone has come to succeeding and the
reason is you cannot replicate true originality. A copy of the Mona Lisa is still a copy no matter how good
makes Lynch’s films so memorable are his characters. From the bizarre inhabitants of Twin Peaks to Dennis Hopper’s startling turn as Frank
Booth in Blue Velvet, there is something
innately disturbing about the folks who populate Lynch’s worlds. To call Booth psychosexual is an
understatement and it is a rarity to find a protagonist such as Nicolas Cage’s Sailor Ripley as
outwardly crazy while maintaining a hipster cool about him. Indeed Sailor is a rarity in Lynch
films, for the most part his protagonists are like himself, quiet people who
witness nightmares unfold around them.
Lynch would come
to use Kyle MacLachlan as his most
‘ordinary man’, although even he came with certain ticks in Twin Peaks and has
questionable predilections in Blue Velvet, but it was Jack Nance in Eraserhead who best represents Lynch. With his wild quiff of hair and that
terrified look in his eye it would seem that even Lynch is scared by the
monsters he creates. That Henry
Spencer in Eraserhead lives in a steam-saturated metropolis is more than a hint
of how Lynch perceived cities as a child, that when he would visit his
grandmother in Brooklyn he felt as if he was plummeting the depths of hell when
he traveled the underground.
And it is here
you wonder if Lynch is not so much trying to terrify and unnerve his audience
as share in an emotional turmoil with us.
Through subjecting us to the feelings of trauma he had as a child we too
become part of his most inner psychological fears. For all his stunning ideas and nightmarish ways is Lynch
simply using his films as a form of therapy? Maybe, but so long as he continues to be the most unique
director working today we’ll keep longing for those nightmares to surface. As Henry Spencer says to his mutant
baby in Eraserhead; “Oh you are sick” so we smile with twisted glee at Lynch’s
mentally disturbing stories.
With the release
of the David Lynch Box Set, which includes Blue Velvet, Dune, Eraserhead, Wild
At Heart, Lost Highway and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me now is the perfect
time to re-visit one of cinemas most visionary directors.