A week or so ago, a batch of David Lynch films were re-released on DVD and Blu-ray, so I decided to order the ones I wanted that I didn’t have (Eraserhead and Lost Highway). I watched the first of the two again this morning, and decided to write about the first time I saw it, and the impact that it had on me.
First off, if you haven’t seen Eraserhead already, I implore you to seek it out – although you may not like it, it is truly unique and simply must be seen to be believed.
The first time I saw a David Lynch movie, I was around fifteen years old. I knew at that point I wanted to be a writer, and I had a few ideas for what I wanted to write, from a film on the Vietnam War, to a serial killer biopic of some kind or another (yes, they’re odd ideas for a fifteen year old, but by then I’d been writing, admittedly unpublished and rather average, horror short stories, and I’d seen Hellraiser and The Thing). And the thing that I thought I’d try if I ever wrote these films was that I’d find some way or another to make them realistic. For instance, with the war film, I’d have used clips of video broadcasts from US Presidents, and for the serial killer biopic, I’d have used audio and video interview clips throughout the film in order to root in reality.
At some point when I was discussing these potential ideas with someone (for the life of me I don’t remember who), I asked for some film recommendations, perhaps I was looking for some kind of inspiration to write. They didn’t have to be similar films to the ones I was thinking of writing like Platoon or The Grey Man and such, they just had to be inspirational in some way.
And so, this person recommended me two films – Begotten (which I don’t remember too well, I may watch it again in the future) and Eraserhead.
I looked around for the film, and as the DVDs were very expensive, I decided against ordering a copy, and instead, I watched it on YouTube, where it was divided into about 10 different parts.
Needless to say, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, as it was the first ‘experimental’, or ‘arthouse’ (or whatever other pseudo-intellectual term you’d like to attach) film that I’d ever seen. For those who don’t know, it’s in black and white, has rather sparse dialogue, and very… Striking imagery.
After watching it, I tried to get my head around it. It was experimental and it wasn’t really like anything I’d ever seen before, since obviously even fantasy, horror and other ‘genre’ films follow their own logic or canon. But Eraserhead was different, it wasn’t rooted in reality, it’s plot was somewhat minimal and it flowed using dream logic, nightmarish visuals and distinctive sound effects. To say the least I was inspired, and countless images from that film have been embedded into my mind since I first saw it two years ago, from the tiny ‘man made’ chickens, to the iconic baby (although, to quote the film, “they’re not even sure if it is a baby”) and the eponymous sequence.
Does that look like a baby to you?
I was inspired, not only in what I wanted to write, but this film had truly ignited my desire to write.
And so began my love of the works of David Lynch, I began to seek out his work, from Blue Velvet to the classic TV series Twin Peaks, which I think is his best work.
Lynch is something of a maverick, both in and out of his cinematic work – experimental, deliberately shrouding his films in mystery, and unmistakably distinctive, from his dreamlike style to his predilection for what happens behind closed doors and a desire to create films not bound by conventional logic.
After seeing more of Lynch’s work, he immediately skyrocketed up the list of directors I liked and, some way or another, he served as a launching pad to all manner of other corners of cinema. From Lynch I found my way to world cinema, and from there, another great love and inspiration of mine – the Swedish genius Ingmar Bergman (but more on him in a later piece).
It’s difficult to talk about Lynch’s work, none of it has a strict or ‘true’ interpretation, owing in part to his own deliberate vagueness and distaste for voicing his own view on his work, often saying something like “it’s better not to know so much about what things mean”. But I suppose the crux of this piece is that David Lynch, Eraserhead, and the cinema it somehow exposed me to, managed to genuinely inspire what it is I wanted to write. Now it’s just a matter of writing it.