[Artwork by MIGEL-GRASE]
THE GUARDIAN: The director began meditating on the set of his debut feature, Eraserhead, back in the 70s and recently wrote a book (Catching the Big Fish) about the influence of TM on his creative process. Ask him about specific films, songs or paintings, and Lynch’s responses come swathed in shadow. Shift him on to the subject of transcendental meditation, however, and it’s though the lights have come on. It’s beautiful, he insists. We’re beautiful. Happiness lies within. Enlightenment is our birthright.Is it pedantic to note the obvious paradox here? Fair enough that Lynch, via the magic of TM, has achieved an exalted level of happiness and serenity. And yet out of this blissful state come films (The Straight Story aside) that are black and twisted and reeking of sulphur. Try as I might, I can’t square the circle.
“Yep,” he concedes. “Sure. But it’s not so much what you make; it’s the lack of suffering when you make it. There’s so much happiness in the dark worlds, or in translating the ideas that come. And if you can get rid of the negativity that restricts your energy, it’s as though a load has lifted. Then you can dive into the treasury every day and still more energy comes from that. I mean, you can’t control what people are gonna think about a movie or a painting. So you better enjoy the doing.”
“But,” I begin. “If what you dredge up is the dark sludge of the subconscious …”
“It’s not the dark sludge of the sub-conscious,” he interrupts. “A cinema idea is simply something that cinema can say and which reflects the world. We live in a pretty dark and troubling world right now. The ideas are triggered by the world.” Time to try another tack. What value does he place on firsthand experience; on viewing the “dark world” at eye level? In his days as an art student, for instance, Lynch lived with his first wife (Peggy Reavey) in a run-down area of Philadelphia. He has described this as an intense and uncertain time in an intense and dangerous neighbourhood. The Fairmount district, he says, was an important influence on his art and led directly to the writing of Eraserhead (“my Philadelphia Story”), in which a passive young printer nurses a deformed baby and spies a miniature woman crooning about heaven from the radiator at home. Yet Fairmount, I point out, is now a long way behind him.
Lynch nods. “I know what you’re saying. But you do not have to suffer to make a film about suffering. I remember the way I felt inside, when I was living in Philadelphia. But that didn’t help me make Eraserhead. That hurt me, you know. And in any case, I didn’t write Eraserhead in Philadelphia. I wrote it after I left, and it just came out. I don’t even remember the first thing that came, just that next thing I knew I had a 21-page script. The ideas can come along at any time.” MORE
RELATED: I’ve got to find the flaming nipple!” No, it’s not a line from a David Lynch script. That’s the man himself, reacting to the news last year that missing footage from Blue Velvet had been rediscovered. For years, Lynch-heads and film historians had speculated about the whereabouts of the deleted scenes: footage left on the cutting room floor after Lynch snipped his three-and-a-half-hour rough cut into a two-hour movie. Time passed and everyone – director included – figured it was lost for ever. As for the flaming nipple (nipples, in fact), they belong to a dropped scene. “That’s one of my favourite scenes,” Lynch said in an interview for the book Lynch on Lynch. Why cut it and (metaphorically speaking) kill his baby? “It was too much of a good thing.” MORE