The Prophet David Lynch

| October 3, 2016

(As a warning, most of this is written specifically for James in response to the latest episode of Reel Nerds Podcast for the Masterminds review. So I’ll be talking directly to him in a lot of these points, but if you want to see my full thoughts on Lynch, by all means, enjoy this article.)

Yeah. Since James decided to be rude, I thought I’m just going to review the most intense and hard to understand film David Lynch has ever made. That film is called Inland Empire and is so confusing and nonsensical that David Lynch hasn’t made another film since this because he believes that no one has figured it out yet. So yeah. This will just be me being angry and talking about David Lynch because apparently, I have nothing better to do.

First, let’s start with the basics of what is the definition of a David Lynch film. You can watch David Lynch films in two ways. The first way, which is the way that Roger Ebert believes is true, is to watch it not for plot or understanding but just as a spectacle. Just watch it for the imagery and the wacky adventures. This works for some of his films better than others. The other way to watch his films, which is the method that I follow, is to view them not as the conventional way you watch movies, but to watch them as a puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle takes time and effort to piece together. And much like a jigsaw puzzle, David Lynch is harder to figure out than most other directors working probably ever.

To compare David Lynch with another director that the Reel Nerds hate, let’s briefly look at Terry Gilliam. Both directors are surrealist artistic directors. Both both are very different kinds of surrealism. Terry Gilliam’s films feel like a dream that usually includes a fun childlike world. Terry Gilliam feels like a dream where David Lynch feels like nightmare. A common theme in all of David Lynch is innocence and the magic of following your dreams, which eventually crumbles and falls into itself for something darker and more disturbing. David Lynch, very similar to certain films made by Michael Haneke, aims not for you to enjoy the film but to feel the film. He wants you to feel uncomfortable watching his films. The last thing he wants you to feel is happy in his films, and the making of The Straight Story proves this.

David Lynch is weird I’ll give you that. You might hate his weirdness, as a matter of fact I know you hate his weirdness James, you’ve made that abundantly clear by talking about it for literally the entire month I’ve been gone and haven’t been able to defend him. Funny how that worked out. The important thing is that you need to understand that he isn’t weird because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing and to prove that I’ll point to The Straight Story. James said this is the only good film Lynch has made. Which is interesting because that is exactly what he was aiming for. The Straight Story is the only film that doesn’t follow his canon because he did it as a way to prove that’s not what you want even if you say it is. At this point he had made Twin Peaks, which revolutionized television. He made Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, both are considered some of the best films ever made. He made Blue Velvet which was his first time he decided to throw structure out the window and do whatever he wanted, which lead into Lost Highway. At this point in his career, he had established himself. People knew who he was and what he did. But you still hated him. Which is understandable because he doesn’t make films for you. But like how you talk about him today, people were saying that he is a total hack. Claiming that he just threw whatever he wanted on camera and said it was deep, tricking everyone into thinking they’re smart. To prove this motion wrong, he made The Straight Story. Why do you think it’s called The Straight Story? I’ll give you a hint, it’s because it’s a straightforward story. You can watch it and see that there are Lynch parts to it, but at the end of the day he made it to show that he could. He made a film that everyone can like and is a heartwarming tale about an old man helping his brother. Everyone loved it! And you know what happened? It was his least successful film. Even Dune did better than it at the box office. By making that film he proved that people don’t watch Lynch for straightforward stories. They watch him because of what he’s good at, giving the most accurate look at a nightmare on camera.

After making The Straight Story, he moved on to make what many consider his best film. Mulholland Drive is one of the best films ever made. It currently sits at number four of my top ten film ever made. To be frank, it is one of his more easier films to put together. I will honestly probably make an Art House Asshole for this film in the future, so I’m not going to go super into this film. But this film and Inland Empire are two films that you need to watch to figure out the codex that is the filmography of David Lynch. If you haven’t already watch Mulholland Drive. I recommend doing the Roger Ebert version of watching this film for your first time. I grantee you won’t understand it on your first watching, which might anger you. But the magic of Mulholland Drive is that once you crack this film every other Lynch film will unravel at your fingertips.

I understand that it sounds like I’m part of the David Lynch Cult of MovieMajik, but we’re almost done. The final film David Lynch has made as of writing this article is Inland Empire, and you know what is really going to piss James off? I don’t fully understand Inland Empire. But you know what film is in my top one hundred? Inland Empire. Inland Empire is the cumulation of all of David Lynch’s ideas into one three hour long film. I think there are two ways to watch Inland Empire. The first way is to watch it as the first David Lynch film you will ever see. This is good because if you can sit through all three hours of this film, you will get the basics of David Lynch and you can decide from there if you even want to bother with the rest of his filmography. The other way, which is the method I recommend, is to have Inland Empire be the last film you watch of David Lynch’s filmography. One of the major reasons why I don’t fully understand Inland Empire is because I don’t believe that Inland Empire is complete. If you look at enough guides and various interpretations of the film, you will see that Inland Empire is connected to both Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks. Inland Empire is one major key to figuring out that David Lynch isn’t filmmaker in the traditional sense, but has dedicated his life to one giant art project. Inland Empire is the first key to seeing that every single film, including Lynch’s shorts, are connected in one way or another. Whether it be that this film is just a dream in the mind of this character from this other film, or in the Tarantino way where these two characters are from different movies but are related in this way. David Lynch isn’t making a series of films, he’s making one giant project that once he feels is complete, he will release the final piece of the puzzle that will make everything click. When it happens it will be one of the most magical moments in film history. Everything he has been working towards will make sense and he will prove that he isn’t just a filmmaker but something much more than that. He’s making something that will shock the world and we won’t know what hit us.

Or none of that will happen. It is possible that David Lynch is a hack and I’ve tricked myself into thinking all of these things because I don’t like thinking about all of the time I’ve potential wasted watching his films and deciphering his supposed codex. Maybe he made The Straight Story because he was bored of surrealism. Maybe Inland Empire is just him throwing a couple of his internet shorts into one long film for a quick buck. Maybe he got his success right away with The Elephant Man and Eraserhead and Twin Peaks that he didn’t know what to do so he bullshitted his way through Hollywood and tricked me into thinking I’m smart for liking his films. But in a way, that’s also kind of impressive.

I love David Lynch. I like puzzles, even if they are unsolvable. He’s like a hobby to me. I can come home after a long day and pop one of his films in and look for things I didn’t see before. It doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t have chapters in his blu-rays because I never watch them all the way through anyway. You can hate him. When someone has a different opinion on something in a film, that’s kind of what makes the film great. If people like Lucifer Valentine can continue to get work and make films for that audience, you can probably find a filmmaker that will make films for you. That also means you are going to see some filmmakers that you don’t like. And I think it’s important to understand that even if you don’t like them, they’re important to someone else. For every David Lynch, there is a Shane Black. For every Martin Scorsese, there is a Jeff Nicols. And I hope that everyone one day gets to find a director they love as much as I love David Lynch.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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