David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is a widely acclaimed and influential director of film and television. Like Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa and Kathryn Bigelow, he was originally trained as a painter. Motivated by a desire to see his paintings in motion, he went into filmmaking in the late 1960s. His short "Six Men Getting Sick" won a cash prize. From this point forward, he would be a professional filmmaker.
Obvious influences on his films are Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Ed Wood, The Wizard of Oz, Film Noir, 1950s pop music (and '50s culture in general), Tod Browning and Luis Buñuel. Frequent collaborators include Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini, Angelo Badalamenti, and the late Jack Nance.
If you want to appreciate Lynch's craft, traditional methods of interpretation aren't gonna cut it. Lynch resists any sort of attempts at rational analysis and is really concerned with being in gnostic control of his stories. Any interview question about the meaning of his works gets shut down instantly. If he wanted the audience to pop-psychoanalyze his creations he would open the floor up for discussion, but he doesn't. The point of his utilisation of "dream" logic is that the metaphorical, figurative, or thematic connection between things are always arbitrary, and that this can never be taken too lightly.
He only conducts business deals at Bob's Big Boy restaurants.
If you watch one of his works, expect some type of severe head trauma to play a role. Also expect the use of white noise and ambient sounds.
His daughter, Jennifer Chambers Lynch, is also a film director. Her best-known work, and certainly most infamous, is 1993's Boxing Helena. And no, it doesn't involve prize fighting. (Though Julian Sands gulping raw egg smoothies might have spiced it up a bit.)
David Lynch's filmography includes:
- Eraserhead (1977)
- The Elephant Man (1980)
- Dune (1984)
- Blue Velvet (1986)
- Wild at Heart (1990)
- Twin Peaks (TV series 1990-91 on ABC, returned in 2017 on Showtime)
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992, a theatrical film prequel to the TV series)
- On the Air (1992, a short-lived Sitcom that aired on ABC)
- Lost Highway (1997)
- The Straight Story (1999). Wait for it... a G-rated Disney movie with a conventional plot.
- Mulholland Dr. (2001) (Originally a Pilot for ABC, was rejected until Studio Canal and Universal picked it up as a film)
- Dumbland (2002) (Animated web series that aired exclusively on his website)
- Inland Empire (2006)
You can now vote for your favourite Lynch film here!
He has also made many short films, television commercials and music videos.
Tropes in Mr. Lynch's movies and life include:
- The 50s: None of his works are actually set in the fifties, but most of them are visually and thematically very clearly influenced by the era.
- Alan Smithee: Credited himself as "Judas Booth" for the long version of Dune, because in his view the studio had betrayed (Judas) and murdered (John Wilkes Booth) the film.
- Arc Words: There is not a single David Lynch film that doesn't depend on the use of repeated cryptic phrases to set a spooky or dreamlike mood.
- Author Appeal:
- Head injuries and/or deformities, the United States, mechanical/industrial imagery, dwarves, retro-style music, and people dancing, often at really weird times.
- The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland was the sort of person Lynch is fascinated by because her wholesome public image contrasted so much with her descent into drug addiction, eating disorder, and crippling debt. Referencing her also makes a connection with the Wizard of Oz and its parallel world dream travel.
- Going along with the above: cheery, sunny, and upbeat environments, frequently urban, that secretly house various forms of both literal and moral rot and decay and metaphysical evil, often personified by a single woman. About the only films of his that don't involve outward glamor disguising inner decay are Dune, The Straight Story, and (arguably) The Elephant Man.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: The Mentats in Dune. And, indeed, Lynch himself.
- Body Motifs: Injuries and/or deformities to the face and/or head
- Circus of Fear: The Elephant Man tries to escape one.
- Cool Old Guy: Despite his eccentricity, he is by all accounts a very nice man who treats his actors well.
- Creepy High-Pitched Voice: Some of his songs feature him singing in an eerie tone. Crazy Clown Time is a notable example. It doesn't help that he has a slightly high, nasally voice normally.
- Cryptic Conversation: All the time.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lynch is certainly one of these. Mel Brooks once described him as "Jimmy Stewart from Mars." He also has a Twitter account. He posted twice about finding out whether he's connected to the moon and three times about buying an ax.
- Dada Ad: He directed a couple of commercials. They are just as bizarre as you might expect from the man.
- Dada Comics: His comic The Angriest Dog in the World inspired Dinosaur Comics. Every strip has the same repeated panels of the dog straining against his chain.
- Deranged Animation: Occurs in his short films and music videos. A particular example would be the web series ''Dumb Land''
- Daylight Horror: He sometimes likes to set scary moments during daylight hours, often in normal, suburban locations. See, for example, the Winkies scene in Mulholland Drive.
- Drone of Dread: Nearly all of his films feature this in some fashion, whether it's the constant industrial ambience of Eraserhead or the sinister synths in Twin Peaks.
- Eagleland: A mixture of both flavors, Lynch likes to take both the proud and patriotic and juxtapose it with the ludicrous and depraved. All but two of his works (Dune and The Elephant Man) are set in the US. The Straight Story is, appropriately, the only er, straight example of Flavor 1.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Appears to have something of a fetish for this, akin to Hitchcock's for blondes.
- Emerging from the Shadows: Often seen in his films.
- Evil Doppelgänger: First appears in Twin Peaks, and become a recurring motif in his later works.
- Existential Horror: Some of his work could be said to have elements of this, especially Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive due to their heavy focus on the fragility of human identity.
- Le Film Artistique: Most of his films could qualify to a greater or lesser degree, but his early shorts and Inland Empire go above and beyond in terms of surrealism.
- Fisher King: In Dune
- Gainax Ending: Most of his films lack a comprehensible ending, including Twin Peaks but excluding the aptly-named The Straight Story.
- Grotesque Gallery: He's very fond of deformed or unusual looking characters, such as the baby and the Woman in the Radiator in Eraserhead, Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man, the pustulent Baron Harkonnen in Dune, and the inhabitants of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks.
- Horrible Hollywood: Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire are all at least partially about what an absolutely terrible, soulless place Los Angeles really is for people who make movies.
- Humanoid Abomination: Lynch-land is these creatures' natural habitat.
- Laugh Track: Sinisterly parodied in Rabbits, where it accompanies some some genuinely absurd statements in a creepy setting.
- Licensed Game: Dune received one in the form of an Adventure Game with some strategic elements.
- Leave the Camera Running: He's fond of sustaining camera shots for a very long time, which frequently adds to the dreamlike, unsettling mood of his movies.
- Lighter and Softer: The Straight Story. No explanation required.
- Louis Cypher: Some of Lynch's creepiest characters, such as the Man in the Planet, the magician in "Silencio" and (possibly) the Cowboy are heavily implied to be this. Lost Highway's Mystery Man is either this or the Anthropomorphic Personification of sanity.
- Magical Realism: Most of his films fall into the genre in some way or another. Some are realistic but extremely bizarre (Blue Velvet, The Straight Story) while others go into the realm of pure fantasy (Twin Peaks) and beyond (Eraserhead, Inland Empire). The rest are, well.... somewhere in between. It's not like we can really be sure or anything.
- Meta Twist: Blue Velvet
- Mind Screw: Mr. Lynch is a mental Lothario.
- A woman named Lotje Sodderland wrote him a letter about how she suffered brain damage during a stroke, and found that his films bore an uncanny resemblance to the way her mind worked now. Lynch responded by producing a documentary about her, titled My Beautiful Broken Brain.
- Mockstery Tale: He is quite fond of this; he's actually known as "the first popular surrealist" because his movies are Mind Screw in trendy neo-noir wrappers featuring police, mafia and conspiracies... as well as supernatural creatures and mind-boggling surrealism.
- Mundane Horror: Another one of his trademarks. The "man behind Winkies" scene in Mulholland Dr. and the party scene in Lost Highway deserve special mention.
- Must Have Caffeine: Contrary to popular belief, Lynch never uses drugs, but he drinks an ungodly amount of coffee while on set.
- Myth Arc: Averted trope
- Wild Mass Guessing, however, is put on another scale of existence.
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: He wouldn't be David Lynch without this trope. Just check out some of his most disturbing works.
- No Indoor Voice: Appears to have this in real life, which is shared by his character on Twin Peaks.
- Non-Actor Vehicle: Lynch loves casting singers in acting roles. This starts with Sting's performance in Dune, continuing to David Bowie and Chris Isaak appearing in Fire Walk With Me, and Marilyn Manson and Henry Rollins have cameos in Lost Highway; Billy Ray Cyrus has a hilarious cameo in Mulholland Drive; Chrysta Bell in Twin Peaks: The Return; also Rebekah del Rio in Mulholland Drive and Rabbits, though she sticks to singing.
- Nothing Is Scarier: While he's arguably never made a straight-up horror film (except maybe Eraserhead), plenty of his movies are terrifying beyond all reason nevertheless, even when there's nothing overtly scary going on.
- Ostentatious Secret: Mulholland Drive has a mysterious blue box, which has a matching blue key. It is shown to open once or twice, though the Mind Screw makes it hard to tell what if anything is going on.
- Psychic Nosebleed: When Paul takes the Water of Life in Dune. Quite possibly Henry's nosebleed in Eraserhead, even though the trope didn't really exist when that movie was made.
- Renaissance Man: Director, producer, screenwriter, actor, painter, and musician.
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, although it doesn't really resolve much.
- Rule of Scary: A lot of the creepiest moments in his body of work come out of nowhere and happen for seemingly no reason at all, which only makes them more effective.
- Scare Chord: He is really good at these. The diner scene in Mulholland Drive is only the most infamous example.
- Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: A favorite character type, most notably in the form of Laura Palmer.
- Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic: Fucked with. Brutally.
- Stylistic Suck: The eight Dumbland animated shorts, which are very crude in both design and content.
- Surreal Horror: One of the masters of it.
- Surreal Humor: Here and there.
- Surreal Music Video: Ditto.
- Take That!: Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire are obvious Take That! at Hollywood. And Rabbits is probably this to some not-so-clever sitcoms.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Part of the plot of Mulholland Drive, maybe.
- Villain Protagonist: About half of his films feature one, at least to some extent.
- Wild Teen Party: The music video for the song Crazy Clown Time depicts one.
- World of Symbolism: His movies have a reputation for falling into this category. Though some of them do have a comprehensible story, there's simply no way to take movies like Eraserhead and Inland Empire on anything except a very symbolic, fever-dream level.
- Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: He openly admits that he starts writing things without any idea how they will end, and films striking visual imagery that just happens to pop into his head without worrying about what it means or how it will fit in with everything else.