David Lynch interview

by MV Carbon
originally published, issue #8, 2008

illustration by Chris O’Neal

David Lynch has, so far, left us with an amazing and mind altering chunk of cinematic works. He doesn’t give out a lot of information when asked about the meaning or symbolism in his films. Although they are loaded with significance, he won’t let verbal descriptions smother the cinematic essence that lingers on and creeps back long after his films have been absorbed. He leaves it up to us to interpret them or to just experience them.

His newest film, Inland Empire, uses high def video to create a painterly murk that lurks. The colors bleed and so do the characters. The film’s soundtrack, which was created by Mr. Lynch, shakes the theater and is grafted to the image in a manner that conjures chills. He treats us with 3 hours of violence, decaying beauty, dual existence, carnival, and the darkest back staircases, back stages, and mysterious dwelling spaces you could ever wish for. The film sews itself through itself until something’s got to give… and it does.

Mr. Lynch has been honored with the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement award, at the Venice film festival, where Inland Empire was screened.

He’s recently finished a book titled Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, which is available at the end of December.

still from Inland Empire

MVC: Do you think we as humans have the capacity to pass through and exist in different dimensions?

DL: Oh yeah.

MVC: Do you ever experiment with that?

DL: Well, I practice transcendental meditation and I’ve been doing that for 33 years and in that form of meditation you learn how to dive within and you experience subtler levels of mind and intellect and you transcend and experience the pure giant ocean of pure bliss consciousness and if you pass through subtler levels of mind and intellect you pass through- those layers have corresponding layers in deeper layers of matter, you understand?

MVC: Yes

DL: Like particles and forces. You should talk to Dr. John Hagelin. I believe he said there are ten dimensions of space and one dimension of time. But we as human beings have the capability of having it all. Absolute totality. That’s the potential of the human being.

MVC: Do you also believe that’s there’s one dimension of time?

DL: Well I think that time is pretty weird. Time is, they say, a conception to measure eternity. I don’t know but I think it appears different depending on where you are and what dimension you’re in. I think it appears different but I don’t really know.

MVC: What do you think about the possibilities of time travel?

DL: I think its possible to go forward and backwards and I’ve had the experience of slipping into the future.

MVC: Oooh, did you like it there?

DL: Well I saw something was going to go wrong and it turned out to go wrong. So that’s the only time it’s happened but it was an interesting thing. Because it was in the middle of a déjà vu where you feel like you’ve been there before and in the middle of that it became real slippery and instead of being kind of back in some place I skidded forward, like slipped forward

MVC: Have you ever tried to tap into another person’s consciousness?

DL. No, except when one transcends, then you tap into the consciousness that created everything. So you tap into the unified field, the unity of consciousness, which is here, there and everywhere- and in that sense, they say, at that deepest level, the unified field, we are all one. The thing that is happening now, I feel, on planet earth is that field of unity is being enlivened and it will permeate the field of diversity, the field of relativity, and we will live like a world family. And all this other baloney is going to go a way.

MVC: That would be nice. Do you think that humans can join their mental forces to control the outcome of things with the power of will?

DL: You can. There’s another name for this unified field or Otma or Braum, its the field of all possibilities, literally and truly the field of all possibilities. So in that way, pretty much anything could happen.

MVC: Do you think on a scientific or biological level that this type of thing is achieved though electrical charges or is it more of an ethereal type of thing?

DL: You know, people experiment, I look at it this way, there’s the surface of life and there’s this huge area between the surface and the deepest level. The unified field. So people have done experiments and have found things and worked with things somewhere in between and the problem with that it’s not total knowledge, its partial knowledge. And so although there could be some very good things happening there could also be some very bad things happening. Like atomic energy, it can be used for good but it could also be used for bad. But the unified field is all positive so if you can enliven that, negativity goes away- it really and truly dissolves away. Like darkness goes when sunlight comes up.

MVC: Do you think that having all positive forces could create an imbalance?

DL: No. It’s perfect balance. It’s like if you were filled with nausea and had a splitting headache and suddenly it lifted. When the field of unity is enlivened and you look back you look back to yourself as saying ‘Ah man am I glad that nausea went and that headache went’. It’s beautiful, it’s so powerfully beautiful and its perfect balance. The unified field, they say, is perfect symmetry, infinite silence, infinite dynamism combined. The whole thing is there in an unmanifested pure vibrant, always the same way. Fullness.

MVC: That sounds lovely.

DL: Yeah.

still from Inland Empire

MVC: When you were making Inland Empire were you working a lot of time off of stream of consciousness?

DL: We work with consciousness, we human beings, and everybody has a certain amount of consciousness. You come into life with a certain amount but not everybody has exactly the same amount. So for me when I heard about meditation I thought, man, I want that. Because I want to have more of that that catches ideas, and more of that that expands energy and creativity so I don’t always stay the same. And so I looked at it as a very good thing for my work.

MVC: Would you consider Inland Empire a horror film?

DL: There are genre films but I don’t like films that are one genre. I think cinema is so great and some stories can hold different genres in one. And so it moves from one thing to another sort of as in life. But sort of what the story and idea you get dictates. So when I get an idea and I see what cinema can do to it. Or it floats with different things. I get really pumped up and fall in love with that idea.

MVC: Was there any time in the shooting of Inland Empire that something totally unexpected came up and took the shoot in a bizarre direction?

DL: That’s the name of the game with Inland Empire…

MVC: Was there a particular memorable time?

DL: I was sitting at breakfast in the hotel Centrum in Wooch, Poland, and I’m sitting there with the people that run the Camera Image film festival. And there was a guy there, a polish actor that had been living in Pasadena for 15 years who spoke really perfect English. And I’m looking at him and thinking he’s here and there must other Polish actors and I thought- I had had thought of a scene in Poland and one thing led to another and pretty soon I was shooting that scene.

MVC; Do you speak Polish?

DL: No I don’t. Do you speak Polish Carbon?

MVC: No I don’t

DL: Gotcha

MVC: I have a list of languages that I want to learn, and that I haven’t put on the list yet.

DL: Gotcha

MVC: I want to talk to you about the soundtrack on Inland Empire. That was really amazing. Between the imagery and the sound on that film I got the chills and the hair stood up on my arms a couple of times. What types of instruments and devices did you use to create that soundtrack?

DL: Well we live in the beautiful digital world. And I have a studio that I built so that I could experiment. And so a lot of these things come out of a combo of many different sounds- some you could say more natural than others. In Inland Empire there’s… like every film, its sound and picture moving together through time and it’s the most beautiful medium, cinema. And you try to find the sounds that marry to the picture and make it greater than that so it’s an experiment always. And so that’s kind of how it goes. But there wasn’t just keyboard and there wasn’t just guitar and there weren’t just natural effects- it’s combos.

MVC: Do you think you will ever do a live music performance?

DL: I did a live performance in New York at the Polish Embassy.

MVC: What was it called?

DL: I’m working with a man called Marek Zebrowski. And Marek is a concert pianist and composer and we started experimenting and I would play keyboard, but I ‘m not really a musician, but because he has perfect pitch he takes off from what I play. I play kind of a bed or a mood and then he takes off on the piano on top of that and the combo we call Polish Night Music.

MVC: That sounds very intriguing. Do you think that performance will happen again in the U.S.?

DL: Well It was in the U.S. in your city of New York about a month ago. We played for one night. And now we’ll play again in Wooch, Poland on the 25th of November, just for a little bit- well play probably 15 or 20 minutes before the film.

MVC: Oh how great!

DL: Yeah, it will be cool.

MVC: Yes! Do you ever play music for your actors during a shoot to set a tone of sorts?

DL: Absolutely Carbon. I used to do that more than I do it now. I do it when I have the music up front… some pieces up front. And on this particular film I didn’t have so many pieces up front. So I didn’t do it so much on Inland Empire, but it does work so beautifully. You just play the music and everybody catches that mood, but you can also talk and people catch a mood- So that’s what I do mostly.

still from The Elephant Man

MVC: I have a question about Elephant Man, a very gorgeously done film about John Merrick. I heard that you received the real remains of John Merrick to make the prosthetics. Is that true?

DL: Christopher Tucker, the man who made the makeup was given permission to bring John Merrick’s death cast out of this museum in London Hospital on White Chapel Road and take it to his studio. Which was pretty incredible.

MVC: Yes!

DL: The death mask of John Merrick was sort of like a torso, his head and neck and a little bit of shoulders I believe, and it went part way down his back and chest. And on his head in the plaster were the actual hairs of John Merrick because they had been transferred from the negative mold to the positive mold so if you felt the top of the plaster you could feel John Merrick’s hairs, some, that were stuck there. But his real name I found out later was Joseph Merrick.

MVC: Oh. How did the film Eraserhead get the name Labrynth Man upon its release in France?

DL: Because of a bunch of goofballs. That’s it.

MVC: (laughs) ok… I just thought I would ask you, but I’m not sure that you will answer this. Could you please tell us one of the ingredients used to create the baby in Eraserhead?


MVC: Ok. I just thought I would try… Did you make one cut of Inland Empire or did you do a bunch of versions?

DL: This is Inland Empire.

MVC: This is it! Ok. How would you compare shooting on digital video opposed to shooting on film?

DL: I can say one word- Freedom- Freedom in digital, and that word is big, big, big, it covers many things and I won’t go back to film ever again.

MVC: A lot of people would maybe be sad about that but I think that what you’re doing with digital video is pushing the medium a way I haven’t seen it pushed before and I think people will be happy to see your work on that medium as well.

DL: Thanks Carbon- And you know the digital world is getting better everyday, and so the next time I go out, I’ll probably have different digital cameras, but I like the little cameras. Somebody was telling me yesterday that they’re making little hi-def cameras now. So it’s just getting better and better.

MVC: Yes. You could even put it in your pocket.

DL: Exactly!

MVC: Your actors have voiced that they put their complete trust in your artistic vision and for this film a lot of the actors weren’t sure what their character was, and you gave them a script, sometimes the day of their shoot of their dialog. How do feel about having that much influence on your actor’s performance?

DL: Well here’s how I feel. I go by the ideas. Right?

MVC: Yes.

DL: So what I try to do is to stay true to those ideas and get everybody- the actors and the crew and get everyone together so that they feel that idea the same way I do and then we all go down that same road together. So like I say, in the beginning, its lots and lots of talking and answering of questions and more talking and rehearsing sometimes, and more talking so that everybody clues into that idea. In a way, the idea has the influence over everything. And we’re just interpreting that idea and staying true to it.

MVC: Ok. So some of the scenes seemed to not have any type dialogue in them…

DL: Yes they did. Every scene was written before hand.

I shot it in the beginning scene by scene and I didn’t know how the scenes would relate but always there was a script for that scene.

MVC: Well I know you have a really busy schedule.

DL: Right Carbon.

MVC: I‘d like to thank you so much for doing this interview.

DL: Carbon it was nice talking to you.

MVC: Nice talking to you Mr. Lynch and thank you so much for your beautiful work! I think you’ve influenced a lot of people’s lives!

DL: Thanks a lot Carbon! You’re great!

MVC: You are too!!!

still from Inland Empire

by Swingset Magazine on 1/31/2013 in Features, Interviews