Never thought I’d be talking about a book here. Nevertheless, I do read on occasion and find myself enjoying that experience. This time I actually listened to director David Lynch’s book/autobiography. It is narrated by Lynch himself, so I figured I should learn about him through his own mouth.
Before I talk about the Lynch’s book, I’ll give some of my brief thoughts of Lynch as a filmmaker. I love his TV series Twin Peaks. He will always be the guy who created that show to me, so I give him a chance with his films because those things are all over the place. I just don’t seem to get a lot of them, which leads me to not like them a lot. The Elephant Man, one of his most straightforward movies is also one of my favorites of his. Watching Lost Highway, I got frustrated because I had no idea what was going on. I am fascinated though, by Lynch as a filmmaker. That is why I read his book. Now, after completing it, I want to revisit his films and see some of the ones I haven’t yet.
Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity acts as an autobiography, self help book, and filmmaking guide. It is comprised of 84 small to minuscule chapters. I’m not kidding, one chapter contains a single sentence. These numerous chapters allow Lynch to briefly cover many topics, and get right to the point. Catching the big fish refers to finding the deepest and most profound ideas that you can use to develop a story and put that into a film. Lynch often describes transcendental meditation as the tool that best helps him find these ideas.
Inside every human being there is an ocean of pure, vibrant consciousness. When you transcend into transcendental meditation, you dive down into that ocean of pure consciousness. You can splash into it and it’s bliss. You can vibrate with this bliss, experiencing pure consciousness. It livens it, expands it. It starts to unfold and grow.
I can’t begin to grasp what he is talking about here, but it does give some insight into the mind of Lynch and his films. For instance, the first ideas he got for Blue Velvet were red lips, green lawns, and the song “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton. Next it was an ear lying in a field. Only Lynch could take those things and come up with Blue Velvet, and that is why there is no one else who can touch his style of filmmaking.
He also described Eraserhead as his most spiritual film. It took him five years to complete that movie, during a time when he was raising a daughter and trying to earn a living. What is most revealing, yet mysterious, is that to understand Eraserhead, he opened a Bible and read it until he found one sentence. He immediately closed the Bible because he had figured it out. He will also never say what that sentence was.
The parts of this book I enjoyed most were his thoughts on the art of film and filmmaking. Lynch seems to be a natural artist. He grew up wanting to be a painter, eventually moving to film because of the experience and its ability to express ideas and invoke feeling. He deeply treasures being able to enter a world and share that experience with people in a theater. And that was something he wanted to create for himself. He is one of the only directors alive today that makes a film which is truly his own. As a director, he believes every director needs to have the final cut of the film. Not having that is like dying twice, according to Lynch.
The latter parts of Lynch’s book talk about film today. It is dead for him. While recognizing the conveniences of digital video, it is not something he believes in. When this book was published in 2006 Lynch was just making short films, and has not made a feature film since. He uses small, low quality cameras for his shorts because of the way they look on screen. This assures me that Lynch has not been compromised. I’m sad that he is unable to make another full length film for whatever reason. However, I respect his vision as a director and an auteur. If he can’t make a movie that is his own, I’d rather not have him make one at all.
Any approved digital copy of a Davis Lynch film has no commentary or a scene selection option. This says even more about the way Lynch admires film. A commentary would change people’s take on the film, which should not have to be explained. It should also be watched in one viewing to get the full experience. I can agree with that when it comes to one of his own films, but with many other films, I enjoy listening to the director talk about his or her movie.
This book did an effective job at helping me understand the complicated mind of David Lynch. I had initially hoped he would explain his films more, but he made it clear that it is up to my interpretation, and not his. He has had an interesting life that still goes on. Any Twin Peaks fan knows that he recently left the production for the third season. We’re all hoping he can reach an agreement with Showtime to return though. I thoroughly enjoyed Lynch’s own narration of his book and hearing his approach to life in general. It will definitely give me more to think about when I see another one of his films. I would highly recommend this to anyone that is a fan of Lynch cinema. There are many delightful tidbits and thoughts that he brings up that were really interesting. For any film person out there, I think this book is fairly accessible as well.