‘He’s violent and original, but most of all he’s brave’
The Guardian, Saturday 14 August 2010
I was 15 when Twin Peaks, David Lynch‘s surreal murder-mystery-soap-opera, first aired on TV. Until then, I’d found the suburbs of Dublin where I grew up almost terminally boring. They were art-proof; there was nothing interesting you could say about them – or so I thought. Lynch’s dreamlike vision of suburbia uncovered the violence, mystery and dark magic of a world that I, in my naivety, had dismissed. Spectral white horses appeared in living rooms, detectives practised Zen; in the bravura opening sequence of one episode, a terrifying journey down a network of fibrous tunnels was revealed to be a close-up of an ordinary ceiling tile. Everything held an unknowable secret; for me, that was an invaluable lesson.
Beneath the surrealism, Lynch’s work abides by fiercely held principles. While in some ways he is an old-school romantic, with a fondness for beautiful ingénues and the kind of clean-cut heroes you find only on the screen, his films are defiantly unconventional. For all our postmodernity, we remain quite traditional in our regard for logic, and a film such as Lost Highway, whose antihero, without explanation, turns into someone else halfway through, is genuinely shocking.
Look Lynch up on YouTube and you’ll find a polite, soft-eyed man with a carefully swirled quiff and a dark suit, probably making a speech about Transcendental Meditation. I don’t know much about his life, but he seems a good example of Flaubert’s dictum about being regular and orderly in your life so you can be violent and original in your work. He’s violent and original, but most of all he’s brave. It takes real courage not to make sense. The scariest thing about making art is that you don’t know what you’re doing; the temptation to fall back on established forms is a strong one. Lynch has the ability to trust in nothing but his vision, and for all its weirdness, that vision is one of great beauty – the expression of an almost childlike fascination with and love for the world.
This article appeared on p4 of the Guardian review section of The Guardian on Saturday 14 August 2010. It was published on guardian.co.uk at 00.05 BST on Saturday 14 August 2010. Click here, to see the comments, and an unusual photo of David Lynch taken by photographer Sarah Lee for The Guardian.