FOR A BAROQUE AESTHETIC
A Study of the Films of David Lynch
Thesis submitted for the
Master of Arts in the History of Art and Design
The Faculty of History of Art and Design and Complementary
The National College of Art and Design
A Recognised College of the National University of Ireland
The Research has been supervised by:
Dr Brenda Moore McCann
I declare that this thesis has not been submitted as an exercise
for a degree at any other college or university.
I declare that it is entirely my own work.
I agree that the library may lend or copy the thesis upon request
from the date of deposit of the thesis.
List of Illustrations
Chapter I: Narrative Continuities
Chapter II: The Shot of Ambiguity
Chapter III: The Montage of Confusion
Chapter IV: The Texture of Film
Chapter V: The Dark Depths
Appendix: The Eye-of-the-Duck
Selected Filmography of David Lynch
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Fig. 1 The Spatial Relationships of the
Characters, series of stills from Blue Velvet.
Fig. 2 Tensions in the House, series of stills
from Lost Highway.
Fig. 3 The Confrontation of Local and Federal
Authority, series of stills from
the pilot episode of Twin Peaks.
Fig. 4 The Aerial Sense of Presence, series of
stills from The Straight Story.
Fig. 5 Threat Over Los Angeles, series of
stills from Mulholland Drive.
Fig. 6 Following Betty and Rita Inside, series
of stills from Mulholland Drive.
Fig. 7 From Fred To Pete, series of stills from
Fig. 8 «Hey Pretty Girl Time to Wake
up», series of stills from Mulholland Drive.
Fig. 9 The Projective Powers of the Telephone,
series of stills from Lost Highway.
Fig. 10 The Difficult Coming to the Light,
series of stills from Lost Highway.
Fig. 11 Going In and Out of the Darkness, series
of stills from Lost Highway.
Fig. 12 From the Darkness Emerges the
Marvellous, series of stills from Eraserhead and Blue
I am thankful to Brenda Moore McCann and Valerie Connor for their
patient and supportive supervising. I also would like to thank for their help:
Fergus Daly, Florence Brument, Gavin Murphy and the staff of the National
College of Art and Design. And very special thanks to Philippe, Léa and
History of the Baroque
From its long and convoluted development, the baroque has taken
many forms; it is an adjective, a style in the history of art and an
aesthetical concept. It derives from the Portuguese word barocco, which was
used by the goldsmiths of the 16th century to describe irregular
pearls. During the 17th century it was used to mean
«strange» or «shocking» and toward the end of the
18th century, the art theoreticians supporting classicism, qualified
as baroque everything that was regarded as capricious and extravagant in the
art of the Italian seicento and the further development of its forms.1(*)
The term retained its negative connotations and remained vaguely
associated with the art of the 17th century and everything that was
not classic until the end of the 19th century. By this time the germane
historiography reinvestigated the art of the period and with Jacob Burckhardt
(1818-1897) the baroque becomes the dominant style of the 17th
century art. For Burckhardt, `The baroque speaks the same language as the
Renaissance, but like a wild dialect.'2(*) While he integrated the baroque in an historical
perspective, he still considered it an art of decadence. It is one of his
disciples, Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945), who will affirm the baroque as a
specific style in Renaissance and Baroque in 1888.
Wölfflin elaborated on the main characteristics of the
baroque from the formal study of the art that was established in Rome at the
beginning of the 17th century before spreading over Europe. He tried
to articulate a definition to unify an art which had taken many different
forms, whether it was in Italy, Spain, Germany or the Netherlands.
Wölfflin developed a series of general principles in Principles of Art
History (1915) around the contrasting relationship between Renaissance and
Wölfflin also opened the way to future baroque studies in
considering the baroque as a phase in the development of styles in art history.
For him, styles evolve from a primitive period, during which new means of
representation are experimented with, to a classic period where these means are
brought to a harmonious expression before entering a baroque period where the
matured artistic forms are set in movement. Wölfflin invented the
This concept will be taken further by Eugenio D'Ors (1882-1954),
who introduces the notion of a transcendental baroque in his Lo
Barroco in 1935. He elevates the baroque as a metaphysical principle which
he opposed to classicism; the baroque is a life principle in perpetual conflict
with the barren reign of classic reason. If his work is generally held to be
somewhat excessive and a little fantasist, it nevertheless brought the baroque
into the realm of concepts.4(*)
Each of these dimensions of the baroque - adjective, style and
concept - are layered with different meanings, which has led to a wide and
varied use to the term baroque. This study will start from the baroque as the
artistic form of the 17th century as defined by Wölfflin and
then open up onto the aesthetical concept grown out of these forms.
Wölfflin and the Baroque
The baroque developed in Rome at the beginning of the
17th century and corresponds to the time of the Counter-Reformation
in the Catholic Church. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) had reaffirmed, in
opposition to the reformist position, the importance of the visual arts for the
communication of the Gospel to the people. Thus the Catholic Church supported a
great artistic activity through its patronage. This explains the predominance
of religious subject matter, and the importance of Rome.
The Baroque used the same system of representation as the
Renaissance, but where its critics only saw distortions and decadence of the
forms, Wölfflin developed the notion that the baroque had its own modus
The central idea of the Italian Renaissance is that of perfect
proportion [...]. Every form developed to self-existent being, the whole freely
co-coordinated: nothing but independently living parts. [...] The baroque uses
the same system of forms, but in place of the perfect, the completed, gives the
restless, the becoming, in place of the limited, the conceivable, gives the
limitless, the colossal. The ideal of beautiful proportion vanishes; interest
concentrates not on being, but on happening.5(*)
Wölfflin develops his arguments further in the comparative
description of a Renaissance and a baroque façade:
When Alberti speaks of a beautiful façade as musica, in
which not a note can be changed, he means nothing else than the unalterable, or
the organic determination of form. These terms are quite alien to the baroque,
and it is inevitable that they should be; the aim of this is not to represent a
perfected state, but to suggest an incomplete process and a movement toward its
completion. This is why the formal relationship becomes looser, for the baroque
is bold enough to turn harmony into a dissonance by using imperfect
proportions. The significant thing is not the attempt to complicate our
perception of harmonious relationships but the intention to create an
Thus the baroque is not in opposition to the classical form
developed by the Renaissance: it comes from and grows out of it. Its paintings
use the same system of representation and the perspective, its architecture the
same elements and order, but instead of seeking a harmony of forms it searches
for the movement to animate them.
Rome was already layered by the accumulation of the architectural
and cultural remnants of the civilisations that had gone past. Limited space
did not stop the baroque artists to conceive the grandest projects fitted into
the most confined spaces. This may partly explain the feeling of
The baroque flaunts cramped niches, windows disproportionate to
their allotted space, and paintings much too large for the surfaces they fill,
they are transposed from a different key, tuned to a different scale of
In his Principles of Art History, Wölfflin
contrasted the art of the baroque with the art of the Renaissance around five
principles of analysis. The first one, the linear and the painterly, compares
the clear linear style of the Renaissance to the intermingled masses of the
baroque. The second, plane and recession, develops the difference between a
composition in parallel planes to one where all planes are absorbed by a
movement in depth. The third principle, the closed and open forms, sees the
transition from a contained composition where every element is balanced by
another to a mode of composition where the parts aspires to move out of the
frame. In the fourth principle, multiplicity and unity concerns the
relationship between the various elements of composition. The multiplicity of
the Renaissance is rather a multiple unity, that is a unity where the various
parts are free elements which can still function independently, whereas in the
unity of the baroque, all parts are absorbed into the movement of the
composition and only make sense in relation to the whole. The fifth and last
principle concerns the light and the shadows, clearness and unclearness. The
light of the Renaissance is an overall luminosity where the shadows are only
there to shade the form. In the baroque it is the light that brings out the
form out of the darkness.
In the relationship established by Wölfflin between
Renaissance and baroque, the baroque needs the classic form with which to be
contrasted; it appears in the hollow of the classic form.
Leibniz and Deleuze
In 1988, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze investigated the concept
of the baroque in The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque. He proposed the
seventeenth century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) as the
philosopher the baroque was lacking. In 1980 Deleuze was describing Leibniz to
Imagine Leibniz, there is something frightening there. He is the
philosopher of order, even more, of order and policing, in every sense of the
word "policing." In the first sense of the word especially, that is, regulated
organization of the city. He only thinks in terms of order. But very oddly in
this taste for order and to establish this order, he yields to the most insane
concept creation that we have ever witnessed in philosophy. Dishevelled
concepts, the most exuberant concepts, the most disordered, the most complex in
order to justify what is. Each thing must have a reason.8(*)
This paradox is somehow reflected in the occurrence of the
baroque as historical phenomenon. When Leibniz is the philosopher of order, the
baroque is the art of the Counter-Reformation and as such is deeply embedded
into the agenda of the Catholic Church to reassert itself in face of the
growing reformist churches. As such it is the art of authority, but at the same
time it has overgrown any attempt to contain it consequently the
17th century was a period of intense creativity.
Deleuze developed his approach to the baroque from the concept of
the fold; he undertook to establish that the baroque fold is different from
others folds in the history of art:
Should we wish to maintain the working relation of the Baroque
and the fold, we shall therefore have to show that the fold remains limited in
the other cases, and that in the Baroque it knows an unlimited freedom whose
conditions can be determined.9(*)
From this premise he then posits the six traits of the baroque,
Taken in their rigor, have to account for the extreme specificity
of the Baroque, and the possibility of stretching it outside of its historical
limits, without any arbitrary extension: the contribution of the Baroque to art
in general, and the contribution of Leibnizianism to philosophy.10(*)
The first of these traits is the fold, which the baroque develops
as an infinite process. The fold is the expression of matter and produces form.
The second trait concerns the relationship between the inside and the outside:
`The infinite fold separates or moves between matter and soul, the
façade and the closed room, the outside and the inside.'11(*) To the infinite receptivity of
the façade responds the infinite spontaneity of the inner rooms of
action. The third trait concerns the resolution of this tension across a divide
in two levels: the high and the low. The façade-matter goes below and
the soul-room above. The fold, moving between, differentiates into pleats of
matter on the outside and folds in the soul inside: matter and manners. The
fourth trait is the unfold, which is not the contrary of the fold, but the
continuation of its act. The unfold is the manifestation of the action of the
fold. The unfolding does not reveal a void but more folds: folds are always
full. Textures constitute the fifth trait of the baroque: texture is
constituted by the manner into which the matter is folded; it is the forces of
resistance of the material. The sixth and last trait concerns the paradigm of
the fold: the search for a model through the choice of material but also
through its formal expression. The baroque fold can only appear `with infinity,
in what is incommensurable and in excess, when the variable curve supersedes
From these specific traits a number of terms emerge which are
associated with the baroque taken in larger perspective: the notion of the fold
is related to material and texture but also to manners and forces.
Baroque and Realism
The baroque can be approached in many ways and some may be in
contradiction with each other. The art historian Christine Buci-Glucksmann
distinguishes two tendencies in the baroque: a baroque of fullness and a
baroque of emptiness:
The relation to history is complicated. Besides, isn't there but
one baroque? I believe that in reality there is a baroque of fullness such as
Leibniz or Deleuze's. There is nothing but fullness. It is the baroque of the
fold and the crease, the unfolding, the interior and the exterior, etc. But in
the historical baroque there is also something that fascinated me, it is the
baroque of emptiness. Borromini isn't Bernini. The baroque of emptiness is the
spiral, which climbs nowhere.13(*)
She develops her notion of a baroque of emptiness with a
comparison to the art of rhetoric, an art of elaborated form around nothing:
`It's beginning with nothing that there is rhetoric, pose, metaphor.'14(*)
There may be two tendencies within the baroque, but there may
also be two different points of views from which to look upon the baroque. The
different appreciations of the baroque seem to spring for a large part from the
question of what is reality. The classical point of view considers the essence,
the origin of things; classicism researches the truth through the perfect form.
From this perspective the baroque representation, with all its artifices,
excesses, decorations, trompe l'oeils and multiplied images, is necessarily
superficial and false. The baroque is the art of illusions deluding the
beholder away from the truth of things. Thus theorists of the 18th
century, invested in classicism, found no redeeming feature in the baroque.
More recently however, its very artificiality has seduced many for being more
revealing of a world made of deceptive appearances. A manifesto for the
neo-baroque aesthetic written by Erminia Passannanti gives a good example of
this point of view:
Neo-baroque is the rediscovery, exaltation and re-evaluation of
the kitsch, it is the attribution to its codes of a scheme of values, and it is
indeed the re-activation of these values in the contemporaneity. It is
believing in the power of the false, the artifact as being more meaningful of
This also echoes the comparison with the art of rhetoric made by
Christine Buci-Glucksmann. It has in common with classicism a reference to the
`true', albeit by replacing it with emptiness. Thus, all images are false but
as it is all there is, therefore, the baroque is «truthful».
There is, however, another line of thought, which not so much
denies the existence of an origin than makes it one image among many just as
valid. In his essay Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, Michel Foucault
develops the notion of genealogy:
The search for descent is not the erecting of foundations: on the
contrary, it disturbs what was previously considered immobile; it fragments
what was thought unified; it shows the heterogeneity of what was imagined
consistent with itself.16(*)
Thus considered, genealogy, far from seeking a mythological
origin, exposes the diversity and multiplicity of descent.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) denounced the notion of Truth as
a fraud, the research of truth being used in effect to deny reality: reality,
in this sense, is the world we live in, a world of appearances, the only thing
we have. Therefore appearances are the only truth we know of the world and not
some abstract and otherworldly idea of Truth, which can only exist in denying
life itself with all its illusions.
From this vantage point the multiple images of the baroque are no
longer seen as so many illusions, but rather as a representation of a world
made of images. The images do not hide the truth or adorn emptiness, they are
the truth, the many layered, multiple faceted truth. This is the baroque of
fullness, the baroque of the fold, the baroque of Leibniz and Deleuze.
Realism and Cinema
The capacity of films and the moving image to imitate reality
sent spectators running during the first projection of the Lumiere brothers'
film, L'arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, in 1895. Thus
the question of reality and its representation is at the core of the history of
cinema, as stated by Lapsley and Westlake in Film Theory an
Although since then few spectators have mistaken the image for
reality itself, film's extraordinary power to imitate reality has made realism
a central feature of cinema aesthetics.17(*)
From its beginnings, the perception of cinema has been split into
two tendencies: as a window on reality, with its mechanical system of
reproduction as warrant of its objectivity; or as the ultimate creator of
illusions with the possible manipulation of its mechanical eye allowing all the
tricks with Georges Melies (1861-1938) as the first illusionist:
Lumiere's camera awakes us to the world. Melies stretches behind
his characters the painted canvas of the collective unconscious.18(*)
The history of cinema is situated between those two poles of
attraction, between realism and artifice. However the pretension of a large
part of the cinematographic production to realism relies, as in literature or
in plays, on its capacity to hide its conventions of representation. Thus
associating cinema with the larger issue of realism during the 20th
Far from being the faithful depiction of reality it is assumed to
be, realism, through the various forms it has taken throughout its history,
shows itself to be neither window nor mirror but a set of conventions. There
is, in other words, `no realism but there are realisms'.19(*)
The political discourse contained in the claim to realism of
theatre had been exposed by such as Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956):
The importance of realism is a direct consequence of its
epistemic status, as Brecht recognised when he called it a major political,
philosophical and practical issue.20(*)
The realist text functions on the articulation of various point
of views, thus pretending to objectivity, but subjecting them to a unifying
view presented as the truth:
The so-called classic realist text, then, whether George Lucas or
George Eliot, is defined by a structure in which the various discourses
comprising the text form a hierarchy. Among these various discourses, each of
which proposes a version of reality, one is privileged as the bearer of
Each object is firmly framed in its position by the dominant
discourse, and no ambiguities are left to the reader-spectator:
The unified subject confronts the hypostatised object, each
locked into a paralysing fixity, with no perspective for struggle or
possibility of transformation.22(*)
Through its technological capacity for reproduction the cinema
was even more apt to pretend to a transparent discourse; unlike literature or
theatre, it was proposed to be only reproducing reality.
But by being directly engaged with the appearance of the world,
the cinema was necessarily a privileged medium to represent its shifting
appearances. It may well be that the most likely medium to express a baroque
aesthetic is the cinema. Hence it is not very surprising that the relationship
between baroque and cinema has been a recurring feature of film theory.
Baroque and Cinema
The French film critic André Bazin wrote in 1945 about a
comparison between photography and film:
The film is no longer content to preserve the object, enshrouded
as it were in an instant, as the bodies of insects are preserved intact, out of
the distant past, in amber. The film delivers baroque art from its convulsive
catalepsy. Now, for the first time, the image of things is likewise the image
of their duration, change mummified as it were.23(*)
Bazin saw an ontological link between baroque and cinema, the
latter bringing in the movement the former was striving for. The effects the
baroque developed to create illusions, such as trompe l'oeil or other
artifices, were not without similarities with those of cinema, as the art
historian Rudolf Wittkower described:
There is, however, on a different level an important connection
between the theatre and the art of the baroque age. In the theatre we live in a
fictitious reality, and the stronger the illusion the more readily we are
prepared to surrender to it. At this period the most powerful effects were used
to eliminate the borderline between fiction and reality. The fire which Bernini
arranged on the stage during the performance of one of his comedies and which
provoked a stampede of the audience is a well-known example.24(*)
While the search for movement and illusion already established a
link between baroque and cinema, it is in 1955 that the baroque made his
entrance as a new form of cinema in the film critics' vocabulary. In his essay
on the relationship between critique and baroque: `Du concept au
fétiche: penser un nouvel âge du cinéma,'25(*) Antoine De Baecque explains
how the term was imported from literary debates.
In France in the early 1950s, with the publication of such essays
as La Literature de l'âge baroque en France26(*) by Jean Rousset, was
raised the question of a baroque literature. The literary developments of the
baroque led to a set of definitions detached from its art historical
The baroque became, from then on, a tool to examine a work with,
a tool which is setting out its specificities as a style (hyperbolic, complex,
accumulative, decorative), a state of mind (mix of genres, taste for contrasts,
antithesis, paradoxes, for surprises and the singular, for the obscure and
mysterious), and a dynamic (preeminence given to movement, ellipsis and
Thus defined the baroque became an easily applicable term to most
artistic forms. It entered the discourse on cinema during the controversy over
Max Ophuls' film: Lola Montes (1955); which will become the first film
to be qualified as a `masterpiece of the baroque art'.28(*) However, the term baroque was
also used by those that vilipended the film, as synonymous of extravagant,
pretentious or pompous, thus perpetuating the ambiguous nature of the term.
The critics who saw the film as the revelation of a new form of
cinema developed the idea further and extended the term baroque to the films of
Orson Welles, Federico Fellini, Robert Aldrich or George Cukor. They hailed the
baroque as a new age of the cinema:
It is another age in cinema, which in the same movement, makes
and reveals the baroque expression, that of the directors of the accomplished
and complex form, multiple and virtuoso, symbolic and singular, an age which
would start with the Wellesiens manifesto, would be realized by Ophuls and
would drain a whole block of modern cinema: Bergman, Hitchcock, Aldrich,
Fellini, Kurosawa, Astruc...An age which, by the ceaseless metamorphosis of
forms, would succeed in the history of cinema to Hollywood classicism with its
dry, simple, pure, ordained, efficient style.29(*)
Thus a new form of cinematic expression was prophesized;
unfortunately the young cinema of the 1960s such as the New Wave was more
interested with a direct confrontation with `reality' than by the sophisticated
forms of the baroque. Thus leaving the baroque manifesto hanging.
The notion will return during the 1970s with the apparition of a
darker and self-reflexive cinema. However it is the term mannerism that will be
retained to describe this cinema more inclined toward citations and
The term baroque has remained a regular feature in the film
critics' vocabulary ever since, but often without an explicit context, as
remarked Hervé Aubron in his essay on baroque and cinema, A
The term baroque may be one of the most un-thought of the
cinematographic critic. Burgeoning very frequently in film reviews, it is
almost always used in its archaic acceptation: bizarre, unusual,
He warns against the uses of a term, which, if often applied is
at the risk of losing all specificity and, ultimately, all interest.32(*) But the relationship between
baroque and cinema is persistent and may not have yet yielded all its
potential. To the question as to what cinema looks for in the baroque, Aubron
suggests that it may be a return to the world. To the cynics who said that all
has been done, the baroque offers a world whose very fabric is all that has
been done, the world is made of these multiple images: `Whence, obviously, the
baroque's obsession for illusion, but assuredly not as a joking or cynical
Thus, the notion of the baroque that has been so far developed in
film critic is mostly issue from its literary associations and has suffered
from a tendency to expand indefinitely. To approach the relationship between
baroque and cinema, it may be necessary, on the one hand, to go back to the
definitions of the baroque as a style in the history of art, and on the other
hand, to avoid too much generalization in remaining focused on a specific set
Wölfflin had identified three general phases of development
in art: the primitive, the classic and the baroque. As it happens the first two
terms are applied by David Bordwell and his collaborators in their study of
cinema, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, so that we may draw parallels
between their respective evolutions.34(*) The authors identify a primitive phase in cinema
going from its invention in 1895 to circa 1917. This was a period during which
a system of representation was progressively established in Hollywood. This
system aims to ensure a smooth narrative continuity:
The number of possible narratives is unlimited. Historically,
however, the cinema has tended to be dominated by a single mode of narrative
form. In the course of this book we shall refer to this dominant mode as the
«classical Hollywood cinema» - «classical» because of its
wide and long history, «Hollywood» because the mode assumed its
definite shape in American studio films.35(*)
The authors believe that by 1917 the classical system was fully
developed and continued to reign over cinematic representation up to circa
1940. If, then, other systems of representation were to appear, the classical
system would remain the reference from which the others would demarcate
Following the course of art history, after the classicism of the
Renaissance, there is a mannerist and then a baroque period. These two terms
have appeared, sometimes rather confusedly in film theory to qualify films made
since Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941).36(*) It is important however to
differentiate the two styles, which while they have many common features are,
at core, fundamentally different. They both emerge from the classical system of
representation but mannerism is more of a sophisticated ending to the
Renaissance than a new style, as Erwin Panofsky has described:
The style freezes, crystallizes, adorns itself of the smoothness
and hardness of a glaze, while its movements, which tend to an excess of grace,
are at the same time, constrained and stifled. The whole of the composition
become a battlefield where contradictory forces confront each other, tangled up
within an infinite tension.37(*)
The cinematic equivalent would be found in a sophisticated and
reflexive cinema, for which formal variations over the classical system has
become the goal. The baroque shares this dependence from the classical system
but absorbs it into another view of the world and takes it into another realm
Any given work of art is always larger than the label trying to
contain it. Thus the only interest in approaching a film as baroque is to
suggest new possibilities that will enrich the experience of the film. It is to
this end that this study will investigate the films of David Lynch as possibly
resonant with a baroque aesthetic.
David Lynch was born in 1946 in Missoula, Montana. He studied
Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and cinema at the American Film Institute (AFI), in
Los Angeles. He made his first short film, while studying in Philadelphia,
Six Men Getting Sick (1967), from a desire to see his figures move and
for the sound, as told by Michel Chion:
And, one day, something clicked, though he could not have known
that this would be a definitive turning point. He decided to make `film
paintings': «When I looked at these paintings, I missed the sound. I was
expecting a sound, or maybe the wind, to come out. I also wanted the edges to
disappear. I wanted to get into the inside. It was spatial...»38(*)
After a couple of shorts, The Alphabet (1968), The
Grandmother (1970), and a first feature length film made with the
help of the AFI, Eraserhead (1976) - which took five years in the
making - David Lynch moved into major studio productions with The Elephant
Man (1980). He had some difficult experiences notably with Dune
(1984) where he found that the demands made by a large production did not fit
his intuitive method of working. He managed to find a place within the
studio system without altering his approach to filmmaking with Blue Velvet
(1986). It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, like Dune, but on
a much smaller budget thus giving him more freedom.
Lynch was brought to worldwide fame with the television series
Twin Peaks (1990-91) commissioned by ABC Worldvision Enterprises.
While the success of Twin Peaks gave him more independence, his later
forays into television On the Air (1992) and Hotel Room
(1992), did not meet with the same success.
If sound and movement have been the decisive factors influencing
his shift to films, Lynch's cinema has an arresting visual quality giving a
careful attention to textures and colors as well as the lighting of his scenes
- often demanding technical prowess from his cinematographers.
The work of David Lynch may in certain respects qualify only too
easily for a reductive understanding of baroque - the extravagant settings and
the weird or excessive behaviours of its characters. But the affinities go
further and develop in unexpected directions.
Principles of Analysis
The films of David Lynch have often been submitted to a
psychoanalytical interpretation for which many of their aspects lend themselves
rather easily. Semiotic and psychoanalytical analyses of films can often fail
by an excess of interpretation, thus pin-pointing the meaning of images as if
it was a text to be read and emptying them of their complexity. On the other
hand a textual analysis is at risk of remaining too formal, as remarked by the
authors of Aesthetics of Film:
By setting out to return to the primacy of the signifier, textual
analysis reveals its concern not to leap immediately to an interpretative
reading. Instead, it often stops at the moment of «meaning,» and thus
it regularly runs the risk of falling into paraphrase or purely formal
This study will keep to a formal approach to Lynch's films but
will try to avoid a purely descriptive analysis. It will be structured over the
five principles of the baroque as set out by Wölfflin in Principles of
Art History. The classical Hollywood cinema will be the contrasting
partner of a possible baroque cinema. Each chapter will echo one of the
principles of Wölfflin but it will also develop a resonance with the
defining traits of the Baroque as elaborated by Deleuze.
The first chapter, Narrative Continuities, will transpose the
linear rendering of the form of the Renaissance to a linear progression of the
narrative in classical films. It will suggest the possibility of a non-linear
continuity in the sequence of actions in time and space.
The second chapter, The Shot of Ambiguity, is concerned with the
conception of the shot. It will draw parallels between the classical
composition by planes and the development of editing in the classical system.
The composition in depth of the baroque could find its translation into
movements of camera and a more active depth of field. It will develop the
question of point-of-view and the subjectivity of the image.
The third chapter, The Montage of Confusion, based on the notion
of closed and open form, will be concerned with the montage of the film. The
containment of the classical form is found in the montage of the classical film
leaving nothing without resolution and thus controlling meaning. The open form
will bring a form of montage which will multiply possibilities and leaves the
spectator make his own interpretation.
The multiplicity and unity of the fourth principle, which concern
the relative independence of the elements of composition, will deal with the
organisation of the elements of the film in the fourth chapter, The Texture of
Film. In the classical film the parts of a film are hierarchically organised
according to their relevance to the narrative. The baroque unity could emerge
from the absence of such distinction making an object or a particular texture
as important to the overall structure than a scene of action. This will develop
into a consideration of textures as a formative element.
The last principle concerns the treatment of light and darkness,
clearness and unclearness. This concern with light easily transposes to the
different types of lighting used in films. This will lead to the consideration
of the realistic, expressionist or moralistic content of light and darkness in
the fifth chapter, The Dark Depths.
As Wölfflin warns in his introduction to Principles of
Art History, these principles of analysis do not stand apart from each
other: they are necessarily interlocked. Each chapter does not so much examine
a new aspect of the work considered than it proposes a new perspective on an
aspect already approached. Repetitions and cross-over are bound to occur, but
each part should have its own proceeding thus bringing new developments to
In bringing together the formal elements of analysis of the
baroque used by Wölfflin and the study of the films of David Lynch, this
study hopes to shift the relationship between baroque and cinema toward a more
formal and visual approach than has generally been made.
On the Use of Quotes
A few words should be said about the choice of presentation. This
work uses a large number of quotes which are divided into two categories. The
first set of quotes concerns the baroque and are mostly extracted from works by
Wölfflin and Deleuze. They structure - and resonate with - the main text,
but they are not integrated into it. This choice was made to avoid an
unfruitful mix of too many discourses; the questions of baroque and aesthetics
are thus kept close but do not interfere with those of film theory and the
cinema of David Lynch.
The second set of quotes, being part of the text, are
conventionally used, however if they are given a pre-eminent part, it is in an
attempt to keep the diversity in the expression of the different ideas. The
quotes are used as voices resounding in harmony or dissonance with each
Everything depends on how far a preponderating
significance is assigned to or withdrawn from the edges, whether they
must be read as line or not. In the one case, the line means a track
moving evenly round the form, to which the spectator can confidently entrust
himself; in the other, the picture is dominated by lights and shadows, not
exactly indeterminate, yet without stress on the boundaries. Only here and
there does a bit of palpable outline emerge: it has ceased to exist as a
uniformly sure guide through the sum of the form.40(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History.
This first chapter will look into the development of and the form
taken by the relationship between narrative and cinema and how one form, the
classical narrative, has come to dominate the feature length film.
Films have come to be associated with fictional narratives.
However, if the relationship between cinema and narratives is almost as old as
cinema itself, it was not necessarily so, as Christian Metz commented in
Film Language: `The merging of the cinema and of narrativity was a
great fact, which was by no means predestined - nor was it strictly
brothers Lumière had rather thought of their invention as a scientific
curiosity to record reality; but it is as a fictional narrative that cinema
took form with the cinematic experiments of Georges Melies or David. W.
Griffith. This led to the situation described here by Christian Metz:
In the realm of the cinema, all non-narrative genres - the
documentary, the technical film, etc - have become marginal provinces, border
regions so to speak, while the feature-length film of novelistic fiction, which
is simply called a «film» - the usage is significant - has traced
more and more clearly the king's highway of filmic expression.42(*)
So narrative cinema is not just a genre in the possible cinematic
expressions, it is the dominant form of the medium. The possibilities offered
by the narrative form are multiple, but as Bordwell and Thompson remarked in
Film Art: An Introduction, one form has prevailed over others, that of
Classical cinema considers a narrative to be `a chain of events
in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space.'43(*) This is further defined as:
Typically, a narrative begins with one situation; a series of
changes occurs according to a pattern of cause and effect; finally, a new
situation arises that brings about the end of the narrative.44(*)
Thus are identified three aspects of narrative: causality, time
and space. The characters are identified as the agents of cause and effects;
`By creating and reacting to events, characters play roles within the film's
formal system. [...] In a narrative, characters are constructed beings.' The
authors of Film Art: An Introduction go on to define characters as
possessing a certain number of properties or traits `designed to play a causal
role in the narrative'. The narrative relies on the stability of these traits
to ensure its continuity. 45(*)
The time and space of the narrative are subjected to the logic of
the action. The events are organized in the chronological order offering the
clearest understanding of their causality: such as flashbacks or flash-forwards
according to need. However, the classical narrative will usually be careful to
give the necessary clues to enable the spectator to reorganize the events into
a linear chronological order. The same rules apply for space, if space is
presented in fragments on the screen to highlight the most important actions;
it is nevertheless narratively maintained in its continuity. If, for instance,
a character has to cross a long distance between two shots, a narrative clue
will indicate to the viewer that some time has elapsed enabling the character
to effect his move.
Thus, in a classical narrative, if the plot introduces
disruptions in cause and effect, time or space, it ultimately refers back to a
linear continuity. Each effect has its cause, the time sequence is restored and
the space is Euclidian. Bordwell and Thompson conclude:
Finally, most classical narrative films display strong degrees of
closure at the end. Leaving no loose ends unresolved, these films seek to end
their causal chains with a final effect. We usually learn the fate of each
character, the answer to each mystery, and the outcome of each
This narrative form, which has become, in Noel Burch terms `The
institutional mode of representation'47(*) is, nevertheless, just one possibility of the
narrative form in cinema, as Christian Metz asserts:
Filmic narrativity, by becoming stable through
convention and repetition over innumerable films, has gradually shaped itself
into forms that are more or less fixed, but certainly not immutable.48(*)
In the Renaissance every architectural member was simply
and purely stated, while in the baroque, members were multiplied. [...] The
single, clear and self-sufficient line was replaced by a kind of formative
zone, a complex of lines which made it difficult to recognize the actual
contour. This resulted in an illusion of movement, a suggestion that the form
had first to move into its allotted position.49(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Baroque and Renaissance.
The critical discourse accompanying the new cinema of the 1960s
often remarked upon its departure from narrativity to explain its novelty. In
Film Language, Christian Metz developed an analysis of the
relationship between the `modern cinema and narrativity' and concluded to the
inadequacy of this approach because it is based on the erroneous idea
That in the past the cinema was entirely narrative and no longer
is so today, or is so at least to a much lesser extent. I believe on the
contrary that the modern film is more narrative, and more satisfyingly so, and
that the main contribution of the new cinema is to have enriched the filmic
Metz pursued the same approach elsewhere when discussing the
conditions for a change of the narrative form:
The originality of creative artists consists, here as elsewhere,
in tricking the code, or at least in using it ingenuously, rather than
attacking it directly or in violating it-and still less in ignoring
The most inventive filmmakers have always used and tricked the
code, but, it is necessary to maintain the code to a certain extent to help the
viewer to orientate himself; as Metz warns: `A failure of intellection among
the viewers would be the automatic sanctioning of a purely individual
innovation, which the system would refuse to confirm.'52(*)
Thus, it is within the narrative cinema itself that new forms of
cinema developed, in using the existing code as a springboard, they have
presented the viewer with the representation of a less clear-cut world than the
In 1941, Orson Welles made Citizen Kane, which
epitomizes many changes within the cinematic form. The film was described by
Jorge Luis Borges as `a labyrinth without a centre'53(*); it revolves around the
character of Charles Foster Kane, but without settling on any traits or
properties. The character of Kane remains elusive to the end - the final
identification of the word «Rosebud» with the childhood's sleigh does
not resolve anything, at the most it adds another perspective on the
personality of Kane.
Another film articulated around an unfathomable character, is
Joseph Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa (1954). It tells the story
of Maria Vargas from the point of view of the different people involved. But
the film tells more about the narrators than about Maria, she is the blind spot
of the film as if the radiance of her beauty was warding off any possible
comprehension. The first scene of the film reflects its whole structure; in a
Spanish cabaret, a producer and his director wait to see Maria Vargas dance.
When she does, the camera moves over the faces of the spectators and their
various reactions, from ecstasy to jealousy, but the viewer of the film is left
to his or her imagination.
These two films are examples of narratives that cannot rely on
the characters traits to play a causal role to further the action, because the
characters have no fixed traits. The undecidability of the character
personality shapes the narrative: endlessly revolving around a blind spot.
Some filmmakers have taken a more subjective approach to time,
not necessarily referred to a linear chronology. Raoul Ruiz' Le Temps
Retrouvé (1999) is based on the last volume of the novel A la
Recherche du Temps Perdu (1913-1927) by Marcel Proust. Raoul
Ruiz did not attempt to explain the events recounted for those who had not read
the book, rather he plunged the viewer into the stream of memories and
fantasies of the narrator. The chronology of the events is remodelled around
the perceptions of the protagonist, as if time had become a malleable substance
to be shaped by his stream of consciousness. Accordingly, the opening credits
rolls over images of a stream whose waters flow from right to left - which,
within occidental conventions of narrative representation is textually
understood to mean backward.
The spatial conventions adopted by classical Hollywood films are
exposed in Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singing in the Rain (1951).
In the film there is only a token attempt at pretending that the space of the
action is any other than a sound-stage; there is no spatial relationship
between the different spaces. Even for the two scenes happening in the street -
when Don Lockwood jumps into Kathy Selden's car to escape his fans and the
scene of the title song - it functions as an independent location rather than a
junction between two places. The film exhibits and plays on its artificial
settings, and even uses them as a narrative element in the scene of the love
declaration of Don to Kathy: Don uses the available instrument of a sound stage
to set the perfect romantic scene: sunset, gentle breeze, moonlight and so
For Dogville (2003) Lars Von Triers set the scene in one
huge sound stage with little else other than a few props and lights to make it
a little village in the Rocky Mountains. Von Triers' deployment of camera
movements ensures that the film has little to do with theatre - from his use of
elaborated crane shots to handheld camera.
For Un Chien Andalou (1928) Luis Buñuel used all
the make-believe capacity of cinema to conjure up a surrealist space
annihilating the boundaries between fantasy and reality: the door of a Parisian
apartment opens, like in dreams, on a rocky beach by the ocean.
Thus filmmakers have never been completely subservient to the
classical narrative developed by Hollywood, and have used reflexive or
disruptive approaches to it. However the classical narrative remains the
framework from which other forms of narrative can expand.
Essentialism makes a classic of Descartes, while Leibniz's
thought appears to be a profound mannerism. Classicism needs a solid and
constant attribute for substance, but mannerism is fluid, and the spontaneity
of manners replaces the essentiality of the attribute.54(*)
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque.
From his earlier shorts The Alphabet (1968)
or the Grandmother (1970), David Lynch has used the
narrative form and has remained within its realm since then. In her book
The Passion of David Lynch, Martha Nochimson discusses the influence
of painting in David Lynch's films. In this quote she reflects upon the
particular influence of Francis Bacon's paintings:
For Bacon, narrative reality is inherent in the way that the
image can cut through the static of its own conventions and those of the
coherent self to reach the movement of feelings, the energies of the
subconscious and the nerves. That is only possible if the artist permits such
fissures to occur in the composing process. [...] Lynch's inheritance from
Bacon is not his subject matter or color palette or specifics images, but the
tension created by the collision between the narrative and the non-narrative
elements of painting.55(*)
The bond between narrativity and David Lynch's work is further
commented on by Michel Chion in David Lynch:
Narrative freedom does not mean indifference to the story, which
is used as a pretext for saying something else, but rather such an intense
belief in the story that like a child, one would like to draw it out as far and
as literally as possible.56(*)
If Lynch has chosen the narrative form, it is as a necessary
framework to express the tension with non-narrative elements. Thus developing a
personal approach to such elements as the causal sequence of events and their
relation to time and space.
Characters in the classical narrative are «constructed
beings» 57(*) with a
well-defined set of traits. They are thus quite distinct from the notion of the
subject as offered by Lacanian psychoanalysis. The notion is developed here by
B. Herzogenrath in reference to Lost Highway:
Lacanian psychoanalysis offers a theory of the subject that does
without concepts such as unity, origin, continuity. It goes from the assumption
of a fundamentally split subject and thus comes up with a model of subjectivity
that grounds itself on a constitutive lack rather than wholeness. Thus, his
theory lends itself as a useful and relevant background for the analysis of a
sample of cinema that negates the idea of the autonomous, stable
This fluctuating identity of the subject was already at the core
of the earlier examples of Citizen Kane and The Barefoot
Contessa. Lynch however takes a different approach; he is less concerned
about the mysteries of identity than by the difficulty for the subject to find
a place in the world. As such his characters often seem to conform to type, but
then, under changing circumstances they shift their appearances; they may
change type. André Bazin analysed the treatment of characters and
causality in the film Le Notti di Cabiria (1957) by Federico Fellini.
Bazin wrote that Fellini's `characters are never defined by their
«character» but exclusively by their appearance,'59(*) which echoes a commentary of
Martha Nochimson on a scene in Mulholland Drive:
Back at Betty's apartment, the layers are reconfigured as Rita
takes on Betty's appearance by covering her luxuriant, dark hair with a short,
blonde wig. The narrative excuse for this is that Rita is fearful that the
murder of Selwyn means that the thugs chasing her are getting closer. But the
tonal weight of this image is the move of Rita into Betty's place as the
dominant personality, which she becomes when Betty invites her to share the bed
rather than sleep on the couch and Rita initiates sex.60(*)
The change in the relationship between Betty and Rita is thus
signified by the wig, a sort of hat of authority. Lynch's characters are
exactly as they appear at a given moment but their appearance may change. In
Fire Walk With Me, Laura Palmer is a regular high-school girl, a
provocative seductress and a disturbed teenager; she is the sum of her images
and cannot be reduced to one. In Mulholland Drive, Betty and Diane are
one and the same: the hopeful young actress coming to Hollywood and the sour
rejected woman seeking revenge. But, the difference is, she assumes a different
name for each of her selves, as pointed out by Martha Nochimson:
In life we maintain continuous signs of identity, like our names.
But our young inexperienced dreams routinely undergo such transformations, as
they collide with forces unleashed by power establishments and our own internal
obsessions that a new name and identity would be entirely in keeping with the
profound alterations in us, especially the commutation of early assumption
about our possibilities.61(*)
The enthusiastic Betty did not develop her potential to be an
actress, which she seems to possess given her performance during the audition,
and became Diane, the bitter woman. In Lost Highway the transformative
process was more brutal with the violent metamorphosis of Fred Madison into
Pete Dayton. There is some resonance to the film in this comment by Bazin on
If there are, still, tensions and climaxes in the films of
Fellini which leave nothing to be desired as regards drama or tragedy, it is
because, in the absence of traditional dramatic causality, the incidents in his
films develop effects of analogy and echo. Fellini's hero never reaches the
final crisis (which destroys him or saves him) by a progressive dramatic
linking but because the circumstances somehow or other affect him, build up
inside him like the vibrant energy in a resonating body. He does not develop;
he is transformed; overturning finally like an iceberg whose center of buoyancy
has shifted unseen.62(*)
In the first part of the film the character of Fred Madison seems
to be under a constant pressure from the inside, a constant ontological
difficulty with being. His instability is inviting evil forces epitomized by
the «Mystery man». The accumulation of energies that cannot find an
expression, literally transforms Fred's body, as if trying on another shape for
Bazin's thoughts about the relationship between events and
characters in Fellini's films seem to be particularly relevant to the films of
Events do not «happen» in Fellini's world; they befall
its inhabitants; that is to say, they occur as an effect of
«vertical» gravity, not in conformity to the laws of
«horizontal» causality. As for the characters themselves, they exist
and change only in reference to a purely internal kind of time. [...] Thus the
Fellinian character does not evolve; he ripens or at the most becomes
In Lynch's films, if characters cannot be relied upon maintaining
their properties, no more can the chain of events to follow a
«horizontal» causality. In The Passion of David Lynch,
Martha Nochimson develops the concept of the «Eye-of-the-duck» scene,
from discussion with Lynch about a poem on the duck shape (see appendix A):
In moving from the bill to the head, down the S curve, around the
body to the legs and feet, and back to the bill, we would seem to have the
organic form of the duck. And yet Lynch asserts that the secret of the ocular
rapture is the eye of the duck, disconnected from the connected lines of the
duck's body but the glowing impetus for all the movement that radiates
mysteriously around it.64(*)
Lynch has identified particular scenes from his films belonging
to this category, `as a necessary prelude to closure but not in the way that
the climax is'.65(*) In
Elephant Man, for instance, it is the scene when John Merrick goes to
the theatre to see the musical pantomime. Nochimson interprets this as being
the height of sweetness in Merrick's life, sweetness that ultimately can only
kill him, since he can never be part of that idealized
«normality».66(*) The scene has no causal relation to the ending, but
it nevertheless contains the key to it, the desire for normality.
The narrative structure of Lynch's films does not follow a simple
cause and effect reaction; the events portrayed relate to each other in a more
layered way. Charles Drazin commented on Blue Velvet:
With its hoodlums and car chases, Blue Velvet has many
of the trappings of a Hollywood movie but a different operating system. It has
the logic of a dream, where you find yourself in situations without knowing how
you got into them, where events and settings reflect an inner rather than an
outer reality. It is less a linear narrative than a coalescence of concerns.
And in this landscape of the mind, the normal rules of time and space are
Further comments on Lynch's narrative approach are made by
Thierry Jousse; after comparing the screenplay of Lost Highway to the
film, he observed that most of the scenes which had been cut out had
This narrative trimming has allowed him (Lynch) to reach a
disturbing opacity proceeding from a series of striking rhythmic punches. [...]
The movie distributes a multitude of signs, clues, enigmas, slips of the
tongue, which, as a treasure hunt, seem to mirror a secret lining of reality,
who would, like a very active unconscious, permanently appear discontinuous and
envelop life in a light paranoiac veil.68(*)
In avoiding simple resolutions, Lynch's films offer the viewer a
multiplied range of possibilities. The event, free from its narrative function,
redeploys its singularity, as Bazin commented about the Neo-Realists'
The priority which they [the neorealists] accord incident over
plot has led De Sica and Zavattini to replace plot as such with a microaction
based on an infinitely divisible attention to the complexities in even the most
ordinary events. This in itself rules out the slightest hierarchy, whether
psychological, dramatic, or ideological, among the incidents that are
Lynch's films sometimes give the impression that they might
spiral down into one moment infinitely extended, as remarked by Charles
Pruned of the narrative strings, an incident which would
otherwise have been a flat A-to-B moment takes on depth and richness.71(*)
Such a moment can be found in The Straight Story as
recounted by Michel Chion:
The discovery of Alvin, lying down with all his lucidity,
surrounded by friends panicking without doing anything, is the occasion of a
scene, oscillating between burlesque and tragic, at risk to go on indefinitely,
like Lynch likes them.72(*)
The characters of this scene know what they are supposed to do,
but somehow do not do it, brought to a standstill by their uncertainties. They
are not sure of their interpretation of the events; whether or not Alvin really
needs help. Another scene in the same film is commented on by Joe Kember in his
essay on Lynch. Here he describes Rose Straight at the checkout of the grocery
store paying for sausages her father will take on his journey:
Rose attempts to conform to the conversational rationale in the
store, but struggles against her speech impediment within the formality of
their polite dialogue. Speaking at cross-purposes, they misunderstand one
another, and the conversation descends into a series of double takes and non
sequiturs. The two women, smiling good-naturedly, pursue a gestural
conversation with little more success. The facial expression of each is
captured by a series of reactions shots, and the scene draws to an abrupt close
when they mug back and forth their mutual dislike for braunshweiger.73(*)
Thus, the scene shows what a banal exchange at the checkout
involves: the conformity to social behavior and the effort required when the
body is not perfectly disciplined in this.
Lynch's attention to singular events opens micro-infinities - to
echo the term of «microaction» used by Bazin - within the narrative
structure. Something like, In Eraserhead, the micro eternity that is
folded into the few seconds too long that the elevator doors take to slide shut
The irrational number implies the descent of a circular
arc on the straight line of rational points, and exposes the latter as a false
infinity, a simple undefinite that includes an infinity of lacunaes; that is
why the continuous is a labyrinth that cannot be represented by a straight
line. The straight line always has to be intermingled with the curved
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque
The chronology in Lynch's film is generally continuous, which
does not mean that it is straight. It means the action is shown in continuity
without flashbacks, flash forward or jump in time. There are a few exceptions
such as, in Wild at Heart, the flashback of the fire where Lula's
father dies, or in Fire Walk With Me, the time gap between the Teresa
Banks case and the story of Laura Palmer. Generally, the events happen
consecutively in time. What is disorientating to the viewer is the convoluted
curves this continuity can take. There is no clear distinction between the
different levels in the narrative, as remarked by Eric Bryant Rhodes about
A large part of what has confounded spectators in Lynch's
enterprise is how to distinguish between scenes that reflect the characters'
fantasies, and those that belong to the narrative «reality». Lost
Highway is a film that would appear to have a complete disregard for
differences in ontological levels.75(*)
The confusion is already there in Eraserhead, in the
moments where Henry is in the radiator with the girl. Initially, it seems easy
enough to assimilate the radiator to a portal of dreams, but as the film goes
on, this distinction becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain.
Blue Velvet presents itself as straightforward enough,
but the scenes in Dorothy's apartment, on the seventh floor, have a dreamlike
structure. In many respects they do not belong to the same reality plane as the
scenes with Sandy for instance - Dorothy's apartment seems to be a projection
of Jeffrey's fantasies.
The time structure of Lost Highway is a kind of
flattening out of the fantasy curves, all events follow each other but,
ultimately, they revolve and end when they started. This loop structure is
described by Thierry Jousse:
The time loop of Lost Highway is very strange. Although
the film's plot is ultimately linear enough and supposes a chronological
succession, everything happens as if the relationship between past, present and
future did not follow any hierarchy anymore. Without explicitly changing the
chronology, Lynch makes it impossible to identify any given moment.76(*)
The confusion between past, present, future, dreams and reality
is also woven into the narrative structure of Mulholland Drive. Like
Lost Highway, the film is split in two parts articulated around one
character's change. However this time there is no physical transformation, but
an alteration of identity. The first part can be read as a fantasy/dream of
Diane Selwyn, but it could also be the past of the second part or, possibly, an
The very title of The Straight Story, as Michel Chion
pointed out, is a graphic contradiction with its two sinuous capital
S.77(*) By all accounts
the film goes pretty much straight down the road through the farm belt country.
However this straightforward trajectory is doubled up by the backward movement
of Alvin Straight's memory, as he recounts events of his life to people he
meets through chance encounters. And what started as a straight journey across
fields ends as a sinuous progression through wooded hills. The final meeting of
the two brothers, Alvin and Lyle, with its vista of a starry sky, seems to
bring Alvin back to a unified self.
In Film Art, an Introduction, Bordwell and Thompson
pointed out that whereas `in some media, a narrative might emphasize only
causality and time [...] in film narrative, space is usually an important
factor.'78(*) And the
events in Lynch `s films always happen somewhere specific, even if this
somewhere might prove difficult to localise. In Lynch on Lynch, Chris
Rodley asks Lynch about Twin Peaks sense of place:
Chris Rodley: I wonder if you could elaborate on a sense of place
in terms of Twin Peaks. Most American TV series have no sense of place
whatsoever, even though so many of them take their names from specific cities
David Lynch: Right. In my mind this was a place surrounded by
woods. That's important. For as long as anybody can remember, woods have been
mysterious places. So they were a character in my mind. And then other
characters came to our minds. And as you start peopling this place, one thing
leads to another. And somewhere along the line you have a certain type of
Talking about The Elephant Man Lynch tells Rodley how he
walked around London to find the right place:
Then one day I was walking around a derelict hospital and
suddenly a little wind-like thing came and entered me, and I was in that time -
not only in that time in the room - but I knew that time.80(*)
For The Straight Story, Joe Kember remarks that David
Lynch completed twice the journey accomplished by Alvin Straight on his
lawnmower: `sometimes at mower pace.'81(*) Even when the place is nowhere explicit, like in
Eraserhead, it is rendered very specifically through an `accumulation
of details'.82(*) All of
Lynch's films are firmly grounded in a specific locale and grow out of it -
except maybe Dune for which, as remarked by Michel Chion: `Filming
acres of sand did not convey the presence of a true, mythical planet.'83(*)
As was the chronology, space in Lynch's films is continuous;
there are very few spatial jumps. When the characters move - Wild at Heart,
The Straight Story - the space they cross is vividly present all along. In
The Straight Story there is the feel of the tarmac going slowly by,
the movements of the combine harvesters in the fields, the change of nature
from late summer to autumn and the passage from the flat cultivated countryside
of Laurens to wooded hills once the Mississippi has been crossed.
However, in most Lynch's films the characters stay in one place
whether Twin Peaks, Los Angeles or Lumberton. But, no more than time could be
represented by a straight line, could the space of Lynch's films be represented
within a single plane. His space seems to fold itself around particular places
that are «nowhere» and where «anything can
What makes the new harmony is, first, the distinction
between two levels or floors, which resolves tension or allots the division.
The lower level is assigned to the façade, which is elongated by being
punctured and bent back according to the folds determined by a heavy matter,
forming an infinite room for reception or receptivity. The upper level is
closed, as a pure inside without an outside, a weightless, closed interiority,
its walls hung with spontaneous folds that are now only those of a soul or a
mind. This is because, as Wölfflin has shown, the baroque world is
organised along two vectors, a deepening toward the bottom, and a thrust toward
the upper regions.85(*)
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque.
These particular places which are «nowhere» are
generally recognised by being hung by heavy red drapes. The most emblematic of
them is the Red Room of the series Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and
the film Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with Me (1992). Martha Nochimson has
Lynch has directly stated that not only does everything look and
sound different in the Red Room than it would in ordinary reality but also that
the Red Room is a different place for everyone who enters it.86(*)
Thus the room changes properties whether it is agent Cooper or
Laura who enters. In the series, scenes in the room with agent Cooper, were
acted and spoken backward and then projected in reverse, which gave them that
strange forwardness. This accentuated the feeling that in this room the normal
rules of time and space do not apply.87(*)
A predecessor to the Red Room can be found in Eraserhead
- the stage inside the radiator with the girl. Whether or not they are part of
a dream, both places, the Red Room and the radiator's stage, are usually
accessed during the sleep of the protagonist, thus supporting the notion of a
dream-place. Other places in Lynch's films are more ambiguous as to their level
of reality. They seem to belong to the ordinary plane of reality, but they
possess qualities setting them apart.
In Blue Velvet, Dorothy Vallens' apartment is on the
seventh floor of an apartment block called Deep River and `it's really close
by, that's what's so creepy' as Sandy tells Jeffrey. However, only Jeffrey ever
goes there - Sandy is prevented by the «man in yellow» - and the
place seems to be in resonance with Jeffrey's fantasies88(*).
In Lost Highway, the nowhere space is brought even
closer as the Madison's bedroom. The bedroom is both at the heart of the house
and the centre around which Fred and Renee revolve - it is there that their
relationship is made and undone.
Martha Nochimson identifies the nightclub, Club Silencio, in
Mulholland Drive as belonging to the type of place like the Red
The portal through which Rita and Betty travel to the next stage
of their blighted lives, Club Silencio will remind Lynch aficionados of the Red
Room in Twin Peaks, a place, [...] that alters depending on who enters
it. For Betty and Rita, it is a site of disintegration.89(*)
Club Silencio is also where Betty and Rita find the Blue Box that
can be opened by the Blue Key found earlier in Rita's handbag:
A spatial black hole opens in the film in the form of a dark
passage into a mysterious blue box, which pops up in various scenes, an
ineffable portal available suddenly and every so often.90(*)
If these places have in common drapes and a transformative
capacity, they also have to be accessed in a specific way. There is always a
passage - a radiator in Eraserhead, a picture of a door on the wall in
Fire Walk With Me, a stairway in Blue Velvet or a corridor in
Lost Highway - which has to be gone through alone. The passage often
takes a ritualistic aspect though repetition; again and again Jeffrey is seen
going up the stairway, or the corridor passed through by Fred; signalling a
space which is only accessed through certain conditions.
So, paradoxically, space in Lynch's films is, on the one hand, a
very specific locale with a great attention given to details and, on the other,
places that seem to exist in their own dimension, like a projection space for
The precise presence of the ordinary plane of reality in time and
space is the necessary springboard for the projection into these dream-spaces.
This is echoed by the interpretation given by Martha Nochimson in The
Passion of David Lynch about Lynch's use of the narrative:
His conscious desire to subordinate the logic of narrative to the
subconscious event and to explosive feeling shows how narrative can teach us
empathy with the larger forces in the subconscious and the world.91(*)
In any case, it is on his own terms that David Lynch has used the
narrative form; questioning such established notions as the permanence of
characters traits, the causality of the chain of events, the linearity of time
or the uniformity of space.
In Film Language, Christian Metz concluded his essay on
the relationship between narrativity and the new cinema of the 1960s, by
pointing out that it was not narrativity that filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard
or Alain Resnais abandoned, but rather its institutional mode of
Now, from the moment that the cinema encountered
narrativity - an encounter whose consequences are, if not infinite, at
least not finished - it appears that it has superimposed over the analogical
message a second complex of codified constructions, something
«beyond» the image, something that has only gradually been mastered
(thanks to Griffith, mainly), and that, though it was originally intended to
render the story more living (to avoid a monotonous, continuous iconic flow, in
short, to connote), has nevertheless ended by multiplying the modes of
denotation, and thus articulating the most literal message of the
films we know.92(*)
Classical Hollywood cinema has developed a system of
representation to emphasize the action (to connote) which has replaced the
event itself (what was to be denoted). The next chapter will develop upon the
elaboration of this system.
THE SHOT OF AMBIGUITY
Classic art reduces the parts of a total form to a
sequence of planes, the baroque emphasises depth. Plane is the elements of
line, extension in one plane the form of the greatest explicitness: with the
discounting of the contour comes the discounting of the plane, and the eye
relates objects essentially in the direction of forwards and
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History.
The preceding chapter examined the notion of narrative causality
in classical cinema and how the narrative could expand beyond this system. This
chapter will analyse the notion of the shot in filmmaking through its
involvement in the construction of a cinematic space.
From its various uses, the notion of «shot» is more
complex than may appear at first. Because of its shifting meanings, it requires
a theoretical introduction. From the early days of cinema, the word
«shot» has been used, for editing purposes, as a technical term
designating the `piece of film contained between two cuts'.94(*) But, it gets more complicated
when taken within the shooting context:
During the shooting stage, «shot» is used as an
approximate equivalent for «frame», «object field», and
«take». Thus, it simultaneously designates a certain point of view on
an event («framing») and a certain duration.95(*)
Jean Mitry found no problems to the overlapping of the notion of
«frame» and «shot» applied to films made before 1915:
Since most shots were static, each one involved a different
set-up; consequently shots and set-ups could be regarded one and the same
However, with the development of camera movements and therefore
the multiplication of angles, places and focal lengths within the same shot,
Mitry pointed out that the term had, in fact, split in two. He differentiated,
on one hand, the term designating a specific set-up, the shot, and, on the
other, the film unit, which `however long and convoluted', `forms an
indivisible fragment', the take.97(*)
Gilles Deleuze, in his theoretical work on cinema, Cinema 1,
The Movement-Image (1983), establishes at the outset, the link between
«shot» and «cutting»:
Cutting [découpage] is the determination of the shot, and
the shot, the determination of the movement which is established in the closed
system, between elements or parts of the set.98(*)
Deleuze seems to bypass the notion of «take» and the
ambiguities raised by Jean Mitry. 99(*) However, he insists on the dual aspect of the shot,
in effect integrating the ambivalence in its definition:
The shot in general has one face turned towards the set, the
modifications of whose parts it translates, and another face turned towards the
whole, of which it expresses the - or at least a - change. Hence the situation
of the shot, which can be defined abstractly as the intermediary between the
framing of the set and the montage of the whole, sometimes tending towards the
pole of framing, sometimes tending towards the pole of montage.100(*)
Thus the shot is associated with movement and is the intermediary
film unit bringing about the transition from one aspect to another: `the parts
of the set which spreads out in space, the change of a whole which is
transformed in duration'.101(*)
Early films from the primitive period, retained most of the
staging of theatre. They were `organized as a series of fixed scenes, with a
strict unity of time and place', `joined together as so many
tableaux,'102(*) as Stephen Heath explains in his
Questions of Cinema. But this type of organisation raised problems of
narrative coherence as the authors of Film Theory, Lapsley and
Actions might take place anywhere within the frame, including the
edges and corners; events of narrative significance might occur simultaneously
in different parts of the frame.103(*)
The need for a clearer sequence of actions will lead to changes
in the staging of space in cinema, as purported by Heath:
If life enters cinema as movement, that movement brings with it
nevertheless its problems of composition in frame. [...] In fact, composition
will organize the frame in function of the human figures in their actions; what
enters cinema is a logic of movement and it is this logic that centres the
frame. Frame space, in other words, is constructed as narrative space. It is
narrative significance that at any moment sets the space of the frame to be
followed and «read», and that determines the development of the
filmic cues in their contributions to the definition of space in
The need to emphasize the actions encouraged the use of different
type of shots and editing thus liberating the camera. The camera could be moved
closer or farther according to the actions taking place: a long-shot for large
movements, a cut-in to attract attention to an important detail, a medium-shot
for a conversation or a facial close-up for the expression of emotions. However
this fragmentation of space, according to narrative significance, had to be
organised to allow for the orientation of the spectator. It was necessary to
reconstruct a continuity:
Increasingly, the conception of quality in films came to be bound
up with the term «continuity». «Continuity» stood for the
smoothly flowing narrative, with its technique constantly in the service of the
causal chain, yet always effacing itself.105(*)
The authors of The Classical Hollywood Cinema, David
Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson, describe in detail the
progressive elaboration between 1909 and 1917 of the rules composing what they
term the «continuity system»:
The various continuity rules - establishing and re-establishing
shots, cut-ins, screen direction, eyelines, SRS [shot-reverse shot],
crosscutting - served two overall purposes. On the one hand, they permitted the
narrative to proceed in a clearly defined space. On the other hand, they
created an omnipresent narration which shifted the audience's vantage point on
the action frequently to follow those parts of the scene most salient to the
The authors further state that the development of this
omnipresent narration led to the conception of the shot as a narrative unit:
«Continuity» quickly developed from a general notion of
narrative unity to the more specific conception of a story told in visual terms
and continuing unbroken, spatially and temporally from shot to shot. [...] Thus
the shot became not a material unit but a narrative one.107(*)
This is further developed by Heath from a quote by Mitry:
`Shots are like «cells», distinct spaces the succession
of which, however, reconstitutes a homogeneous space, but a space
unlike that from which these elements were subtracted'.108(*)
Heath compares this reconstituted homogeneity through the
ordering of shots to the making of a composition:
In fact, we are back in the realm of «composition»,
were composition is now the laying out of a succession of images in order to
give the picture, to produce the implication of a coherent («real»)
space; in short, to create continuity.109(*)
This composition process aims to situate `the spectator at the
optimum viewpoint in each shot', `as an invisible onlooker present on the
authors of The Classical Hollywood Cinema further state:
This notion of the invisible spectator provides a neat reversal
of the actual reason for the whole continuity system; while the classical
cinema claims to follow the attention of he spectator, it actually guides that
attention carefully by establishing expectations about what spatial
configurations are likely to occur.111(*)
This notion is also expressed by Lapsley and Westlake:
`Segmentation and recomposition is a more effective means of binding the
subject in place than the intolerable fixity of a series of
Thus, editing according to the rules of the continuity system,
seeks to control, on one hand the movements in space in front of the camera,
and on the other, the spectator by `constantly organizing his
Yet this classic plane did not last long. Soon it seemed
as if things were being entrammelled if they were subjected to the pure plane:
the silhouettes are dissolved and the eye is led around and about the edges:
the proportion of foreshortened form is increased and by means of overlapping,
intersecting motives, strongly speaking relations from front to rear are given:
in short, artists intentionally avoid allowing the impression of a plane to
arise, even if the plane actually exists.114(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History
The beginning of the classical age of cinema corresponds to the
homogenisation of the cinematic space according to narrative continuity. The
continuity system of representation pretends to invisibility because of its
commitment to the actions of the characters and their motivations115(*). The discretion of its
techniques allowed the classical style to become dominant, imposing itself as a
transparent representation of reality. But, as Bordwell and Thompson pointed
out in Film Art: An Introduction: `The classical Hollywood mode is,
however, only one system among many that have been and could be used for
Many filmmakers have disrupted the seamless continuity of
narrative space by introducing heterogeneous elements. The use of camera
movements not necessarily tied up to the action, for instance, could introduce
a diverging view on the event represented. The lengthening of shots could
integrate a sense of time and space existing beyond its purely narrative
function. A full use of the depth of field could liberate new movement
trajectories and multiply tensions in the screen space, just as the extended
use of subjective shots could afford a more complex representation of
Camera movements have been used at a very early stage in cinema,
such as the panning/tilting movements of the camera or, for chases in
particular, the tracking.117(*) However, the use of camera movements is generally
limited to reframing:
One of the main impulses toward the mobile frame, or moving
camera, came from the effort to maintain centering. By far the greatest number
of films that used camera movement before the mid-twenties used it strictly to
reframe rather than to track or pan with an extended movement.118(*)
Furthermore there has been a tendency toward a fast editing
process, allowing for extensive planning, rather than long and elaborated
Tracking, panning, and reframing movements remained in occasional
use into the twenties. They were relatively infrequent, however. [...] The
cutting rate was typically so fast that each individual action had its own
shot; there was little impulse to combine several actions by adjusting the
framing within a shot.119(*)
Until late in the silent period, according to the authors of
The Classical Hollywood Cinema, camera movements remained a
`relatively minor part of Hollywood's stylistic repertory.'120(*) German films, however, had
made more use of the possibilities of a mobile camera:
The influence of German films in the mid-twenties was
considerable. Some cinematographers began to move their camera as freely as
they could, devising many sorts of elevators, cranes, and elaborate dollies to
imitate the German visual acrobatics.121(*)
Deleuze identifies phases in cinema according to the development
of camera movements: a primitive state of the cinema where the camera is fixed
and the movement is `attached to elements, characters and things which serve as
its moving body or vehicle.'122(*) A second state is one where the mobility of the
camera and the possibility of montage started to extract movements from its
vehicle (persons or things):
Now at the outset these two methods were in some sense obliged to
conceal themselves; not only had the connections of montage to be imperceptible
(for example, connections along the axis) but also the camera movements, in so
far as they concerned ordinary moments or banal scenes (movements which are so
slow as to be close to the threshold of perception).123(*)
Thus the development of camera movements corresponds to an
emancipation of the cinematic movement; what Deleuze calls «the
Image-Movement». The beginning of a third phase could be identified with
Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941)124(*), which corresponds to the end of what Bordwell,
Staiger and Thompson call Hollywood's classical era (1917-1940).
In Welles' film, camera movements were no longer trying to be
imperceptible. The camera circles characters remaining immobile, it moves in
and out of the action, focuses on a detail on the side or goes through a window
pane. However, this independence of the camera from the action does not
necessarily means an independence from the narrative context. Rather, it tends
to layer the dramatic situation by visualising certain subjective perception,
such as the high angle shot of Kane standing over his pile of newspapers to
mark his thirst for power.
By taking some distance from the strict narrative order the
movements of camera develop their own level of signification. Michel Chion
analyses the use of tracking shots by Stanley Kubrick for instance:
Kubrick's very particular way of using a tracking shot with a
wide angle lens to follow someone walking down a corridor, through a maze or a
narrow passageway, and giving the character's progress an epic, fatal,
conquering or irresistible air-which first came to general attention in
Paths of Glory-often seems to mean: there is no living space for two
men. I appropriate the space I cross: I clear the space before me...125(*)
The use of long movement of camera also reintegrates a continuity
in space, allowing the spectator some grasp of a larger three-dimensional world
other than the carefully framed one of classical editing. The impressions of
the long tracking shots of Danny cycling the maze of corridors of the Overlook
hotel in The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), could not have been
conveyed by a montage of static shots.
Another change to be introduced in Citizen Kane is the
use of the depth of field, which is defined by the authors of Aesthetics of
Depth of field: The film image is sharp for an entire section of
the field of vision and the term used to distinguish the extent of this clearly
focused zone is depth of field [...] thus depth of field is defined as the
depth measurement of the zone of sharply focused objects.126(*)
Early cinema generally used a great depth of field, with the
camera set at a distance from the action and the set evenly lit. But when a
greater focus on the action was wanted, a shallow depth of field became
desirable to isolate the foreground from a distracting background.127(*) The possibilities of a new
type of lens, as well as a desire for a new aesthetic led to the reappraisal of
a deep depth of field.
What was striking about Gregg Toland's cinematography for
Citizen Kane was the use of extreme contrasts within the same frame
between object placed very near the lens and others very far away, as described
by Brian O'Doherty in an essay on Welles:
Welles handled this deep space - roofed in, generally shot from
below - superbly. As Gregg Toland, his cameraman, wrote, «scenes which
conventionally would require a shift from close-up to full shot were planned so
that the action would take place simultaneously in extreme foreground and
extreme background» Figures enlarge and shrink, loom and vanish in that
converging alley. Compositions reform with the turn of a head, the sound of a
voice, a faraway movement. Foreground, middle distance and distance become
characters that articulate themselves through objects rather than the
Jean Renoir, in his film La Règle Du Jeu (1939),
had also reactivated the possibilities of depth in the cinematic space. In
Cinema 1, Gilles Deleuze explains what this use of the depth
of field implies in the conception of the shot:
Depth is no longer conceived, in the manner of the `primitive'
cinema, as a superimposition of parallel slices each of which is
self-sufficient, all of them merely traversed by a single moving body. On the
contrary, in Renoir and in Welles, the set of movements is distributed in depth
in such a way as to establish liaisons, actions and reactions, which never
develop one beside the other, in a single plane [shot], but are spaced out at
different distances, and from one plane [shot] to the next. The unity of the
shot is produced here by the direct liaison between elements caught in the
multiplicity of superimposed planes [shots] which can no longer be separated:
the relationship of near and distant parts produces the unity.129(*)
What André Bazin saw in the cinema of Renoir and Welles
was the reintegration of the event's ambivalence in the cinematic space; a
space freed from the manipulation of montage:
In analysing reality, montage presupposes of its very nature the
unity of meaning of the dramatic event. [...] In short, montage by its very
nature rules out ambiguity of expression, on the other hand, depth of focus
reintroduced ambiguity into the structure of the image if not of necessity at
least as a possibility.130(*)
If Bazin's belief in the possible transparency of the medium was
somewhat excessive, it remains that cinematic space, in gaining complexity,
engaged the spectator in a more active relationship with the image.
Perspectivism amounts to a relativism, but not the
relativism we take for granted. It is not a variation of truth according to the
subject, but the condition in which the truth of a variation appears to the
subject. This is the very idea of Baroque perspective.131(*)
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque.
The classical system of composition pretends to serve the
characters actions, but it, nevertheless, maintains an omniscient narration: an
authoritative point of view looking upon the action.132(*) Thus the use of subjective
shots or point of view (POV) shots, when considered necessary to understand the
characters motivations, is explicitly framed. The first examples of POV shots
were marked out by a mask supposed to imitate the vision of the character. They
were cut-in for specific moments, such as looking through a magnifying glass, a
keyhole, or binoculars. During the 1910s the POV shots became more discreetly
framed by windows:
The glance through a window provided virtually the only such cue,
since the window frame within the image placed the character
The viewer always knows who is looking and can clearly
differentiate a subjective point of view from the supposedly objective
narration. If there is a narrator, he has authority on the narrative, and the
viewer has no doubts on his conclusions.
A film like Citizen Kane disturbed this clear
differentiation; there is no overall narration in the film, just a
superposition of point of views, and added up, they do not constitute a whole.
The film accumulates different perspectives without giving the viewer the key
to its organisation. Point of view shots or subjective shots developed with the
notion of a multiple reality, which could not be reduce to a single point of
Stephen Heath finds it necessary to clarify what exactly
constitutes a POV shot and a subjective image since they do not quite coincide.
In his Questions of Cinema he quoted Jean Mitry's categories of
The purely mental image (more or less impracticable in the
cinema); the truly subjective or analytical image (i.e. what is looked at
without the person looking), which is practicable in small doses; the
semi-subjective or associated image (i.e. the person looking + what is looked
at, which is in fact looked at from the view-point of the person looking), the
most generalizable formula; the complete sequence given over to the imaginary,
which does not raise special problems; and finally the memory image, which is
in principle simply a variety of the mental image but, when presented in the
form of a flash-back with commentary, allows for a specific filmic treatment
which is far more successful than in the case of other mental images.134(*)
Heath points out that only the semi-subjective and the truly
subjective shot are point-of-view shots because `what is «subjective»
in the point-of-view shot is its spatial positioning (its place), not the image
or the camera.'135(*)
However, once the omniscient point of view is removed, all shots
are subjective: they all are point of view shots. Their degree of subjectivity
varies according to the mental state of the onlooker and the elements of
fantasy. The film Spider (2002) by David Cronenberg for instance, is
told almost entirely from the point of view of the protagonist Spider. Just
coming out of a mental institution, he tries to remember what happened to his
mother. However, the ambiguities are resolved for the viewer at the end.
In the films of Federico Fellini, fantastical elements are often
added, but nothing tells the viewer whether they happened or were imagined by
the protagonist. In Fellini's Roma (1972) the director makes the
portrait of the city through his memories of it. Adding up the shifting
perceptions that he has accumulated of Rome. All perspectives are valid part of
what constitutes for Fellini the eternal city; whether they are childhood
fantasies, history lessons, archaeological finds or cinematic memories. The
image of the chemist's wife as a flamboyant Messalina, empress of the orgies,
can be an allusion to how antic history fills the roman imagination, just as
the antique monuments, we see during the final bike ride, fill the
Fellini, and others, revitalized (to take Christian Metz' terms)
what used to be called `subjective images'.137(*) The hierarchy between the different points-of-view
is abolished; the subjective image of the character is no longer corrected by
the omniscience of a narrator.
The point of view is nothing like a frontal perspective,
which would give the best conditions to grasp the form, but the point of view
is an instance from which a series of forms is apprehended in its passage from
one to the other: either as a metamorphosis; passage from one form to another
or, as an anamorphosis; a passage from chaos to form.138(*)
Gilles Deleuze, lecture on Leibniz
From one film to the next, Lynch has developed a characteristic
cinematographic space. From the format ratio139(*) he selects to the shooting angles adopted, in
passing by his use of camera movements; his style has become recognizable.
These stylistic elements, however, are not just formal figures; they reflect
Lynch's personal approach to cinema.
His films are generally shot in anamorphic wide screen,
accentuating the width of the image. Lynch explains this preference to Chris
Rodley in Lynch on Lynch:
I like CinemaScope better. It's harder to shoot in it, because
the lenses aren't quite as fast, so there are little compromises, but it's a
great ratio. Incredible. It's the ratio of the rectangle. Composing for it you
can get some beautiful surprises.140(*)
This ratio combined with wide-angle lenses composes images of a
tensed complexity across the screen. The series of shots at Ben's place in
Blue Velvet, for instance: the scene is crossed by lines of tension
going from one side to the other and has Franck as centre, but visually the
scene is centered on Dorothy. Thus another axis articulates the scene in its
depth, going from Dorothy and the door at the back of the room guarded by three
women - behind which is kept her son. The rectangle ratio allows the scene to
be filmed in a series of large shots encompassing several characters
distributed in various combinations in space, instead of using a systematic
shot-reverse shot editing. These large shots emphasize the spatial
relationships between the characters (see Fig. 1).
A scene in Lost Highway is another example of the use of
the possibilities of the large ratio: it is when Renee finds another videotape
on their doorstep. It is a long static shot of the Madison's sitting room; at
the top centre of the frame, beside the kitchen door, there is a little table
with a lighted lamp on which Renee leaves the envelop with the tape before
going into the kitchen. Fred appears at the bottom right and, while exchanging
some remark about the dog next door with Renee off-screen, his trajectory is
ineluctably drawn toward the little table. Having found the tape, he goes to
the left of the frame to insert it in the video recorder and then goes to the
right to sit down on the coach where Renee eventually join him to watch the
tape (see Fig. 2). Fred is thus covering the cinematic space from one side to
another: From the bottom up and to the left and right. This composition
highlights the tensions provoked by the tape in the household, but also Fred's
difficulties to situate himself.
The sense of depth in Lynch's images is often given by characters
moving from the back toward the camera and exiting off-screen space after
having passed the camera. This type of shot is mentioned by Abbas Kiarostami
talking about the influences on his work of the cinema of Charlie
camera waits for the character to come nearer, leisurely like in the shot of
the first appearance of the tramp in The Kid (1915), or rushing, like
in many chase scenes, and eventually brushing pass the camera, on either side.
The space thus crossed is made vividly present to the spectator, and it also
emphasizes a sense of expectation.
Lynch has brought that sense of expectation to a maximum in a
couple of scenes. In Eraserhead, when Henri, hearing a knock, opened
his door on darkness from which slowly emerges, after what seems like eternity,
the face of his beautiful neighbour. There is a similar scene in Blue
Velvet, for the first appearance of Sandy, the camera frames the portion
of dark space from which her voice came from, and Sandy appears.
This filling of the screen space can also be found in a sort of
reverse figure of the tracking shot made by Stanley Kubrick and described by
Michel Chion. David Lynch often uses tracking shots in a backward movement.
Instead of following the advancing character, the camera precedes him, pointing
back, thus the viewer cannot see where the character is going. The resulting
impression of the shot, far from the: `I appropriate the space I cross: I clear
the space before me' of the Kubrick's, is that the character is going to be
absorbed by the space toward which he advances.
The first meeting between special agent Dale Cooper and the
sheriff Harry Truman, in the pilot episode of Twin Peaks is an
interesting example of this use of camera movement. The scene is filmed in one
long shot with a wide-angle lens. Cooper and Truman meet at the end of a
hospital corridor, the camera is about half way down. As remarked Michel Chion
about Lynch's style for the series, this made the characters quite small:
His long shots were vaster and deeper than the American cinema
and, a fortiori, television usually dares to make them, so that the
characters are reduced to the size of peas.142(*)
This moment is the usual confrontation of local and federal
authority, after introducing themselves; they start walking down the corridor
toward the camera. They exchange some trivia about travel and pies. Truman
welcomes Cooper as they reach the camera, which start back-tracking them.
Suddenly serious, Cooper brings Truman, and the camera, to a stop, and he
asserts his authority in the proceedings concerning the murder. Truman,
however, reiterates his welcome, the problem of precedence has thus been
cleared. With a childlike delight on his face, Cooper then asks:
`What kind of fantastic trees have you got growing around here?'
thus submitting to the local knowledge of the sheriff. All tension is then
gone; they resume walking, preceded by the camera, sharing equal space. Cooper
does not conquer Twin Peaks; he becomes part of it (see Fig. 3).
This tendency in Lynch's film to let the characters come to the
camera echoes a particularity of Lynch's heroes pointed out by Martha
Nochimson; their receptivity:
In film narrative this has translated for Lynch into a heroic
ideal opposed to the prevalent Hollywood understanding of the hero as one who
takes control by means of violent domination strategies. For Lynch, a hero
tends to be one who can unlearn that absurd lesson, one who can become
receptive to life.143(*)
Like Lynch's heroes, his camera does not conquer the world, but
waits for the world to come to make itself known. In Twin Peaks Fire Walk
With Me, the first image the viewer is given of the living Laura Palmer is
a back tracking shot. Laura is walking forward, along the street, enjoying the
sunshine on her face, a small smile on her lips. She is coming toward the
spectator, filling the screen with her presence. This image almost feel like a
gift to the viewer of the series Twin Peaks, who only ever saw Laura
Palmer as a photograph or a body wrapped in plastic.
Lynch also regularly uses other types of camera movements, such
as forward tracking, crane or aerial shots, but they are seldom identified with
a character. In fact they often seem to indicate a super-natural presence. The
opening of The Straight Story is a series of aerial shots of the farm
belt country before the camera moves down to the window of Alvin Straight, the
main protagonist. This aerial presence will accompany him during his subsequent
journey through the American midlands as Michel Chion described it:
Finally Alvin leaves with his strange apparatus. From then on,
ground level scenes of his travel will alternate with shots made from
helicopter. These shots as well as describing the countryside crossed, seem to
mirror the ground journey with another in the sky, tracing an imaginary
trajectory, more sinuous, above and around the slow and linear progression of
Alvin on his land mower. Like if another character or a guardian angel was
Aerial shots are usually used as establishing shots: to set the
scene to come. The sense of presence inherent to these shots in The
Straight Story gives them another dimension (see Fig. 4). There was a
similar opening sequence in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter
(1955), where the series of aerial and crane shots ended in with a medium shot
of Harry Powell addressing himself to his avenging God.145(*)
Another example of aerial shots is found in Mulholland
Drive, they occur at regular intervals, hovering over Los Angeles. The
shots move slowly over the skyline, or look down the skyscrapers to the streets
below. Whereas the aerial shots of The Straight Story were usually
accompanied by Angelo Badalamenti's ballads - contributing to their benign
presence - in Mulholland Drive, they are scored by a low droning
sound, enforcing a sense of threat over the city (see Fig. 5).
The sense of threat, of obscure forces at work, is constant in
Mulholland Drive and is generally conveyed by the movements of camera.
Like the tracking shot coming down the street toward the Club Silencio's door
while Betty and Rita enter; it starts slowly very close to the ground and
accelerates progressively until it crosses the door and penetrates the Club
(see Fig. 6).
This sense of an advancing penetrating threat was also present in
Lost Highway, particularly in the shots from the videotapes the
Madison find on their doorstep. The video camera goes further into their
intimacy with each tape. The internal structure of the house evokes an organism
with corridors more like arteries. The last tape shows an odd tracking shot
moving toward the bedroom from a high angle position and disclosing Fred
murdering his wife.
A scene in Mulholland Drive plays the game of
identification in a disconcerting manner: when Betty learns from a phone call
to her aunt that Rita is in fact an absolute stranger. While she talks on the
phone the camera moves away in the house to the bedroom where Rita is waking
up. Then Betty enters to confront Rita with her lie. The movement of the camera
is made from a person walking point of view but it could not be either of the
occupants of the house. The slippage is slight but enough to introduce unease
in the so far idyllic world of Betty; it may be taken as a forerunner of the
composite nature of her identity.
The already-mentioned use of unusual camera angles emphasizing a
variety of perspectives that are unsettling to the viewer is another aspect of
Lynch's style. As was commented by Michel Chion about Fire Walk With
From a visual standpoint, however, the film's most original and
striking aspect is its use of subtly upsetting shooting angles and frames,
generating a sense of imbalance.146(*)
Ron Garcia, the cinematographer of the film, who also worked on
the pilot of the series Twin Peaks, tells Stephen Pizzello some of the
differences between the two shootings:
`We got a bit more unbalanced in the design of the film, using
high and low angles. The high-angled shots reflect an angelic presence that
continues throughout the film, with an unseen angel looking down the evil
The importance of the camera angles to generate a particular
perspective had already been used in Blue Velvet. The shot, at the
beginning of the film, which is going through the grass at ground level to find
a mass of scrambling insects, is an often-mentioned one. Less spectacularly
perhaps, but just as unsettling, is the scene between Dorothy and Frank in her
apartment, as seen by Jeffrey hiding in the closet. The cinematographer,
Frederic Elmes recounts the shooting to Ron Magid:
`Another consideration was that many of the scenes in which
Jeffrey is in the closet take place from his point of view. A suitable
arrangement was necessary so the audience would believe that he could see as
much as he does from such a constrained vantage point. [...] We never shot
anything that he couldn't actually see from the closet. The set was designed in
such a way that the closet was in a special spot where Jeffrey can see the
living room, he can see down the hall to the bathroom, and he can see part of
the kitchen, but he can't see around the corner which is the place where
Dorothy sneaks up on him with the knife.'148(*)
The subjectivity of the shots is further accentuated by the sound
effects echoing the emotions of the characters. When Jeffrey, while waiting in
Dorothy's apartment for her return to be signalled by Sandy, flushes the
toilets, it sounds like a waterfall. Or when Henri in Eraserhead waits
for the return of his beautiful neighbour, the sense of expectation is
projected into the magnified sounds of the building, which could announce her
coming: the elevator ascension, the opening of the door, the footsteps in the
corridor and so on.
The cinema of David Lynch never offers a comfortable position
from which the viewer might look upon the action. Even reassuringly controlled
establishing-shots are permeated by a sense of presence, which cannot be
identified with any certainty. The screen is a surface sensitive to the
movements and energies emanating from the characters relationships. The
different attributes of this cinema convey the image of a world infinitely
layered by its multiple perspectives and crossed by flux of energies, which
cannot be controlled.
THE MONTAGE OF CONFUSION
What is meant is a style of composition which, with more
or less tectonic means, makes of the picture a self-contained entity, pointing
everywhere back to itself, while, conversely, the style of open form everywhere
points out beyond itself and purposely looks limitless, although, of course,
secret limits continue to exist, and make it possible for the picture to be
self-contained in the aesthetic sense.149(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History.
The preceding chapter developed an approach to the shot and how
its conception reflected a certain vision of the world; this chapter is
concerned with the organization of those shots: the montage.
The authors of Aesthetics of Film define montage as the
larger realm of editing. Editing is the technical term for a process that can
be `summarized by its three large operations: selection, assembly, and final
authors further add:
The objects upon which the editing operates are shots of a film;
hence, editing consists of manipulating the shots in order to construct another
object - the film.151(*)
The notion of montage proceeds from the functions of editing but
they are encompassed within a larger definition:
Montage is the principle governing the organization of film
elements, both visual and audio, or the combination of these elements, by
juxtaposing them, connecting them, and/or controlling their duration.152(*)
Aumont and his co-authors precise that the notion of montage is
only interesting `within a theoretical and analytical perspective.'153(*) Montage is the aesthetic
dimension of editing. According to Sergei M. Eisenstein (1898-1948) `montage is
the whole of the film, the Idea.'154(*)
Thus, if editing was first used by Edwin S. Porter for The
Great Train Robbery in 1903, the first to have integrated editing into a
whole system of representation is David Wark Griffith (1875-1948) with The
Birth of a Nation in 1914. In 1925, Eisenstein will push further the
possibilities of montage with The Battleship Potemkin. During his life
Eisenstein will develop, through his films, teaching and writings, a
theoretical system based on the concept of montage.
Different conceptions of montage were developed in the United
States, the Soviet Union, France and Germany during the 1920s. In Hollywood
however, it is the conception of Griffith which dominated its development.
Deleuze describes the montage according to Griffith, as the composition of a
`great organic unity':
The organism is, firstly, unity in diversity, that is a set of
differentiated parts. [...] The parts must necessarily act and react on each
other in order to show how they simultaneously enter into conflict and threaten
the unity of the organic set, and how they overcome the conflict or restore the
Thus diversity only exists as a part of the overall unity; it is
contained within this unity. The form of the classical Hollywood film contains
diversity through the «narrativization» of the events as Stephen
Heath explains in Questions of Cinema:
The classical economy of film is its organization as
organic unity and the form of that economy is narrative, the
narrativization of film. [...] The narration is to be held on the
narrated, the enunciation on the enounced; filmic procedures are to be held as
narrative instances (very much as `cues'), exhaustively, without gap or
Heath affirms that it is this process of narrativization that
acts as containment rather than the supposed transparency of the medium, which
has often been associated with the classical cinema:
What is sometimes vaguely referred to as «transparency»
has its meaning in this narrativization: the proposal of a discourse that
disavows its operations and positions in the name of a signified that it
proposes as its pre-existent justification. «Transparency», moreover,
is entirely misleading in so far as it implies that narrativization has
necessarily to do with some simple «invisibility.»157(*)
Thus what the classical film tries to eliminate in its
containment of the events, is the possibility of diversity, a heterogeneity
which would not be absorbed in the organic unity. Heath sums up this
Narrativization is scene and movement, movement and scene, the
reconstruction of the subject in the pleasure of that balance (with genres as
specific instances of equilibrium) - for homogeneity, containment.
What is foreclosed in the process is not its production - often signified as
such, from genre instances down to this or that «impossible» shot -
but the terms of the unity of that production (narration on narrated,
enunciation on enounced), the other scene of its vision of the subject, the
outside - heterogeneity, contradiction, history - of its coherent
This analysis of the conditions of production of the classical
film is further echoed by the authors of Film Theory, An Introduction:
`the fundamental point is that classical cinema does not efface the signs of
its production, it contains them'159(*).
This containment is achieved by a strict articulation of
symmetries and asymmetries as well as the use of variations and repetitions as
is developed by Lapsley and Westlake quoting Raymond Bellour in an analysis of
Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds (1963):
`Symmetry and asymmetry develop in a condensed series, in a dual
movement of centring and decentring'. That is, the asymmetry opened up by the
progression of the plot is contained and offset by the system of formal
symmetries in the narration. Bellour's analyses powerfully demonstrated that
fundamental to the working of narrative is the play of repetition and
The films of Hitchcock are often taken as examples that show
perfect control of the cinematic space within the frame as well as within the
film. It is a scene from Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941) that Stephen
Heath chooses to comment on in Questions of Cinema. Two police
inspectors come to visit Lina informing her of events that can only further her
suspicions about the behaviour of her husband Johnnie. Heath points to the
continuation of the action `within a movement of rhyme and balance, of
sustained coherence' between the arrival of the inspectors to the moment of
their departure. 161(*)
The coherence is clear - the end comes round to the beginning,
one shot echoing the other in the resolution of rhyme - at the same time that
the distance travelled forward in the scene is registered, space redefined in
the light of the dramatization effected.162(*)
This control over the action is given a Freudian perspective by
Lapsley and Westlake:
The suggestion is that texts are characteristically economies of
repetition and variation, involving symmetry and asymmetry, aimed at
establishing mastery over a lack.163(*)
However, the Freudian theory of containment also introduces the
possibility of disintegration, as the authors of Film Theory
If, as has been suggested, narrative involves an act of
containment, then, according to Freud, it can never be entirely successful
since the repressed is always liable to return to trouble the sought-for unity
and homogeneity of the text.164(*)
The foreclosure is thus never completed. The possibility of
disintegration is present within the scene of Suspicion described by
Heath, at the entrance of the two inspectors:
The composition is faultless, the framing describes the
theatricality of the inspectors' entry (the ring at the door, the interruption,
the unknown), with the columns, steps and walls providing a stage effect, the
characters are centred, perspective is sharp: the image is in every sense
clearly directed. But not quite. Out of the action, breaking the clarity of
direction, obstinately turned away, one of the inspectors is pulling to the
left, gazing abruptly at something hidden from us.165(*)
What the inspector Benson is looking at is revealed to the
spectator, in a later shot, as a Picasso cubist painting hung in the entrance
hall. Benson will remain absorbed in his contemplation of the painting while
the maid comes to escort them in; he has to be called back by the other
inspector. This sequence will repeat itself on their way out, as Lina
accompanies them to the door, Benson is again pulled away from the scene by his
fascination for the painting. As Heath points out this `painting has no reason,
is useless, beyond the limits of the film,'166(*) he concludes:
Benson's painting [...] has its effect as missing spectacle:
problem of point of view, different framing, disturbance of the law and its
inspectoring eye, interruption of the homogeneity of the narrative economy, it
is somewhere else again, another scene, another story, another space.167(*)
It is as if Hitchcock had wanted to introduce the irreducibility
of diversity even in the most constructed framework. Characters and events can
never be perfectly contained. This ambiguity in Hitchcock's films is also
present in the structure of The Birds, as analysed by Noël Burch
in Theory of Film Practice:
Here the entire structure, even the actual style of the film is
implicit in the subject itself, the gradual destruction of the American dream,
of the sterile and comfortable fantasies of middle-class life as Hollywood
depicts it. Starting with the first peck of a bird's beak on Tippi Hedren's
forehead, middle-class reality is progressively contaminated by violence; the
film's entire development is based on this spread of violence, which underlies
both the individual images and the over-all découpage. The
film, like the subject on which it is based, has a beginning, but it does not
have an end, or if it does, it is buried under the millions of birds that have
invaded the screen (the world). The Birds is a film in which
everything at every level derives directly from the premise laid down
by the basic plot.168(*)
Thus the original unity is not restored; the heterogeneous
elements - the birds - are neither eliminated nor controlled. There is no easy
resolution, the ending points out toward possibilities, not certainties, for
the characters escaping in the early dawn. Hitchcock probes deliberately at
those gaps full of uncertainty and diversity within the classical system, which
cannot be eliminated as pointed out by Lapsley and Westlake:
Beneficent or not, (classical) narrative cinema offers the
illusion of contradiction resolved when in reality it yields nothing of the
Other forms of narrativity have tried to accommodate the
diversity of the event as a principle of montage and thus open up the
The picture ceases to be an architecture. In the figure
the architectonic factors are the secondary ones. The significant element of
form is not the scaffolding, but the breath of life which brings flux and
movement into the rigid form. In the one case, the values of being, in the
other, the value of change. In the one case, beauty resides in the determinate,
in the other, in the indeterminate.170(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History
In Theory of Film Practice, Noël Burch has quoted
André Hodeir's definition of form:
The form of a work is that mode of being which ensures its unity
while tending to promote, at the same time, the greatest possible
Thus positing the notion of form as compatible with diversity,
not as its containment but as its expression.
The differences in the conception of the frame can help to
understand the differences of conception of the whole of the film. The frame
determines the relationship between the on-screen and the off-screen space. The
off-screen space is defined in Aesthetics of Film:
The off-screen may be defined as the collection of elements
(characters, settings...) that, while not being included in the image itself
are nonetheless connected to that visible space in imaginary fashion for the
Quoting Noël Burch, Stephen Heath goes further in the
implications of the off-screen possibilities:
Burch writes that `off-screen space has only an intermittent or,
rather, fluctuating existence during any film, and structuring this
fluctuation can become a powerful tool in a film-maker's hands'. The term
«fluctuation» is excellent, yet it must be seen that the work of
classical continuity is not to hide or ignore off-screen space but, on the
contrary, to contain it, to regularize its fluctuation in a constant movement
The difference of interaction between what is in the frame and
what is not is at the core of the distinction established by André Bazin
between mask and frame. Gilles Deleuze in Cinema 1 elaborated on the
If we return to Bazin's alternative of mask or frame, we see that
sometimes the frame works like a mobile mask according to which every set is
extended into a larger homogeneous set with which it communicates, and
sometimes it works as a pictorial frame which isolates a system and neutralises
its environment. This duality is most clearly expressed in Renoir and
Hitchcock; in the former space and action always go beyond the limits of the
frame which only takes elements from an area; in the latter the frame `confines
all the components', and acts as a frame for a tapestry rather than one for a
picture or a play.174(*)
Deleuze goes on to say that the difference is between two
conceptions of off-screen space:
All framing determines an off-screen space [out-of-field]. There
are not two types of frame only one of which would refer to the space
off-screen [out-of-field]; there are rather two very different aspects of the
off-screen space [out-of-field], each of which refers to a mode of
In Jean Renoir's La Règle du Jeu (1939), the
space present on the screen is constantly crossed by characters moving in and
out of frame. They talked to each other from on or off-screen space alike, so
that the portion of space the spectator actually sees is in constant
interaction with the portion he cannot, thus enforcing the impression of a
larger world of which only a small portion happens to be on the screen.
In a Hitchcock composition, the space of the action is always
inscribed very precisely within the frame. Each movement of the characters is
not only furthering the action but is also signifying it at a symbolic level
thus reinforcing the sense of cohesion or, as the case may be, disintegration.
In the scene from Suspicion for instance, after Lina has closed the
door on the two inspectors, she stands in the hall, emotionally trapped in the
realms of her suspicions. This is the narrative situation however it is also
signified in the composition of the frame: Lina stands alone, diminished by a
high angle shot, in the projected shadows of the skylight over the hall which
form web-like patterns. The composition thus echoes the meaning of the action
in a symbolic order.176(*) When a gap is opened in the composition, the Picasso
painting of Benson for instance, it is somewhat like a slip of the tongue in an
otherwise controlled speech.
This difference in the framing also has implications over the
sense of place. In the Hitchcock example, the place is a direct emanation of
the characters; they complement and echo each other. The existence of the place
is borne out of the action. Whereas in Renoir's La Règle du
Jeu, places are given a presence extending beyond the action. The
characters never quite settle into the frame, always on their way somewhere
else, on the contrary the places give a sense of permanence; be it a luxurious
house in Paris, a countryside mansion or the surrounding woods, they will be
there when the action has moved on.
For instance, the scene where the car is seen crashing on the
side of the road is followed by a static shot of a stretch of grass. While the
spectator hears, off-screen, the voices of André Jurieu and Octave
approaching, the on-screen space remains empty for several seconds before the
characters fill the frame and stop to argue. This composition of on-screen
space and the off-screen sound emphasizes the sense that the characters are
only passing through. Their actions happen to coincide with certain places, but
there is no sense of belonging.177(*)
These examples show how the film, through its framing and
montage, relates to the world. How the content can be firmly encapsulated into
the form, or the form opened so as to accommodate a fluctuating content. The
use of the off-screen space as well as a sense of place exceeding its strict
narrative function can be ways to disrupt the classical equilibrium. The viewer
is permitted to move in a more complex representation, which does not pretend
to resolve everything. As Stephen Heath concludes:
Which is to say, finally, that radical disturbance [...] can only
be effectively grasped as a work that operates at the expense of the classical
suppositions of «form» and «content» in cinema, posing not
autonomies but contradictions in the process of film and its narrative-subject
Also anti-humanist in character was the abolition of the
balance between body and soul, mind and matter. The precept sequere
naturam amounted to the principle of mens sana in corpore sano
that is to say, equilibrium between mind and body; aesthetically it implied the
perfect equilibrium of form and content, the total absorption of content in
form. In the new art that broke with the principles of the Renaissance and of
humanism the content bursts through, shatters and distorts.179(*)
Arnold Hauser, Mannerism.
In Lynch on Lynch, David Lynch talks about the filming
process: how it is only when all the elements are together that things start to
happen.180(*) He often
insists on the process of action and reaction:
It's action and reaction all the way along, so the film's never
finished till it's finished. It's always a work-in-progress until the very
The form is not pre-determinated to accommodate a given content;
both grow and evolve together. The meaning is never settled before it has taken
form. This approach is echoed by the following comment in Film
As with Freud's insistence that the meaning of a dream resides in
the dreamwork, that there is no meaning prior to its formalisation, so here
form and content are seen to be inseparable.182(*)
Given the importance of dreams in Lynch's films, the comparison
is particularly resonant. This method of working gives his films an organic
feel, not in the sense of a unified organism, but rather as if the parts were
an organic matter growing out of each other.
The whole formed by the film often seems like an unfinished
process, as if it could expand further. This may come from Lynch's conception
of a film as a world to get lost in. As Lynch described his filmic process to
Chris Rodley, he recounts the Eraserhead experience:
You've got to be in that world. That's why Eraserhead
was so beautiful for me because I was able to sink into that world and live
there. There was no other world. I hear songs sometimes that people say were
popular at the time, and I haven't a clue, and I was there. And that's
the most beautiful thing - to get lost in a world.183(*)
This desire to get lost in a world may have been the incentive to
do a television series. The possibility to go on forever is evoked by David
Lynch when speaking about Twin Peaks:
Tony knew that I've never liked having to bend my movie scripts
to an end halfway through. On a series you can keep having beginnings and
middles and develop story forever.184(*)
The same idea appears in another quote in Michel Chion's
David Lynch: `I liked the idea of a story in episodes that would go on
for a long time.'185(*)
Upon which Chion establishes:
In Twin Peaks Lynch is able to evolve unusual dimensions
to the story more naturally than in many of his other films because the series
offers the possibility of gradually drawing the spectator into a different
world. [...] Television is a room-sized medium whose limitations in screen size
and sound are compensated for by a larger duration: `Television is all
telephoto lens where cinema is wide-angle. In movies you can play a symphony
whereas on television you just get a grating sound. The only advantage is that
the grating can be continuous.'186(*)
Chion also points out that Lynch's films often feel tight within
the limitation in length of the commercial film of cinema even though most of
his films run beyond two hours.
The appeal to make television series remained with Lynch after
Twin Peaks, unfortunately none of his other projects extended beyond a
few episodes. On the Air (1992) which reiterated the collaboration,
initiated for Twin Peaks, with Mark Frost, was cancelled after the
seventh episode for lack of audience, and Hotel Room (1992) did not
survive its pilot.187(*)
His latest attempt in the field of television series, Mulholland
Drive, could have ended up as an unfinished pilot for ABC networks, if it
had not been rescued by Studiocanal productions and transformed, with added
material, into a feature length film.188(*)
If Lynch's films are generally a world on their own,
Mulholland Drive is particularly so. It may be because of its origin
as the pilot of a series; the film seems to concentrate in 146 minutes, the
potential for a multi season series. Many scenes in Mulholland Drive
may have been conceived as beginnings for stories to be developed later,
however in the feature film they form an accumulation of details adding up to a
substantial and complex world expanding well beyond what the viewer is given to
The two-time production of the film - first as pilot and then as
feature film - is projected in the two parts construction of the film. A first
part corresponding to the pilot and the second, to the material added for the
film. This structure has been interpreted quite literally by some reviewers. It
is not that simple, however, and the film is a good example of Lynch's method
of working with the accident. Talking about the texture of paint and the
artificiality of the brush, he said to Chris Rodley:
After you make a whole bunch of brush strokes, it's something
else. It's not the paint talking; it's too much of the person. So you've gotta
let accidents and strange things happen - let it work, so it's got an organic
sort of quality.189(*)
Furthermore, it was not the first time that Lynch worked with a
two-part structure for a film, thus as Jared Rapfogel reluctantly concedes, the
complexity of the articulation of the two parts far exceeds its production
He [Lynch] suggests, but only suggests, that the story we've been
following is a kind of dream, giving a new weight and significance to what has
come before by casting it in retrospect into the realm of idealized fantasy.
Without solving the puzzle, he takes the movie to a deeper, darker, and more
imaginatively resonant place. I'm reluctant to say that it redeems the whole
movie, but by adding a dimension and creating a whole set of relationships and
tensions between the two parts, Lynch certainly succeeds in transforming an
unresolved and apparently disappointing TV pilot into a film with a shape and a
wholeness of its own, a film which is somehow more than the sum of its
Lynch had twice before experimented with this type of two-part
structure: with Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me and with Lost
Highway. The former was composed of a prologue on the Teresa Banks case in
Deer Meadow, happening a year before the murder of Laura Palmer. Thus the cut
seems to be a rather straightforward time jump. But the film is also a prequel
to the series Twin Peaks, so that the prologue is an interface between
the series and the second part relating the last days in the life of Laura
Palmer. As Michel Chion remarked, the prologue in Deer Meadow is like an
inverted Twin Peaks:
The series is part of the film, only turned inside out, as one
might expect from Lynch's peculiar sense of humour and distinctive logic.
Especially in the first part of the prologue, all the aspects of Twin
Peaks are inverted.191(*)
Chion goes on to oppose, term by term, elements of the series and
elements of the prologue of Fire Walk With Me, such as the attitude of
the sheriff - so welcoming in Twin Peaks and so hostile in Deer Meadow -to the
quality of the coffee - notoriously good in Twin Peaks and either too old or
too weak in Deer Meadow - in passing by the status of the victim - the lonely
drifter nobody cares about has opposed to the pride of Twin Peaks community:
its homecoming queen.192(*) Thus the interplay between the parts is
more complex than it may appear at first. The film was badly received by
critics and public alike when it was released, Michel Chion went some way to
redeem its qualities, concluding:
He [Lynch] failed, many viewers losing interest in Laura's drama,
but it was a glorious failure in which, by way of numerous successfully
realised and original scenes, Lynch expanded and extended the cinema from
within through its daring narrative structure.193(*)
And it may be that the potential of this narrative structure is
more evident after having been developed by Lynch in subsequent films, so that
what may have appear clumsy at the time of the release of Fire Walk With Me
is now seen to be deliberate.
Lost Highway followed, although there was a five year
gap in-between features. It is also a film in two parts but unlike its
predecessor there is not even the semblance of an easy articulation between the
two. The film is basically the trajectory of one individual, albeit he changes
name and appearance half way through. The film is articulated around the scene
of metamorphosis of Fred Madison, played by Bill Pullman into Pete Dayton
played by Balthazar Getty. The degree of correlation between the two characters
is difficult to establish, Pete Dayton being a quite different person from Fred
Madison as well as living in a different area of Los Angeles. So that the two
parts seem at first completely disconnected if it was not for the strange scene
in the death-row cell where in place of the condemned Fred Madison, the
guardians discover in the morning, Pete Dayton, a young mechanic (see Fig.
However a certain number of elements from the first part
gradually filtered through: Pete cannot bear to hear Fred's saxophone on the
radio, a Mr Eddy is a regular customer and the blonde Alice accompanying him
has an uncanny likeness to Fred's wife, Renee. What seemed to be a new
beginning is gradually brought around with the multiplication of correlations
with the first part; Mr Eddy is Dick Laurent declared dead in the opening
sentence of the film, Andy is the mysterious friend of Alice, just as he was
Renee's, Renee and Alice are together on a photograph with Mr Eddy and Andy,
and after making love in the middle of the desert Pete reverts into Fred.
Thierry Jousse has commented that:
Everything in Lost Highway is two-fold, the characters,
the situations, the objects, and every element can only be perceived through a
network of correlations specific to the film. The spectator is taken into an
integrated circuit, an involutive loop inside of which he has to invent his own
After this reverted mutation, and the discovery that Alice and
Renee are one and the same (in the photograph where they both figured when Pete
looked at it, only Renee is still there when the detectives find it) the film
accomplishes full circle and the end comes round to the beginning; with Fred
announcing into his own interphone that Dick Laurent is dead. In an article by
Stephen Pizzello, Lynch's remarks are quoted as follows:
Lynch understands full well that the visceral and often oblique
visions presented in Lost Highway may frustrate and even antagonize
audiences, but he has often said that he prefers his pictures to remain open to
many interpretations. «Stories have tangents; they open up and become
different things,» the director maintains. «You can still have a
structure, but you should leave room to dream. If you stay true to your ideas,
film-making becomes an inside-out, honest kind of process. And if it's an
honest thing for you, there's a chance that people will feel that, even if it's
After making The Straight Story, Lynch comes back to a
two-part structure with Mulholland Drive. The film has echoes from the
correlations systems of both Fire Walk With Me and Lost
As Fire Walk With Me, the second part is a sort of
inverted image of the first part. Diane is the inverted image of Betty, or her
remains as interpreted by Martha Nochimson:
Diane Selwyn, the detritus that remains after Betty's immersion
in the Roquean darkness of depleted imaginative vision, inhabits a room
desaturated of colour: we have found the trembling figure of the main title and
know it to be the defeat of Betty's initial possibilities.196(*)
Diane's grim world comes as a pendant to the sunny one of Betty.
But like Lost Highway the film is articulated around the
transformation of the main character, even though Diane retains Betty's
appearance and both are played by Naomi Watts. The two parts of film are
divided by a waking up scene where various times seem to adjust themselves. The
nearly similar images of the rotting corpse of Diane Selwyn in the first part
(Lyssie Powell) and the sleeping body of Naomi Watts' Diane, quickly succeed
each other, punctuated by the «cow-boy» appearance in the bedroom
doorway saying: `Hey pretty girl time to wake up'. So even if it is not as
literal as in Lost Highway it is a metamorphosis of sorts (see Fig.
Mulholland Drive also presents a complex system of
correlations between the two parts, with a variable degree of alteration
affecting the various elements. Some characters remain stable through: the
«cow-boy» the Castigliane brothers, the hit-man, Diane's neighbour or
Adam; others change name and positions but not their persona: Coco or Camilla
Rhode; and elements that change name position and persona: Betty and Rita. As
for the Blue Key, it passes from a mysterious triangular key to an ordinary
latchkey. The instability of the translation from one part to another make it
difficult to ascertain the relationship between the two parts. Rather than a
dream/reality relationship they are more like the two intermingled layers of an
ever shifting world.
Different from its predecessors, however, Mulholland
Drive has a strong symmetrical structure with a number of scenes repeated
in both part of the film. The previous Lynch's film with a strong symmetrical
structure was Blue Velvet. From the opening triptych of white picket
fence/tulips/fire-truck which also closed the film, to the plunging into and
coming out of the ear as the signpost of Jeffrey's rite of passage, as well as
the regular alternation of scenes with Dorothy and with Sandy, Blue
Velvet had a well ordained progression of symmetries and asymmetries.
Thus Mulholland Drive has a series of scene to scene
symmetries: Betty first appears with an elderly couple, as a radiant image
superimposed over dancing couples, she last appears with Rita in the same
surreal radiance; Betty arrives in Los Angeles with the elderly couple, whom
she met in the plane, they are seen sniggering at her naivety, and they are
still sniggering when they come back at the end as malignant gnomes driving
Diane to commit suicide and thus accompany her out of L.A; the credits roll
over the slow progression of a Limousine on Mulholland Drive with Rita in the
back seat, when the car stops unexpectedly the drivers reveal themselves to be
assassins here to kill Rita, toward the end the scene is repeated with Diane in
it, and the unexpected stop has been done at the instigation of Camilla to
surprise Diane; Betty and Rita go to Winkie after having called the police and
they are being served by a waitress named Diane, it is also in Winkie that
Diane will meet the hit-man she wants to contract to kill Camilla and they are
being served by the same waitress but this time she is named Betty; a scene at
Adam's villa, from which he is being kicked off by his wife and her lover, is
echoed by a reception in the same villa given by Adam to announce his wedding
with Camilla; the tender love making scene between Betty and Rita becomes a
provocative and aggressive sex scene between Diane and Camilla. There is also a
repetition of certain shots such as the telephone with the red lampshade which
is answered by Diane in the second part, as well as some narrative elements
responding to each other like the «Sylvia North Story» which is the
film Adam is making and happens to be the one which made Camilla Rhode famous
but with a different director. The list goes on.
Whereas the classical narrative use symmetries and asymmetries to
further the plot while circumventing it, in Mulholland Drive they seem
to enter into an endless resonating system. Instead of measuring the exact
change effected in between repetition, it seems to spiral off into infinite
speculations. The doubling-up of the events sends them into a symbolic realm
which does not function as a capping-off of the meaning of the action but to
its proliferation. Michel Chion commented on the apparently simple use of the
shots in Elephant Man:
The simplicity of the shots, which some could mistake for
stiffness and classicism, is thus a way of preserving a mythic dimension. In
the Elephant Man, Lynch creates an atmosphere of ritual theatre frozen
to the spot.197(*)
Lynch uses the means of classicism in composition but for another
result. No more than the symmetric structure of Blue Velvet conveyed
the expected sense of closure - too many problems remained unresolved and
Sandy's robin appearing at the kitchen window, who should have been sealing the
happy ending, was too strangely artificial to be quite satisfying - does the
tight web of repetitions of Mulholland Drive resolves anything. Quite
the contrary, the more there are correlations between the two parts, the more
the meanings multiply.
Thus the composition of the film is controlled by the strict
agency of symmetries, asymmetries, repetitions and differences, but only as an
ever mounting tension between the events and thus signalling their
irreducibility to a single interpretation.
We can also see that the perceptions of our senses, even
when clear, must necessarily contain some confused feeling. For since all
bodies in the universe are in sympathy, ours receives the impressions of all
the others, and although our senses bear relations to everything, it is not
possible for our soul to attend to everything in all of its particulars. Thus
our confused feelings are the result of a variety of perceptions which is
indeed infinite - very like the confused murmur a person hears when approaching
the sea-shore, which comes from the putting together of the reverberations of
innumerable waves. For if several perceptions do not come together to make one,
and there is no one which stands out above all the others, and if they all make
impressions which are more or less equally strong and equally capable of
catching its attention, the soul can only perceive them
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics.
The fabric of Lynch's films often feels like a thin membrane
easily permeated by elements foreign to its action; moments of eternity slipped
in between two shots, glimpses of a space persisting beyond the action, or a
sound with no explanation. These elements generally contribute to the
impression that the characters do not control their fate, or that it is
controlled by something else.
The few seconds too long that the elevator doors took to close on
Henry, in Eraserhead, seemed like an eternity because that lapse of
time could not be controlled, at least not by Henry. A similar sensation of
extended time was felt in Mulholland Drive. When, just after Rita had
penetrated Aunt Ruth's apartment, a shot, from Rita's point of view - hidden
under the kitchen table - showed the kitchen door, a few seconds before
eventually, Aunt Ruth entered the kitchen. The fear of being discovered
accentuated the feeling of powerlessness.
There are also instances of the persistence of space after the
characters are gone, but not gone because they left the place, but because they
were edited out. In Blue Velvet, when the group of Frank's friends are
leaving Ben's place, the last shot is on Frank in medium close-up screaming:
`Let's fuck! I'll fuck anything that moves!' he then vanishes from the shot,
which lasts a few seconds longer with the room emptied out of characters. The
usually overpowering presence of Frank is thus undermined, he suddenly appears
as a manipulated presence.
There is a strange scene in Mulholland Drive, just after
Betty and Rita come back from Club Silencio, where they found the Blue
Box. They go into Aunt Ruth's bedroom to try the Blue Key, the camera is
following Rita and when she turns around Betty is gone. Rita then tried the key
on the Blue Box, which open on a darkness into which she is seemingly absorbed.
The Blue Box is seen falling on the carpet. Succeeds a shot of the switch on
the wall, and Aunt Ruth enters, checks the room, in perfect order: no hat box
on the bed, no Blue Box on the carpet, no traces whatsoever of the presence of
Betty and Rita, she switches off the light. It is the same room but it does not
seem to be in the same dimension to which Betty and Rita belong; it is the last
scene before the waking-up scene.
A peculiarly permeable dimension of Lynch's films is the
sound-track. Classically the sound-track is strictly correlated to the image as
its audible dimension. This relationship is described by Stephen Heath:
The sound-track is hierarchically subservient to the image-track
and its pivot is the voice as the presence of character in frame, a supplement
to the dramatization of space, along with the accompanying `sound
But for Lynch the sound-track has its own dimension and he pays
careful attention to its elaboration.200(*) Martha Nochimson describes Lynch approach to
He is not interested in what the illusionist understands as
realistic sound. For him, film sound is not an illusion of a perfect mimesis of
sound effects; it's another reflection of the multiple dimensionality of the
Michel Chion pointed out the very personal understanding of
sound-track adopted by Lynch for Eraserhead:
However, the force of the film's sound concept lies especially in
the absence of any continuity [separation] between the music and its overall
Thus the sound-track is often permeated by sounds which either
have no visible source or are out of proportion in relation to that source. The
latter type of sounds is often associated with a dysfunctional electrical
installation, which is pointed out by Chris Rodley in interview with Lynch:
Many scenes in your films feature the failure of electricity: the
faulty neons in the autopsy room in Twin Peaks; the buzzing light
fittings in Dorothy Vallens' apartment block in Blue Velvet, for
example. Electrical currents also seem to announce imminent danger or
revelation, as in the strobe-light effect you use constantly in Twin
Peaks. [...] Electricity becomes linked with the inexplicable.203(*)
To this list could be added the electrical atmosphere of the
trailer park of Deer Meadow in Fire Walk With Me, or the buzzing light
punctuating the meeting between Adam and the Cow-boy in Mulholland
There are also sounds which have no visible sources, often a wind
or a breathing sound. Like in the aerial shots of Los Angeles in Mulholland
Drive, or in Twin Peaks, where it often seems to be more than an
ordinary wind agitating the branches of the Douglas firs. But it is probably in
Lost Highway that the use of unexplained sounds is pushed furthest.
The infinite present in the finite self is exactly the
position of baroque equilibrium or disequilibrium.204(*)
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold Leibniz and the Baroque.
The first part of Lost Highway is imbued by a sense of
unease. Various elements are combined to convey that particular atmosphere, not
the least of them is the sound-track. Fred Madison's part of the sound-track is
dominated by a constant humming sound, which varies in intensity, sometimes so
low the spectator is barely aware of it, but always present. When the sound
stops, the feeling of release felt at the beginning of the second part confirms
its otherwise omnipotent presence. Lynch explains how it was done in Lynch
Chris Rodley: Fred and Renee's house is full of deep rumbles,
like an imminent Los Angeles earthquake - trouble from the very core of the
David Lynch: Right. There's one channel of the six-tracks that's
going to the subwoofer. There's so much power there, and it gets all that low
stuff. There's an uneasiness there. You've gotta keep pushing the pressure, but
you can't abuse it.205(*)
Because this first part is seen from Fred's point of view and
that the sound seems to respond to his emotional states, it feels that it is
coming from inside his head; the sound becomes louder as Fred's confusion is
increased. It is as if a constant pressure was bearing down on him, and, as he
is unable to find a release for it, it eventually reshapes him. The low sound
suddenly reaches full intensity during the metamorphosis scene.
Thus if Lynch's films are not a sealed container, but are
constantly permeated by other possible dimension, these are not of a reflexive
nature nor an attempt to introduce a sense of real space and time. What is
beyond is still part of Lynch's world; it is part of the multi-dimensional
aspect of his film-worlds. What is confusedly perceived in the gaps, is not so
much an impression of the reality beyond the narration, but rather another
dimension of Lynch's world: a presence enveloping the world of the characters -
maybe waiting to take shape, to accomplish the act of becoming.
THE TEXTURE OF FILM
In both styles unity is the chief aim, but in the one case
unity is achieved by a harmony of free parts, in the other, by a union of parts
in a single theme, or by the subordination, to one unconditioned dominant, of
all other elements.206(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History
In a classical narrative film, the parts of the film are
articulated in a clear sequence to highlight the logic of the chain of events.
In each scene, each event occupies a distinct position within the clearly
distributed narrative structure so as to forward the action to its resolution.
What the studio system of production wishes for is to be presented with a film
with a clearly laid out plan of all its scenes.
But many successful films, in artistic and/or commercial terms,
did not go according to plan - As the stories around some famous «making
of» have let known; such as Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola
1979) or Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming 1939). This is because a
film, classic or otherwise, does not actually exist until it is acted out, and
many accidents can happen during this process. This is true of every artistic
form, however conceptual a work of art, it does not really happen until it is
inscribed in matter. It is even more manifest concerning film production; it
has to bring together many disparate elements and for the cohesion to happen
and make a film, it needs its own momentum which cannot be precisely planned.
In as much as the film industry does not encourage this happening of the film,
by `talking ideas to death' as Lynch says,207(*) independent filmmakers can also be just as limited
by their will to control the ideas. This is what Jean-Luc Godard speaks of when
he talks of `starting from the camera':
The camera is the true reverse-field of the spotlight, and good
films starts from the reverse-field, from the camera. The films I liked in the
last years [...] are all films needing the camera, starting from this need, to
project what they have to say. Instead, most films starts with the spotlight,
by what the filmmakers want to say before it has been shot. They violate the
camera, they enslave it to a discourse, they say I am going to shoot that apple
because this and that, because such and such said that...208(*)
In his seminars and writings Deleuze developed upon Leibniz's
conception of soul and matter. In a seminar he said that: `The event cannot be
inscribed in the soul without, at the same time, demanding a body to mark
itself into.'209(*) For
the event to happen, it has to, simultaneously, be actualised in the soul and
realised in the matter, before that the event is still in the realm of the
possible. This idea implies a dynamic notion of matter, what constitutes its
texture is the movement of the event inscribed. Deleuze will thus develop the
concept of the fold:
As a general rule the way [manner] a material is folded is what
constitutes its texture. It is defined less by its heterogeneous and really
distinct parts than by the style [manner] by which they become inseparable by
virtue of particular folds.210(*)
Thus the folds of matter are its texture; through them the
creative force is expressed. This idea is summed up by the philosopher John
Rajchman in Constructions:
The baroque invents one possibility of fold and texture: there
are the textures through which matter becomes «material» and the
enfoldings of the soul through which form becomes «force». In the
baroque as in Leibniz, the metaphysics of formed matter is replaced by a
metaphysics of materials «expressing» forces.211(*)
Thus if the notion of texture is relevant to this study it is not
so much in the tactile sense of the term than for the forces expressed within
it. This finds some echoes in the observations Noël Burch made in the
introduction to the English edition of his Theory of Film Practice:
A [...] point, especially important to this English-language
edition, is that the [...] «technical» aspect of film, to which I
give special attention, was most often referred to in the original French as
écriture or facture, words that have generally had to
be rendered as «style» and «texture». These words must be
read as having more precise referents than is generally the case in English,
always implying as they do to specifically material options of a
«technical» nature (facture means texture in the
articulative sense, écriture is graphic inscription as
much as «style»).212(*)
This chapter is concentrating on the texture of film and how
Lynch's ideas have become inscribed within the very fabric of the film.
The broad forms of the baroque style are part of a totally
new conception of matter, that is of the ideal aspect of matter, which gives
expression to the inner vitality, and behaviour of the members. [...] As matter
becomes soft and masses fluid, structural cohesion is dissolved; the
massiveness of the style, already expressed in the broad and heavy forms, is
now also manifested in inadequate articulation and lack of precise
Heinrich Wölfflin, Renaissance and Baroque
Ideas for Lynch are never an abstract term. He has often
explained how his ideas are always accompanied by sensations, as in this quote
in Stephen Pizzello's review of Lost Highway:
`Everything sort of follows my initial ideas', he offers. `As
soon as I get an idea, I get a picture and a feeling, and I can even hear
sounds. The mood and the visuals are very strong. Every single idea I have
comes with these things'.214(*)
Lynch further develops his conception of ideas in Lynch on
Ideas are the best things going. Somewhere there's all the ideas,
and they're sitting there and once in a while one bob up and the idea is made
known suddenly. Something is seen and known and felt all at once, and along
with it comes a burst of enthusiasm and you fall in love with it.215(*)
But to be able to inscribe these ideas it is necessary to remain
close to the associated sensations, otherwise the idea might be lost
altogether, as he further explains:
And you've gotta be true to them because they're bigger than you
first think they are. They're almost like gifts, and even if you don't
understand them a hundred per cent, if you're true to them, they'll ring true
at different levels. But if you alter them too much they won't even ring;
they'll just sort of clank.216(*)
And this is where the notion of mood becomes important, it is in
the mood of a scene that the feel of an idea can manifest itself; the mood of a
scene will dictate the use of lighting as much as it gives the rhythm to the
acting. The mood is something Lynch is sensitive to in other filmmakers' films.
Richard Combs has quoted Lynch saying; `«I love Rear Window
because it has such a mood and even though I know what's going to happen, I
love being in that room and feeling that time. It's like I can smell
it...» (Hollywood Reporter, October 6, 1986).'217(*)
Lynch's sensory approach to film is echoed by other critical
response such as in this review saying that Eraserhead was a movie `to
be experienced rather than explained'218(*). On Blue Velvet Charles Drazin remarked:
In Blue Velvet there is an intensity of perception, a
looking for its own sake, that reaches beyond the surface of things. This
compulsion to see has its unsavoury aspect, relishing, as it does, the bad
every bit as much as the good [...] Lynch use texture, like sound and music to
convey mood, it is a way of getting under the skin of the characters.219(*)
About Lost Highway Thierry Jousse pointed out how the
sensory and rhythmic aspects of film took precedence over the narrative
Signs float and do not join each other. The story looses its
pre-eminence to fill a function essentially rhythmic or atmospheric. [...]
Lynch is looking for an hyper-sensorial contact with his viewer, he aims to
bring him to a particular state of receptivity, where he will simultaneously
loose his footing and find a new relationship with excessively subtle
perceptions flux, which of course are close from those possible to reach
through drugs. It is the musical or ceremonial function of directing.220(*)
In his kit on Lynch's key terms, Michel Chion made an entry on
the way David Lynch used texture in the wider sense:
For Lynch, the notion of texture has a very personal meaning,
although it appears almost universal judging by the countless different
contexts in which he refers to it. Texture, as he tries to present it in his
films, involves superimposing different layers and levels of multiple meanings.
In a broader sense, texture denotes the aspect of a surface or a skin, its
patterns, its grain, micro-reliefs which appear whenever one erases words. In
this second sense, texture refers to the idea of a fragment from the natural
continuum, a close-up on the dress of nature.221(*)
Thus Lynch's films develop from ideas which manifest themselves
through sensations which come together to form a mood. The mood is the sensual
manifestation of the idea. It is in the accumulation of details and resonance
that this mood is conveyed through light, sounds, colors, surfaces, faces,
words and so on. Lynch's films proceed through accumulation rather than
progression. This approach is echoed in Brian O'Doherty's essay on Citizen
The Baroque treats detail as a relative point, a relay in a
larger scheme; it crowds details into clusters that themselves become units in
another larger scheme as it telescopes upward; it fakes architecture, favors
multiple viewpoints, plays with illusion. It is a perceptual storm around a
Life is not only everywhere, but souls are everywhere in
matter. Thus when an organism is called to unfold its own parts, its animal or
sensitive soul is opened onto an entire theatre in which it perceives or feels
according to its unity, independently of its organism yet inseparable from
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque
Lynch gives a precise attention to the cinematography of his
films. The format and the sharpness of the image reinforce the presence of the
visual element of the film. In her review of Blue Velvet, Pauline Kael
described her first impressions of the film:
At the beginning, the wide images, (the film is shot in
Cinemascope ratio: 2.35 to 1) are meticulously bright and sharp-edged; you feel
that you're seeing every detail of architecture, the layout of homes and
apartments, the furnishing and potted plants, the women's dresses. [...] Later
the light is low, but all through this movie the colours are insistent, objects
may suddenly be enlarged to fill the frame, and a tiny imagined sound may be
amplified to a thunderstorm. The style may be described as hallucinatory
Further on, referring to the sensory aspect of the
cinematography, Kael wrote: `real streets look like paintings you could touch -
you feel as if you could moosh your fingers in the colors'.225(*) Thus the quality of the
image emphasizes the perceptual presence of textures.
Lynch's films are generally associated with one particular
texture which opens the film as remarked by Michel Chion:
Very early on, Lynch acquired the habit of opening his films, in
the credits or just afterwards, with moving textures which associate the film
with a certain material or substance.226(*)
The texture thus provides a sort of introductory theme to the
film which will reappears at interval as an undertone. In Blue Velvet,
for instance, the blue velvet theme appears at different levels. First, it is
the texture of the undulating surface over which the opening credits rolls.
Then, it is the song: Lynch declares in Lynch on Lynch, that it was
the Bobby Vinton's version of the song Blue Velvet, `that sparked the
movie'.227(*) And thus
it plays on the soundtrack over the opening shots of the film. The song
resounds again, but this time sung live by Dorothy in the Slow Club. And it is
as her bathrobe that the texture of the opening shapes itself into of which a
piece has been cut out and is later seen in Franck's hands; as a sexual
accessory. Ultimately the cut out piece will be found stuck into the mouth of a
As a song, Blue Velvet evokes the softness of the night with its
mysteries and fascinations and thus immediately overlay the sunny images of
Lumberton with a darker undertone. The song is heard again in this version by
Bobby Vinton when Jeffrey goes up the stairs to return to Dorothy's apartment
the second time, filled with erotic possibilities.
As a material, the blue velvet can have different functions, as
remarked by Pauline Kael about the unpretentiousness of the film: `Even that
fetishized blue velvet robe is tacky, like something you could pick up in the
red brick department on Main Street.'228(*) The texture could serve as a reality check to the
alluring lyrics of the song. As Franck's tool, the blue velvet is used first
for a brutal sex scene and then for a murder and thus could be the other side
of the glamour the song promised.
When Chris Rodley asked David Lynch what enticed him to do
Dune, he answered: `I thought about waves - water waves, sand waves,
waves motion, symbols, repetition of shapes, connecting threads.'229(*) Thus the opening credits for
Dune roll on waves of sand with a full orchestral score. However, as
Michel Chion pointed out, Lynch did not manage to integrate the sand into the
In the credits of Dune, there are, of course, sand dunes
and the wind raising curtains of sand, but curiously, this texture does not
play a significant part in the rest of the film.230(*)
Wild at Heart is placed under the sign of fire, with the
theme playing visually and narratively. The credits are impressive as Michel
Chion describes them:
The spiralling flames in the credits of Wild at Heart,
accompanied by the orchestral music of Richard Strauss, are grandiose and
theatricalised. They announce the film's leitmotiv, fire, associated with the
power of sex.231(*)
The presence of fire will appear as two sets of images, the
image-memory of Lula's house burning and the close up of matches and cigarettes
Sailor and Lula smoke after having sex. Martha Nochimson analysed these two
The fire in the film is, of course, a relatively banal narrative
element through which Marietta rids herself of her husband Clyde when Santos
sets him aflame and burns down their home. Images of this fire that haunt
Lula's memory are also flatly narrative as the vehicle for her understanding of
her mother's crime. But when we see greatly magnified close-up shots of matches
being struck, we are shown that fire is also a visceral image of consuming,
wilfully imposed acceleration of the air to intense movement and color that
occupies a part of the border where will compresses space and time into
The Straight Story opens on a `striated texture, which
reveals itself to be the furrows of a field, shot from an
formulated by Chion. We will find echoes of these furrows in the wrinkles on
Alvin's face magnified in close up. The deeply ridged fields also resemble the
film's journey into memories. The fields and Alvin's wrinkles occupy most of
the film space, thus tending to associate one with the other, by
These textures are played out like the main theme of one
particular film. Other textures are more of a recurring motif through Lynch's
films. He confesses his attraction to strange textures to Chris Rodley:
I'm obsessed with textures. We're surrounded by so much vinyl
that I found myself constantly in pursuit of others textures. One time I used
some hair remover to remove all fur from a mouse to see what it looked like -
and it looked beautiful.234(*)
Lynch is particularly attracted to organic decay or putrefaction,
letting his camera linger on some gruesome sight, quite oddly beautiful. In
Fire Walk With Me, during the scene in the morgue of Deer Meadow,
there is a long painful shot of Sam Stanley picking a letter from under the
nail of Teresa Banks. The flesh of the nail is seen in extreme close-up as Sam
removes the nail.
In Mulholland Drive just after Joe, the hit-man, has
fire a bullet through the head of Ed, another hit-man, it is a bemused camera
which seems to contemplate the odd phenomenon of the hair and blood immobilised
horizontally on the bullet trajectory. In the same film, in a less comical
vein, Betty and Rita discover the body of Diane Selwyn putrefied on her bed,
which is shown just long enough to let the viewer's imagination fills in the
details. The list goes on.
Through its decay the human body is thus firmly linked to matter.
This presence of the organic is balanced by another of Lynch's favourite
textures: smoke. All types of smoke as accounted for by Michel Chion:
The pulsing smoke of Eraserhead, the powerful smoke of
The Elephant Man, the decorative an unfortunately too intermittent
smoke of the planet Giedi
Prime in Dune; the straight columns of smoke like those
of the sawmill in the credits of Twin Peaks, or the small atomic
mushroom punctuating John Merrick's birth and then his return to the great
whole in The Elephant Man. Smoke, obscure and diffuse, is
Michel Chion further quotes Lynch explaining his fascination for
I was raised on very ecological principles. To me factories are
symbols of creation, with the same organic processes as in nature. I like soot,
smoke and dust.236(*)
On one hand, smoke is associated with productive machine
activity; on the other it reveals a more ethereal sort of presence. In The
Elephant Man, if smoke is present as a manifestation of the industrial
age, it is also an almost ectoplasmic presence assisting his birth and death.
This sense of presence is felt in other instances such as when the cabin is
burning in Lost Highway the heavy volutes of smoke seems to emanate
from more than just the burning of wood.237(*) In Mulholland Drive, it is from an
extremely convoluted cloud of smoke that Rita emerges from the crashed car, and
into another that Diane is absorbed as she collapses onto her bed, after
shooting herself with a bullet to the head.
Smoke seems to be the sign of, either mechanical activities or,
the presence of forces having a hand in human affairs. These motifs are also
found in the aural texture of Lynch's films, which is given as careful an
attention as the visuals. Ron Magid commented on the sound-track of Blue
Blue Velvet draws much of its powerful mood from the
eerie noises that subtly fill Alan Splett's sound design, and this film marks
Lynch's fourth feature film collaboration with this fine artist. For Lynch, who
seems to hear his movies rather than see them, the Blue Velvet
soundtrack grew naturally from the dictates of each film's scenes, `The
material dictates the mood and it also dictates the sound,» he explains.
«We tried to get the sound that make the right mood and it's so simple,
it's so logical. The rest is just trial and error in the blending of those
things, and it has to be just right, but you know it when it isn't.'238(*)
Certain sounds have become a sort of Lynch trade-mark such as the
sound of machinery. It is already present in Eraserhead, like a
pulsation for the whole film. The thumping sounds of industrial machinery is
the heart of the city in The Elephant Man, and the lower in the depth
of the city Frederick Treves goes, the louder the beat. The animality of these
sounds is observed by Pauline Kael about the staircase of Blue
There are noises in there, of course, and Alan Splet, who started
working with Lynch when he was doing shorts and has been his sound man on all
his features, combines them so that, say, when Jeffrey walks up the seven
flights to Dorothy's apartment the building has a pumping, groaning sound. It
could be an ancient furnace of foghorns or a heavy old animal that's
Michel Chion remarked on the sound of the electric fan in
Fire Walk with Me:
It is one of those machine sounds with an implacable regularity
which are omnipresent in Lynch's work. Their meaning is neither erotic nor
sexual as such, nor can they be reduced to some primary function. They are life
itself, vital power, absurd and ever-present.240(*)
However, the electric fan of Fire Walk With Me is at the
threshold between the thumping, pulsating sounds and another type: the
electrical sound. The electrical sound is rather linked with dysfunction and
supernatural presence than organic life. It can be an erratic neon tube, or
just from the current going along power lines; they send buzzing, crackling
sounds into the air.
In his later films, Lynch seems to have developed lower sounds,
more felt than heard. Pulsating in the air they have no beat or buzz just a
vibration. It is Lynch's approach to room tone:
I'm real fascinated by presences - what you call `room tone'.
It's the sound that you hear when there's silence, in between words or
sentences. It's a tricky thing, because in this seemingly kind of quiet sound,
some feelings can be brought in, and a certain kind of picture of a bigger
world can be made. And all those things are important to make that
This low drone was particularly present in Lost Highway,
in the Madison's house. But they are also permeating the air of aunt Ruth's
apartment in Mulholland Drive, although on a softer mode. It gives the
apartment a muffled atmosphere, as if no scream could ever tear through it.
Thus Lynch uses certain sounds just as he uses visual textures,
as elements intimately woven into the fabric of the film and contributing to
its atmosphere as much as to its meaning.
A Baroque conception of matter, in philosophy as in science
or in art, has to go up to this point, to a texturology that attests to a
generalized organicism, or to a ubiquitous presence of organisms.242(*)
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque.
Lynch's films also have objects and characters whose function is
less narrative or decorative than it is textural. Some object acquires a
presence that is not correlated to their narrative justification and thus
contributes more to the atmosphere than the plot.
How it is that the radiator of Eraserhead came to be of
such importance is recounted by Lynch in Lynch on Lynch.243(*). The radiator is more akin
to an animal with its litter of straw, its leaking oil and gurgling sounds than
a household implement. As a piece of machinery, it is the incarnation of the
sound and smoke of the industrial production. As Lynch corroborates the
machinery theme in his earlier films:
Machinery is predominant in all of them. I like factory people,
steel, rivets, bolts, wrenches, oil and smoke. Industrialization is never a
central theme, but it always lurks in the background.244(*)
Eventually the radiator will become a narrative element as the
portal to the dream stage of Henry. Another object that has become a recurring
motif in Lynch's films is the telephone. Telephones are used as telephones, but
they are also a sign of ubiquity; they offer the possibility to be present in
two places at the same time.
The first appearance of this theme may be in Blue
Velvet, but with a walkie-talkie. At the end of the film, Jeffrey is in
Dorothy's apartment with the two corpses and uses the walkie-talkie of the
corrupt cop to call detective Williams, when he realises that Franck can
intercept the call and that he is now coming for him. Jeffrey then tells
detective Williams that he is hiding in the bedroom, while in fact he goes back
to wait to in his first hiding place, the closet in the living room, with the
cop's gun. Through the walkie-talkie he lures Franck to believe him to be where
he is not.
In the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, it is an abandoned
telephone that, in place of Laura's mother, cries on the floor upon realising
than Laura is dead. In Lost Highway, the ubiquitous powers of
telephones became more pronounced. When Fred calls home to check on his wife,
the ringing telephones become Fred's imaginary way of projecting himself to
where his wife is, anxiously searching through the house (see Fig. 9). The
ubiquitous possibilities of the telephone is made manifest in the scene between
Fred and the Mystery Man at Andy's party. Handing over to Fred his mobile
phone, the Mystery Man asks him to ring home, to prove that he is there. When
Fred eventually complies, he is indeed answered by the Mystery Man talking
through the phone from his house as well as standing in front of him.
In The Straight Story, telephones are used in a less
supernatural manner, however they are surrounded with a consideration and fear
that almost gives them the status of a cultic object. At the beginning of the
film Dorothy, the neighbour, and Bud, a friend have discovered Alvin on the
floor, having had a stroke but perfectly lucid. A moment of confusion ensues,
during which Dorothy cannot bring herself to call for help. It is as if she was
not certain whether the situation is important enough to justify the use of the
telephone. In a later scene, Alvin and Rose are watching a storm together
through the window, when the phone rings. For a while neither moves and the
ringing takes on momentum. When Rose eventually answers it is to learn that
Alvin's brother has had, likewise, a stroke.
During his journey to see his brother, Alvin will phone his
daughter only once, when in absolute need, weeks after his departure. The whole
scene revolves around the telephone. Alvin needs to contact Rose to ask her to
send him his check to fix the lawn-mower. He goes to his host to ask if he can
use their phone, and upon finding out that it is a cordless phone, he insists
on staying outside. He then calls Rose who is delighted to hear from him, as
she was worried. When looking for a pen to write Alvin's address down, she does
not let go of the handset, stretching the cord to its utmost in her search. It
is like if she was afraid of losing her father if she was to let go of the
phone. His call completed, Alvin deposits the cordless phone on the doorstep
with a couple of dollars bills slipped underneath: as a little offering to the
gods of communication.
Mulholland Drive could be seen as a pantheon to the
glory of the pre-mobile telephone. They are all there, the public phone, the
yellow utility one, the standard black phone, the domestic cordless, all the
different type of telephones except the mobile. But they are also the sign of
an underground web of communications of which the spectator will apprehend the
effects on the life of the characters but not the nature. This telephonic
presence is epitomised in the last exchange between Joe and Ed:
Joe: So that's it, that's Ed's famous black book.
Ed: The history of the world in phone numbers.
Upon which Joe shoots Ed in the head and takes the book. The
spectator will never hear about it again. The whole scene does not seem to
fulfil any other function than reinforce the sense of hidden powers and the
absurd way they destroy life. Joe will subsequently kill a woman working in the
next office, the cleaning-man and his vacuum cleaner, as pointed out by Michel
Chion, because they are where they should not have been.245(*)
Thus characters, like objects, visuals and sounds, may functions
as textural elements. Martha Nochimson commented on Wild at Heart:
The images that rivet our imagination tend to complicate rather
than further the plot: immensely magnified, close-up images of cigarette ash,
shoes, light bulbs, and the visceral tones of Marietta's body smeared with
lipstick and gleaming red. Even the villains exist in the plot as distracting,
Like a close up on a particular texture, some characters are
magnified beyond all purpose. Ben, in Blue Velvet, for all his
extravagant presence, is only keeping Dorothy's child. Mr Reindeer's role in
Wild at Heart is basically to give away the two dollar coins to the
appointed killers. The scene in which these characters appear, detached of
narrative function, are transformed into an opulent fabric, enriching the
atmosphere of the film.
However extravagant these scenes appear in the construction of a
film, they add complexity to a representation of the world in the layering of
perceptions. Thierry Jousse warn against the temptation to just luxuriate in
the sensual aspect of Mulholland Drive:
In Mulholland Drive, there is an ambiance-film side, in the sense
that the creation of incredibly sophisticated atmospheres and the permanent
fluidity of their sequence are primarily driving the perception of the
spectator. Which often leads to believe that everything is mystery, nothing
rational, explicable and that one just as to let oneself be carried away, like
in an environment, an installation or a musical piece, by pure sensuality. But
in truth, however essential this sensory dimension may be, it shouldn't make
one forget that the film is also a text to read and interpret. It is in that
interstice, this breach made by the disjunction or the ambivalence between
these two poles apparently contradictory, that precisely the film engulfs
itself or slide in, object at once rational and intangible.247(*)
In the Baroque the soul entertains a complex relation with
the body. Forever indissociable from the body, it discovers a vertiginous
animality that gets it tangled in the pleats of matter, but also an organic or
cerebral humanity (the degree of development) that allows it to rise up, and
that will make it ascend over all other folds.248(*)
Gilles Deleuze, the Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque.
`A word is also a texture', said Lynch talking about his use of
letters in his paintings.249(*) Language in Lynch's films is treated as yet another
thread in the weaving of the film's fabric. He uses words, rhythms in sentences
and actors' voices as so many textural elements, as Chris Rodley commented in
Lynch on Lynch:
He [Lynch] has frequently referred with great enthusiasm to the
qualities of a particular actor's voice. His ear for the rhythms of speech, as
with all sounds, is highly tuned: The Grandmother, his second short,
reduced (or elevated) all dialogue to the status of pure sound effect. When one
considers what Isabella Rosselini has called his «hatred» of words -
on the basis that they are so «imprecise» - it's clear that Lynch's
relationship to language is not only complex, but unique in contemporary
cinema. `He's found a way to make words work for him' concludes Reavey. `He
uses them non-verbally. He paints with them. They are textural, and have a
sensory presence. He's very poetic.'250(*)
Lynch further talks about the importance of a particular
pronunciation in discussing Eraserhead with Chris Rodley:
Chris Rodley: How much did you work on the way characters spoke
in the film? The sparse dialogue seems to be delivered in a very particular
David Lynch: Well, it had to be a certain way. And it came out of
rehearsals. There are many ways they could speak that would be completely
wrong. And so you keep working for the way that is right for the character,
right for the mood. You get into phrasing, loud and soft, and this and that.
You could see dialogue as kind of a sound effect. And yet it has all this stuff
to do with character.251(*)
The notion of the right tone, therefore, does not come from
within the psychological depth of the character trying to express his emotions,
but from without: from the overall feel of the atmosphere. The implication is
that if it sounds right, it will also be right for the character.
The speech rhythm is particularly striking in the first part of
Lost Highway; the constrained way every word is uttered greatly
participates to the suffocating atmosphere of the house. The slowness of the
speech integrates the silence between words as so many suspended sentences. It
feels like the very air of the house is being suspended.
A completely different use of dialogue is made in the disco scene
in Fire Walk With Me. Because the music is so loud, the actors have to
yell at each other, and since they are barely intelligible, the scene has been
subtitled. Lynch explained his choices to Chris Rodley:
There were certain things that needed to be heard and understood.
At the same time, I can't stand to pot out the music so you can hear the
dialogue. In a club you can't hear anything, but you can hear something if the
person's yelling, and that was the idea. So music was cranked to the max and
people were really talking loud enough to be heard, so it worked. So the music
is at ten and the dialogue is at two, but you don't worry about it, because you
can use subtitles.252(*)
An interesting precedent in the use of language that is not
necessarily understood can be found in the soundtrack experiments made by Max
Ophuls for Lola Montes in 1955. The curator Stefan Drössler, who
is working on the restoration of the film, explains how the soundtrack had been
dubbed to «correct» some of Ophuls choices:
With subtitles used sparingly, large parts of the dialogue were
indecipherable for those unfamiliar with the foreign language. This is what
Ophuls wanted: to let the spectator understand only what is important. Language
was for him an acoustic element of the soundscape, conveying atmosphere rather
than content. He wrote: `The height of acting is achieved when the word itself
has lost its importance...the inner feelings words convey, may sometimes be
stronger, sometimes weaker than the words. Sometimes they're in contradiction
to them, the dialogue may drag along after the feeling...the experience begins
a long time before the word and ends a long time after it'. Thus there are in
the German premiere version a number of barely intelligible sequences in which
characters mumble and mutter or noise masks the dialogue in a similar way to
the foreground objects that at times obscure the actors.253(*)
For Ophuls, as for Lynch, words are not reduced to dialogues
whose function is to communicate information; they are also sounds which
participate to the perceptual aspect of the film.
Interestingly, linguistically Lynch also uses words as pure
signifier. As children learn, the word is linked to the image of what is
signified. In Blue Velvet, there is this surprising cut operated over
the word scissor: the coroner is explaining to Jeffrey that the ear has
probably been cut with scissors. As he pronounces the word «scissors»
there is a cut to the next shot which is a close-up of a pair of scissors, but
it is only cutting the «no trespassing» banner used to enclose the
field where the ear has been found. The effect is at turns violent and comical:
violent by its immediate association with the gruesome image of the amputation
of the ear, and comical as the scissors are revealed to be more innocent. Or
According to Michel Chion, Lynch had tried this superposition
between words and images without quite making the connection in
In fact, Lynch runs up against the limits of cinema. In
Dune, the words never quite manage to find an adequate incarnation
because they are too laden with symbolism from the outset. For example, the
word «spice» never quite attains and joins with the concrete,
recurring image of the black liquid which is its visual equivalent, maliciously
compared by some to a coffee advertisement. Lynch took an enormous but
admirable risk when he banked on the encounter between words and
The signifying presence of names is also at the heart of the
Dune project, as film and novel. Michel Chion analysed the verb as a
creative element in the film:
The verb in Dune is omnipresent, signifying,
ritualistic, serious. If there is humour (and there is) it comes from this
seriousness. We know that in Franck Herbert's novel, the onomastic is very
important; for instance the fact that the planet Dune is called most of the
time Arrakis. Franck Herbert knows that the space between the two names of the
same planet, or the same person, is for the imagination a greater expanse than
the millions of light-years between the galaxies. Becoming film, with the David
Lynch adaptation, the Verb will remain generator, representing places and
spaces. Planets are first names, space is interior (sublime sequence of the
travel to Arrakis, without moving). The word remains apart from what we see,
and the film lives, vibrates, from this interval.255(*)
A place or a character changes according to the name it is given.
The name is the identity. The name is creator of the identity. The character
played by Kyle Mac Lachlan, Paul Atreides, is not the same when he is Muad'Dib,
and yet he is not different.
This tension between names and identities is also present in
Mulholland Drive. Betty and Diane are one and the same person and yet,
they are not. What was in Betty is no longer in Diane. The interplay of names
and identity takes on a vertiginous twist with the character of Rita/Camilla.
Amnesic, when Betty asks for her name she borrows the name of «Rita»
from a poster she sees of the film Gilda. The character of Gilda,
played by Rita Hayworth in the film, is provocative and teasing, so Rita has
little in common with her namesake's part in that film. But when she returns,
in control, as Camilla Rhodes, she has become Gilda-like, provocative and
deliberately arousing Diane's jealousy.
Words and names become forces shaping the world around them. The
name shapes the personality, somehow echoing the idea that it is the manner a
material is folded, that is the way forces have acted upon it, that constitutes
Thus the elements composing a Lynch's film - visual, aural,
narrative or linguistic - come together to form the overall texture of the
film. They interplay with each other at different levels and cannot be clearly
differentiated from each other. It is the manner of their interaction that will
form the specific feel - or mood - of the film, not each element taken
THE DARK DEPTHS
Classic clearness means representation in ultimate,
enduring forms; baroque unclearness means making the forms look like something
changing, becoming. The whole transformation of classic form by the
multiplication of the members, the whole deformation of the old forms by
apparently senseless combinations, can be put under one heading. In absolute
clearness there lies a motive of that fixation of the figure which the baroque
eschewed on principle as something unnatural.256(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History.
The first lighting used by films was daylight. Louis
Lumière captured little portions of the sunlit world, and later, in the
United States, most sets were outdoors with the Californian sun providing the
lighting. For indoors scenes, lighting's only concern was to provide sufficient
light for the exposure of the film in the camera, and it generally consisted in
a diffuse overall illumination.
During the 1910s, technical improvements, such as the adoption
for lighting of arc equipment, allowed for lighting effects in the studios.
They permitted the use of directional light which could provide realistically
motivated sources of light and thus integrating the lighting within the
narrative, as the authors of Classical Hollywood explains:
With the classical drive to subsume every technique within the
overall motivation of the narrative, there came an interest in varying lighting
to suit the situation - to have the lighting issuing realistically from
narrative space and varying with circumstances.257(*)
Some experiments were made pushing the contrasts of light and
dark to its utmost, such as having a single source of light, for a candle light
scene, plunging the surrounding space in darkness. If such technical prowess
was praised, the use of extreme contrasts, obscuring the actors and their
actions and thus impeding the progression of the narrative, was generally
avoided in Hollywood. The general practice settled on a less obtrusive mode of
lightning balanced between realism and narrative requirements:
Selective lighting adds a pleasing aesthetic quality to the
image, but can be justified as having a source within the scenic space. Hence
it enhances the narrative effect while providing a modicum of spectacle in its
A more dramatic use of light was made by the German cinema of the
1920s. Influenced by the romanticism, German expressionist films are not so
much concerned about realistically motivated source of light, than they are
about revealing the shadows in human nature through the use of light. In the
German expressionism films, light and shadows are a projection of good and evil
forces and therefore reveal moral and psychological depth and turmoil. Emmanuel
Plasseraud speaks of `expressionist and fantastic shadows, which are an
expression of the dark depth of mankind.'259(*) Gilles Deleuze in Cinema 1 considers
(Expressionism) invokes [...] a dark, swampy life into which
everything plunges, whether chopped up by shadows or plunged into mists.
The non-organic life of things, a frightful life, which is oblivious
to the wisdom and limits of the organism, is the first principle of
Expressionism, valid for the whole of nature, that is, for the unconscious
spirit, lost in darkness, light which has become opaque, lumen
Examples of an antagonistic relationship between light and
darkness can be found in the cinema of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931). In
Nosferatu (1924), Dracula is the shadow moving on the world,
which only the light of love (and dawn) can defeat. In Faust (1926),
the fight is concentrated within one man for whom soul the devil and the
Archangel St Michael are fighting. Light and shadow move over the face of Faust
as so many conflicts. In the films of Fritz Lang, such as Metropolis
(1928), the projected shadows of the characters seem to take the shape of
their fears or desires. This expressionist use of light is to be found in the
«American Gothic» horror film of the 1930s, in the films of James
Whale, such as Frankenstein (1932) and The Bride of
In his essay on baroque cinema, Vestiges du baroque:
l'origine fantasmée (2000), Emmanuel Plasseraud
differentiates the expressionist shadow to a baroque one, of which he gives a
The baroque apprehends the shadow for its implicit instability,
inconsistency and immateriality. It offers the shadow an autonomous life, which
is not threatening, but rather disturbing.261(*)
The shadows which often mask the faces of the characters in Orson
Welles' films are not the mark of evil at work, but the disturbing
undecidability of their identity. The only thing anyone can be sure of, about
Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane is what he has accomplished or
built. His motivations remain in the shadows. The character of Hank Quinlan in
Touch of Evil is even more ambiguous since the viewer cannot even
ascertain his achievements as a detective.
The seventeenth century found a beauty in the darkness
which swallows up the form. The style of movement, impressionism, of its very
nature tends to a certain unclearness. It is adopted, not as the product of a
naturalistic conception - the visible world simply not yielding fully clear
picture - but because there is a taste for indeterminate clarity. Only in this
way did impressionism become possible. Its conditions lie in the field of
decoration, not only of imitation.262(*)
Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History.
Lynch's films generally begin in darkness. From the darkness,
faces or stars appear. The darkness is cosmic. It is the floating
planet-like-face of Henri in Eraserhead, the luminous face of John
Merrick's mother in The Elephant Man or Princess Irulan's face
hovering over the darkness of the known universe in Dune. It is an
undulating piece of blue velvet which opens Blue Velvet but it becomes
the darkness of outer space before the camera slowly moves down to the sunny
world of Lumberton. The darkness is engulfed in fire for Wild at
Heart, and covered in snow for Fire Walk With Me, but it
surrounds the racing portion of lighted road for Lost Highway. The
camera moves slowly amongst the stars for The Straight Story, and pans
over the bejewelled darkness of night time Los Angeles in Mulholland
Like the baroque painters, Lynch prefers to prime his screen with
darkness from which the light will draw the shapes out. Deleuze described this
This is a baroque contribution: in place of the white chalk or
plaster that primes the canvas, Tintoretto and Caravaggio use a dark, red-brown
background on which they place the thickest shadows, and paint directly by
shading toward the shadows. The painting is transformed. Things jump out of the
background, colors spring from the common base that attests to their obscure
nature, figures are defined by their covering more than their
Pauline Kael remarked about Blue Velvet, that Lynch's
creative powers seem to be more particularly engaged when dealings with the
shadows than by the sunlight:
Lynch's imagistic talent, which is for the dark and
unaccountable, flattens out in the sunlight scenes [...] His work goes back to
the avant-garde filmmakers of the twenties and thirties, who were often
painters - and he himself trained to be one. He takes off from the experimental
traditions that Hollywood has usually ignored.264(*)
Thus she compares him to, either the German expressionist style,
or the influence it had on American cinema. A cinema where the shadows, which
are relegated to a shading function in the classical Hollywood film, have their
place on the screen.
However, there are important differences between the
expressionist approach to darkness and Lynch's. Firstly, he is very attentive
about providing a realistically motivated source of light, to the cost of some
readability as Ron Garcia, the cinematographer of Fire Walk With Me
recounts from the making of a scene in the forest with Laura and Bobby:
`David doesn't like night-time exteriors to look like they're
lit', Garcia recounts with a sigh. `He said, «Where does the light come
from?» and I replied, «It comes from the same place as the music,
David». Well, he didn't go for that; he wanted the whole scene to be lit
just by flashlights, which we'd done on the pilot.'265(*)
And Lynch does not use fantastic shadows either, such as can be
seen in Nosferatu, where Dracula is preceded by his fantastically
drawn out shadow. In Lost Highway for instance, after Fred has gone
down the corridor and Renee calls him, two shadows are seen to be making their
way back to the bedroom. These are the ordinary fuzzy shadows a dim light would
provide, just indicating the movement of two bodies not their exact anatomy.
Which somehow makes them more frightening.
The other difference from the expressionist style is the meaning
of darkness. Lynch's darkness is not evil; at least not necessarily so. Pauline
Kael remarked that the darkness of Blue Velvet was not alienating, but
It's the fantasy (rather than the plot) that's organic, and
there's no sticky-sweet lost innocence, because the darkness was always there,
inside. The film's kinkiness isn't alienating-its naïveté keeps it
from that. And its vision isn't alienating: this is American darkness-darkness
in colour, darkness with a happy ending. Lynch might turn out to be the first
The theme of the coupling of light/dark with good/evil as been
developed at length by Martha Nochimson in her study of David Lynch, The
Passion of David Lynch. She compares David Lynch's use of these
oppositions to those of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. She supports an
argument that the three directors have dissociated the usual evil/dark and
good/light association. She gives as examples the occurrences of evil in open
sunlit spaces such as many scenes from The Birds or the crop duster
attack in North By Northwest, and from Lynch's films:
They most obviously resemble each other in the unusual intensity
of audience response to their alteration of bad/good-dark/light narrative
polarities. Lynch's filming of many of his most threatening scenes in full
light intensifies the shock to the audience's nervous system, as in Blue
Velvet where, although Lynch uses virtual three-point lighting, violence
lurks just beneath the surface of every word and gesture at Ben's place. Bob
materializes in the sun-drenched living room of the Hayward home in Twin
Peaks, and when he appears in darkness he is suffused with a light within
which there are no shadows.267(*)
She concludes that in their work `morality is irrelevant to the
experience of dark and light'.268(*) Ron Garcia gives a more pragmatic point of view over
the circumstances leading to some aesthetic decisions for Fire Walk with
Me to Stephen Pizzello:
`We went up to Seattle with the assumption that the shoot would
be just like the pilot, when the sun never shone. It was overcast all the time,
so we pumped in all this color and gave it this unique look. This time, we went
up there and found all of this sunshine! We decided to exploit the contrast:
here was this incredible scenery, with these golds and greens and blue skies,
against which these horrible things were happening to Laura Palmer. It wasn't
designed that way, it just happened that way.'269(*)
Thus the circumstances and the mood of a scene, rather than a
moralistic approach, will decide its lighting, and Fire Walk With Me
turned out to be, arguably, the most morally disturbing of Lynch's film while
being one of his sunniest.
Thus if the films of David Lynch come out of the darkness, this
darkness is neither evil nor fantastic. In her review of Mulholland
Drive, Martha Nochimson proposes a possible reading:
Lynch does not see darkness as a morally negative place, but as a
space of the unknown of the subconscious, from which anything; both the
marvelous and the terrible can emerge.270(*)
Leibniz is haunted by depth of the soul, the dark depth,
the «fuscum subnigrum». Substances or souls `draw everything from
their own depths'. That is the second aspect of mannerism, without which the
first would remain empty. The first is the spontaneity of manners that is
opposed to the essentiality of the attribute. The second is the omnipresence of
the dark depths which is opposed to the clarity of form, and without which
manners would have no place to surge forth from. The entire formula of the
mannerism of substances is: `All is born to them out of their own depths,
through a perfect spontaneity.'271(*)
Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque
In the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, at the end of his
first meeting with the town people, special agent Dale Cooper warns them
against the night: `I will remind you that these crimes occurred at night'. It
is an oddly paradoxical statement coming from someone who does not hesitate to
trust his dreams to solve a criminal case. And in Lynch's films if the night is
full of crimes, it is also full of stars and dreams. Starry skies open two of
his films: Dune and The Straight Story, and if, for
Mulholland Drive, it is the lights of Los Angeles over which the
opening credits roll, they shine as so many stars in the night. In his entry on
`Night' in the Lynch's kit, Michel Chion comments on its meaning:
Why should night acquire such meanings? Perhaps because its
mantle of darkness erases the distinct contours of objects and reconstitutes a
lost whole. Darkness unifies and fuses what light separates. Night rejoins what
And this separation can be painful for those that are not ready.
In the opening shot of Lost Highway, Fred Madison is sitting in
darkness in his home. He is drawn out of the dark by a pull on his cigarette
which lights part of his face. As the window blind opens and lets the morning
light in, he winces with pain (see Fig. 10). It looks as if this process of
coming to the light is full of discomfort and sufferings for Fred. His whole
presence feels uncertain. His discomfort becomes aggressiveness toward
everything that surrounds him.
His identity, as much as his body seems to be made of an unstable
matter, not quite finding the space to exist in the daylight; he will walk back
into the darkness, down the corridor, but he will not re-emerge alone. The
terrible is accompanying him (see Fig. 11).
This difficulty to be in the light, to become oneself, was
already at the heart of the Laura Palmer's character in Fire Walk with
Me. As Laura says to Donna: `Night-time is my time', it is the time where
she can try to become herself.
From the darkness also emerges the marvellous. In
Eraserhead, it is the «beautiful girl across the hall» who
materialises out of the darkness beyond Henri's door. After he heard a knock on
his door he opens it on complete darkness. As he is intensely scrutinizing it,
his beautiful neighbour slowly emerges and asks to come in. In Blue
Velvet, there is a similar scene for the first encounter of Jeffrey and
Sandy. As Jeffrey comes out of the William's house he turns around as he hears
a voice asking: `are you the one who found the ear?' As he looks, the screen is
filled with darkness and it takes a few seconds for Sandy to emerge from it and
to appear to Jeffrey (see Fig. 12).
Commenting on the Blue Box in Mulholland Drive, Martha
Nochimson further elaborates on the power of darkness:
Given Lynch's faith in darkness as the loam of both creativity
and destruction, these aspects of the unseen that emerge from the box, are most
fruitfully read as contingent on the integrity of the sensibility that enters
The darkness in Lynch's film is not a void or a black hole; it is
a loam from which the better and the worst can emerge. Characters come out and
return to the primordial matter: the darkness.
Given the importance of its generative powers, it is little
wonder that Lynch is so specific about what the darkness should look like. Fred
Elmes, the cinematographer of Blue Velvet speaks to Ron Magid about
the technical difficulties involved to get it right:
For Fred Elmes (cinematographer), the greatest challenge on Blue
Velvet was to insure that the liquid blacks that Lynch demanded were preserved
in the release prints of the film. `That was one of the things I was most
concerned about' Elmes concurs. `It's a dark story-and we knew that there were
a lot of night exteriors and there were a lot of times in Dorothy's apartment
where there wasn't much light because the mood required it to be dim. We needed
to maintain a quality in the negative that in the final release print would
give us a rich black that duplicated what we saw when we photographed the
This is echoed by Peter Deming, the cinematographer of Lost
Highway, as reported by Stephen Pizzello:
Deming says that his biggest challenge on the show was trying to
accommodate Lynch's love of dark, inky visuals. `It was a struggle' he
concedes. `I know what David likes; if he had his way, everything would be a
little underexposed and murky, which is a murder to me'.275(*)
Peter Deming recounts, with some detail, the difficulty
encountered by the whole crew to obtain the effects Lynch wanted for the scene
where Fred vanishes down the corridor:
For certain key scenes, super-minimal lighting schemes were
employed to great effect. A particularly impressive example of this strategy is
the filmmakers' sepulchral rendering of the Madison's main hallway, which has a
foreboding quality reminiscent of the work of one of Lynch's favourite
painters, Francis Bacon. Achieving this look required some deft interplay
between the various crewmembers. `Fortunately, the hallway was a setting we
could control, even though we were shooting at a real house', says Deming.
`Patty Norris and her crew physically altered the structure, making the hallway
as long as possible. She also helped me by putting Bill Pullman in dark
clothes, and by painting the walls a color that wouldn't reflect too much
light. To cap things off, we hung a black curtain over the windows at the end
of the hall.' [...] `The 98 (film stock) can really pick up details in the
dark, so I knew that we were in trouble if the end of the hallway didn't
disappear to the naked eye,' says Deming. 276(*)
Deming concludes on Lynch's choice of darkness:
`David feels that a murky black darkness is scarier than a
completely black darkness; he wanted this particular hallway to be a slightly
brownish black that would swallow characters up.'277(*)
From these dark depths, how can the characters surging from it
take their place in the light? The only time that Fred Madison seems to exist,
to occupy his space, is at the Luna Lounge, performing on stage as a saxophone
player. His activity as a musician may have been his way out. The only time he
tries to engage in communication with someone is after one of the detective,
who came to check the Madison's house, asks him a question about his musical
Detective 1: You're a musician?
Detective 2: What's your act?
Fred: Tenor, tenor sax. (Tentatively) Do you?
Detective 2 (laughing): No, tone deaf.
Fred's tentative effort to engage is abruptly ended; what can a
musician have to share with a tone deaf person? The rest of the dialogue is
indeed a «dialogue de sourds»: a succession of misunderstandings and
This notion of metamorphosis is governed by a baroque
axiom, borrowed from the Venetian opera: one must produce effects to engender
affects, and these affects create beings. I thus retain these three terms,
effects, affects and beings, and these three terms constitute the triumph of
the baroque, for these effects establish manners as infinite operations and
operations of the infinite.278(*)
Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Orlan, Triomphe du
Lynch's films are full of places where characters perform on
stage or are affected by the performance on stage. These places are generally
clubs or theatres. The performances are often musical and generally consist of
a singing act (except Fred Madison, who plays the sax). The emotional
investment in the words of the song from either the performer or the listener
seems to unlock an aspect of their persona. As if the words were containing
some key to their ill-being.
In Fire Walk With Me, one of the only moments of
retrieval for Laura Palmer is when she goes into the Roadhouse and she listens,
crying, to the singing of Julee Cruise. The music with its slow and melancholic
melodies is strangely at odds with the place, a biker's bar more easily
associated with Rock music for instance. The song strongly affects Laura and
for a moment there is a glimpse of a possible alteration of her downward
trajectory; it offers the possibility that the song will have effects on her
capacity to react, in spite of the fact that the spectator of Twin
Peaks already knows this is not going to happen. Eventually, Laura brushes
away her emotions and goes on with her original intentions, plunging
The power of songs also affect Frank Booth, in Blue
Velvet; at the Slow Club as he sits crying while listening to Dorothy
singing Blue Velvet, and at Ben's place, where he is strangely moved again
while Ben lip synchs In Dreams over Roy Orbison's voice. These are the only
moments where some tenderness pierces through the bullish persona of Frank. The
song seems to touch in him feelings that he is unable to translate in his
behaviour and switch them off as he ragingly turns off the tape recorder. The
possibility of another Frank Booth is quickly perceived and gone. When in the
next scene Frank mouths the words of In Dreams to Jeffrey they have become
venomous and threatening. The promise the song seemed to contain has become a
The promised possibilities of songs was already present in
Eraserhead when the «lady from the radiator» was singing to
In heaven everything is fine
You've got your good things
And I got mine
However, the power of song is ambiguous; it can be misleading as
well as redemptory. In The Elephant Man, it is partly the magical
power of the musical which John Merrick has seen in the theatre that enhances
his desire for normality and leads him to suicide, as Martha Nochimson argued
in The Passion of David Lynch:
Through its sweet poison, the pantomime eclipses, as no Bytes or
night porter ever could, the life-giving tension that Merrick represents, that
which has made him so precious to Mrs. Kendal and to Ann and Frederick
In Mulholland Drive, the power of performance will take
particular pre-eminence. The idea of lip synch already presents in Blue
Velvet with Ben's performance will be taken further. First there is the
series of auditions for the film Adam is making, The Sylvia North Story, where
the actresses perform recorded songs. This set up reinforces the artificiality
of the selection process - which the spectator knows to be biased and just wait
for the `This is the girl' order to go through.
This scene is also the counterpart to the precedent where Betty
was performing another kind of lip synch for her audition. She had been
rehearsing the scene earlier with Rita, over-acting her melodramatic part.
Michel Chion remarked:
What is frightening in her is the impossibility to know whether
she acts or whether she believes in it, as if she could not stop herself, and
was risking the whole of her identity in the least of her acts.280(*)
For the audition, even though the text is absolutely identical,
Betty transforms it in a strongly erotic scene, as Martha Nochimson
Her reading portrays the magic and wonder of artistic creativity
when she creates something - a dangerously erotic mood - out of absolutely
Betty's act shows a depth of emotions which did not seem to be in
her as the naïve blonde, however this capacity for desire and hatred
introduces the Diane she is to become - the final: `I'll kill you, I'll kill us
both' of the scene becomes strangely prophetic. Thus the enacting and
re-enacting of words takes on strange resonance.
Thierry Jousse commented on the film:
To live to speak to sing in lip synch (play back), that is to
repeat words already written in giving them a different interpretation, in
changing their direction, such is the story of the characters and the cinema of
The most dramatic scene however, is when Rita takes Betty to Club
Silencio in the middle of the night. The Club Silencio looks like a traditional
theatre with its stalls and balcony - and a stage with heavy red curtains. A
performer announces what seems to be the principle of the show: `No hay banda,
there is no band'. He specifies that everything is recorded and he demonstrates
a few tricks of recording which for all their naïve magic have a chilling
effect; a stick lands soundlessly and a trumpeter is shown to be silent. This
demonstration sends Betty in an uncontrollable shake, and both, her and Rita
looks scared. The next act is the singer Rebekah Del Rio; Annette Davison
describes the performance in her essay on David Lynch:
The integrity of live performance is subsequently re-affirmed by
the following act, singer Rebekah Del Rio; the performer audibly knocks the
microphone as she takes up her position on stage. During her impassioned
performance of Roy Orbison's `Crying' (sung in Spanish), we see close-up shots
of Ms Del Rio's face which function to persuade us that the performance we are
seeing is real - that is, live - rather than recorded. In the middle of the
song Ms Del Rio suddenly falls on the ground unconscious, though her vocal
performance continues on the soundtrack. The impact of this moment is
startling: in retrospect, the magician's control and manipulation of the
soundtrack is foregrounded.283(*)
The singing a-cappella of Rebekah Del Rio, with a rich and
resounding voice seemingly blows away the precedent unease by its emotional
integrity. The performance affects Betty and Rita so deeply; they break down in
tears. When Rebekah Del Rio collapses as an empty shell on the stage while her
voice keeps vibrating in the air - as announced: everything is recorded - the
effect is devastating. The dissociation of this full body voice from the
sensual presence of the performer leaves Betty and Rita stunned. The
performance, which had seemed to carry some answers, is revealed as fake, just
as Ben singing In Dreams in Blue Velvet. But whereas Frank became
enraged, Betty falls apart and vanishes soon after.
The performance of words and songs in Lynch's films has a strange
formative power through the affect of the characters. To take place in the
light, Lynch's character need to perform or to project themselves in words.
The cinematic world of David Lynch begins before the coming of
light, in the full and morally unmarked darkness. These unbounded dark depths
may be what he will come to call the Unified Field.284(*) When the light comes to draw
the characters out of the dark it is often a difficult moment for them. To
become - conscious? - they need to act out a part, but they are always at risk
of choosing the «wrong» role which instead of bringing out their
potential, annihilates them. Fred Madison could have focussed his being around
music instead of the supposed infidelity of his wife. Betty could have stayed
with Adam after their intense exchange of looks and maybe altered both their
fate instead of rushing off to act her «saviour» role with Rita.
In The Straight Story as Alvin Straight journeys toward
the past, he recounts parts of his life, from which his alienation appears
gradually more evident. He teaches lessons in life to his companions but, as
Martha Nochimson remarked in her review of the film, he did not apply them
Alvin is a disquieting portrait of American frontier machismo,
warts and all. Now near the end of his life, Alvin dispenses wisdom about
maintaining strong familial and communal ties, but it is hard won and contrasts
with his own relational failures.285(*)
The journey to reconcile himself with his brother thus seems like
his last attempt to act his life on his own terms, forgoing his pride, the
ridiculousness of his equipment and other material problems. The decision to go
is taken during a stormy night as if the darkness and the violence of the
elements outside - and the fear of death brought about by the strokes that hit
both brothers - had allowed for a complete change of attitude. The film ends,
as it started, with the expanding darkness of the universe, as Lyle and Alvin
look at it together as when they were kids.
It was not the aim of this study to establish whether David
Lynch's films are baroque, nor to establish once and for all what a baroque
film is, but rather to develop within the specific context of these films the
possibilities of a baroque aesthetic. Most of the uses that have been
previously made of the notion of baroque as applied to films were imported from
the baroque literature. Thus it had developed a certain a number of
characteristics which already removed from their visual arts context, lent
themselves rather too easily to generalisation.
In keeping close to the formal definition developed by
Wölfflin, I tried to investigate films from a visual arts perspective
rather than a literary one and thus to reinvest some of the terms attached to
the idea of the baroque - such as movement, decorative, accumulative, elliptic,
complexity, obscurity, mystery - but within the more specific context of a
formal definition and Deleuze's development upon Leibniz' philosophy. This
study aimed to find out what those terms would mean to David Lynch' films.
The analysis of the films of David Lynch has approached the
possibility of a transposition of the formal principles of the baroque to the
cinematic medium. It may have yielded new perspectives in the analysis of
films. This study also tried to open up relationships with the more conceptual
traits of the baroque, such as has been developed by Gilles Deleuze, to suggest
representations of the world according to a baroque aesthetic.
The transposition of the notion of linear and non-linear
representation, in the first chapter, rising considerations around the
difference between linearity and continuity can be seen as a different take
upon the notion of elliptical or circular composition - often associated with
the baroque. It seemed more appropriate to Leibniz' ideas and Lynch's films to
develop the notion of continuity and micro-infinities. The multiple realms of
reality in David Lynch's have often been remarked upon by critics, but the
notion of non-linear continuity developed by Deleuze may have call attention to
the tight continuous structure of his films in space and time. This approach
suggested a possible representation of a world, which while not being linear -
or plane - was nevertheless continuous, thus offering an alternative to the
opposition of a classical linear continuity and a necessarily fragmented
In the second chapter, the study of composition was linked to
movement and perspective. Developing upon the notion of the point of view shot
in films, it questioned the overall neutral point of view developed by the
classical system to investigate the possibilities of a subjective cinema. It
suggested the development of the point-of-view shot as a perspectivism which
would allows for the multiplicity of the event. The multiplication of possible
perspectives allows for the ambiguous integrity of the event to remain.
In approaching the question of montage, the third chapter
developed upon the notion balance between form and content which the classical
system aims for, and how are symmetries used to contain the progress of the
action and ultimately its meaning. This chapter suggested a use of symmetries
which instead of closing the gap between actions, makes them resonate - in a
kind of action and reaction process - thus opening up the fabric of the film to
multiple interpretations. It is echoes by the disequilibrium, which runs
through all baroque forms, caused by the tension between the finite and the
infinite: `the infinite present in the finite self'.
In the fourth chapter the development of the notion of texture is
a more specific approach to the somewhat vague term of decorative. If
decoration and accumulation of details is important in the baroque it is
because it invests them of a particular importance. It is echoed by Deleuze in
the idea of concentration of matter and that life and organism are everywhere.
Thus decoration and details are a manifestation of this swarming life. In
relation to Lynch's films the notion developed around his love of textures and
their importance in the structure of his films
The fifth and last chapter was concerned with the notion of
darkness. Darkness and mysteries are often associated with the baroque and this
chapter tried to develop upon what makes the baroque darkness. Not the
classical darkness where evil lurks, nor a void, the baroque darkness is the
potential of all things before its becoming. For Leibniz the depths of the mind
are dark because the mind contains the infinity of the world but can only
perceive clearly a small portion of it. The darkness in the mind is the dimly
perceived infinity of the world. This notion was particularly relevant to
Lynch's films and may have suggested new approaches to his treatment of night
What Lynch's cinema proposes is a highly individual approach to
the cinematographic material, reinvesting it with each new film. In his review
of Dune, Michel Chion expressed what he found stimulating in Lynch's
cinema even when it failed:
David Lynch is not a victim of the pernicious formula, from which
come, in my opinion, most of today's academism, which reduces cinema to images
and sounds. Passionate for the cinematographic material, he keeps on believing
that cinema is also made of faces, bodies, people, visions and words. According
to this, he embraces all of this material, which still resist him sometimes,
but this resistance to his will to make the work, this resistance that he lets
be, give to his work a tension, an intensity a lot more interesting than all
the present-day poetics of the artificial.286(*)
Part of Lynch's approach can be understood by his belief in
mysteries of which he talked to Bill Krohn:
For me there is more than one mystery. A mystery is what is
closest to a dream. The word «mystery» is exciting. Enigmas,
mysteries are wonderful until they are resolved. I believe we have to respect
This respect for mysteries may lead him to preserve the intensity
and opacity of the material he films rather than try to elucidate all possible
The latest passion of David Lynch is for the Internet. He has set
up his own website and has devoted himself to its conception for the past few
years. He has created some animation and short films for it.288(*) The possibilities offered by
the web may allow Lynch to develop further the form of narrativity which he had
been attracted to with the television serial format. It also has the advantage
to offer a direct access to the viewer thus bypassing the restrictions Lynch
had encountered with television networks.
This interest for cyberspace resonates with the speculations
elaborated by Slavoj Zizek from his approach to Lost Highway:
In a closer historical analysis, it is crucial not to conceive
this narrative procedure of the multiple perspectives encircling of an
impossible Real as a direct result of cyberspace technology. Technology and
ideology are inextricably intertwined; ideology is inscribed already in the
very technological features of cyberspace. [...] Today we are approaching a
homologous threshold: a new «life experience» is in the air, a
perception of life that explodes the forms of the linear centered narrative and
renders life as a multiform flow.289(*)
In the same work, Zizek further elaborates on the new
possibilities of representation of reality offered by cyberspace:
The final conclusion to be drawn is that «reality» and
the experience of its density, is sustained not simply by A/ONE fantasy, but by
an inconsistent multitude of fantasies; this multitude generates the effect of
the impenetrable density that we experience as «reality». The
fantasmatic support of reality is in itself necessarily multiple and
inconsistent. [...] We can see now how the purely virtual, non actual universe
of cyberspace can «touch the real» the real we are talking about is
not the «raw» pre-symbolic Real of «nature in itself», but
the spectral hard core of «psychic reality» itself. 290(*)
However some reservations could be formulated, something that for
all its artifices the baroque never forgot: the body; the need for an event to
be inscribed in matter; to have a body to realise itself in. Without a body the
event remains purely virtual: potential in waiting. Steven Shaviro suggests a
different approach to cyber-technologies, questioning their possible
interaction with bodily perceptions:
Psychoanalysis is most often taken as a deconstruction of the
supposedly unitary bourgeois subject, and as a liberation of the forces
repressed within it. I want to suggest that this is far too limited a view; the
decentred psychoanalytic subject is not something that comes after the
Cartesian bourgeois subject, but something that is strictly correlative with
it. In contrast, a new post-human subject will have to point away from Freudian
and lacanian conceptions of decentred subjects as much as from the unitary
Cartesian one. [...] I think that current technological changes can be
correlated with changes in the way we sense and feel our increasingly
media-saturated world. And in the longer run these changes will increasingly
affect the actual matter of our bodies, as well as the ways we think about our
However attractive the new formal possibilities of cyber-space,
some problems remain. Compared to a theatrical release, the distribution of a
work through the web will necessarily loose some of its sensual qualities;
diminishing the perceptual dimension of the work. Another problem is the
formation of a community around the time and space of the reception. A
theatrical venue physically brings together a group of people to experience the
same film. The television serial gains in repetition what it looses in physical
space: it reunites week after week viewers at a specific time therefore forming
a community in the continuity of the repetition of the rendezvous. Whether the
individualised access to the web can permit this type of synergy is therefore
another problem of the cyber-medium.
That new aesthetic forms are emerging is inevitable, but it is
unlikely that this will happen without our world of appearances and our body to
take place in.
For some time now the idea of an infinite universe has been
hypothesized, a universe that has lost all centre as well as any
figure that could be attributed to it; but the essence of the Baroque is that
it is given unity, through a projection that emanates from a summit as
a point of view. For some time the world has been understood on a theatrical
basis, as a dream, an illusion - as Harlequin's costume, as Leibniz would say.
But the essence of the Baroque entails neither falling into nor emerging from
illusion but rather realizing something in illusion itself, or of
tying it to a spiritual presence that endows its spaces and fragments
with a collective unity.292(*)
When you picture a duck you picture a bill, and a head, and a
neck and body and legs...the bill is a certain color and a certain length and a
certain texture. And it is completely different [from anything else on the
duck], although there is something in the color and the texture that is a
little similar to the legs of the duck and it is very important that that is
the way that is. Then the head comes up out of that...and the head comes up and
comes down into this fantastic S curve. And the feathers on the head are kind
of short and swift because it's faster, the bill and the head have to be a
faster area. It can't be very big. The head is slower, and the neck has that S
curve that lets you come down to the body. The body is kind of uneventful in a
way. It can't have too much fast area. It's a big kind of fluffy kind of smooth
area. And then it has these more complicated textures in the feet. And the
texture is reminiscent of the bill and it returns back to the bill and makes
this trip. The eye wants to go down the S curve and it gets to the feet and it
makes the whole trip.
In The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in
Hollywood, Martha Nochimson, Texas University Press, 1997, p.25.
SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY OF DAVID LYNCH
Six Men Getting Sick
1967, animation, 1 min.
Writer and photographer: David Lynch
Producer: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1968, 16 mm colors, 4 mins. (part animation)
Director, writer and photographer: David Lynch
Producer: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, H. Barton
Actress: Peggy Lynch
1970, 16mm colors, 34 mins. (part animation), American film
Institute, David Lynch
Director, writer and photographer: David Lynch
Sound effects: Alan Splet
Actors: Richard White (the boy), Dorothy McGinnis (the
grandmother), Virginia Maitland (the mother), Robert Chadwick (the father)
1976, 35 mm black and white, 89 mins., American Film Institute
for advanced Studies, David Lynch
Director and writer: David Lynch
Photographer: Frederick Elmes and Herbert Cardwell
Sound effects: Alan Splet and David Lynch
Principal actors: Jack Nance (Henry Spencer), Charlotte Stewart
(Mary X), Jeanne Bates (Mary's mother), Allen Joseph (Mary's father), Judith
Anna Roberts (Beautiful Girl Across the Hall), Jack Fisk (The Man on the
Planet), Laurel Near (The Lady from the Radiator)
The Elephant Man
1980, Panavision Dolby Stereo, black and white, 124 mins.,
Director: David Lynch
Writer: Eric Bergren, Christopher DeVore and David Lynch (based
on the book The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick
Treves and The Elephant Man: A study in Human Dignity by Ashley
Photographer: Freddie Francis
Sound effects: Alan Splet
Principal actors: Anthony Hopkins (Frederick Treves), John Hurt
(John Merrick), Anne Bancroft (Madge Kendal), Sir John Gielgud (Carr Gomm),
Wendy Hiller (mothers head), Freddie Jones (Bytes), Michael Elphick (the night
porter), Hannah Gordon (Merrick's mother)
1984, CinemaScope, Technicolor Dolby Stereo, 137 mins., Dino De
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch from Franck Herbert's novel
Photographer: Freddie Francis
Sound effects: Alan Splet
Principal actors: Kyle MacLachlan (Paul Atreides), Francesca
Annis (Lady Jessica), Sting (Feyd Rautha), Dean Stockwell (The Doctor
Wellington Yueh), Sian Phillips (The Reverent Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam), Max
Von Sydow ( The Doctor Kynes), Jurgen Prochnow ( Duke Leto Atreides),
José Ferrer (The Emperor Shaddam IV), Brad Dourif (Piter De Vries),
Freddie Jones (Thufir Hawat), Linda Hunt (La Shadout Mapes), Sean Young
(Chani), Kenneth McMillan (The Baron Wladimir Harkonnen), Everett McGill
(Stilgar), Virginia Madsen (Princess Irulan), Silvana Mangano (The Reverent
1986, CinemaScope Technicolor Dolby stereo, 120 mins., De
Laurentiis entertainment Group
Director and writer: David Lynch
Photographer: Frederick Elmes
Sound effect: Alan Splet
Principal actors: Kyle MacLachlan (Jeffrey Beaumont), Laura Dern
(Sandy Williams), Isabella Rosselini (Dorothy Vallens), Dennis Hopper (Frank
Booth), Hope Lange (Mrs Williams), Dean Stockwell (Ben), George Dickerson
1989, Television Serial (pilot and 29 episodes), Lynch-Frost
productions, Propaganda Films, Spelling Entertainment, for ABC Worldvision
Director: David Lynch (pilot and episodes 2, 8, 9, 14 and 29)
Writer: David Lynch and Mark Frost
Photographer: Ron Garcia
Principal actors: Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer), Kyle MacLachlan
(Dale Cooper), Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry S. Truman), Mädchen Amick
(Shelly Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Richard Beymer (Benjamin
Horne), Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Hayward), Joan Chen (Jocelyn Packard), Sherilyn
Fenn (Audrey Horne), Piper Laurie (Catherine Packard Martell), Peggy Lipton
(Norma Jennings), James Marshall (James Hurley), Everett McGill (Ed Hurley),
Jack Nance (Pete Martell), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Grace Zabriskie (Sarah
Wild at Heart
1990, CinemaScope Technicolor Dolby Stereo, 124 mins., Propaganda
Films for Polygram
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch from a novel by Barry Gifford
Photographer: Frederick Elmes
Sound effects: Randy Thom and Don Power
Principal actors: Nicolas Cage (Sailor Ripley), Laura Dern (Lula
Pace Fortune), Diane Ladd (Marietta Pace), Harry Dean Stanton (Johnnie
Faragut), Willem Defoe (Bobby Peru), Isabella Rossellini (Perdita Durango), J.
E. Freeman (Marcello Santos)
On The Air
1991-92, Television serial (7 episodes), Lynch-Frost productions,
Twin Peaks Productions (episode 1 only), for ABC Worldvision Entertainments
Director: David Lynch (episode 1)
Writer: David Lynch and Mark Frost (episode 1)
Photographer: Don Garcia (episode 1)
Principal actors: Ian Buchanan (Lester Guy), Nancye Ferguson
(Betty Hudson), Miguel Ferrer (Buddy Budwaller)
1992, Television anthology (3 episodes), Asymmetrical Productions
and Propaganda Films for HBO
Director: David Lynch: Tricks and Blackout;
James Signorelli: Getting Rid of Robert
Writer: Barry Gifford: Tricks and Blackout; Jay
McInerney: Getting Rid of Robert
Photographer: Peter Deming
Principal actors: Tricks: Glenne Headly (Darlene),
Freddie Jones (Lou), Harry Dean Stanton (Mo)
Getting Rid of Robert: Griffin Dunne (Robert), Deborah
Unger (Sasna), Mariska Hargitay (Tina), Chelsea Field (Dianne)
Blackout: Crispin Glover (Danny), Alicia Witt (Diane)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
1992, 35 mm colors Dolby Stereo, 134 mins., Ciby (Francis
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch and Robert Engels
Photographer: Ron Garcia
Sound conception: David Lynch
Principal actors: Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer), Kyle MacLachlan
(Dale Cooper), Mädchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby
Briggs), Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady), Eric DaRe (Leo Johnson), Chris Isaak
(Agent special Chet Desmond), Moira Kelly (Donna Hayward), Peggy Lipton (Norma
Jennings), David Lynch (Gordon Cole), James Marshall (James Hurley), Frank
Silva (Bob), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Kiefer Sutherland (Sam Stanley)
1997, CinemaScope Technicolor Dolby Stereo, 135 mins., Ciby 2000/
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch and Barry Gifford
Photographer: Peter Deming
Sound conception: David Lynch
Principal actors: Bill Pullman (Fred Madison), Patricia Arquette
(Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield), Balthazar Getty (Pete Dayton), Robert Blake
(The Mystery Man), Natasha Gregson Wagner (Sheila), Richard Pryor (Arnie),
Michael Massee (Andy), Jack Nance (Phil), Lucy Butler (Candace Dayton), Gary
Busey (Bill Dayton), Robert Loggia (Mr eddy/Dick Laurent)
The Straight Story
1999, CinemaScope, color, Dolby Stereo, 112 mins., Walt Disney
Pictures in association with Les Films Alain Sarde and Le Studio Canal+, with
the participation of Film Four and Picture Factory Productions
Director: David Lynch
Writer: John Roach and Mary Sweeney
Photographer: Freddie Francis
Sound conception: David Lynch
Principal actors: Richard Farnsworth (Alvin Straight), Sissy
Spacek (Rose), Harry Dean Stanton (Lyle Straight)
2001, 1,85 color, Dolby SRD, 146mins., Les Films Alain Sarde,
Studiocanal, Asymmetrical Productions.
Director and Writer: David Lynch
Photographer: Peter Deming
Sound conception: David Lynch
Principal actors: Naomi Watts (Betty/Diane Selwyn), Laura Elena
Harring (Rita/Camilla Rhodes), Justin Theroux (Adam), Ann Miller (Coco), Dan
Hedaya (Vincenzo Castigliane), Angelo Badalamenti (Luigi Castigliane), Mark
Pellegrino (Joe), Michael J. Anderson (Mr Roque)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
L'arrivée d'un Train en Gare de La Ciotat
(Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1895)
The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1954)
The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei M. Eisenstein, 1925)
The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)
The Birth of a Nation (David Wark Griffith, 1914)
The Bride of Frankenstein, (James Whale, 1935)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1928)
Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003)
Faust (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1926)
Fellini Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972)
Frankenstein (James Whale, 1932)
Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946)
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
The Great Train Robbery (Edwin. S. Porter, 1903)
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin, 1915)
Lola Montes (Max Ophuls, 1955)
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1928)
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, )
Nosferatu (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1924)
Le Notti di Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
La Règle du Jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Singing In the Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen,
Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
Le Temps Retrouvé (Raoul Ruiz, 1999)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
Alexander, John, The Films of David Lynch, London:
Charles Letts & Co, 1993.
Aumont, Jacques, Alain Bergala, Michel Marie et Marc Vernet,
Esthétique du Film, Poitiers: Editions Fernand Nathan, 1983.
Aumont, Jacques, Alain Bergala, Michel Marie and Marc Vernet,
Aesthetics of Film, trans. Richard Neupert, Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1992.
Bakhtin, Mikhail, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene
Iswolsky, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.
Bazin, André, Qu'est-ce que le Cinéma ?
Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 2002.
Bazin, André, What is Cinema? 2 vols., trans.
Hugh Gray, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
Benjamin, Walter, Illuminations, New York:
Schocken Books, 1988.
Benjamin, Walter, Origine du Drame Baroque Allemand,
trans. Sibylle Muller, Paris: Champs Flammarion, 2000.
Bergson, Henri, Matière et Mémoire, Paris:
Quadrige/ Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.
Bonitzer, Pascal, Peinture et Cinéma,
Décadrages, Paris: Editions de l'Etoile, 1985.
Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson, Film Art An
Introduction, (3rd ed), New York: Mc Graw-Hill publishing,
Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson, The
Classical Hollywood Cinema, Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960,
London: Routledge, 1996.
Breton, André, Manifeste du Surréalisme,
Paris: Gallimard, 1987
Buci-Glucksmann, Christine, Baroque reason, the Aesthetics of
Modernity, trans. Patrick Camiller, London: Sage Publication, 1994.
Buci-Glucksmann, Christine, Orlan, Triomphe du Baroque,
Marseille: Images en Manoeuvres Editions, 2000.
Burch, Noël, Theory of Film Practice, trans. Lane,
Helen, London: Secker & Warburg, 1983.
Chion, Michel, David Lynch, Paris: Editions Cahiers du
Chion, Michel, David Lynch, trans. Robert Julian,
London: British Film Institute Publishing, 1995.
Chion, Michel, Eyes Wide Shut, London: British Film
Institute Publishing, 2002.
Colebrook, Claire, Gilles Deleuze, London: Routledge,
Daly, Fergus and Dowd, Gavin, Leos Carax, Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2003.
Deleuze, Gilles, Cinéma 1, L'Image Mouvement,
Paris: Edition de Minuit, 1983.
Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 1, The Movement-Image, trans.
Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London: The Athlone Press, 1986.
Deleuze, Gilles, Francis Bacon, Logique de la Sensation,
Torino: Editions de la Différence, 1996.
Deleuze, Gilles, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque,
trans. Tom Conley, London: The Athlone Press, 1993.
Deleuze, Gilles, Le Pli, Leibniz et le Baroque, Paris:
Les Editions de Minuit, 1988.
Deleuze, Gilles, Nietzsche et la Philosophie, Paris:
Press Universitaires de France, 1962.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, Mille
Plateaux, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1980.
Didi-Huberman, Georges, L'Image Survivante, Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 2002.
Didi-Huberman, Georges, Ninfa Moderna, Paris: Gallimard,
Drazin, Charles, On Blue Velvet, London: Bloomsbury,
Eco, Umberto, The Open Work, Harvard University Press,
Focillon, Henri, La Vie des Formes, Paris: Presses
Universitaires de France, 1981.
Foucault, Michel, `Nietzsche, Genealogy, History', in Rabinow,
Paul (ed.), Michel Foucault Reader, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.
Hauser, Arnold, Mannerism, The Crisis of the Renaissance and
the Origin of Modern Art, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965.
Heath, Stephen, Questions of Cinema, London: The
Macmillan Press Ltd, 1981.
Held, Julius and Donald Posner, 17th and
18th Century Art: Baroque and Rococo, New York: Harry N Abrams,
Hibbard, Howard, Bernini, London: Pelican Books,
Kael, Pauline, Hooked, Film Writings 1985-1988,
London-New York: Marion Boyars, 1992.
Lapsley, Robert and Michael Westlake, Film Theory, An
Introduction, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988.
Lawrence, David Herbert, Selected Essays, Harmondsworth:
Penguin Books, 1981.
Leibniz, Gottfried, Wilhelm, Philosophical Texts, trans.
Woolhouse, R.S. and Richard Francks, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Levey, Michael, Early Renaissance, Harmondsworth:
Lynch, David and Barry Gifford, Lost Highway, London:
Faber and Faber, 1997.
Martin, John Rupert, Baroque, London: Pelican Books,
Metz, Christian, Film Language, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1974.
Mitry, Jean, Semiotics and the Analysis of Film, trans.
Christopher King, London: The Athlone Press, 2000.
Nadeau, Maurice, Histoire du Surréalisme, Paris:
Le Seuil, 1970.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, La Naissance de la
Tragédie, Paris: Editions Denoël, 1994.
Nochimson, Martha, The Passion of David Lynch, Wild at Heart
in Hollywood, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
D'Ors, Eugenio, Du Baroque, St Amand: Gallimard,
Panofsky, Erwin, Perspective as Symbolic Form, New York:
Zone Books, 1997.
Rajchman, John, Constructions, Cambridge: Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, 1998.
Rodley, Chris (ed.), Lynch on Lynch, London: Faber and
Rohmer, Eric, `The Cardinal Virtues of CinemaScope', in
Cahiers du Cinema, Vol 1, the 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New-Wave,
ed. Jim Hillier, London: Routledge and Kegan, 1985.
Rousset, Jean, La Littérature de l'Age Baroque en
France, Circé et la Paon, Paris : José Corti, 1954.
Shearman, John, Mannerism, Harmondsworth: Penguin,
Sheen, Erica and Annette Davison (ed.), The Cinema of David
Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions, London: Wallflower Press,
Sontag, Susan, `The Pornographic Imagination', in Bataille,
Georges, Story of the Eye, Harmondsworth: Penguin books,
Viola, Bill, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House,
London: Thames and Hudson, 1995.
Wittkower, Rudolf, Bernini the Sculptor of the Roman
Baroque, London: Phaidon, 1997.
Wölfflin, Heinrich, Principes Fondamentaux de l'Histoire
de l'Art, Paris: Gérard Monfort, 1992.
Wölfflin, Heinrich, Principles of Art History, The
Problem of the development of style in Later Art, trans. Hottinger, M.D.
New York: Dover Publications, 1950.
Wölfflin, Heinrich, Renaissance and Baroque,
London: Cox and Wyman, 1964
Worringer, Wilhem, Form in Gothic, London: Alec Tirenti,
Zizek, Slavoj, The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, On David
Lynch's Lost Highway, Seattle: The Walter Chapin Simpson center for the
humanities, University of Washington, 2002.
Aubron, Hervé, `A Rebours', Vertigo, Projections
Baroques, Hors série, 2000, pp. 5-16.
Aubron, Hervé, `David Lynch et l'enfer des images',
Traffic, No. 30, Eté 1999, pp. 99-113.
Backes, Clément, `Leibniz', Encyclopaedia
Universalis, Vol. IX, Paris, 1978, pp. 882-889.
De Baecque, Antoine, `Du concept au fétiche: Penser un
nouvel age du cinéma, la critique et le baroque', Vertigo,
Projections Baroque, Hors Série, 2000,pp. 23-30.
Bard, Elisabeth, `The Road to Digital Heaven',
Contemporary, No. 47 & 48, 2003, pp. 44-45.
Battersby, Christine, `Her Body/Her Boundaries, Gender and the
Metaphysics of Containment', The Body, Journal of Philosophy and
the Visuals Arts, Andrew Benjamin (ed.), London: The Academy Group, 1993,
Beausse, Pascal, `Ange Leccia, Eblouissements', Art Press,
No. 277, Mars 2002, pp. 39-43.
Bellour, Raymond, `La Querelle des Dispositifs', Art
Press, No.262, Novembre 2000, pp. 48-52.
Bryant-Rhodes, Eric, `Lost Highway', Film Quarterly, Vol.
LI, No. 3, Spring 1998, pp. 57-61.
Bullot, Erik, `Aura été', Vertigo, Projections
Baroques, Hors Séries, 2000, pp. 21-24.
Collet, Jean, `Cinéma: Histoire', Encyclopaedia
Universalis, Vol. IV, Paris, 1978, pp. 496-507.
Colombani, Florence, `Jeu de chat et de souris entre une
Mariée et sa victime', Le Monde, 18 Mai 2004, p. 29.
Comb, Richard, `Crude Thoughts and Fierce Forces' Monthly Film
Bulletin, Vol. LVI, No. 639, April 1987, pp. 100-104.
Davison, Annette, `«Up in Flames»: Love, Control and
Collaboration in the Soundtrack to Wild at Heart', in Erica Sheen and
Annette Davison (ed.), The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams,
Nightmare Visions, London: Wallflower Press, 2004, pp. 119-135.
Drössler, Stefan, `Lola Montès: The
Restoration', Sight & Sound, Vol. 12, No. 6, June 2002, pp.
Gargett, A, `Eternal Feminine: Natacha Merritt Digital
Diaries; Post feminist Deleuzean Figurations', Parallax, Vol. 4,
2002, Routledge, pp. 32-45.
Gingeras, Alison, `The Decorative as strategy, Daniel Buren's The
Museum which did not exist', Parkett, No.66, December 2002, Zurich, pp.
Godard, Jean-Luc, `Juste une Conversation' avec Jean-Michel
Frodon, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 590, May 2004, pp. 20-22.
Kember, Joe, `David Lynch and the Mug Shot: Facework in The
Elephant Man and The Straight Story', in Erica Sheen and Annette
Davison (ed.), The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare
Visions, London: Wallflower Press, 2004, pp. 19-34.
Krohn, Bill, `Lost Highway de David Lynch 1996', trans.
Serge Grünberg, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 509, Janvier 1997.
Leutrat, Jean-Louis, `Quoi de neuf, Doc? Pourquoi je n'ai jamais
utilisé le mot «baroque»', Vertigo, Projections
Baroques, Hors Série, 2000, pp. 57-60.
Magid, Ron, `Blue Velvet Small Town Horror Tale',
American Cinematographer, Vol. LXVII, No. 11, November 1986, pp.
Neyrat, Cyril, `Codicilles', Vertigo, Projections
Baroques, Hors Série, 2000, pp. 17-20.
Neyrat, Cyril, `Errance dans les ruines circulaires' Vertigo,
Projections Baroques, Hors Série, 2000, pp. 39-50.
Nochimson, Martha, `«All I need is the girl»: The Life
and Death of Creativity in Mulholland Drive', in Erica Sheen and
Annette Davison (ed.), The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams,
Nightmare Visions, London: Wallflower Press, 2004, pp. 165-181.
Nochimson, Martha, `Mulholland Drive', Film Quarterly,
Vol. 56, No. 1, Fall 2002, pp. 37-45.
O'Doherty, Brian, `Kane's Welles, The Phantom of the Opus',
Artforum, Vol. 26, December 1987, pp. 87-92.
Païni, Dominique, `Le Cinéma exposé: Flux
Contre Flux', Art Press, No. 287, Février 2003, pp.
Païni, Dominique, `Le Retour du Flâneur', Art
Press, No. 255, Mars 2000, pp. 33-41.
Pellegrin, Julie, `Daniel Buren: Decoration as Critique', Art
Press, No. 280, Juin 2002, pp. 17-23.
Pizzello, Stephen, `Highway to Hell', American
Cinematographer, Vol. LXXVIII, No. 3, March 1997, pp. 34-42.
Pizzello, Stephen, `Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Laura
Palmer's Phantasmagoric Fall from Grace', American Cinematographer, Vol.
LXXIII, No. 9, September 1992, pp. 58-67.
Plasseraud, Emmanuel, `Vestiges du Baroque: L'Origine
fantasmée', Vertigo, Projections Baroques, Hors Série,
2000, pp. 31-37.
Royoux, Jean-Christophe, `Cinéma d'Exposition:
L'Espacement de la Durée', Art Press, No. 262, Novembre 2000, pp.
Shaviro, Steven, `The Erotic Life of Machines', Parallax,
Vol. 4, Routledge, 2002, pp. 21-31.
Tapié, Victor, Lucien, `Baroque', Encyclopaedia
Universalis, Vol. II, Paris, 1978, pp. 1090-1096.
De Baecque, Antoine, `Twin-Peaks, Fire Walk With Me: sus
au mystère', Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 457, Juin 1992,
Buci-Glucksmann, Christine, `Places of Painting', trans. Jane Mac
Chion, Michel, `Dune, les visages et les noms', Cahiers du
cinéma, No. 368, Février 1985,
Deleuze, Gilles, Seminars on Leibniz,
French, Sean, `The Heart of the Cavern', Sight and Sound,
Vol. 56, No. 2, Spring 1987, pp. 101-104,
Friend, Tad, `Creative differences',
Herzogenrath, B., `On the Lost Highway: Lynch and Lacan,
Cinema and Cultural Pathology', 1999,
Jousse, Thierry, `Lost Highway, l'isolation sensorielle selon
Lynch', Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 511, Mars 1997,
Jousse, Thierry, `Mulholland Drive: L'amour à mort',
Cahiers du Cinema, No. 562, Novembre 2001,
Joyard, Olivier and Lalanne, Jean-Marc, `Convergences,
Mulholland Drive et Millenium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien)',
Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 562, Novembre 2001,
Krohn, Bill, `Lost Highway de David Lynch' trans. Serge
Grünberg, Cahiers du Cinema, No. 509, Janvier 1997,
Le Cain, Maximillian, `In Dreams, A Review of Mulholland
Lynch, David, `One Significant Day in My Life', Celeb
Spiritual Report, Jan-May 2004, Fairchild Publication Inc, available at
Nietzsche, Friedrich, `The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of
Nochimson, Martha, `The Straight Story: Sunlight Will
Out of The Darkness Come',
Ostria, Vincent, `Twin-Peaks, la série: le polar
psychotrope', Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 446, Juillet-août
Passannanti, Erminia, `Neo-baroques?' Transference, Oxford, 2001,
Rapfogel, Jared, `David Lynch',
Rodley, Chris, `Mr Contradiction', Sight and Sound, Vol.
6, No. 7, July 1996, pp. 6-10,
Strauss, Frédéric, `Lost Highway: Tempête
sous un crane', Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 509, Janvier 1997,
Villella, Fiona, `Circular Narratives: Highlight of Popular
Cinema in the `90s',
* 1 Victor, Lucien Tapié,
`Baroque', Encyclopaedia Universalis, Vol. II, Paris, 1978, p. 1090.
* 2 Frédéric
Dassas, `Présentation', in D'Ors, Eugenio, Du Baroque, Paris:
Gallimard, 2000, p. V, my translation: `Le baroque parle le même langage
que la Renaissance, mais à la façon d'un dialecte sauvage'.
* 3 Ibid. p. VII.
* 4 Ibid. p. X.
* 5 Wölfflin,
Principles of Art History, The Problem of the development of style in Later
Art, trans. Hottinger, M.D. New York: Dover Publications, 1950, p.
* 6 Wölfflin,
Renaissance and Baroque, London: Cox and Wyman, 1964, p. 67
* 7 Ibid., p. 68.
* 8 Gilles Deleuze, seminar on
Leibniz 15th April 1980,
my translation: `Imaginez Leibniz : il y a quelque chose d'effarant. C'est le
philosophe de l'ordre ; bien plus, de l'ordre et de la police, dans tous les
sens du mot police. Au premier sens du mot police surtout, à savoir
l'organisation ordonnée de la cité. Il ne pense qu'en termes
d'ordre. En ce sens il est extrêmement réactionnaire, c'est l'ami
de l'ordre. Mais très étrangement dans ce goût de l'ordre
et pour fonder cet ordre, il se livre à la plus démente
création de concept à laquelle on ait pu assister en philosophie.
Des concepts échevelés, les concepts les plus exubérants,
les plus désordonnés, les plus complexes pour justifier ce qui
est. Il faut que chaque chose ait une raison.'
* 9 Gilles Deleuze, The
Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley, London: The Athlone
Press, 1993, p. 34. `Si nous voulons maintenir l'identité
opératoire du Baroque et du pli, il faut donc montrer que le pli reste
limite dans les autres cas, et qu'il connaît dans le Baroque un
affranchissement sans limites dont les conditions sont déterminables.'
Le Pli, Leibniz et le Baroque, Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1988, p.
* 10 Ibid., p. 34. `Ce sont les
mêmes traits pris dans leur rigueur qui doivent rendre compte de
l'extrême spécificité du Baroque, et de la
possibilité de l'étendre hors de ses limites historiques, sans
extension arbitraire : l'apport du Baroque à l'art en
général, l'apport du Leibnizianisme à la philosophie.' p.
* 11 Ibid., p. 35. `Le pli
infini sépare, ou passe entre la matière et l'âme, la
façade et la pièce close, l'extérieur et
l'intérieur.' p. 49.
* 12 Ibid., p. 38. `Celui-ci ne
peut apparaître qu'avec l'infini, dans l'incommensurable et la
démesure, quand la courbure variable a détrôné le
cercle.' p. 53.
* 13 Christine Buci-Glucksmann,
Orlan, Triomphe du Baroque, Marseille: Images En Manoeuvres Editions,
2000, p. 42. `Le rapport à l'histoire est un rapport compliqué.
N'y a-t-il d'ailleurs qu'un seul baroque? Je crois qu'en réalité,
il y a un baroque du plein qui est celui de Leibniz et de Deleuze, par exemple.
Il n'y a que du plein. C'est un baroque du pli et du dépli, du
déroulement, de l'intérieur à l'extérieur, etc.
Mais dans le baroque historique il y a également quelque chose qui m'a
fascinée, c'est le baroque du vide. Borromini, ce n'est pas Le Bernin.
Le baroque du vide, c'est la spirale qui monte sur rien.'
* 14 Ibid., p. 42, `C'est
à partir du rien qu'il y a rhétorique, qu'il y a pose, qu'il y a
* 15 Erminia Passannanti,
Neo-baroques? , Transference, Oxford, 2001,
[18.02.2003] The term of neo-baroque is mostly linked to literary criticism and
has been associated with notion of postmodernism. These are not really relevant
to this study, taking the notion of baroque into realms quite removed from its
art historical origins. This quote just helped to give an idea of the different
avenues the term could be developed into.
* 16 Michel Foucault,
`Nietzsche, Genealogy, History', in Rabinow, Paul (ed.), Michel Foucault
Reader, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, p. 82.
* 17 Robert Lapsley and Michael
Westlake, Film Theory an Introduction, Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1988, p. 156.
* 18 Jean Collet,
`Cinéma: Histoire', Encyclopaedia Universalis, Vol. IV, Paris,
1978, p. 497a, my translation:` La caméra de Lumière nous
éveille au monde. Melies tend derrière ses personnages les toiles
peintes de l'inconscient collectif.'
* 19 Lapsley and Westlake, op.
cit., p. 158.
* 20 Ibid., p. 156.
* 21 Ibid., p. 171.
* 22 Ibid., p. 172.
* 23 André Bazin,
What is Cinema? 2 vols., trans. Hugh Gray, Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1967, p. 14-15. `Le film ne se contente plus de nous
conserver l'objet enrobé dans son instant comme, dans l'ambre, le corps
intact des insectes d'une ère révolue, il délivre l'art
baroque de sa catalepsie convulsive. Pour la première fois, l'image des
choses est aussi celle de leur durée et comme la momie du changement.'
André Bazin, Qu'est ce que le cinéma? Paris: Les
Editions du Cerf, 2002, p. 14.
* 24 Rudolf Wittkower,
Bernini, The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, London: Phaidon, 1997, p.
* 25 Antoine De Baecque, `Du
concept au fétiche: Penser un nouvel âge du cinéma, la
critique et le baroque', Vertigo, Projections Baroque, Hors
Série, 2000,pp. 23-30.
* 26 Rousset, Jean, La
Littérature de l'Age Baroque en France, Circé et la Paon, Paris:
José Corti, 1954.
* 27 De Baecque, op. cit., p.
25-26, my translation: `Le baroque, dès lors, devient un outil pour
questionner la création, outil qui trouve ses marques, recouvrant un
certain style (hyperbolique, complexe, accumulatif, décoratif), un
esprit (mélange des genres, goût des contrastes, des
antithèses, des paradoxes, des surprises et du singulier, de l'obscur et
du mystérieux), et une dynamique (rôle prépondérant
du mouvement, de l'ellipse, de l'hélice).'
* 28 By the film critic France
Roche writing for France Soir in 1956, Ibid., p. 27.
* 29 Ibid., p. 29, my
translation: `C'est un autre age du cinéma que, dans le même
mouvement, façonne et révèle ainsi l'expression du
baroque, celui des metteurs en scène de la forme accomplie et complexe,
foisonnante et virtuose, symbolique et singulière, un age qui
commencerait avec les manifestes wellesiens, s'accomplirait avec Ophuls, et
entraînerait tout un pan du moderne: Bergman, Hitchcock, Aldrich,
Fellini, Kurosawa, Astruc...Un âge qui par les métamorphoses
incessantes des formes, succéderait dans l'histoire du cinéma au
classicisme hollywoodien de style sec, simple, pur, ordonne, efficace.' The
theoretical background of the cinematic baroque was laid out in 1960 in the
first issue of, Etudes Cinématographiques on `Baroque and
* 30 Ibid., p. 30. The April
1985 issue of the Cahiers du Cinema, dedicated to mannerism, will
settle on this term to qualify this new trend in cinema
* 31 Hervé Aubron, `A
Rebours', Vertigo, Projections Baroques, Hors série, 2000, p. 7,
my translation: `Le terme de baroque est peut-être l'un des plus
im-pensés de la critique cinématographique. Bourgeonnant
très fréquemment dans les articles de presse, il est quasiment
toujours utilisé dans son acceptation archaïque: bizarre, insolite,
* 32 The latest example I have
come across is a review of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill 2 in Le
Monde; 18.05.2004, p. 29: `Jeu de chat et de souris entre une
mariée et sa victime'. The reviewer, Florence Colombani, speaks of the
baroque profusion of the film there to adorn the bitterness of the story:
`Toute la profusion baroque du film est là pour rehausser l'amertume de
cette histoire.' No more is said about the relevance of the term, it is assumed
to be self-explanatory.
* 33 Hervé Aubron,
op.cit., p. 9, my translation: `D'où, évidemment, l'obsession du
baroque pour l'illusion, mais surtout pas en tant que piège ludique ou
* 34 David Bordwell, Janet
Staiger and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, Film Style
and mode of Production to 1960, London: Routledge, 1996.
* 35 David Bordwell and Kristin
Thompson, Film Art An Introduction, (3rd ed.), New York:
Mac Graw-Hill publishing, 1990 p. 70.
* 36 Citizen Kane is
usually recognized as one of the marker of the end of the classic cinema as
will be developed further in this work.
* 37 Erwin Panofsky quoted in
Hervé Aubron, `A Rebours', p. 8, my translation: `Le style se fige, se
cristallise, se pare d'un lisse et d'une dureté d'émail, tandis
que les mouvements, qui tendent à l'excès de grâce, sont en
même temps, contraints et retenus. L'ensemble de la composition devient
un champ de bataille où s'affrontent des forces contradictoires,
emmêlés dans une tension infinie'.
* 38 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, trans. Robert Julian, London: British Film Institute Publishing,
1995, p. 10. `Et un jour le déclic se fait, dont il ne sait sans doute
pas encore que c'est le définitif, et qui le décide à
faire des «films paintings», des peintures animées. «Ce
qui me manquait quand je regardais ces tableaux, c'était le son,
j'attendais qu'un son, un vent peut-être, en sorte. Je voulais aussi que
les bords disparaissent, je voulais entrer à l'intérieur.
C'était spatial...»' Michel Chion, David Lynch, Paris:
Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, 2001, p. 19.
* 39 Jacques Aumont, Alain
Bergala, Michel Marie and Marc Vernet, Aesthetics of Film, trans.
Richard Neupert, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992, p. 175. `En marquant
un retour au primat du signifiant, l'analyse textuelle manifeste son souci de
ne pas aller d'emblée à la lecture interprétative. Elle
s'arrête souvent au moment du «sens» et par-là, court le
risque de la paraphrase et de la description purement formelle.' Poitiers:
Editions Fernand Nathan, 1983, p.151.
* 40 Wölfflin,
Principles of Art History, p. 19.
* 41 Christian Metz, Film
Language, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974, p. 93.
* 42 Ibid., p. 94.
* 43 Bordwell and Thompson,
Film Art: An Introduction, p. 55.
* 44 Ibid., p. 55.
* 45 Ibid., p. 58.
* 46 Ibid., p. 71.
* 47 Lapsley and Westlake,
Film Theory an Introduction, p. 130.
* 48 Metz, op. cit., p. 101.
* 49 Wölfflin, Baroque
and Renaissance, p. 53.
* 50 Metz, op. cit., p. 208.
* 51 Ibid., p. 102.
* 52 Ibid., p. 102.
* 53 Jorge Luis Borges quoted
in, O'Doherty, Brian, `Kane's Welles, The Phantom of the Opus',
Artforum, Vol. 26, December 1987, p. 88.
* 54 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 56, `L'essentialisme fait de Descartes un classique, tandis que
la pensée de Leibniz apparaît comme un profond maniérisme.
Le classicisme a besoin d'un attribut solide et constant pour la substance,
mais le maniérisme est fluide, et la spontanéité des
manières y remplace l'essentialité de l'attribut.' Deleuze,
Le Pli, p. 76.
* 55 Martha Nochimson, The
Passion of David Lynch, Wild at Heart in Hollywood, Austin: University of
Texas Press, 2003, p. 22-23, 24.
* 56 Chion, David
Lynch, p. 103. `Licence narrative ne veut pas dire indifférence
à l'histoire, traitée comme un prétexte à dire
autre chose, mais croyance telle à cette histoire que, comme un enfant,
on veut la mener aussi loin et aussi littéralement que possible.' Michel
Chion, David Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, 2001, p.
* 57 Bordwell & Thompson,
op. cit., p. 68.
* 58 Herzogenrath, B., `On the
Lost Highway: Lynch and Lacan, Cinema and Cultural Pathology', 1999,
* 59 André Bazin,
What is cinema? p. 88. `Ses personnages ne se définissent
jamais par leur «caractère», mais exclusivement par leur
apparence.' Qu'est-ce que le Cinéma ? p. 341. Bazin's
comments on Fellini's films are often appropriate for Lynch's - furthermore
Fellini is a self-acknowledged influence on Lynch: in Chris Rodley (ed.),
Lynch on Lynch, London: Faber and Faber, 1997, p.62, Lynch tells Chris
Rodley: `I love Fellini. And we've got the same birthday, so if you believe in
astrology... His is a totally different time, and an Italian take on life. But
there's something about his films. There's a mood. They make you dream. They're
so magical and lyrical and surprising and inventive. The guy was unique. If you
took his films away, there would be a giant chunk of cinema missing.'
* 60 Martha Nochimson,
`Mulholland Drive', Film Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 1, Fall 2002, p.
* 61 Ibid., p. 41.
* 62 Bazin, op. cit., p. 90-91.
`Si pourtant les films de Fellini comportent des tensions et des paroxysmes qui
n'ont rien à envier au drame et à la tragédie, c'est que
les événements y développent, à défaut de la
causalité dramatique traditionnelle, des phénomènes
d'analogie et d'écho. Le héros fellinien n'arrive pas à la
crise finale, qui le détruit et le sauve, par l'enchaînement
progressif du drame, mais parce que les circonstances dont il est en quelque
sorte frappé s'accumulent en lui, comme l'énergie des vibrations
dans un corps en résonance. Il n'évolue pas, il se convertit,
basculant, pour finir, à la manière des icebergs dont le centre
de flottaison s'est invisiblement déplacé.' Qu'est-ce que le
Cinéma ? p. 344-345.
* 63 Ibid., p. 84-85. `Les
événements n'y «arrivent» pas, ils y tombent, ou ils en
surgissent, c'est-à-dire toujours selon une gravité verticale et
non point pour obéir aux lois d'une causalité horizontale. Quant
aux personnages, ils n'existent et ne changent qu'en référence
à une pure durée intérieure. [...] Aussi le personnage
fellinien n'évolue-t-il pas : il mûrit ou, à la
limite, se métamorphose.' Qu'est-ce que le cinéma ?
* 64 Nochimson, The
Passion, p. 25.
* 65 Ibid., p. 26.
* 66 Other eye-of-the-duck
scenes include: in Blue Velvet, the scene at Ben's place, in Wild
at Heart, the accident scene with the girl looking for her purse, with
The Elephant Man's one (p. 146), these are the three scenes
that Nochimson presents as identified by Lynch. She goes on to identify them
herself: the wig scene from Mulholland Drive, In Twin Peaks, Fire
Walk With Me, it is the scene where Laura while loading the «meals on
wheels» into her car sees an old woman with a little boy wearing a mask
(p. 184), In Eraserhead, the scene where Henri walks on the stage and
touches the singer (p. 159). In Martha Nochimson, The Passion of David
* 67 Charles Drazin, On
Blue Velvet, Bloomsbury, 1998.p. 122.
* 68 Thierry Jousse, `Lost
Highway, l'isolation sensorielle selon Lynch', Cahiers du Cinéma,
No. 511, Mars 1997,
[23.03.2003] my translation: `Cet émondage narratif lui a surtout permis
d'atteindre à une troublante opacité qui procède d'une
série de coups de force rythmiques tout à fait
saisissant[...]D'un coté le film distribue une multitude de signes,
d'indices, énigmes de lapsus qui par un jeu de piste, font miroiter une
doublure secrète de la réalité, laquelle, tel un
inconscient très actif, se manifesterait en permanence de manière
discontinue et enveloppant la vie d'un léger voile paranoïaque.'
* 69 The Italian Neo-Realism
was a cinematographic tendency which developed from 1945 to 1960 in Italy. The
Neo-Realists paid particular attention to quotidian events and humble
characters and tried to find the tragic in the day to day existence of the
* 70 Bazin, op.cit., p. 89-90.
`La primauté de l'événement sur l'intrigue a conduit par
exemple de Sica et Zavattini à substituer à cette dernière
une micro-action, faite d'une attention indéfiniment divisée
à la complexité de l'événement le plus banal. Du
même coup se trouvait condamnée toute hiérarchie,
d'obédience psychologique, dramatique ou idéologique, entre les
événements représentés.' Qu'est-ce que le
Cinéma ? p. 344.
* 71 Drazin, op. cit., p.
* 72 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, 2001, my translation: `La
découverte d'Alvin couché, et qui a gardé toute sa
lucidité, entouré de ses proches qui s'affolent mais ne font
rien, est l'occasion d'une scène oscillant entre le burlesque et le
tragique et qui semble risquer de se prolonger indéfiniment, comme Lynch
les aime.' p. 254.
* 73 Joe Kember, `David Lynch
and the Mug Shot: Facework in The Elephant Man and The Straight
Story.' In Erica Sheen and Annette Davison (ed.), The Cinema of David
Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions, London: Wallflower Press, 2004,
* 74 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 17. `Le nombre irrationnel implique la chute d'un arc de cercle
sur la ligne droite des points rationnels, et dénonce celle-ci comme un
faux infini, simple indéfini comportant une infinité de lacunes;
c'est pourquoi le continu est un labyrinthe, et ne peut être
représenté par une ligne droite, toujours la droite devant
être entremêlée de courbures.', Le Pli, p. 24.
* 75 Eric Bryant Rhodes, `Lost
Highway', Film Quarterly, Vol. LI, No. 3, Spring 1998, p. 61.
* 76 Thierry Jousse, op. cit.,
my translation: `Le circuit temporel de Lost Highway est très
étrange. Bien que le récit du film soit finalement assez
linéaire et suppose une succession temporelle chronologique, tout se
passe comme si les relations entre le passé, le présent et
l'avenir n'obéissaient plus à des règles de subordination.
Sans bouleverser de manière explicite la chronologie, Lynch rend
impossible l'identification du moment.'
* 77 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, 2001, p. 258.
* 78 Bordwell & Thompson,
op. cit., p. 61.
* 79 Lynch on Lynch,
* 80 Ibid., p. 102.
* 81 Joe Kember, op. cit., p.
* 82 Ibid. p.31.
* 83 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 78. `Les hectares de sable filmé n'accèdent
pas à la présence d'une vraie planète mythique.' Editions
Cahiers du Cinéma, p.93.
* 84 Lynch on Lynch,
* 85 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 29. `Ce qui rendra possible la nouvelle harmonie, c'est
d'abord la distinction de deux étages, en tant qu'elle résout la
tension ou repartit la scission. C'est l'étage d'en bas qui se charge de
la façade, et qui s'allonge en se trouant, qui s'incurve suivant les
replis déterminés d'une matière lourde, constituant une
pièce infinie de réception ou de réceptivité. C'est
l'étage d'en haut qui se ferme, pur intérieur, sans
extérieur, intériorité close en apesanteur,
tapissée de plis spontanés qui ne sont plus que ceux d'une
âme ou d'un esprit. Si bien que le monde baroque, comme l'a montre
Wölfflin, s'organise selon deux vecteurs, l'enfoncement en bas, la
poussée vers le haut.' Le Pli, Leibniz et le Baroque, p.
* 86 Nochimson, The
Passion, p. 185.
* 87 Rodley, Lynch on
Lynch, p. 165-167.
* 88 In David Lynch,
p.93, Michel Chion develops the idea that the strangeness of the scene between
Dorothy and Frank is due to its theatricality, as if they were performing for
the voyeur. Later when Jeffrey has sex with Dorothy, she gives him licence for
anything he might wish for in asking him: `Do you want to be a bad boy?'
* 89 Nochimson, `Mulholland
Drive', p. 43.
* 90 Ibid., p. 38.
* 91 Nochimson, the
Passion, p. 11.
* 92 Metz, op. cit., p.
* 93 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 15.
* 94 Aumont, Bergala, Marie and
Vernet, Aesthetics of Film, p. 27. `Le plus souvent, le plan se
définit implicitement (et de façon quasi tautologique) comme
«tout morceau de film compris entre deux changements de plan.»',
Editions Fernand Nathan, p. 26.
* 95 Ibid. ` Au stade du
tournage, il est utilisé comme équivalent approximatif de
«cadre», «champ», «prise»: il désigne donc
à la fois un certain point de vue sur l'événement
(cadrage) et une certaine durée.' Editions Fernand Nathan, p. 26.
* 96 Jean Mitry, Semiotics
and the Analysis of Film, trans. Christopher King, London: The Athlone
Press, 2000, p. 61.
* 97 Ibid., p. 66.
* 98 Gilles Deleuze, Cinema
1, The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam,
London: The Athlone Press, 1986, p. 18. `Le découpage est la
détermination du plan, et le plan, la détermination du mouvement
qui s'établit dans le système clos, entre
éléments ou parties de l'ensemble.', Cinéma 1, L'Image
Mouvement, Paris: Edition de Minuit, 1983, p. 32.
* 99 It seems that the
theoretical questions surrounding the «shot» have essentially
concerned French theorists. This may be because of a French propensity to be
very specific about the terms used, but it may also be because of the homonymy
between the French for «shot» and «plane», both named
plan, thus reinforcing the possible ambiguities.
* 100 Gilles Deleuze, op.
cit., p. 19-20. `Le plan en général a une face tendue vers
l'ensemble dont il traduit les modifications entre parties, une autre face
tendue vers le tout dont il exprime le changement, ou du moins un changement.
D'où la situation du plan, qu'on peut définir abstraitement comme
intermédiaire entre le cadrage de l'ensemble et le montage du tout.
Tantôt tendu vers le pole du cadrage, tantôt tendu vers le pole du
montage.' Cinéma 1, L'Image Mouvement, p. 33.
* 101 Ibid., p. 20. `Le plan,
c'est le mouvement, considéré sous son double aspect: translation
des parties d'un ensemble qui s'étend dans l'espace, changement d'un
tout qui se transforme dans la durée.' Cinéma 1,
L'Image-Mouvement, p. 33.
* 102 Ibid., p. 39.
* 103 Lapsley and Westlake,
Film Theory, p. 130.
* 104 Stephen Heath,
Questions of Cinema, London: The Macmillan Press LTD, 1981, p. 36.
* 105 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, p. 194-195.
* 106 Ibid., p. 213.
* 107 Ibid., p. 196.
* 108 Heath, op. cit., p.
* 109 Ibid., p. 41.
* 110 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, op. cit., p. 214.
* 111 Ibid., p. 214.
* 112 Lapsley and Westlake,
op. cit., p. 139.
* 113 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, op. cit., p. 213.
* 114 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 107.
* 115 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, op. cit., p. 210.
* 116 Bordwell and Thompson,
Film Art An Introduction, p. 71.
* 117 `Traditionally, we
distinguish two large types of camera movements: tracking and panning/tilting.
A tracking movement (or dolly) involves shifting the base of the camera, often
along a line parallel to any movement by the film object (strictly defined as a
track), or trucking in toward or out away from the object, as in a dolly
movement. A special kind of camera movement is the crane shot, in which the
camera actually leaves the ground, moving up and down. (A more recent
development, the steadicam, allows for even more elaborate and free-wheeling
camera movement, which also makes camera movement more difficult to
categorize). A panning movement, on the other hand, involves pivoting the
camera horizontally while the camera pedestal remains fixed. A variation on the
pan shot is the tilt, which pivots the camera vertically.' Aumont, Bergala,
Marie & Vernet, Aesthetics of Film, p. 26.
* 118 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, Classical Hollywood cinema, p. 227.
* 119 Ibid., p. 229.
* 120 Ibid.
* 121 Ibid.
* 122 Deleuze, op. cit., p.
24. `Le mouvement n'est donc pas dégagé pour lui-même et
reste attaché aux éléments, personnages et choses, qui lui
servent de mobile ou de véhicule.' Cinéma 1: L'image
Mouvement, p. 39-40.
* 123 Ibid., p. 25. `Or les
deux moyens se trouveront à leurs débuts dans une certaine
obligation de se cacher: Non seulement les raccords de montage devaient
être imperceptibles (par exemple, raccords dans l'axe), mais aussi les
mouvements de camera pour autant qu'ils concernaient des moments ordinaires ou
des scènes banales (mouvements d'une lenteur voisine du seuil de
perception)'. Cinéma 1: L'image Mouvement, p. 40.
* 124 Ibid., p. 26.
* 125 Michel Chion, Eyes
Wide Shut, London: British Film Institute Publishing, 2002, p. 67.
* 126 Aumont, Bergala, Marie
and Vernet, op. cit., p. 22. `L'image filmique est nette dans toute une partie
du champ, et c'est pour caractériser l'étendue de cette zone de
netteté que l'on définit ce qu'on appelle la profondeur de
champ. Il s'agit là d'une donnée technique de l'image et qui
se définit comme la profondeur de la zone de netteté.' Editions
Fernand Nathan, p. 22.
* 127 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, op. cit., p. 221.
* 128 Brian O'Doherty, `Kane's
Welles, The Phantom of the Opus', Artforum, Vol 26, December 1987, p.
* 129 Gilles Deleuze, op. cit.
, p. 26. `C'est que la profondeur n'est plus conçue à la
manière du cinéma `primitif', comme une superposition de tranches
parallèles dont chacune n'a affaire qu'avec elle-même, toutes
étant seulement traversées par un même mobile. Au
contraire, chez Renoir ou chez Welles, l'ensemble des mouvements se distribue
en profondeur de manière à établir des liaisons, des
actions et des réactions, qui ne se développent jamais l'une
à coté de l'autre, sur un même plan, mais
s'échelonnent à différentes distances, et d'un plan
à l'autre. L'unité du plan est faite ici de la liaison directe
entre éléments pris dans la multiplicité des plans
superposés qui cessent d'être isolables: c'est le rapport des
parties proches et lointaines qui fait l'unité.' Cinéma
1, p. 42. In brackets is the original translation, which I think is
erroneous. It comes from the homonymy already mentioned of the French for plane
and for shot, in this paragraph Deleuze writes about the composition in planes
of the shot, but all `plan' were translated by `shot', which made no sense. I
replaced the word shot when it was intended as plane.
* 130 André Bazin,
What is cinema? Vol. I, p. 36. `En analysant la réalité,
le montage supposait, par sa nature même, l'unité de sens de
l'événement dramatique. [...] En somme, le montage s'oppose
essentiellement et par nature à l'expression de l'ambiguïté.
[...] Au contraire, la profondeur de champ réintroduit
l'ambiguïté dans la structure de l'image, sinon comme une
nécessité, du moins comme une possibilité.', Editions du
Cerf, 2002, p. 75-76.
* 131 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 20, `Le perspectivisme chez Leibniz, et aussi chez Nietzsche,
chez William et chez Henri James, chez Whitehead, est bien un relativisme, mais
ce n'est pas le relativisme qu'on croit. Ce n'est pas une variation de la
vérité d'après le sujet, mais la condition sous laquelle
apparaît au sujet la vérité d'une variation. C'est
l'idée même de la perspective baroque.' Le Pli, p. 27.
* 132 Bordwell, Staiger and
Thompson, op. cit., p. 238.
* 133 Ibid., p. 207.
* 134 Jean Mitry quoted in
Stephen Heath, op. cit., p. 46-47.
* 135 Stephen Heath, op. cit.,
* 136 Messalina was the
infamous wife of the Roman emperor Claudius, she was known for her appetite for
lovers and her decadent orgies. In Fellini Roma following a scene at
the local cinema where the children are seen to spy on the behavior of the
chemist wife, we see her in toga inviting an endless queue of men to come into
* 137 Christian Metz, Film
Language, p. 220.
* 138 Gilles Deleuze, lecture
on Leibniz, 16.12.1986, my translation: `Troisième caractère du
point de vue : le point de vue n'est pas du tout une perspective frontale qui
permettrait de saisir une forme dans les meilleures conditions, le point de vue
est fondamentalement perspective baroque, pourquoi? C'est que jamais le point
de vue n'est une instance à partir de laquelle on saisit une forme, mais
le point de vue est une instance à partir de laquelle on saisit une
série de formes, dans leurs passages les unes dans les autres, soit
comme métamorphoses de formes : passages d'une forme à une autre,
soit comme anamorphose : passage du chaos à la forme. C'est le propre de
la perspective baroque.'
* 139 The format of the
cinematic image is express by the ratio between its width and its height. The
original ratio was 1.33, which gives a nearly squared format. In 1952,
Twentieth Century-Fox bought the patent of the anamorphic lens process from
Henri Chrétien (1879- 1956) and used it as the basis for their
CinemaScope system. The ration of an anamorphic widescreen is 2.35:1. Eric
Rohmer celebrated the coming of the new ratio in the Cahiers du Cinema in
January 1954: «The new process brings more than it takes away. Fluidity of
movement or the entry of a detail into the general scene operates with no less
facility.» Eric Rohmer, «The Cardinal Virtues of CinemaScope»,
Cahiers du Cinema Vol 1, the 1950s: Neo-realism, Hollywood, New- Wave,
edited by Jim Hillier, London: Routledge and Kegan, 1985, p. 281.
* 140 Rodley, Lynch on
Lynch, p. 176.
* 141 Abbas Kiarostami is a
contemporary Iranian filmmaker and artist, he was invited to comment Charlie
Chaplin's work in a documentary by Alain Bergala: Chaplin Today: The
* 142 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 102. `Cependant, Lynch a osé, dans certains moments
qu'il a réalisés, quelques entorses au style
télévisé habituel: principalement des plans
généraux plus vastes et plus en profondeur qu'on ne se le permet
d'habitude au cinéma, a fortiori a la télévision,
et qui relèguent les personnages à la grosseur d'un petit pois
dans le champs: par exemple, dans le pilote, la première rencontre
Cooper/Truman et la conférence de Ben Horne aux Norvégiens; ou
bien la scène de la banque dans l'ultime épisode.' Editions
Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 121.
* 143 Martha Nochimson,
The Passion, p. 11.
* 144 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 255, my translation:
`Finalement, Alvin part sur son équipage insolite. A partir de
là, les scènes sur terre de son périple alterneront avec
des plans filmés d'hélicoptère. Ces plans, en même
temps qu'ils décrivent les paysages traversés, semblent doubler
son voyage sur terre d'un autre dans le ciel, dessinant une trajectoire
imaginaire plus sinueuse au-dessus et autour de la lente et linéaire
avance d'Alvin sur sa tondeuse. C'est comme si un autre personnage ou un ange
gardien accompagnait Alvin.'
* 145 About the relationship
of Laughton's film and David Lynch: Michel Chion is convinced that it is a
referential film for Lynch; without being able to source it, because of the
many relation between The Night of the Hunter and Lynch's films.
(Michel Chion, David Lynch, BFI, p. 27). Supporting Chion's
impression, I think the parallel between the openings of Laughton's film and
The Straight Story is too striking to be coincidental.
* 146 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 151. `L'aspect le plus original et le plus frappant,
cependant, de ce film sur le plan visuel, ce sont ses angles de prise de vue et
ses cadres subtilement inquiétants, générateurs d'un
sentiment de perte d'équilibre.' Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p.
* 147 Stephen Pizzello,
`Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Laura Palmer's Phantasmagoric Fall
from Grace', American Cinematographer, Vol. LXXIII, No. 9, September
1992, p. 60.
* 148 In Ron Magid, `Blue
Velvet - Small Town Horror tale', American Cinematographer, Vol.
LXVII, No. 11, November 1986, p. 70-72.
* 149 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 124.
* 150 Aumont, Bergala, Marie
and Vernet, Aesthetics of Film, p. 38. `Ainsi, sous son aspect
original, celui d'une technique spécialisée parmi d'autres, le
montage se ramène à trois grandes opérations:
sélection, assemblage, raccordement - ces trois opérations ayant
pour finalité d'obtenir, à partir des éléments au
départ séparés, une totalité qui est le film.'
Esthétique du Film, Poitiers: Editions Fernand Nathan, 1983, p.
* 151 Ibid., p. 38.
`l'objet sur lequel s'exerce le montage, ce sont les plans d'un
film (soit, pour expliciter encore: le montage consiste à manipuler
des plans en vue de constituer un autre objet, le film).', Editions Fernand
Nathan, p. 38.
* 152 Ibid., p. 45. `Le
montage est le principe qui régit l'organisation
d'éléments filmiques visuels et sonores, ou d'assemblages de tels
éléments, en les juxtaposant, en les enchaînant, et/ou en
réglant leur durée.', Editions Fernand Nathan, p. 44.
* 153 Ibid., p. 45. `Bien
entendu répétons que cet élargissement n'a
d'intérêt que dans une perspective théorique et
analytique.', Editions Fernand Nathan, p. 44.
* 154 Gilles Deleuze,
Cinema 1, p. 29. `Eisenstein ne cesse de rappeler que le montage,
c'est le tout du film, l'Idée.', Cinéma 1, p.
* 155 Ibid., p. 30. `La
composition des images-mouvement, Griffith l'a conçue comme une
organisation, un organisme, une grande unité organique. Ce fut sa
découverte. L'organisme est d'abord une unité dans le divers,
c'est-à-dire un ensemble de parties différenciées. [...]
Il faut encore que les parties agissent et réagissent les unes sur les
autres, à la fois pour montrer comment elles entrent en conflit et
menacent l'unité de l'ensemble organique, et comment elles surmontent le
conflit ou restaurent l'unité.' Cinéma 1, p. 47-48.
* 156 Stephen Heath,
Questions of Cinema, p. 43.
* 157 Ibid., p. 43-44.
* 158 Ibid., p. 54.
* 159 Lapsley and Westlake,
Film theory, p. 141.
* 160 Ibid., p. 137.
* 161 Heath, op. cit., p.
* 162 Ibid., p. 20.
* 163 Lapsley and Westlake,
op. cit., p. 148.
* 164 Ibid., p. 148
* 165 Heath, op. cit., p.
* 166 Ibid., p. 23.
* 167 Ibid., p. 24.
* 168 Noël Burch,
Theory of Film Practice, trans. Lane, Helen, London Secker
& Warburg, London, 1983.
* 169 Lapsley and Westlake,
op. cit., p. 155.
* 170 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 135.
* 171 Noël Burch, op.
cit., p. xviii.
* 172 Aumont, Bergala, Marie
and Vernet, op. cit., p. 13. `Le hors-champs est donc essentiellement
lié au champ, puisqu'il n'existe qu'en fonction de celui-ci; il pourrait
se définir comme l'ensemble des éléments (personnages,
décors, etc.) qui, n'étant pas inclus dans le champ, lui sont
néanmoins rattachés imaginairement, pour le spectateur, par un
moyen quelconque.' Editions Fernand Nathan, p. 15.
* 173 Heath, Questions of
Cinema, p. 45.
* 174 Deleuze, Cinema
1, p. 16. `Si l'on reprend l'alternative de Bazin, cache ou cadre,
tantôt le cache opère comme un cache mobile suivant lequel tout
ensemble se prolonge dans un ensemble homogène plus vaste avec lequel il
communique, tantôt comme un cadre pictural qui isole un système et
en neutralise l'environnement. Cette dualité s'exprime de manière
exemplaire entre Renoir et Hitchcock, l'un pour qui l'espace et l'action
excèdent toujours les limites du cadre qui n'opère qu'un
prélèvement sur une aire, l'autre chez qui le cadre opère
un «enfermement de toutes les composantes», et agit comme un cadre de
tapisserie plus encore que pictural ou théâtral.',
Cinéma 1, Editions de Minuit, p. 28. Deleuze's use of the
term tapestry is explained later in Cinema 1, when he describes
Hitchcock's films as a weaving of relations, with the action as the mere mobile
shuttle, p. 200.
* 175 Ibid., p. 16, I replaced
the term of out-of-field used in the translation by the term off-screen, since
it is more consistent with the term generally used in film theory. `Tout
cadrage détermine un hors-champ. Il n'y a pas deux types de cadrage dont
l'un seulement renverrait au hors-champs, il y a plutôt deux aspects
très différents du hors-champs dont chacun renvoie à un
mode de cadrage.' Cinéma 1, p. 29.
* 176 Heath, op. cit., p.
* 177 Heath analysed at length
the composition of a scene in Oshima Nagisa's Death by Hanging, to
demonstrate how the framing and montage of scene highlights the sense of
displacement of the characters. Op. cit., p. 64-69.
* 178 Ibid., p. 52.
* 179 Arnold Hauser,
Mannerism, The Crisis of the Renaissance and the Origin of Modern Art,
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965, p. 9.
* 180 `If you're sitting in
front of a painting and it's part-way going and it starts talking to you, then
you act and react. You're going with a kind of a subconscious intuition kind of
thing. And things unfold. It's the same way with a scene in a film: you can
have it in the script but when it's in front of you, it's fluid. If a line
doesn't work, you adjust it - you see it has to be this way. You see
that the light has to be a certain way, the pace has to be a certain way. It's
talking to you. Unfortunately, only when all the elements are together does it
really talk to you. So you've got to be on your toes. You've got to be on
guard. You've got to be in that world. [...] and because of the money and the
pressure now, it's almost like a catastrophe. Making pictures has gotten too
fast. Many pictures skim along the surface. They can't delve deep because, if
you're water-skiing at fifty miles an hour, you're not going to go beneath the
surface. But if the boat stops - or even slows up - down you go in the deep
water. And that's where the good ideas are.' Lynch on Lynch, p. 27.
* 181 Lynch on Lynch,
* 182 Lapsley and Westlake,
Film Theory, p. 152.
* 183 Lynch on Lynch,
* 184 Tad Friend, `Creative
* 185 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, (BFI), p. 100.
* 186 Michel Chion, op. cit.,
p. 103. `Twin Peaks déploie en effet des dimensions insolites
avec plus de naturel que certains de ses films de cinéma, à cause
de la possibilité qu'une série offre de faire entrer
graduellement le spectateur dans un monde différent. [...] La
télévision serait donc pour lui un médium de chambre, dont
la limitation en ampleur et en polyphonie est compensée par un espace en
durée plus large.' Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 122.
* 187 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, 2001, p. 244.
* 188 Studiocanal is the
production unit of the French paying channel Canal +. David Lynch's films have
often been partly supported by French productions, such as Ciby 2000, the
Bouygues production unit (owner of TF1), for Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with
Me and Lost Highway, and Studiocanal for The Straight
* 189 Lynch on Lynch,
* 190 Jared Rapfogel, `David
* 191 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, (BFI), p. 147-148. `De fait la série est bien dans le film,
mais - c'est là l'humour spécial et la logique
particulière des auteurs - sous une forme retournée. Notamment
dans la première partie du prologue, inversion de tout ce qui faisait
Twin Peaks.' Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 173.
* 192 Ibid., pp. 147-149.
* 193 Ibid., p. 155.
* 194 Thierry Jousse, `Lost
Highway', my translation: `Le jeu de dualités, de résonances,
d'échos qui constituent le fond même du film ne dit pas autre
chose. Tout est double dans Lost Highway les personnages, les situations, les
objets, et chaque élément ne peut être perçu qu'en
fonction d'un réseau de correspondances propre au film. Le spectateur
est pris dans un circuit intégré, une boucle involutive a
l'intérieur de laquelle il doit créer ses propres
* 195 Stephen Pizzello,
`Highway to Hell', American Cinematographer, Vol. LXXVIII, No. 3, March
1997, p. 42.
* 196 Martha Nochimson,
`«All I need is the girl»: The Life and Death of Creativity in
Mulholland Drive' in The Cinema of David Lynch, American Dreams,
Nightmare Visions, p. 178.
* 197 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, (BFI), p. 58. `Ce que certains peuvent prendre pour de la raideur
et du classicisme - cette simplicité des plans - est donc une
manière de préserver une dimension mythique. Lynch crée
ainsi, dans Elephant Man, une atmosphère de
théâtre rituelle, en sur-place.' Cahiers du Cinéma, p.
* 198 Leibniz, Gottfried,
Wilhelm, Philosophical Texts, trans. Woolhouse, R.S. and Richard
Francks, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. p. 85-86.
* 199 Heath, op. cit., p.
* 200 Having found the time
usually allowed by the studios for post production much too short, Lynch now
has his own sound studio to be able to make his soundtrack at his own pace.
* 201 Nochimson, The
Passion, p. 36.
* 202 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, (BFI), p. 43-44. I replaced «separation» by
«continuity» as it was contradicting the sense of the sentence. `Mais
la force du concept sonore du film est surtout qu'il n'y a plus de solution de
continuité entre ambiance et musique.' Cahiers du Cinéma, p.
* 203 Chris Rodley, Lynch
on Lynch, p. 73. To which Lynch answered: `yeah, but scientists don't
understand it. They say, `It's moving electrons.' But there's a certain point
where they say, `We don't know why that happens.' I'm not a scientist and I
haven't talked to these guys that are into electricity, but it is a force. When
electrons run down a wire - do they have that power. It's amazing. How did a
plug or an outlet get to be shaped that way? And light bulbs: I can feel these
random electrons, you know, hitting me. It's like when you go under power
lines. If you were blindfolded, and drove down a highway under those power
lines, and really concentrated, you could tell when they occurred. There is
something very disturbing about that amount of electricity - they know these
things now. A tumour grows in the head.
* 204 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 89. L'infini actuel dans le moi fini, c'est exactement la
position d'équilibre, ou de déséquilibre, baroque. Le
Pli, p. 119.
* 205 Lynch on Lynch,
* 206 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 15.
* 207 Lynch on Lynch,
* 208 Jean-Luc Godard, `Juste
une conversation' avec Jean-Michel Frodon, Cahiers du Cinéma, No.
590, May 2004, p.21, my translation: `La caméra est le véritable
contrechamp du projecteur, et les bons films partent du contrechamp, de la
caméra. Les films que j'ai aimés, au cours de ces
dernières années, [...] sont tous des films qui ont besoin de la
caméra, qui partent de ce besoin, pour projeter ce qu'ils ont à
dire. Alors que la quasi-totalité des films commence par le projecteur,
par ce que les cinéastes veulent déjà dire avant d'avoir
été filmés. Ils violent la caméra, ils
l'asservissent à un discours, ils disent: je vais filmer cette pomme
parce que ceci et cela, parce qu'un tel a dit que...'
* 209 Gilles Deleuze, seminar
on Leibniz, 19.05.1987, my translation: `L'événement ne peut pas
s'inscrire dans l'âme sans en même temps réclamer un corps
dans lequel il se trace.'
* 210 Gilles Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 36. I inserted in bracket the word manner since it seemed closer
to the French word manière and as it introduces the notion further
developed by Deleuze of Mannerism. `En règle générale,
c'est la manière dont une matière se plie qui constitue sa
texture: elle se définit moins par ses parties
hétérogènes et réellement distinctes que par la
manière dont celles-ci deviennent inséparables en vertu de plis
particuliers.' Le Pli, p. 51.
* 211 John Rajchman,
Constructions, Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1998,
* 212 Noël Burch,
Theory of Film Practice, p. xviii.
* 213 Wölfflin,
Renaissance and Baroque, p. 46.
* 214 Stephen Pizzello,
`Highway to Hell' p. 35
* 215 Lynch on Lynch,
* 216 Ibid., p. 49.
* 217 Richard Combs, `Crude
Thought & Fierce Forces', Monthly Film Bulletin, Vol. LVI, No. 639,
April 1987, p. 104.
* 218 Quoted by Chris Rodley,
in Lynch on Lynch, p.54.
* 219 Charles Drazin, Blue
Velvet, p. 153.
* 220 Thierry Jousse, `Lost
Highway', my translation: `Les signes flottent et ne se raccordent plus les uns
aux autres. Le récit n'est plus au premier plan mais a essentiellement
une fonction rythmique ou climatique. [...] Lynch cherche un contact
hyper-sensoriel avec son spectateur, il travaille à le mettre dans un
certain état de réceptivité, lui faisant
simultanément perdre pied et trouver une nouvelle relation avec des flux
de perception excessivement subtils, qui s'apparentent bien sur à ceux
qu'il est possible d'atteindre par l'intermédiaire d'une drogue. C'est
la fonction musicale ou cérémoniale de la mise en
* 221 M. Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 195-196. `La notion de texture revêt un sens
très personnel chez Lynch, Presque universel aussi, à entendre
celui-ci l'invoquer dans des contextes si divers. Il appelle texture la
superposition de différentes couches, de niveaux de significations
multiples, comme il essaie de la réaliser dans ses films. Mais aussi
dans un sens plus répandu, c'est l'aspect d'une surface ou d'une peau,
ses motifs, sa granulation, ses micro-reliefs, apparaissent comme tels
lorsqu'on efface les mots. Dans ce deuxième sens, la texture renvoie
à l'idée d'un fragment du continuum naturel- d'un gros plan sur
la robe de la nature.' Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 233.
* 222 Brian O'Doherty, `Kane's
Welles', p. 89.
* 223 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 11. `Il n'y a pas seulement du vivant partout, mais des
âmes partout dans la matière. Alors, quand un organisme est
appelé à déplier ses propres parties, son âme
animale ou sensitive s'ouvre à tout un théâtre, dans lequel
elle perçoit et ressent d'après son unité,
indépendamment de son organisme, et pourtant inséparable.',
Le Pli, p. 16-17.
* 224 Pauline Kael,
Hooked, Film Writings 1985-1988, London-New York: Marion Boyars, 1992,
* 225 Ibid., p. 207.
* 226 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 196. ` Très vite Lynch a pris le pli d'ouvrir ses
films - avec le générique ou juste après - sur des
textures mouvantes, qui mettent le film sous le signe d'une certaine
matière ou d'une substance.' Editions Cahiers du Cinéma,
* 227 Lynch on Lynch,
p. 134. `It was the song that sparked the movie! Bernie Wayne wrote that song
in the early fifties. I forget who sung it first, but it wasn't Bobby Vinton.
But Bobby Vinton's version was the first one I ever heard. I don't know what it
was about that song, because it wasn't the kind of music that I really liked.
But there was something mysterious about it. It made me think about things. And
the first things I thought about were lawns [laughs] - lawns and the
neighbourhood. It's twilight - with maybe a streetlight on, let's say, so a lot
is in the shadow. And in the foreground is part of a car door, or just a
suggestion of a car, because it's too dark to see clearly. But in the car is a
girl with red lips. And it was these red lips, blue velvet and these
black-green lawns of a neighbourhood that started it.'
* 228 Pauline Kael, op. cit.,
* 229 Lynch in Lynch on
Lynch, p. 113-114.
* 230 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 196. `Dans Dune, sur le générique,
ce sont évidement les dunes du désert ou le vent soulève
des rideaux de sable - mais curieusement, cette texture ne joue pas de
rôle significatif dans la suite du film, où Lynch
s'intéresse surtout au bois, au métal et au cuir des
décors intérieur.' Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p.233.
* 231 Ibid., `Les volutes de
flamme du générique de Sailor et Lula, grandioses et
théâtralisées, sur l'orchestre de Richard Strauss,
annoncent le leitmotiv du film, le feu, associé à la puissance du
sexe.', Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 233.
* 232 Martha Nochimson,
The Passion, p.64.
* 233 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma 2001, p. 254, my translation:
`Ici, c'est une texture striée, qui se révèle être
les sillons d'un champ, filmé d'hélicoptère.'
* 234 Lynch on Lynch,
* 235 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 192. `Fumées pulsantes d'Eraserhead,
fumées enveloppantes et puissantes d'Elephant Man,
fumées (trop intermittentes malheureusement et décoratives) de la
planète Giedi Prime dans Dune. Panaches de fumées en
colonnes bien droites, comme au sortir de la scierie quand elle est en
activité (générique de la série Twin
Peaks), ou petit champignon atomique ponctuant la venue à
l'existence de John Merrick, puis son retour au Grand Tout (Elephant
Man): les fumées sont la vie, elles sont la vie obscure et
confuse.' Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 213.
* 236 Ibid., p. 192.
* 237 Lynch is very specific
about the smoke he wants, in Lynch on Lynch he talks about some of his
photographs: `But then it went one step further: why not just pure smoke? Smoke
obscures things. And it's another texture. It seemed like a good combo, so I
got a smoke machine from my friend, special effects expert Gary D'Amico. He's
got, like, a hundred different smoke machines. I like black smoke, but there's
no such thing any more. The only way to really get black smoke is to burn
tyres, but it's so toxic it isn't funny.' p. 219.
* 238 Ron Magid, `Blue
Velvet - Small Town Horror Tale', p. 72-74.
* 239 Pauline Kael, op. cit.,
* 240 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 150-151.
* 241 Lynch on Lynch,
* 242 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 115. `Une conception Baroque de la matière, en philosophie
comme en art, doit aller jusque-la, une texturologie qui témoigne d'un
organicisme généralisé ou d'une présence des
organismes partout.' Le Pli, p. 155.
* 243 `And then I saw the
radiator in my head. And it was an instrument for producing warmth in a room;
it made me sort of happy - like me as Henry, say. I saw this opening to another
place. So I ran into the set and looked at the radiator more closely. You know,
there are many different types of radiators, but I'd never seen another
radiator like this. It had a little kind of chamber, like a stage in it. I'm
not kidding you. It was right there, and it just changed everything.' Lynch
on Lynch, p. 64-65.
* 244 Lynch on Lynch,
* 245 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, 2001, p. 260. `Il faut donc
accepter la règle du jeu de ce film, qui est que certaines intrigues
secondaires (notamment tout ce qui concerne le tueur à gage qu'on voit,
au début, assassiner trois personnes plus un aspirateur) disparaissent
sans laisser presque aucune trace.'
* 246 Martha Nochimson,
The Passion, p. 51.
* 247 Thierry Jousse,
`Mulholland Drive: l'amour à mort',
my translation: `Il y a dans Mulholland Drive un coté film
ambiant au sens où la création d'ambiances incroyablement
sophistiquées et la permanente fluidité de leurs
enchaînements conduisent en priorité la perception du spectateur.
Ce qui revient souvent à croire que tout est mystère, rien n'est
rationnel explicable et qu'il s'agit seulement de se laisser porter, comme dans
un environnement, une installation ou une pièce musicale, par la pure
sensualité. Mais en réalité, cette dimension sensorielle
pour fondamentale qu'elle soit, ne doit jamais faire oublier que le film est
aussi un texte qu'il faut lire et interpréter. C'est dans l'interstice,
la faille créée par la disjonction ou l'ambivalence entre ces
deux pôles apparemment contradictoires que s'engouffre ou se glisse
précisément le film, objet tout à la fois rationnel et
* 248 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 11. `L'âme dans le Baroque a avec le corps un rapport
complexe: toujours inséparable du corps, elle trouve en celui-ci une
animalité qui l'étourdit, qui l'empêtre dans les replis de
la matière, mais aussi avec une humanité organique et
cérébrale (le degré de développement) qui lui
permet de s'élever, et la fera monter sur de tout autres plis.' Le
Pli, p. 17.
* 249 Lynch on Lynch,
* 250 Chris Rodley, Lynch
on Lynch, p. 32.
* 251 Ibid., p.72.
* 252 Rodley, Lynch on
Lynch, p. 188-189.
* 253 Stefan Drössler,
`Lola Montes: The Restoration', Sight & Sound, Vol. 12, No.
6, June 2002, p. 28.
* 254 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 68-69. `C'est d'ailleurs à un point-limite du
cinéma que Lynch s'affronte: dans Dune, les mots n'arrivent pas
à s'incarner totalement, parce que dès le début ils sont
trop porteurs de symbolique. Le mot spice par exemple, ne parvient pas
à rejoindre et à fusionner avec l'image concrète et
récurrente d'une goutte de liquide noir qui lui correspond visuellement,
et qu'on a méchamment comparée à une publicité pour
café. Lynch a pris là un risque énorme - mais un beau
risque - en comptant sur la rencontre des mots et des images-symboles.'
Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 84.
* 255 Michel Chion, `Dune, les
visages et les noms'
my translation: `Le verbe dans Dune est omniprésent, signifiant, rituel,
sérieux. Si il y a de l'humour (et il y en a) il est à partir de
ce sérieux. On sait que dans le roman de Franck Herbert, l'onomastique
est très importante: le fait par exemple, que la planète Dune
soit appelée le plus souvent Arrakis. Franck Herbert n'ignore pas que
l'espace entre les deux noms d'une même planète ou d'une
même personne, est pour la rêverie humaine un champs plus grand que
les millions d'années lumières entre les galaxies. Se faisant
film, dans l'adaptation de David Lynch, le Verbe continue d'être
fondateur, de représenter le lieu, l'espace. Les planètes sont
d'abord des noms, l'espace est intérieur (sublime séquence du
voyage vers Arrakis, en sur-place). Le mot reste en écart avec ce que
l'on voit, et le film vit, vibre, à partir de cet écart.'
* 256 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 222.
* 257 Bordwell, Thomson and
Staiger, Classical Hollywood, p. 223.
* 258 Ibid., p. 225.
* 259 Emmanuel Plasseraud,
`Vestiges du baroque: L'Origine fantasmée', Vertigo, Projections
Baroques, Hors Série, 2000, p. 34, `Mais nous connaissons aussi, au
cinéma, les ombres expressionnistes et fantastiques, qui sont les
expressions de la profondeur obscure de l'homme, non de son inconsistance.'
* 260 Deleuze, Cinema
1, The Athlone Press, p. 50-51. `Ce qu'il invoque, ce n'est pas la claire
mécanique de la quantité de mouvement dans le solide ou le
fluide, mais une obscure vie marécageuse où plongent toutes
choses, soit déchiquetées par les ombres, soit enfouies dans les
brumes. La vie non-organique des choses, une vie terrible qui ignore
la sagesse et les bornes de l'organisme, tel est le premier principe de
l'expressionnisme, valable pour la Nature entière, c'est-à-dire
pour l'esprit inconscient perdu dans les ténèbres, lumière
devenue opaque, lumen opacatum.' Cinéma 1, Editions de
Minuit, p. 75.
* 261 Ibid., `Le baroque
appréhende l'ombre pour ce qu'elle implique d'instabilité,
d'inconsistance, d'immatérialité. Il lui offre une vie
autonome, qui n'est pas menaçante, mais plutôt troublante.'
* 262 Wölfflin,
Principles, p. 197.
* 263 Gilles Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 31-32. `C'est un apport baroque: au fond blanc de craie ou de
plâtre qui préparait le tableau, le Tintoret, le Caravage
substituent un sombre fond brun-rouge sur lequel ils placent les ombres les
plus épaisses et peignent directement en dégradant vers les
ombres. Le tableau change de statut, les choses surgissent de l'arrière
plan, les couleurs jaillissent du fond commun qui témoigne de leurs
nature obscure, les figures se définissent par leur recouvrement plus
que par leur contour.' Le Pli, p. 44-45.
* 264 Pauline Kael,
Hooked, p. 207.
* 265 Stephen Pizzello,
`Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Laura Palmer's Phantasmagoric Fall
from Grace', p.64. `He said, «Ron, you did it on the pilot and I know you
can do it again». I was getting a little angry at that point. I said,
«yeah, but Dave, this is the big screen, it's not going to be on
television! The actors are going to have to light themselves!» So he said,
«well, let's try that.» I begged and pleaded and got down on my
knees, and finally he let me put a little bit of bounce in. I literally took
two 1200 Pars and bounced them into the trees; he wouldn't even let me put a
white card in! We started off in pure darkness, and then Dana and Sheryl came
in with these xenon flashlights. I was able to have the actors point them at
each other and bounce the light off their clothes, which were also dark, to
provide a little ambient fill. They would point them at themselves once in a
while, because they were supposed to be drunk and playing around. So I told
them, «play with the light a lot in your faces!» While they
were doing that, we would pan the 1200s straight up at the trees to provide
some bounce lighting; I'd have the lighting crew pan them into the branches,
following the general action of the flashlights, and then pan back out.'
* 266 Pauline Kael, op. cit.,
* 267 Nochimson, The
Passion, p. 33-34.
* 268 Ibid., p. 34.
* 269 Stephen Pizzello, op.
cit., p. 62.
* 270 Martha Nochimson,
`Mulholland Drive', p. 43.
* 271 Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 56-57. `Le fond de l'âme, le sombre fond, le «fuscum
subnigrum», hante Leibniz: Les substances ou les âmes «tirent
tout de leur propre fond.» C'est le deuxième aspect du
maniérisme, sans lequel le premier resterait vide. Le premier, c'est la
spontanéité des manières qui s'oppose à
l'essentialité de l'attribut. Le second, c'est l'omniprésence du
sombre fond qui s'oppose à la clarté de la forme, et sans quoi
les manières n'auraient rien d'où surgir. La formule
entière du maniérisme des substances est: «Tout leur
naît de leur propre fond, par une parfaite
spontanéité.»' Leibniz, in Deleuze, Le Pli, p.
* 272 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, BFI, p. 186. `Pourquoi la nuit? Peut-être parce que dans son
manteau d'obscurité elle efface les contours des objets distincts et
reconstitue le tout perdu. L'obscurité unit et fusionne ce que la
lumière sépare. La nuit ressoude ce que le jour a dessoude.'
Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 222.
* 273 Nochimson, `Mulholland
Drive', p. 44.
* 274 Ron Magid, `Blue
Velvet, Small Town Horror Tale', p. 74.
* 275 Stephen Pizzello,
`Highway to Hell', p. 37.
* 276 Ibid., p. 38.
* 277 Ibid., p. 38.
* 278 Buci- Glucksmann,
Orlan, Triomphe du baroque, p. 11. `Et cette notion de
métamorphose est gouvernée par un axiome baroque, qui est
emprunte à l'opéra vénitien: il faut introduire des effets
pour engendrer des affects, et ces affects créent des êtres. [...]
Je retiens donc ces trois termes, des effets, des affects et des êtres,
et ces trois termes constituent le triomphe du baroque, car ces effets
instituent les manières comme des opérations infinies et de
* 279 Martha Nochimson,
The Passion, p. 146.
* 280 Michel Chion, David
Lynch, Editions Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 262, my translation: `Ce qui
effraie en elle, c'est qu'il est impossible de savoir si elle joue, ou si elle
«s'y croit», comme si elle ne savait pas se freiner, et qu'elle
mettait en jeu toute son identité dans le moindre de ses actes.'
* 281 Martha Nochimson,
`«All I Need is the Girl»: The Life and Death of Creativity in
Mulholland Drive.' p. 172.
* 282 Thierry Jousse, op.
cit., my translation: `Vivre parler chanter en play-back c'est a dire
répéter des paroles déjà écrites en les
interprétant différemment, en changeant leur direction, voila
toute l'histoire des personnages et du cinéma d'aujourd'hui.'
* 283 Annette Davison,
`«Up in Flames»: Love, Control and Collaboration in the Soundtrack to
Wild at Heart.', in Erica Sheen and Annette Davison (ed.), The
Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions, London:
Wallflower Press, 2004, p. 120.
* 284 In a recent article in
the publication «Celeb Spiritual Report», David Lynch describes the
wonders of the Unified Field: `A significant event occurred in my life the day
I learned that our human physiology, our body, is made of consciousness. [...]
I learned that underlying all matter is a vast, unbounded, infinite and eternal
field of consciousness called the Unified Field. I found out that modern
science started taking this field seriously about 25 years ago and that all
matter is unified at this level in a state of perfect symmetry, or balance. The
entire universe emerges from this field in a process called "spontaneous
sequential symmetry breaking. [...] "I realized this Unified Field is quite an
interesting place. It is not manifest and is full, meaning it is no thing, yet
all things in potential. It manifests and permeates all things: the whole
universe, everything, while still remaining full and not manifest.' David
Lynch, `One Significant Day in My Life', Celeb Spiritual Report, Jan-May
2004, Fairchild Publication Inc, available at
* 285 Martha Nochimson,
`The Straight Story: Sunlight Will Out of The Darkness Come',
* 286 Michel Chion, `Dune les
visages et les noms', my translation. , Cahiers du cinéma, No.
368, Février 1985,
[03.11.2002].`David Lynch n'est pas victime de cette formule nuisible, source
selon moi, de la plupart des académismes actuels, qui veut que le
cinéma, ce soit des images et des sons. Passionné par la
matière cinématographique, il continue de croire que le
cinéma est fait aussi de visages, de corps, de personnes, de visions et
de mots. Moyennant quoi, tout ceci, qu'il prend à bras le corps, lui
résiste encore parfois, mais cette résistance de ce qu'il filme
dans sa volonté de faire oeuvre, cette résistance qu'il laisse
être, donne à ses oeuvres une tension, une intensité
autrement plus intéressante que toutes les poétiques actuelles de
* 287 Bill Krohn, `Lost
Highway de David Lynch', trans. Serge Grünberg, Cahiers du
Cinema, No. 509, Janvier 1997,
highway/index.html [16.03.2003]. I could not find the original English
transcript so that I had to translate back into English myself: `Pour moi il y
a plus d'un mystère. Un mystère est ce qui se rapproche le plus
du rêve. Le simple mot «mystère» est excitant. Les
énigmes les mystères sont merveilleux jusqu'à ce qu'on les
résolve. Je crois donc qu'il faut respecter les mystères.'
* 288 I was not able to view
the material contained on his website:
www.davidlynch.com/ since I do
not have a broadband access to Internet.
* 289 Slavoj Zizek, The
Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, On David Lynch's Lost Highway, Seattle: The
Walter Chapin Simpson center for the humanities, University of Washington, 2002
* 290 Slavoj Zizek, The
Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, p. 41-42.
* 291 Steven Shaviro, `The
Erotic Life of Machines', p. 29-30
* 292 Gilles Deleuze, The
Fold, p. 125. `Il y a un certain temps déjà que
s'élabore l'hypothèse d'un univers infini, qui a perdu tout
centre aussi bien que toute figure assignable; mais le propre du
Baroque est de lui redonner une unité, par projection, émanant
d'un sommet comme point de vue. Il y a longtemps que le monde est
traité comme un théâtre de base, songe ou illusion,
vêtement d'Arlequin comme dit Leibniz; mais le propre du Baroque est non
pas de tomber dans l'illusion ni d'en sortir, c'est de réaliser
quelque chose dans l'illusion même, ou de lui communiquer une
présence spirituelle qui redonne à ses pièces et
morceaux une unité collective.' Le Pli, p. 170.