david lynch and language

Eraserhead is one of those films that stays with you. I have an absolutely horrific memory. Films, books, theater, you name it, I’ll be lucky to even remember the most important of plot twists or themes even six months after completing a viewing or book, even if I discuss it at length with someone else. 

David Lynch’s work is different. 


While I couldn’t quote you lines from Eraserhead (despite the fact that there are few), I remember most scenes of the film vividly. 

Mary X’s fetid home. Spencer’s miserable apartment. The horrifying ‘child’ X has born for Spencer. Spencer’s visions. The lady in the radiator. The man in space. The nightmarish cabaret. All somehow connected. And all seemingly, frustratingly unconnected. All occurring in a film which at the same time lasts forever and is over too soon. 

EVERY Lynch film, music video, photograph, is equally unforgettable. Why?

It’s not because after long periods of discussion I finally found intellectual peace with my interpretation. And it certainly wasn’t because the films were beautiful, although in their own way they are.


Lynch on language “The power of words is that they change things as soon as you know what something is.”

How much of our collective definition of something as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is based upon the feelings elicited by the words themselves? 

According to Lynch “Eraserhead” is his most spiritual film but “no one has written it to that side at which I understand it or what it means to me.” 

For Lynch the social meaning we have ascribed to various words refuses the possibility that we can interpret and dream our way into a new way of thinking. 

Example. We’ve given ‘death’ an ugly word. But is the act of ‘death’ really ugly? Or is it ugly because the word is ugly? Think about it.

Lynch doesn’t use words because they’re too powerful. Because they eliminate the possibility for a ‘sore’ or ‘sperm’ to be beautiful. 

It’s impossible but its a good dream; the idea that we could create art that doesn’t rely on a language that has been imbued with centuries worth of conflicting meaning, that we could create work and not seek an interpretation. That we could be allowed to dream.

That’s David Lynch’s dream. And that’s why Lynch’s work is so unforgettable. It’s a film or a music video or a photograph without words, and therefore, something that we, through words, attempt to imbue with self-imposed meaning

Missing the point completely that the very reason Lynch’s work is strangely powerful and disconcertingly beautiful, is because there are no words. His refusal to allow us meaning doesn’t make sense. But maybe that’s the point.

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