interview by ARIEL WIZMAN
photography TODD COLE
His latest film, Inland Empire, is a magnum opus. We talked with the master of darkness to better understand his creative process, and the roll meditation plays in it : going beneath the surface. Beneath… beneath… beneath…
ARIEL WIZMAN — Have you been meditating already this morning?
DAVID LYNCH — Oh sure! I’ve meditated twice a day everyday for 33 years. I’ve meditated. I haven’t missed a meditation since the Eraserhead days. Just meditated along, and kept it to myself.
ARIEL WIZMAN — So, it’s like prayer?
DAVID LYNCH — It’s like a prayer, but it’s a mental technique, it’s not a religion. It’s a technique that allows any human being to dive within. We’re on the surface of life, and there’s this great interior, but how do you get there? Maharishism Mantra turns the mind within, and naturally you dive. Why do you naturally dive? Because every deeper level of the mind and intellect has more happiness, more charm. The deeper you go, the more there is, and then you transcend intellect, ego, and experience this ocean of pure consciousness. The ocean of pure vibrant self, free from all consciousness, so that the bowl of consciousness that you have starts to expand, and what is so good about that is that all the quality of consciousness—pure consciousness—begins to grow more and more. Those qualities are bliss, intelligence, creativity, universal love, energy, power, all the things that make the universe and everything in it. Modern science has discovered the exact same field now. Why isn’t it on the front cover of every paper in the world? Everyday there should be articles on the unified field because there it is, and this field has always been there. It doesn’t belong to any religion.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Is it a root of religion?
DAVID LYNCH — It’s there, and that’s where every one of us comes from. It’s our home. Why do you think people have been talking about that ? It’s unbelievably good. What are the side effects of this process? Negative things starts to recede, so depression, sorrow, anxiety, fear, anger, all these things start to go away. It’s money in the bank! Well, you know, you’ve got people saying, “I like to hold on to my anger!” Because they think that anger is energy, and they can use it in their work. But, true anger is a poison, and it blocks creativity. When that anger goes, the person feels so much better, and their environment feels so much better. The poison is gone, and when you’re in this field of unity, things like creativity just start flowing. All the creativity comes from this place. So, why not go in there, and get more and more, and more of it?
ARIEL WIZMAN — Is it like the feeling of a child discovering the hidden ?
DAVID LYNCH — It’s so powerful, so beautiful, so familiar, but it’s unique. It’s a unique experience. They called this field “the treasury.” You don’t join up with anything. You don’t have to do anything. Just meditate. You hear the word “transcend,” but you never have experience of this word. Once you have that experience, then so many questions disappear. Transcendental is neither up or down or over. It’s like here, there, and everywhere. This coffee cup this is the way I pictured it 300 years ago. Scientists started saying, what is a coffee cup? What is matter? And, they start looking at it deeper and deeper, and they found this molecular structure, and then they found atoms within the molecules, like little boxes within boxes within boxes within boxes. Tinier and tinier particles. Here is modern science finally finding at the base of all matter, and at the base of all particles, and all forces, an unified field. And, this field is the unity of all the particles and all the forces. It’s a field of oneness, and it’s unmanifested. It’s nothing. Science describes how these unmanifested things manifest everything that is a thing. So, it’s not up or down. It’s everywhere, but it’s hiding. It’s hiding beneath the surfaces. Beneath, beneath, beneath, beneath…
ARIEL WIZMAN — What does that have to do with movies and cinema?
DAVID LYNCH — Everything. All that stuff that we catch that we call ideas bubble up from this level, from this field.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Sounds? Visions? Everything?
DAVID LYNCH — For sure. I go along, I get an idea, and BANG!!! You know how ideas come: all of a sudden there it is. Now, sometimes I fall in love with these ideas, and sometimes they’re cinema ideas. So, you’ve got an idea, and it’s so thrilling, and suddenly you see that this is a cinema idea. You see how cinema can translate this idea, and it would be there on the screen. Coming with this is what they’re wearing. Coming with this is all the furniture. Coming with this is the light. Coming with this is the sound. And, it comes all at once. But when you start writing, you realize how much was in that first idea.
ARIEL WIZMAN — How does writing expand that?
DAVID LYNCH — Now, here’s the deal: when ideas come up sometimes, they just leave a lot of information. They pop up at the surface. So, if you expand that consciousness, you can catch them at a deeper level, and they’ve got more stuff, more information, more power. You just follow that idea, stay true to that idea, and you’ll know you’re all in.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Because, if cinema is specifically an art that puts the realization—the reality of something—so far from the original idea, how do you manage to keep the idea pure?
DAVID LYNCH — That’s a very good question. The idea is the gift, and it makes a world, and I love going into that world. I love it. Sometimes, I don’t want to leave a location or a set. It’s too soon. It can’t be over. I want to linger in there. It’s like going into an other world. It’s thrilling, and that’s the beauty of cinema. I love abstraction. You’ve got an idea for a place, and in your mind, this place has a certain look, a certain field. Now, it might be very expansive to build that place in a set, and it might be very complicated because the scene takes you inside and outside at the same time. You can’t build the whole world, so you go on location, and you have to find a place that you can marry to that idea. You’ve got all these choices, but you’re going to see a photo, and say that’s the place I want to go and look at, and you go and look at it. It may not be 100%, but checking with the idea, if you change this right here, if we light this this way, we move it over here, and we use this thing, then the feeling will match the idea, and you keep going like this. When an actor says a word too fast, you know that another way of talking can make the words naturally come slower. It’s like, day by day, shot by shot, you check back with the idea. It’s there, and you’re checking with it. Another thing about meditation, this field, the unified field, is that it’s a field of knowingness. Knowingness is a strange thing. Just suddenly knowing is really beautiful. You know everything all at once.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Is that what non-meditating people call intuition?
DAVID LYNCH — I think intuition is feeling and intellect merging, and it’s a higher thing, and this is being able to be unfolded, so it’s money in the bank. I promise you, it’s the whole bowl of wax. Where does this come from? If you want to accelerate this process, dive within, dive within, dive within. That’s where it is.
ARIEL WIZMAN — What do you like about living in LA?
DAVID LYNCH — The place does a lot, and I think that if everybody loved the light, and the Hollywood Hills the way I do, it would be very crowded. Everybody would be here. You know, when I first saw the light in LA, it was thrilling. I came from Philadelphia, and it was a dark hellhole, and had another thing going on. As I said, the biggest influence for me in my life was the city of Philadelphia, but it wasn’t a good feeling being there. It was a mixed thing. Euphoria for some of the things I saw in terms of ideas, but not a healthy place to live.
ARIEL WIZMAN — So, what is it about the light in LA?
DAVID LYNCH — It’s a round, bright, blissful light that gives me the feeling of freedom to do and think whatever comes out, with no restrictions. It’s a really expansive feeling.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Freedom like tuning into a certain musical harmony?
DAVID LYNCH — Music itself is an idea. I’m not a musician—though I do play music—so when I get a musical idea, it’s more of an impression, like a tempo, or a fill. It’s weird. But music is very abstract, and it has, as everybody knows, the possibility for so much emotion. Film is a little bit like music, I always say, because it flows in time and has this sequence. The unified field is just that way. It’s got a flow. Infinite silence and infinite dynamism together. If you want to know power, you put infinite dynamism with infinite silence in perfect balance, perfect symmetry. You can’t touch that. It’s just like, BOOM: power! So why don’t people dive in and experience that ? It’s beyond me.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Christian mystics, like master Eckhart, said “Hearing is a path beyond seeing”. What do you experience when you get to that feeling of unity?
DAVID LYNCH — Hearing, I think, is the easiest sense to transcend with, but you can transcend on sight, you can transcend on taste. It’s a path towards totality. We think that the world has got to be this way but it’s a field of all possibility. Suffering is not part of the thing. We were not made to suffer, we were made to live in bliss. Just thinking about that makes me happy. Suffering can only exist when this light of unity is low.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Bliss?
DAVID LYNCH — Beatitude in French.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Which is a very strange idea, because pleasure is everywhere nowadays. Everyone wants, and thinks they obtain, pleasure.
DAVID LYNCH — They stay on the surface. You go for happiness. Everybody wants happiness. You go for it, and you get it in one form or another, but does it last? It doesn’t last. You go looking for it somewhere else, and it doesn’t last. Dive within, and live in that pure infinite happiness, and it grows. It doesn’t go away. It gets more and more and more, and that’s the difference.
ARIEL WIZMAN — So, you take pleasure everyday. How do you convince an industry to let you do just that?
DAVID LYNCH — I never wanted to be a filmmaker. I just wanted to be a painter. But something about film—making a world, and having this world of sound and pictures moving together in time—that’s magic, and it just gets you. I was sitting in a big giant room at the Pennsylvania Academic school of Art, in a little cubicle, working on a painting. My painting was of a garden at night, and it was just a black field with those little green things coming from the darkness, plants coming out from the darkness, and all of a sudden I hear wind, and I see movement. That’s when it hit me. I wanted to see that movement with the wind. The idea of painting movements. And that led to stop motion, and those kind of things. These are fragments of ideas, and so, honestly, if I was going to write down that idea, I could write that idea, and then “The End.” Period. And, I would just put the word “Wind” underneath it, and a couple of question marks, and that would have been the idea. For a lot of people, the bottom line is money, to make a film to make money. Just the fact that there’s these two words, “final cut,” is a horror. A lot of directors don’t have final cut, and it’s a supreme sadness and absurdity. I don’t know how this thing has happened, but I think that now with digital, filmmaking will go back to where it should be. You know, we’re like painters. You create things, and it’s your own voice, and you take responsibility for every single element.
ARIEL WIZMAN — What about the fact that there’s evil out there like in Inland Empire? One could ask if this has religious overtones.
DAVID LYNCH — It’s the way it is. It’s not religious, although all the religions certainly talk about it. If you’re about to do something to someone, you can ask, “Would I like this to be done to me ?” If the answer is no for you, then it’s a bad thing to do. If the answer is absolutely yes for you, it’s a good thing to do.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Can we invent a story without good and evil?
DAVID LYNCH — Stories always, I think, will have that struggle. You can say that conflict, contrast, life and death, light and dark, all those things are so critical to a story, but I always thought that the story teller doesn’t have to suffer to show suffering. That’s the difference. So, I think that the great story teller gives depth of character, depth of story, and some other story teller, just a surface. No room to dream, no abstraction, nothing really to think about except that you have your popcorn, you see the thing, and you go home. But, when you go beneath the surface, and get something else going, then it’s where cinema can come in. And you can stand on the surface, and it’s interesting. But, if you want to get down in here, it’s a different kind of cinema, and that’s the beauty about cinema.
ARIEL WIZMAN — Do you watch your movies from time to time?
DAVID LYNCH — Sometimes. My son hadn’t seen all my films, so every Saturday night for a while we saw one. And, I had my paintings in storage for a long time. I got them out, and it was so thrilling. I couldn’t see them, because there was no place for them, but I need to have some old things around to inspire the new, and they have that effect. So, from time to time, you can check back and be surprised. A new thing will turn up. A new idea will burst out from seeing where you were before.
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