The unknown– something humans have had a fear for since the beginning of time.
The unknown, though, seems to dictate each and every one of David Lynch’s films and TV shows to the point of infamous renown where the coining of the phrase Lynchian is appropriate. Ambiguity is captured left and right since his earliest works, exemplified in the inconclusive season two finale of “Twin Peaks” and the more recent movie “Mulholland Drive” where anything but a clear interpretation is given.
It seems indecisive and vapid: developing a plot in order for it to resolve in a ceaseless ending, an oxymoron in itself. Why watch something that gives you no closure, no sense of fulfillment or purpose to it? Wouldn’t you be better off watching some lighthearted comedy or superfluous soap opera that at least has an ending?
No, because there is something undeniably profound about the world of Lynch and its “endings.” The ability for the director to leave anyone and everyone wondering, “What just happened?” is a concept foreign to modern society, a risk other filmmakers don’t take and replace with the classic “They lived happily ever after.” Lynch, instead, encloses each story inside its own, to say the least, peculiar universe, but leaves a gaping hole for the viewer’s imagination.
Take “Twin Peaks,” for example. A classic murder-mystery series initially, but the bizarre elements Lynch chooses to incorporate transcends the story from something reproducible and mediocre to a never-before-seen experience driven by the quirky personality of Dale Cooper, the main character, and the ethereal and, quite frankly, weird nature of the Red Room, an illusive place invisible to the naked eye. The concept is easy to understand; the death of a popular high school girl leads to a discovery of secrets in the town Twin Peaks.
At the same time, though, it’s hard to firmly grasp. What is the significance of Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen mummified in plastic? Is it social commentary on how the destiny of promising people can be twisted into something sinister, an exemplar of how bad things can happen to good people? Or does it illustrate how fragile the real world is, seeing as how Palmer’s dad was the one who killed his own daughter because he was possessed by an unholy spirit?
“Twin Peaks” merely poses these questions and more without answering them as the immersive experience unravels. Lynch deliberately leaving blanks for the viewer to fill in.
It’s not just Lynch’s intentions that leaves viewers in wonder, though; the ending of the original “Twin Peaks” lends itself to mystique. Dale Cooper ends up being possessed by the very spirit that killed Palmer, the season resolving with a mirror shattered by Cooper’s bloodied head, who is possessed by Laura’s murderer. It seems like something straight out a horror movie, an unbreakable cycle conspired by “the other world.”
However, Lynch waits about 25 years to revive the cult classic, coinciding with the iconic line, “I’ll see you again in 25 years,” instead of building on its reputation immediately afterwards like any other franchise would. These unique steps Lynch takes leaves the audience pondering the reason why Cooper was chosen to be “next,” and the purpose of leaving out, specifically, 25 years between season 2 and the revival.
“Mulholland Drive” is another story Lynch fathoms into a masterpiece. The movie starts off with a car accident that causes a woman, “Rita,” to suffer amnesia and wander into a stranger’s house for shelter, where she encounters Betty, an ambitious actress who is yet to be discovered.
Simple to understand, at first, right? The plot soon takes an unexpected turn as the two venture to the Club Silencio, a theater that exudes the quintessence of Lynchian film through the reiterations of “No hay banda,” meaning, “There is no band,” despite the fact that Betty and Rita are driven to tears from the sonorous music that seems to make the air thick with emotion.
Lynch’s cinematography then transgresses the structural ideals of modern movies by ending the film with a bombardment of dream-like sequences. What seemed to be leading to concrete ending becomes a collusion of the surreal reality Hollywood endures through the fantasy of film and hardships of the real world where Rita is a successful Hollywood actor who goes by the name Camilia Rhodes and Betty is Camilia’s pariah and failed mistress, plotting her ex-lover’s downfall through a hired gun.
This conclusion, which is merely a reversion of roles, and the story itself leads to intrigue about the function of Club Silencio and other events, all the while tackling the stigma of LGBTQ relationships through Camilia and Betty’s affair.
Despite the confusion that might arise from watching any one of Lynch’s creation, there is a reason why he was crowned “the most important director of this era,” by the Guardian. It wasn’t a mistake or a baseless claim; it was giving recognition where it was due. Lynch is the reason why cinematography is defined as an art.
Movies shouldn’t be rigid and defined with endings, like how music isn’t just the notes on a page. Art, especially movies, should be a gateway that can serve as a cathartic experience into self-discovery and act as an escape from the world, and Lynch does that.
By letting viewers search for their own ending, it enables a channel for self-discovery to open up; something other directors just don’t give.