david lynch is one of my favorite filmmakers. because he can terrify me and make me laugh more than anyone else. i love horror movies, but they don’t scare me. lynch scares the shit out of me. i don’t like comedies but lynch makes me laugh.
are there any lynchian movies before eraserhead?
i ask this because he taps into a certain part of the subconscious that is so unique, but so obvious at the same time. is it possible that movies existed for 80 years before eraserhead, with no one tapping into the same kind of fear/disgust that lynch did?
if there is such a movie, i would love to check it out.
the only thing i can think of that even comes close is sunset blvd., but that is completely different. and no, i’ve never seen any of maya deren’s movies.
I can’t answer your question directly, but it’s interesting to place Eraserhead in historical context and realise that, when judged against the work of New Hollywood, it essentially came out of nowhere.
i mean, there have been avant garde movies since the beginning of movies… but i haven’t see anything before eraserhead that resembles lynch’s type of subconscious fear.
for example, the shots of people staring at other people without any thoughts in their head, and the shot being held way too long, like a dream
^^yeah of course, i just don’t know who influenced him specifically. There are probably shades of all the great surrealist directors, but Lynch has a very unique style.
Yes, there are “Lynchian” films that preceded Eraserhead, the most striking one which not just resembles Lynch’s depiction of “subconscious fear”, but also a variety of stylistic trademarks would be Leonardo Favio’s The Dependant. But I’m neither sure if Lynch had seen that one and was directly influenced by it nor if there’s a subtitled version of that film available.
these are the two interviews that will totally give you insight to david lynch’s influences:
Hopper, Bacon, Kafka and Bergman are the influences he cites most frequently.
Here is a previous thread: http://mubi.com/topics/3999
I see everything from Buñuel and Bergman to James Whale and Tod Browning (and of course the obvious architectural influences of post-industrial Philadelphia and Durham, North Carolina).
Before we send people off to the previous Lynch thread…
Johnny wrote: is it possible that movies existed for 80 years before eraserhead, with no one tapping into the same kind of fear/disgust that lynch did?
I think Johnny’s less interested in Lynch’s individual influences than actual films in the last 80 years which acheived what Lynch manages to do in his films. Lynch has elements of Herzog, Bunuel, Kafka, Bergman and whoever, but none of them ever made an Eraserhead. Right?
So, has anyone seen Kinugasa’s Page of Madness? How does that hold up?
Better still, how does that hold up if you put a scary Lynch type soundtrack on while watching it?
TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
I don’t remember if it was before or after ERASERHEAD, but it’s definitely a strange film that’s pretty horrifying. And look for short animation films by The Brothers Quay, especially THE STREET OF CROCODILES.
It’s hard to answer the OP on this because the idea of what constitutes “Lynchian” is likely somewhat personal in regards to how much another film may fit that category. I mean there isn’t anyone precisely like Lynch, it would have been hard to do, outside of experimental films, prior to the sixties or seventies anyway given the constraints of the eras and notions of what was acceptable. So the question is then how much of what aspects of Lynch’s style would constitute a “pre-Lynch”? I mean one can find films surrounding the themes of discomfort with self and unusual tones as far back as the silent era, people like Tod Browning and Fritz Lang have some aspects that could be considered precursors to Lynch, someone like John Brahm worked along the edges of splintered identity and had a striking visual style that could be seen as somewhat similar, although that wouldn’t be in what was shown as much as the attention to atmosphere as it worked on character, then there is also Lynch’s proclivity for “camp” in his films, a sort of strangely heightened emotionalism that one would normally associate with melodramas, in this sense I get something of a Delmer Daves vibe in his sixties romance/family drama mode, and there is always just films like Nightmare Alley and others that push the boundary between horror and melodrama, but they don’t exactly feel Lynchian even if they achieved something of the same sort of dynamic in some ways.
The closer one gets to Lynch’s time, the more films one finds that are breaking boundaries and working in ways that could be seen as providing some inspiration or at least foundation for films like Lynch would make. The European art film scene broke further with realism, so someone like Delvaux could make The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short which has some very Lynchian moments in it, and directors like Bergman and Antonioni obviously provided some direct influence in the fracturing of identity and the urban surroundings acting as character in a way. Experimental filmmakers like Kenneth Anger and Michael Snow must have provided inspiration as well, Anger for his visual style/content mix of camp and something more agressive and dark, and Snow with Wavelength surely foreshadowed Lynch’s use of sound and the concept of the ominous inanimate object or room. (Kubrick too picked up on this.) Japanese filmmakers in the sixties were all over the place breaking ideas of character identification and film structure into new forms, but it would be hard to pinpoint a direct influence or similarity there other than tone and the interest in the influence of urban life of character and how that can influences action in a dark or nihilistic way, and their concern with sex, purity, and gender roles also abuts some Lynchian ideas perhaps.
Anyway, that’s sort of a rough draft of some aspects that might be explored further depending on what it is that is being looked for, or what others might say. So take it as a conversation generator rather than a strict interpretation of the OP’s question.
Tetsuo was made many years AFTER Eraserhead.
Sorry to hardcore Lynch fans out there…..he hacked EVERYTHING FROM MAYA DEREN.
I don’t know, I thought Eraserhead was pretty original, but he hasn’t equaled that feat since.
I think that the main influences that David Lynch might have suffered when creating “Eraserhead” certainly came from surrealist art, including of course Luis Buñuel and Jean Cocteau. The work of Hiroshi Teshigahara in collaboration with the writer Kobo Abe, specially “Pitfall” and “Woman in the Dunes”, also has similarities with Lynch’s. It may seem an abusive parallel, but the industrial landscape with the annoying sounds of machinery could also be something he picked up from Antonioni’s “Red Desert”.
However, no influence we can manage to find will ever reduce the creativity and originality of “Eraserhead”, which is one of my favorite films and one of Lynch’s best, if not the actual best.
Good call on those choices Carlos, I would add that his pacing seems to owe a lot to television shows from the fifties and sixties. One can almost imagine a laugh track being added to Eraserhead at times given the mode of delivery and timing of some of the scenes. I think perhaps even more than the surrealists, when it comes to art, Lynch was influenced by the symbolists and pre-Raphaelites when it comes to the look or feel of his movies.
Coming almost out of nowhere, Robert Altman’s 3 Women is not only “Lynchian”, but actually quite Lynchian. By that I mean, Lynch sometimes stands in as a description for disturbing and surreal movies, even though he hardly has the monopoly on that (another good filmmaker to look into is Nicolas Roeg). However, 3 Women really really feels like a Lynch movie, though made by a completely different auteur with a completely different sensibility. I find it difficult not to draw comparisons between 3 Women and the work of Lynch.
“he hacked EVERYTHING FROM MAYA DEREN”
That’s like saying Maya Deren hacked everything from Luis Bunuel. Surrealism is no longer really an art movement but a broad mode of narrative and non-narrative dreamlike or psychological effects. Maya Deren and David Lynch share some comparative interests here and there (surrealist storytelling, subject of women) but their movies don’t operate in the same way (cross cutting between locations versus cross cutting between personalities; mutable and shifting objects instead of mutable and shifting personalities; choreography versus sequence).
The beginning of Sunset Boulevard with the mansion, the monkey, the organ and the general eeriness.
Cocteau was not a surrealist, and, in fact, was despised by the Paris Surrealist Group and felt mutual disdain for them. Just because something is avant-garde or experimental doesn’t make it surrealist. Lynch has never participated in any kind of collective surrealist activity and wasn’t even really influenced by surrealist films for Eraserhead – admitting he never saw Un chien andalou until after making that film. Plus, Lynch’s own prouncements about surrealism tend to show that he doesn’t really understand it and his own sensibility, while certainly having some affinities, is markedly different in its ethos from surrealism, which never wants to submit life to art. To surrealists, works of art are merely documents of a daily process. Most contemporary surrealists tend to roll their eyes at the continued association with Lynch: http://londonsurrealistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/a-hall-of-mirrors/
Surrealism’s influence on the art world may have spread far and wide, but directors like Deren and Lynch only borrow certain visual motifs. In fact, surrealism is much more than an art movement, but is a larger cultural movement incorporating philosophy, politics, and above all, poetry. There are still contemporary surrealist groups, most of which shun publicity and commercialism in keeping with their anti-capitalist stance. The most prominent surrealist today is probably Jan Svankmajer (perhaps my favorite filmmaker), the Czech director and animator known for his short films and feature lengths that feature unsettling stop-motion animation. He belongs to the Czech Surrealist Group that has been active since the 1930s.
On the case of Lynch, I would say the closest precursors to a film like Eraserhead (1976) are the very dark, more experimental films Ingmar Bergman made in the late 60s, particularly Persona (1966) (which Lynch has acknowledged as one of his favorites) and Hour of the Wolf (1968), both of which were developed from the same script. Both feature unsettling nightmare sequences that blur with reality, and the latter, which is more of a horror film, features some bizarre sinister creatures.
And although I balk at the categorizations of Lynch as a surrealist, you would do well to watch a few of Bunuel’s films, however you’ll notice a markedly different sensibility, one that is much more socio-politically oriented and full of a vicious black humor. Start with the early ones Un chien andalou (1929) and L’Age d’or (1930) and then go for his “return” to surrealist-style plots with films like The Exterminating Angel (1962), Simon of the Desert (1965), Belle du jour (1967), The Milky Way (1969), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and The Phantom of Liberty (1974). The last couple are actually a bit more Pythonesque than Lynchian.
You may also want to check out Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932), Todd Browning’s Freaks (1932), Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965).
Svankmajer, who I mentioned above, had also already made a significant number of short films (mostly featuring stop-motion animation) by the 1970s. The ones that would probably chime most with your Lynchian quest are The Garden (1968), The Flat (1968), and A Quiet Week in the House (1969). As with Bunuel, note the differences in sensibility between this director, who is a participant in the international surrealist movement, and Lynch, who has a muse independent of that sensibility.
Tarkovsky really is something else (and much more profound) but i believe they’re both moving naturally in the room of dreams. Gaspar Noé saw Eraserhead a lot of times and i think his films is a product of the “subconscious” as well. However, as a painter, he is a bad imitation of Francis Bacon.
But to find something very equal to Lynch i think litterature (Kafka, Bulgakov), classic hollywood and soaps is the best way to go. The psychotic almost pervert 50’s and 60’s mood that Lynch loves is inherited in the time itself and the Lynch-atmosphere will – as you say yourself – come into being in a few scenes of Sunset Blv. or in a 60’s pop song. There is a Twin Peaks feeling to Douglas Sirks films and the very story of Peggy Entwistles death is very lynchian too. He is describing the american subconscious and his source may be the american society as a whole.
And don’t check out Vampyr by Dreyer and Freaks by Todd Browning – they’re horrible films. Especially the last one.
Blasphemy! Vampyr is excellent. On second thought, I think it was probably a stretch to call it “Lynchian,” but I was milling about examples of films that remind me of his work. The OP is actually best off exploring the films of directors Lynch himself cites as an influence, such as the aforementioned Bergman and Fellini.
I already see ’’Repulsion’’ by Polanski mentioned in that thread, and ’’Eraserhead’’ definitely reminded me of the sense of claustrophobia and paranoia that the Polanski film has. The image of the ’’baby’’ from Lynch’s film even reminded me of the image of that rotting and moulding rabbit that Catherine Deneuve’s character was supposed to cook in ’’Repulsion’’…
Instead of seeing the surreal in Lynch, I like to look at a few things that remain constant in his films:
melodrama from the 1940s and 50s (Sirk) – Keyser Soze had it right
the subconscious: Freud, James and Jung
Bergman, definitely. Persona and Virgin Spring
Maybe Brakhage for an inspiration
I am going to go off topic from the original question and talk about a few films and or film makers that give me the “warm, fuzzy creepies”
The Quay Brother or Brother Quay, very cool surreal stop motion animation
I saw someone had Even Dwarfs Started Small by Herzog and also included should be The Engima of Kasper Hauser also by Herzog, very bizarre flick too.
Freaks is good and quite old in comparison to Eraserhead, Browning did a god job of creating a disturbing environment.
I love the Japanese film The Face of Another some amazing cinematography there and quite creep-tastic
Night of the Hunter while much less surrealistic and more narrative, it has some of the creepiest scenes ever in a non-horror genre film (at least to me)
“(cross cutting between locations versus cross cutting between personalities; mutable and shifting objects instead of mutable and shifting personalities; choreography versus sequence).”
You actually replied to yourself Polaris: Lynch directs events rather personalities guiding throughout the events and most of those events in the Lynch world are inspirational motives of the Deren world. And no, surrealism from two films alone (Bunuel’s that is) isn’t influence enough, unless At Land was a sort of homage to any multiple personalities in any of the two Bunuel works. Bunuel went off to another dimension before he returned to surrealist satire, Deren even if she had watched both of his first two works, she’d never consider herself a surrealist but more of an experimental anatomist.
For me one of the strongest examples of “pre-Lynch” style filmmaking is Fellini’s Toby Dammit from the Spirits of the Dead anthology film.
While you can certainly track down very very strong elemental ties and obvious sources from older films, it’s the combination of elements that really make something Lynch.
I would argue one of the biggest Lynch Sources out there are Hitchcock
(Greatest example being “Shadow of a Doubt” very obvious Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me source
and Vertigo in Mullholland Drive)
Traces of Contempt (Le mepris) are not so subtle in Mulholland Drive.
ANd I find Lynch’s physical humor has severe traces of the subtle side of Jacques Tati
(Playtime’s doorman and opening scene with Janitor onlooking)
Of course I dead on Agree with Repulsion for Eraserhead inspiration.
and Juliet of Spirits in general.