British Film
David Lynch
The Films of David Lynch: 50 Percent Sound
David Lynch
David Lynch: Fire Walk With Me

The Films of David Lynch

Authorship and the
Films of David Lynch
Chapter 1: Eraserhead
Chapter 2: Elephant Man/Dune
Chapter 3: Blue Velvet
Chapter 4: Wild At Heart
Matt Pearson 1997

50 Percent Sound
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Philip Halsall 2002


David Lynch


"Every time I hear sounds, I see pictures. Then, I start getting ideas. It just drives me crazy" (Lynch in www.geocities)

"Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual." (Lynch in So goes David Lynch's philosophy of films, and there is nowhere this belief is applied more wholeheartedly than in the films of David Lynch. Ever since Eraserhead (1977) assaulted peoples awareness of imagery and sound in films, Lynch has endeavoured to provide some of the most visually and sonically engaging movies over the last twenty five years. The journalist Sam Molineaux wrote of Lynch's grasp for sound and image thus, "It's as if the abstract nature of music reinforces Lynch's deliberately ambiguous storytelling approach; yet the music's rhythms and phrases seem to precisely prescribe the mood he's aiming for." (Molineaux in www.rolandus) He has covered many different genres, including science fiction, the road movie, murder mystery and two biographies; each film very different from the last, but all stamped with Lynch's trademark techniques.

Lynch's films are unique audio-visual feasts that are brimming over with symbolism and motifs. No two films are alike, yet they are all easily identifiable as works of Lynch. How is this possible? What makes David Lynch's films stand out? Apart from the obvious notion that Lynch himself is a 'weirdo' and that his films are overtly self-indulgent soirees into Lynch's personal dreams, I am going to investigate what I deem to be the most important and essential characteristic of Lynch's films; his use of sound and How it relates to the on-screen imagery.

In order to investigate this relationship I will be using key examples from Lynch's major film projects, which include: Eraserhead, The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Twin Peaks (1990), Wild At Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999) and Mulholland Drive (2001). I have omitted Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) purely for logistical reasons in that I feel it would be improper to use an example from every single film merely to 'fill up' the quota of Lynch's films for this paper. As the focus of my findings is primarily Lynch's use of sound I will not be using examples of his films chronologically, instead I shall use examples that highlight best the particular audio theme I am exploring in that particular chapter.

In chapter one the overall aim is to question the role of sound in relation to the on-screen imagery, in order to do this I will explore Lynch's appropriation of varying sounds in order to create an alternative narrative for the viewer; an audio narrative that works in conjunction with the visual story, but at the same time tells the story from a different, often abstract perspective. In order to support my theory of an audio narrative in Lynch's films, I shall observe the critical texts of film theorists such as Michel Chion, Bela Balazs, Philip Brophy and others. I hope that their theoretical filmic knowledge will allow me to develop my own theory and highlight the essential role of sound in its relationship with imagery. In this chapter I want my investigation to shed some light into the dark and labyrinthine-like plots of Lynch's films that often leave the audience reeling. On one level by formulating my audio narrative theory I wish to highlight the alternative clues and plots that are made up by Lynch's sonic suggestions, whilst on another level I want to show Lynch's use of sound in order to strengthen and reiterate the importance of certain on-screen imagery. In addition to this I aim to highlight Lynch's aptitude for creating films that not only puts the audience's visual sense through it's paces, but their audio sense too. As Philip Brophy comments, "He [Lynch] has realized a series of cinesonic moments which open up the complexity of his cinema far more effectively than his visual symbolism alone has allowed." (Brophy in

Lynch is often noted as being a director who subverts and explores the role of dialogue within his films. Perhaps his most interesting and unique exploration into this realm is through getting certain characters to sing. Why does he apply this 'musical' notion in his films? What does it have to offer the audience? What relevance does a song have within the overall framework of certain films? By investigating these questions I will endeavour to find out how these often bizarre excursions into song enhance the experience of watching (and understanding) a David Lynch film. Through investigating Lynch's use of songs I will also observe the way in which the on-screen imagery often plays against the song, rendering the scene absurd. What is the purpose of this juxtaposition? To quote Lynch, "Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there's humour in struggling in ignorance." (Lynch in www.geocities) Perhaps humour is the key to a greater understanding of Lynch's adoption of songs in his films.

No study into the sound behind David Lynch's films would be complete without an investigation into Lynch's relationship with composer Angelo Badalameti. Badalamenti's name and music has become as much a part of Lynch's work since Blue Velvet as Lynch's own name. An insight into their working relationship and how they achieve their musical goals will be explored in my final chapter. I will explore the unique sound that they have managed to generate for Lynch's film projects in particular Twin Peaks, and their unusual recording techniques for Lost Highway. How does Badalamenti's compositions work in relation to what the audience see on-screen? Lynch claimed, "Angelo [Badalamenti] really brought me into the world of music, right into the middle of it." (Lynch in www.geocities) I hope to find out how he did.

Throughout my investigation I hope to gain an insight into the world of David Lynch, particularly his fantastic and unique use of sound. What makes Lynch stand out as a director? What makes him an auteur? These questions will be investigated through my research and displayed in each chapter of my finished paper giving myself a greater knowledge of the often-complicated yet fascinating world of David Lynch.

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