British Film
David Lynch
Authorship and the Films of David Lynch
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


Through a body of work that has included films, sculptures, television soap opera, documentaries, paintings, symphonies, pop albums and comedy shows David Lynch has developed an instantly recognisable, idiosyncratic style which has permeated everything he has touched. His themes and consistencies have been explored in a wide variety of formats, narratives and contexts but it is in his films that they are most prevalent, and perhaps, most personal. His films defy description, necessitating a new classification; "Lynchian". But, even with what may seem a very strong authorial signature such as his, the consistency of style, theme and motif across his work may be more tenuous than first perceived. Lynch's position as "Auteur" does not sit comfortably with his use of genre; historical drama in The Elephant Man(1980), sci-fi in Dune(1984), film noir in Blue Velvet(1986) and the road movie in Wild At Heart(1990). Also, much of his work could be argued to fall under the wide banner of post-modernism, a concept that seems initially to be incompatible with the idea of the single author as the source of meaning in a text. There is also the paradox that a work who's mode of production seems to defy the emphasis of the single author, the television soap opera Twin Peaks(1989-90), still apparently bears the unique Lynch signature.

In the chapters that follow I analyse the films of David Lynch and discuss the authorship issues they raise. In the first chapter I extensively analyse Eraserhead(1976), using this as a template to sketch out Lynch's authorial signature. From this I attempt a definition of the word "Lynchian". In the subsequent chapters I take individual films from Lynch's oeuvre, examine them and discuss some of the authorship issues they raise. In Chapter 2, The Elephant Man and Dune form the basis for discussion on the Hollywood auteur, the star system, genre and structuralism. Chapter 3 takes Blue Velvet as an example of "post-modern" cinema and sees how this conflicts with the auteur theory. Finally, in Chapter 4 I deal with the commerce of authorship using Wild At Heart as my example.

When time permits I would like to add further chapters covering Twin Peaks, On The Air(1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me(1992), Lost Highway(1997), The Straight Story(1999) and Mulholland Drive(2002).