Happy birthday, David Lynch! 74, today!
“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experienced is a narrowing of the imagination.”
“Every single thing in the world that was made by anyone started with an idea. So to catch one that is powerful enough to fall in love with, it is one of the most beautiful experiences. It’s like being jolted with electricity and knowledge at the same time.”
“I don’t think about technique. The ideas dictate everything. You have to be true to that or you’re dead.”
“All the movies are about strange worlds that you can’t go into unless you build them and film them. That’s what’s so important about film to me. I just like going into strange worlds.”
“When you’re an artist, you pick up on certain things that are in the air. You just feel it. It’s not like you’re sitting down, thinking, ‘What can I do to really mess things up?’ You’re getting ideas, and then the ideas feed into a story, and the story takes shape. And if you’re honest about it and you’re thinking about characters and what they do, you now see that your ideas are about trouble. You’re feeling more depth, and you’re describing something that is going on in some way.”
“Stay true to yourself. Let your voice ring out, and don’t let anybody fiddle with it. Never turn down a good idea, but never take a bad idea…Grow in happiness and intuition. Experience the joy of doing. And you’ll glow in this peaceful way. Your friends will be very, very happy with you. Everyone will want to sit next to you. And people will give you money!”
“The worst thing about this modern world is that people think you get killed on television with zero pain and zero blood. It must enter into kids’ heads that it’s not very messy to kill somebody, and it doesn’t hurt that much. That’s a real sickness to me. That’s a real sick thing.”
“In film, life-and-death struggles make you sit up, lean forward a little bit. They amplify things happening, in smaller ways, in all of us. These things show up in relationships. They show up in struggles and bring them to a critical point.”
“The beginning dictates the direction and you never know where you’re going to go…the mood is what you’re looking for, and somehow we always find it.”
“I guess I got whacked hard in the mystery department when I was little. I found the world completely and totally fascinating then—it was like a dream. They say that people who think they had a happy childhood are blocking something out, but I think I really had one. Of course I had the usual fears, like going to school—I knew there was some sort of problem there. But every other person sensed that problem too, so my fears were pretty normal.”
“A film is its own thing and in an ideal world I think a film should be discovered knowing nothing and nothing should be added to it and nothing should be subtracted from it.”
“Life is very, very complicated and so films should be allowed to be too.”
“There’s this beautiful ocean of bliss and consciousness that is able to be reached by any human being by diving within, which is really peaceful and harmonious and can be enlivened by the group process. This group is a peace-creating group. It saturates the atmosphere. This is all about establishing peace. Right now, we gotta get peace back in the world. Peace is a real thing.”
“Being in darkness and confusion is interesting to me. But behind it you can rise out of that and see things the way the really are. That there is some sort of truth to the whole thing, if you could just get to that point where you could see it, and live it, and feel it…I think it is a long, long, way off. In the meantime there’s suffering and darkness and confusion and absurdities, and it’s people kind of going in circles. It’s fantastic. It’s like a strange carnival: it’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of pain.”
“Speaking in front of a large crowd is not pleasant. Once it gets rolling, it’s okay. But beforehand, it’s murder. I’m getting a lot better. The first interview I ever did was in 1972, I believe, and I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t speak one word. I only said, ‘I painted it black.’ That was my one sentence. And so I have improved.”
“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It is better not to know so much about what things mean. Because the meaning, it’s a very personal thing and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for someone else.”
“I don’t think that people accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it.”
“It’s a world of clues, a world of mystery but the mystery can get solved, you can find a lot of answers for these things within.”
“There’s so many problems in our world, so much negativity. Don’t worry about the darkness—turn on the light and the darkness automatically goes. Ramp up the light of unity within—help do that for yourself, help do that for the world and then we’re really doing something, we’re doing something that brings that light of unity.”
“We all reflect the world we live in.”
“It’s such a sadness that you think you’ve seen a film on your fucking telephone. Get real.”
“There is a plot. What would be the point of just a bunch of things? There’s a story, but the story can hold abstractions. I believe in story. I believe in characters. But I believe in a story that holds abstractions, and a story that can be told based on ideas that come in an unconventional way.”
“Don’t make a film if it can’t be the film you want to make. It’s a joke, and a sick joke, and it’ll kill you.”
“I love child things because there’s so much mystery when you’re a child. When you’re a child, something as simple as a tree doesn’t make sense. You see it in the distance and it looks small, but as you go closer, it seems to grow—you haven’t got a handle on the rules when you’re a child. We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experienced is a narrowing of the imagination.”
“There’s always fear of the unknown where there’s mystery. It’s possible to achieve a state where you realize the truth of life and fear disappears, and a lot of people have reached that state, but next to none of them are on Earth. There’s probably a few.”
“Dark things have always existed but they used to be in a proper balance with good when life was slower. People lived in towns and small farms where they knew everybody and people didn’t move around so much so things were a little more peaceful. There were things that they were afraid of for sure, but now it’s accelerated to where the anxiety level of the people is in the stratosphere. TV sped things up and caused people to hear way more bad news. Mass media overloaded people with more than they could handle, and drugs also had a lot to do with it. With drugs people can get so rich and whacked out and they’ve opened up a whole weird world. These things have created a modern kind of fear in America.”
“One change of attitude would change everything. If everyone realized that it could be a beautiful world and said let’s not do these things anymore—let’s have fun.”
“There are so many clues and feelings in the world that it makes a mystery and a mystery means there’s a puzzle to be solved. Once you think like that you’re hooked on probably finding a meaning, and there’ many avenues in life where we’re given little indications that the mystery can one day be solved. we get little proofs—not the big proof—but the little proofs that keep us searching.”
“When you do something that works you have a happiness, but I don’t know if it’s a feeling of power. Power is a frightening thing and that’s not what I’m interested in. I want to do certain things and make them right in my mind and that’s it.”
“Ideas are like fish.
If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.
Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”
“Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story, but they are like poison to the filmmaker or artist. They are like a vise grip on creativity. If you’re in that grip, you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas. You must have clarity to create. You have to be able to catch ideas.”
“I’m not always good with words. Some people are poets and have a beautiful way of saying things with words. But cinema is its own language. And with it you can say so many things, because you’ve got time and sequences. You’ve got dialogue. You’ve got music. You’ve got sound effects. You have so many tools. And so you can express a feeling and a thought that can’t be conveyed any other way. It’s a magical medium.
For me, it’s so beautiful to think about these pictures and sounds flowing together in time and in sequence, making something that can be done only through cinema. It’s not just words or music—it’s a whole range of elements coming together and making something that didn’t exist before. It’s telling stories. It’s devising a world, an experience, that people cannot have unless they see that film.”
“I like the saying “The world is as you are.” And I think films are as you are. That’s why, although the frames of a film are always the same—the same number, in the same sequence, with the same sounds—every screening is different. The difference is sometimes subtle but it’s there. It depends on the audience. There is a circle that goes from the audience to the film and back. Each person is looking and thinking and feeling and coming up with his or her own sense of things. And it’s probably different from what I fell in love with.
So you don’t know how it’s going to hit people. But if you thought about how it’s going to hit people, or if it’s going to hurt someone, or if it’s going to do this or do that, then you would have to stop making films. You just do these things that you fall in love with, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
“An idea is a thought. It’s a thought that holds more than you think it does when you receive it. But in that first moment there is a spark. In a comic strip, if someone gets an idea, a lightbulb goes on. It happens in an instant, just as in life.
It would be great if the entire film came all at once. But it comes, for me, in fragments. That first fragment is like the Rosetta stone. It’s the piece of the puzzle that indicates the rest. It’s a hopeful puzzle piece.”
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.