David Lynch: Background information when reading Night Film

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Night Film

by Marisha Pessl

Night Film by Marisha Pessl X
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2013, 624 pages
    Jul 2014, 624 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Beyond the Book:
David Lynch

Print Review

In Night Film, Marisha Pessl seems to take inspiration from a number of movie directors including Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick but the one whom the fictional Stan Cordova resembles the most is David Lynch.

David Lynch 2007Born in 1946 in Missoula, Montana to middle-class parents, Lynch had an itinerant childhood moving from state to state before finally graduating from high school pretty unremarkably, in Virginia. By this time, Lynch was quite interested in the arts and decided to pursue painting at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He dropped out in short order eventually taking up schooling again in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which is where he first experimented with film using a series of clips of his paintings to create a video montage. Lynch and his first wife, Peggy Reavey (who was a fellow student at the art academy), lived in the city with their daughter. The daily crimes and terrors the city sprang on the couple had a lasting effect on Lynch. He later said that the inspiration for his first highly acclaimed horror film, Eraserhead, came from living in constant fear in the "city of brotherly love."

EraserheadLynch's work is characterized by surrealism, complicated plots, and a focus on weird sound effects to create a sense of terror. Many of the images he presents are veiled and hint that a different situation is playing out behind the scenes. Some have suggested that this method has Lynch shining light on only part of reality and that whatever remains behind the curtains or veiled, is part of the subconscious, open to individual interpretation. For those interested, entire books have been devoted to the study of the philosophy of his movies. Lynch's films are especially characterized by a large number of recurring motifs - a focus on dreams as the venue through which people act out their fears; the clinical and sterile detachment represented by machines and 'industry'; and heroines with split or fractured personalities. His many stylistic treatments include the repeated use of close-ups of the human eye - a technique that Cordova also uses in Night Film.

Blue VelvetArguably Lynch's most acclaimed movie is Blue Velvet, the central premise of the story being that small-town America harbors deep, dark secrets. In the film, a young man finds a severed ear in a field and this eventually leads him to find dark happenings in his hometown. While the movie received mixed reviews from critics, it is widely hailed as a classic with one reviewer calling it an "intense exploration of the dark side of the human soul." Below you'll find a trailer for the movie:

Lynch became more of a household name with the ABC television series Twin Peaks, which is set in the fictional Pacific Northwest small town of the same name. The series looks at the dark side of small-town America, one of Lynch's many recurrent motifs.

An immensely talented artist, Lynch is much more than a movie director - he has written lyrics and composed music; created paintings and maintains his own website with video clips of his recordings. Lynch is also big into transcendental meditation (TM) through his organization, The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Through a program called Quiet Time, the foundation implements the practice of transcendental meditation as a way of relieving traumatic stress for at-risk kids in schools. The program Warrior Wellness institutes TM at army bases and VA hospitals as a way of alleviating post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans. The organization offers similar programs for other at-risk populations such as Native Americans with high rates of poverty and diseases like diabetes; abused women and the homeless.

Article by Poornima Apte

This article was originally published in August 2013, and has been updated for the July 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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