Since releasing his debut feature, Eraserhead, in 1977, David Lynch has become a master of American cinema, known for creating surrealist, uncanny nightmares. From Blue Velvet to Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, Lynch’s oeuvre is mightily impressive, to say the very least.
Lynch’s uncompromising visions have made him one of the most prominent voices in Hollywood, even when he’s using the cinematic medium to criticise the corrupt star system. For example, Mulholland Drive, his 2001 masterpiece, explored the falsity and deception at the heart of Hollywood. This is just one example of Lynch’s preoccupation with deconstructing the American Dream, with this theme feeding into every facet of his movies.
In Twin Peaks, Lynch dissects an idyllic-looking town, revealing a hotbed of crime and depravity. It’s no coincidence that the dead girl at the heart of Twin Peaks‘ mystery – Laura Palmer – represents an all-American, blonde homecoming queen. Moreover, in Blue Velvet, Lynch opens the movie by contrasting scenes of rose-covered lawns and white picket fences with ants crawling in the soil and a rotting, severed ear.
Cinematic deconstructions of the American Dream have appeared on our screens for decades, from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde to modern movies such as Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. However, despite hailing from England, Alfred Hitchcock also created some worthy additions to the canon, from Psycho to Vertigo. Hitchcock’s characters often seem to be chasing ideals that can’t be achieved, using dreams and deception in reaction to the failure to achieve goals laid out by the American Dream.
Unsurprisingly, Lynch cites Hitchcock, alongside filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder, as one of his favourite directors. Out of every Hitchcock movie, Lynch once picked Rear Window as his go-to choice. He explained, “In the film, Hitchcock manages to take something huge and condense it into something really small. And he achieves that through a complete control of filmmaking technique.”
He explained that the movie relies on the “brilliant way in which Alfred Hitchcock manages to create – or rather, re-create – a whole world within confined parameters. James Stewart never leaves his wheelchair during the film, and yet, through his point of view, we follow a very complex murder scheme.”
In an interview with The Filmsophers, Lynch explained that the “cosy” film includes “great people coming in and out of this place, and then the characters around the apartment building… and then a mystery starts”.
He added: “It’s a really beautiful idea. It’s just beautiful”. However, he explained that he doesn’t like the ending of Rear Window, calling it “hokey”.
Watch the full interview below.