December 24, 2015

How Do You Define 'Lynchian'?: An Exploration of David Lynch's Cinematic Style

No one makes films quite like the great (and oft bizarre) David Lynch.

The Mulholland Drive director has a cinematic and narrative style all his own, which pushes boundaries and creates imaginative, otherworldly images that stay with audiences long after the screen goes black. Other films, as well as clothes, people, towns, and more have been described as "Lynchian", but what the hell does that even mean?

In this video essay by Fandor Keyframe, Kevin B. Lee attempts to describe what Lynchian is, which you'll soon realize is not as easy as it seems:

https://vimeo.com/147956910

"Lynchian: a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." - David Foster Wallace

The worlds that David Lynch creates in his films are completely familiar, and yet entirely foreign. They're nightmarish renditions of reality -- the not-quite-right small town American dream. The first quote in the video sums up nicely what it's like trying to explain what Lynchian is:

"The paradox of the Lynchian sensibility is that it is at once easy to recognize and hard to define."

There's plenty to say about the literary and visual aesthetics of a Lynch film, but that's not quite what being Lynchian is all about. In other words, Lynchian can be used to describe films with similar odd images and similar macabre themes, but it can also be used to describe places, clothing, a feeling, even an entertainer's performance. It's a tone, a sense, an atmosphere, or experience that you fully understand, but can't quite describe.

So, if you ever need to explain to someone what Lynchian is, any of these answers would probably suffice:

  • It's like being dropped into the middle of someone else's dream.
  • It's like the real world, only people speak backwards and the sun rises at night and sets in the morning.
  • It's what avant garde would look like if it was personified as a sociopathic serial killer trying really, really hard to not to kill again (but failing pretty bad).
  • It's a woman's crimson lips, a highway at night; it's red drapes and a spotlit stage.
  • It's an inescapable small town in America.
  • It's eery detachment and a crushing blow.
  • It's ostensible -- you'll know it when you see it.

How would you describe Lynchian? Let us know in the comments below!      

Your Comment

7 Comments

Even his music is pretty bizarre and great.

December 24, 2015 at 9:56PM

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Csonka Olivér
Wannabe anyone
107

You can thank Angelo Badalamenti for that

December 25, 2015 at 7:22AM, Edited December 25, 7:22AM

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Matt Nunn
Amateur
370

I mean his own album. "The Big Dream"

December 25, 2015 at 6:43PM

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Csonka Olivér
Wannabe anyone
107

So did Matt

December 27, 2015 at 4:59AM

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Giulio Gobbetti
Editor
74

He made soundtrack for Lynch movies, but Lynch have an own album.

December 28, 2015 at 12:20PM

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Csonka Olivér
Wannabe anyone
107

I totally disagree on Lost being "Lynchian". Lost lacks style, sensitivity, class, and any other thing that could make it "Lynchian". Let's be serious here. Oh, and Merry Christmas :)

December 25, 2015 at 7:57AM

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David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1456

I think that's the main problem here, it got to a point where saying that something is "Lynchian" is cool so everybody uses the term without necessarily meaning anything by it, except maybe "different from what you'd expect". And, thank goodness, a lot of things are different from what I expect, otherwise it'd be a pretty dull world. I am starting to think that maybe even Lynch has no ideas of what Lynchian means, and so he does the same thing over and over again to give people what they expect: something Lynchian.

December 27, 2015 at 5:05AM, Edited December 27, 5:15AM

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Giulio Gobbetti
Editor
74

Lynchian: The overhead light from inside an open, empty elevator in a hotel lobby at 2:37AM.

Also: Seeing the sunrise at the end of a night instead of the start of a day.

April 1, 2017 at 10:57AM, Edited April 1, 10:56AM

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