A young woman sits half-naked in a dark room, all alone, in tears, wondering why no one can hear her. An insect crawls along the roof of a run-down cottage, unaware of the sinister-looking electronic devices within. A man on his front porch watches a dog kill and then devour a bird. If all this sounds strange, just wait. David Lynch has a lamp he’d like to show you.
A few years back, filmmaker David Lynch (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive) started a members-only Web site, offering short films and other new and original content for subscribers. Those of us without money to burn were left only with rumors about the strange and wonderful creations Lynch had come up with for the site. But now, the time for speculation is over. Following last year’s release of Dumbland, a collection of shorts from the site, the mysterious forces at Subversive Cinema have now come out with Dynamic: 01, which is not just a look at more short films from the site, but also a look into the mind of David Lynch himself.
There are seven short films on this disc, straight from Lynch’s brain onto your TV:
• The Darkened Room
First, we’re introduced to a lady in Japan, who gives us a tour of her apartment and shares some facts about bananas. From there, we’re taken to the titular room, where a traumatized young woman is in tears, wondering why no one can hear her. A second woman enters, claiming she can observe everything. She berates the first woman, eliciting more tears from her.
Skipping over the Japanese intro for a moment, the second half of The Darkened Room is the type of thing most viewers expect from Lynch. It’s dark and twisted, with abstract dialogue and just a touch of off-kilter humor. Just what is the relationship between these two women? What sort of disturbing, traumatic events have occurred inside that room? There are no concrete answers here, but the emotions come across clearly and powerfully. That’s what I like about Lynch’s films: No matter how strange the plot gets, there’s never any question as to what the characters are feeling. Whether they’re sad, frightened or overjoyed, we the audience know it. The same is true of this short. When the teary-eyed young woman looks right into the camera and cries, “Why can’t you hear me?” her desperation comes across as real, even if we don’t have the full context.
A lot of what’s on this disc is geared to members of Lynch’s site, who are already familiar with what’s on there. This is nowhere more evident than in the Japanese opening to The Darkened Room. In his introduction, Lynch speaks about this woman as if she’s someone already well-known to members, and in the film itself, she even references another of the site’s shorts, Bananas, which isn’t on this DVD. The cute, peppy opening strikes me as incongruous with the darkness of the rest of the short. Perhaps that contradiction is what Lynch was going for, but I prefer the dark, gloomy half of the short, which is really Lynch in his element.
An unseen woman narrates her voyage on a small boat, operated by a man (played by Lynch) who plans to speed the boat “towards the night.” Who is our unseen narrator, why is she on the boat, and why does she have no memory of how she got there or who this unknown man is? Again, the answers just aren’t there. Boat is more about mood than it is about story. Here, taking the boat out on the lake becomes a mystical journey of sorts, where “day” and “night” are two different worlds. The day scenes are overly bright, sometimes filling the entire screen with white light. When the boat successfully “reaches” the night, we see a lot of nice shots of the water rushing up out of the boat’s engine, looking unusually green in the moonlight. It’s a simple short, but it’s nice just to relax and enjoy it.
Here we’ve got 30 minutes worth of Lynch in his workshop, building a lamp. This is the one that’s really going to divide fans, I predict. On the plus side, Lynch doesn’t step out from behind the camera that often, and when he does, he rarely lets his fans in on the creative process. So here’s a long, long, very long look at Lynch doing the “artist” thing. See him mixing paints until he finds just the right colors. See him sculpt a plaster-like substance around the lamp’s frame to give it an organic look. See him describe the various aspects of his workshop sink that fascinate him. It might be ordinary, but it’s still a window into Lynch’s creative process, something his followers have been yearning for. On the negative side, this sure is boring. The director’s die-hard fans—like, say, the ones who pay all kinds of money to watch stuff on his Web site—will likely be fascinated by examining his thought process. I can imagine other viewers, though, wondering what the heck the point of all this is.
• Out Yonder: Neighbor Boy
This short be’s bein’ about a guy watching a dog be’s bein’ killin’ a bird. We don’t see what’s be’s bein’ in front of him, but we hear what the dog’s be’s bein’. Then another guy be’s bein’ with him while the neighbor boy be’s bein’ in search of a glass of milk. But the kid be’s bein’ a lot more than he seems. Lynch be’s bein’ famous for dark, serious movies, but he be’s bein’ talented when it comes to humor, too. His comedy be’s bein’ quirky, and it never be’s bein’ more quirky than in Out Yonder. I’m still be’s bein’ in hysterics after watching this one. Apparently, Out Yonder be’s bein’ a whole series of shorts on the site. That be’s bein’ a great idea for a future DVD. This be’s bein’ one of the funniest things Lynch has ever made.
• Industrial Soundscape
Somewhere out in an empty, lifeless-looking environment, a group of large, black metal machines play some music. Visually, this one is very cool, and it’s always interesting to see what Lynch does with animation. Also, it’s based on a photograph Lynch took of a location during the filming of Eraserhead, so it’s nice for those who prefer his early work. But at 10 minutes, this one’s way too repetitive. Sure, we get Lynch experimenting with music and CGI, which is fine, but viewers are going to sit there watching these machines play their music, wondering if anything else is going to happen. SPOILER: Nothing does. This one’s exciting and cool for the first minute. After that, go ahead and hit the “menu” button on your remote.
• Bug Crawls
This one’s another animated short, in which we follow an insect slowly making its way across the roof of a cottage out in the middle of nowhere. At the conclusion of the short, we get a tantalizing hint of some sinister-looking electric machines inside the cottage. In his introduction, Lynch says this short is the first part of a much larger and more complex story. There’s a moment of humor in this one, and some tantalizing details, such as an odd-looking blimp in the background. Unlike Industrial Soundscape, this one doesn’t overstay its welcome, and really leaves viewers wanting more.
• Intervalometer Experiments
Just as the title says, these are three shorts made with intervalometer photography, more commonly known as time-lapse photography. But instead of, say, a flower opening its petals or a dead mongoose decomposing, Lynch puts his time-lapse cameras on unmoving objects, such as a wide shot of some mountains, a flight of stairs, and his own dining room. At first, I wondered what the point was of putting a time-lapse on unmoving objects, and I thought maybe Lynch had lost it for real this time. But then it hit me—the objects in front of the camera aren’t moving, but the lights around them are. The mountains gradually change color as the day goes on, shadows move eerily across the stairs, and the windows in the dining room slowly change from depicting the outside to reflecting the inside. It’s a simple idea, but in Lynch’s eye, it becomes something fascinating.
Made with digital video, there are no complaints about the picture quality throughout Dynamic: 01. If a short appears grainy or hazy, it’s because Lynch intended it to look that way. The director pushes the 2.0 sound to its limit, especially during Out Yonder: Neighbor Boy, in which so much of the short has to do with what we the viewers can hear but not see.
The big benefit to the disc is how open Lynch is in talking about his work. He provides an introduction for each short, talking about its origin and how it was made. I recommend watching the shorts before watching the intros, though, even if that means some extra menu-navigating on your part. It was more interesting to me to watch the short, and then hear Lynch’s thoughts about it. Also, there’s a section of the disc devoted to Lynch answering questions from his site’s readers. Lynch hasn’t done commentaries on his other films, and he tends to be evasive about them in interviews, so here’s a rare chance to hear him actually discussing his films and his creative process. He also gets in a few amusing anecdotes, like the one about his meeting Roy Orbison. If Lynch making a lamp doesn’t excite you, know that his interaction with his fans makes this disc worthwhile.
There are no credits! Shouldn’t the actors and actresses who appear alongside Lynch in these shorts get some recognition for their work here?
No mistake about it: Dynamic: 01: The Best of DavidLynch.com is a disc made purely with Lynch’s fans in mind. I know, I know, not everyone digs Lynch’s work. I’ve heard it all—he’s too strange, his films don’t make sense, what was the deal with Dune, etc. All I can say is Lynch’s work has always spoken to me, and I’m not the only one. If you’ve ever seen a Lynch film, nodded your head, and said, “Yeah,” then I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy here.