*SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T WATCHED TWIN PEAKS, LOST HIGHWAY, AND, WILD AT HEART!!*
David Lynch is known for many of his cinematic masterpieces due to his eccentric approach and outlook towards them, which sets him apart from many directors. He is able to play with tension and plot lines like it’s nobody’s business, as I tend to find myself sitting at the edge of my seat after each of his films. Lynch makes use of the small things to communicate his artwork to his viewers, one of those things is the composition and soundtrack that he includes. You might be familiar with a few of his works such as the film Mulholland Drive, Wild At Heart (featuring a young Nicholas Cage), or Lost Highway. Better yet, you might be familiar with his successful early 90’s TV show Twin Peaks that is set to come out later this year with a brand new season (I await in anticipation for the airing of that new season!). Throughout his work Lynch tends to make his selection of music stand out a lot, up to the point where it speaks just as much as the dialogue.The effects of such selections will at times make you feel warm and fuzzy, or just cause the hairs at the back of your neck to stand up.
If you’ve watched the bewildering abstract film Mulholland Drive then you will know what I am talking about. The film follows a lot of ambiguous moments, which are part of the film’s charm. These moments are followed by music that adds layers to the overall atmosphere and tension that Lynch communicates in such a perplexing yet psychologically clear manner after watching the film more than once. An example of this occurrence can be found close to the end of the film where both lovers Betty and Rita find themselves in a ghostly empty cabaret place called ‘Club Silencio’ where a man standing on the stage announces “No hay banda (There is no band)! Yet we hear a band.”. Those lines soon follow an a cappella version of Roy Orbinson’s song ‘Crying’ performed by Rebekah Del Rio renamed ‘Llorando’ as she performs the song in Spanish. There is no doubt that her voice is a burst of power and emotion waiting to cut you in half as you watch on in bewilderment, her voice charms you into complete emotional despair and thrill.
You see a similar mood being set up in the TV show Twin Peaks plenty of times, although not as highly abstract as Mulholland Drive is. You see it in those black and white zig-zagged floor scenes that appear in Agent Dale Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachland) dreams, which feel so abstract yet entirely purposeful as we encounter the late Laura Palmer giving cryptic messages to him as he sets out on the mission to solve her perplexing murder case. During such scenes we tend to find ourselves in an atmosphere that has got very simple jazz café music playing in the background in the most subtle manner, whilst we are confronted with Laura speaking backwards (scaring the living daylights out of viewers) who before she disappears says, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” soon followed by her screaming in a very possessed manner completely disrupting this atmosphere.
It is such juxtapositions in scenery that battle with our logic as viewers, which actually draw us into the story further. In Mulholland Drive you’ve got the message of ‘Silencio’ (Silence) in what seems to be some type of music club, and in Twin Peaks you’ve got this laid back jazzy atmosphere that seems to be conflicted by morbid things such as murder and diabolical possession, or perhaps insanity. It seems almost like David Lynch as a director is subconsciously playing with our minds, and I quite like that. David has been quoted to say, “Lately I feel films are more and more like music. Music deals with abstractions and like film, it involves time. “, he is very right about that, music is abstract and so is film, so why not embrace those two together? Lynch has got some type of background in jazz and he played the trumpet for four years. This seems to be reflected in his films where he often tends to reside to jazz in order to acquire that feeling of disturbance along with the contrasts of lightness that jazz has to offer to its listeners. In his 1990 film Wild At Heart, Lynch still pulls in an amount of bluesy-jazz composition although there is a symbolic amount of speed metal involved in this film due to the nature of the characters present. The plot deals with a young juvenile couple running away together from an insane and over-protective mother. The most notable thing in this film is the way in which David Lynch captures these youths through the correct dosage of jazz and speed metal. You’ve got to love that one scene where Lulu is on the verge of a panic attack as she is driving with her boyfriend, Sailor, whilst she flickers through every radio station she can find. After not finding any radio station with any of the music she likes, she stops the car, runs out and bursts into a panic attack demanding Sailor to put some music on. He then puts on Powermad’s ‘Slaughterhouse’, a song that appears to be the couple’s theme song since you tend to hear it quite often throughout the film with its clear connection to the couple who’s reaction towards that heavy metal power-driven track is to burst into insane non-stop dancing and head banging.
That’s just a glimpse into the eccentricity of Lynch’s choice of music. Although, a lot of good things seem to come out of his dynamic relationship with film composition artist Angelo Badalamenti who’s work appears in Mulholland Drive, Wild At Heart, Lost Highway and Twin Peaks (he even won a Grammy for best instrumental performance for the theme song of Twin Peaks). Without Badalamenti Lynch’s film soundtracks and scores would not be the same, he provides the right amount of eeriness and glam into each of Lynch’s masterpieces. They are a couple made in heaven!
Lynch and Badalamenti’s dynamic partnership shines extremely well on the soundtrack for Lost Highway. There is so much to appreciate in this film, from the scene where Pete Dayton comes across platinum blonde beauty Alice Wakefield (Patricia Arquette), which is captured in its most electrifying manner through a Lou Reed song ‘This Magic Moment’, to the scene where Pete finds a bizarre porno film of Alice, playing in the living room as he breaks into Andy’s house to run away with his love, Alice, suitably a Rammstein song ‘Heirate Mich’ can be heard, and when Pete shoves Andy into the edge of his coffee table and he soon gets a nosebleed and searches for some place to go and get it cleaned up, Rammstein’s song ‘Rammstein’ makes an appearance. Pete finds himself in this nightmare situation where he hallucinates a diabolical version of Alice in the bathroom having sex with another guy. Not only does the heavy metal Rammstein music play a huge symbolical role in the distressed and disturbed mind of Pete who has just morbidly murdered a man who at this point is most likely a pimp and he’s running away with a woman who’s actually a pretty freaky porn star, but it also captures the cold-blood that runs throughout the film, and specifically in this scene. Of course, even this scene doesn’t do the film justice in terms of musical influences. We’ve got a bit of David Bowie’s velvet voice at the very beginning of the film with his song ‘I’m Deranged’, which feels so cold, pretty much preparing us for what is about to come our way with this thrilling and psychologically disturbing film. Let’s not forget Marilyn Manson’s contribution to the soundtrack as well, with both his song ‘Apple of Sodom’ and ‘I Put A Spell On You’ being featured in the film at very crucial points. He even makes an appearance on the mildly disturbing porno film staring Alice that we discover with Pete in the living room of Andy’s huge mansion. Although, there’s a heavy presence of such artists who in their own manner are perplexing and abstract through their own music, there’s still jazz scores involved in the film, and that’s very ‘Lynchian’. The sound of jazz appears to be the mediator between this heavily abstract dream-like appearance that the film provides us with and the reality of it all. What does the film mean? Is it all just a dream…? You tell me.
It’s clear that the music present in Lynch’s work is simply a getaway into his elusive dream-like world that we get to experience throughout his work. It’s also very notable his dynamic partnership with Badalamenti who’s hard work and beautiful creativity we get to experience in a lot of Lynch’s work. The film’s music tends to speak to us in ways that the dialogue would fail to do so, and I think it’s that connection between your consciousness and the music in his film’s that makes the difference. In this manner we are given the opportunity to dive into this world of unsolved self-conflicting mysteries that paint themselves in a philosophical light waiting to enlighten us. What a privilege.