How lovely to sit and watch something from David Lynch that I’ve never seen before. I thought this was brand new but then the title at the end said 2015. I don’t know if it had just remained hidden until now or if everyone else had already seen it. I deliberately didn’t read anything about it before watching, and I haven’t read anything about it since it finished. I wanted to keep my opinions and responses my own.
What I’m going to do in this post is just say what it is that I thought I was seeing and what I thought about it. I like the way Lynch encourages you to have your own opinions about things and never confirms or denies. It’s so liberating in that respect to be able to stamp your own experiences on something of his and not worry about having misread it. Watching his work is like standing in a gallery as opposed to sitting in an armchair. That’s not to be pretentious as there is much in even my favourite gallery that I don’t have a great love for. There’s just more to think about and more opportunities for your mind to wander down its own alleyways. Don’t read the rest of this without seeing the film first. Here it is. Let me know afterwards if you see what I see.
So, to Fire (Pozar). We begin by gazing through the proscenium arch, as a countdown takes us to a blank, bright canvas, replaced almost immediately by the oncoming stamp of what reminds me of a fingerprint. On this, a grotesque figure with the head of maybe a horse appears, matchbook in hand. The hands are attached to long, spindly arms stretching back to the body in a way that reminds me of some of Lynch’s paintings that I saw in the exhibition at HOME last year.
From here, we see a landscape containing only a house and a tree. They seem to glow, or maybe not. Maybe the glow is in fact tendrils stretching out into the space around them, seeking a connection, like the house and the tree are just too far away from each other. After a while, above them, the burnt hole of the Sun appears in the canvas.
Out of the hole emerges a skull-like head attached to the body of a worm, or maybe a chrysalis. It wriggles, sickening, into the world and, upon reaching the ground, its shadow seems to suggest a small boy. From its eyes, hands grow, upwards, like tongues of flame or cacti in the desert. This shape brings a menace to the landscape for me; a sort of chaos and disorder. Then things get worse.
Two more worms join it, each one with a large, questing eye that stares out at the viewer, worryingly familiar with us in breaking the fourth wall. We’re part of this now and we’re vulnerable. We can be a subject of the gaze as much as what is behind the arch. The arch by this point is out of view, anyway, so are we really watching, or are we participants?
Just then, raindrops or hail stones, like blocks of obsidian, drop from the sky. The background scenery of house and tree shakes violently until they burst into flames, each fire almost like a tulip in shape; like this is not necessarily destruction but maybe just something that will be revealed in changed form.
A great ‘curtain’, organic in nature, crosses the stage. It suggests a face, with one eye, maybe an ear but these are misaligned. This intrusion leaves us with only an eye hole through which to see the fire and rain still continuing beyond. It eventually draws back revealing a tiny open mouth with crooked teeth. The fact that we see through the eye brings me again to thoughts of the gaze. We see through to what is behind but the face itself obscures most of the screen. It makes me feel like I am missing so much because of my own experience. I see only with my eyes and not with other things.
The obsidian drops are then mingled with water that then bleeds into a new setting; a ghostly figure of a face in our foreground, blank eyes and mouth with, behind it, a different yet all too familiar landscape. Again there is a building (this time a factory) and trees set this time among an undulating landscape, more detailed. The raindrops fall like tears from its eyes; or rather from its face. It retreats and black hands reach up towards it to cover the eyes; unable to stop the tears. The face fades away and leaves the scenery alone until dancing figures enter from all sides, monstrous combinations of bird and beast and tree.
Their clumsy ballet across the world is repetitive and frantic and they walk on stick-like legs that have no grace. Their hands are aloft either in warning or submission. The viewer then ducks back behind the arch to the safety of the theatre as the dance continues and we fade to black.
What do I take from all of this? For me it says beware of thinking you are just watching. You are part of the goings on and can be easily ensnared in that which you so cooly observe and are aloof from. It also makes me wonder about how I see things as I expect to see them, or as I am expected to see them. What do you think?
This is a beautiful and haunting piece of moving artwork. The animation by Noriko Miyakawi brings a sort of frenetic energy to things while the images are equal parts disturbing and familiar. There is also the wonderful string score in the background by Marek Zebrowski.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you.
Tonight’s Viewing – Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
The Devil Breathed Out- a poem
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