What might it mean to consider a film-making career as an architectural project? Bloomsbury author Richard Martin has the answer.
Published by Bloomsbury this week, The Architecture of David Lynch assesses the designs of one of contemporary cinema’s most provocative directors. It places David Lynch’s work into conversation with the buildings and writings of architects such as Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry.
To whet your appetite, here’s five key Lynchian locations:
1. The Empty Streets of Eraserhead
Contrary to popular belief, Lynch has been as much a director of the city as the small town or suburb. His first feature film, Eraserhead (1977), is a vision of urban alienation inspired by the decline of Philadelphia, but filmed entirely in the sunshine of Los Angeles. In the movie’s opening moments, the Keaton-esque figure of Henry Spencer undertakes a lonely walk through empty and decaying streets, passing strange mounds of earth and stray piping. Back in Philadelphia, locals now call the post-industrial area where Lynch once lived ‘the Eraserhood’.
2. The Staircase and Ceiling Fan in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Richard Neutra, an architect Lynch much admires, once said,
‘What happens to one, in one, and around one while ascending a stair and what of it sticks with us as a strangely lasting memory – is to me a master specimen of what architectural experience means.’
Throughout Lynch’s work, staircases enable clandestine surveillance and dangerous excursions. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), the staircase in the Palmer household is a harrowing architectural specimen, marking the family’s transition from a happy public face into private nightmares. When the sinister ceiling fan starts to whirl, we know that a cycle of terror is happening again. What new horrors might be in store when Twin Peaks returns in 2016?
3. The Madison House in Lost Highway
In Lost Highway (1997) the question of interior design is intimately related to psychological well-being. In more ways than one, this is a film about getting inside someone’s house. The unnerving example of mid-century LA modernism that features in the film is a house owned and remodeled by Lynch. It’s a home that oozes paranoia and repression, and its interior includes furniture created by Lynch alongside pieces by celebrated designers such as Charles and Ray Eames and Harry Bertoia.
4. Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive
When the Tower Theater in downtown Los Angeles opened in 1927, it was the city’s first cinema to be equipped for talking pictures. In Mulholland Drive (2001), Lynch’s twisting ode to Hollywood’s dreams and myths, this theatre hosts Club Silencio – a venue where the relationship between sound and image, and between fantasy and reality, is called into question in unforgettable fashion. In 2011 Lynch opened a Paris nightclub called Club Silencio filled with more of his own interior designs.
5. Łódź in Inland Empire
Marriage is a key theme in Lynch’s last film, Inland Empire (2006) – but this is a story as much about geographical couplings as personal affairs. In exploring the wicked dream of cinematic stardom, Lynch marries Hollywood, California with HollyŁódź, Poland. Łódź is the home of Polish cinema with a walk of fame celebrating the likes of Roman Polański, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Andrzej Wajda, all of whom attended the local film school. For Lynch, this city epitomises the spaces and stars of central Europe that continue to haunt Los Angeles today.
Richard Martin writes about film, art and architecture. He lives in London, and currently teaches at King’s College London and Tate Modern.