David Lynch… a big name with a filmography that’s somewhat divisive; some love his work and others loathe it but whatever your feelings on his oeuvre it’s impossible to deny that it’s intriguing, mind-opening and thought-provoking stuff. Perhaps film critic Barry Norman best summed it up like this: “The thing about David Lynch is that never mind how often he makes you want to bash his head against the wall, he’s a very original film maker. And since there are few of those about we ought perhaps to give him the benefit of the doubt and indulge him a little.”
One of the recurring concerns of Lynch is sex in its more unusual forms, whether that’s in a plush velvet bed frame or less savoury locations. In Blue Velvet, through the character Frank Booth, he explores among other things sadomasochism. With Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me the prequel to the Twin Peaks TV series, Lynch created a psychological horror that centres on the murder of a teenage prostitute. Though some might not find Lynch to be quite their cup of tea, what he does is nonetheless very important….
All too often now society suffers from medicalisation. This tendency to regard everything as a medical condition, particularly psychological matters, brings with it a worldview in which there is a very firm belief in such a thing as “normality”. What happens is that any deviation from societal norms is termed “unhealthy” whilst in contrast a life lived in accordance with societal norms is termed “healthy”. This means that it’s “unhealthy” to spend too much time alone daydreaming, whereas it’s perfectly “healthy” to romp about aggressively for hours in the mud playing something referred to as rugby.
In other words then, the medical profession ends up straying into the territory of philosophy and theology, often without realising it. Doctors and psychiatrists become just as dogmatic as certain representatives of religions without being aware that their creed is a creed at all. A “healthy lifestyle” is after all merely an idea, a particular programme to follow in order to live for 75-100 years in the approved manner of 21st Century Western democracy. That’s not really a question of health at all, but it is thought of as one.
Artists such as David Lynch remind us of the peculiar nature of Life (“It’s a strange world, isn’t it?” is the question that ends the trailer for the re-release of Blue Velvet) and the importance of not trying to go around putting everything in a neat little box and making a facile value-judgement. His films startle us and arouse us from our stupor. Just like other great artists such as Picasso and Dali, Lynch makes us re-assess and stops us becoming entrenched in the status quo. He reminds us that a painting isn’t just decoration and a film just a piece of entertainment to while away an evening on which one has nothing else to do. Art is profound thought, not mere escapism, and the likes of Lynch ensure we don’t forget it.
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