Plus Camerimage: David Lynch on His Lifetime Achievement Award


An attendee of the Plus Camerimage’s International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography since 2000, legendary filmmaker David Lynch is, this year, the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for now-classic works like Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, The Straight Story, Mullholland Dr. and many more.

On location in the town of Bydgoszcz, Poland all this week, caught Lynch shortly after his awards ceremony and had a chance to speak with the artist on a wide range of topics, including factories, nude women, transcendental meditation and sparrows. Check out the interview below and, if you missed yesterday’s report, click here to check out a conversation with Keanu Reeves and the fellow filmmakers behind the recent documentary Side By Side.

CS: You mentioned in your acceptance speech that you’ve been attending Camerimage since 2000. What is it about this particular festival that intrigues you?
David Lynch:
I like the people that run the festival. Marek Zydowicz and Kazik Suwala and the whole gang.

CS: Have any films really stood out for you over the years?
I don’t see the films. I just like the people. The Camerimage gang, I call them. They’ve become great friends since 2000. They came to my house and I just immediately like their energy and the way they go. I said, “These guys are doing it!” But I did say, “Could you get me into some of these great old factories in Poland?” They said, “Absolutely.” I said, “Could you get me nude women to photograph?” They said, “Absolutely.” I said, “Okay, I’ll go over there.” And they were true to their word.

CS: A number of your films are being showcased at this year’s festival. Are there any in particular that you’re excited for people to revisit?
Which films are they showing?

CS: Quite a few. “The Elephant Man,” “Wild at Heart,” “Mulholland Dr.” and more, I believe.
Well, with “Elephant Man,” Freddie Francis was a great, great, great director of photography. He’s since passed away. He was a really, really, really good friend of mine. He shot “The Elephant Man” and “The Straight Story.” That will be beautiful for people to see, “The Elephant Man.” “The Elephant Man” is a film that makes people feel very good and is an important film. Freddie Francis did great work. “Wild at Heart,” Fred Elmes was the cinematographer. Fred was the second cinematographer on “Eraserhead.” Fred is a great friend. So “Wild at Heart” has some very fantastic things in it and I think people will like that.

CS: What are you working on now?
I’m working on painting and music, lithography, drawing and… [long, long pause] …maybe some other things.

CS: In terms of balancing all of that, what’s a normal day for you?
Get up. Have a coffee. Have a smoke. Then I do my transcendental meditation. Then I go to work. It depends on the ideas. I always say, “It depends on the ideas.” But normally in the mornings I work on painting and then, in the afternoon, I work on music. If I’m getting other ideas, I work on those also in the morning and also the afternoon. But I usually end up in the music studio near the end of the day.

CS: I know you’ve been very fond of transcendental meditation. What does it actually entail?
Transcendental meditation is a mental technique. An ancient form of meditation that allows every human being to dive within and experience that deepest level of life. An eternal level. Pure consciousness. The unified field of reality. The Self with a capital “S.” Every time a human being experiences that deepest level, they infuse some of that. They begin to expand consciousness. Whatever size consciousness they had, now it starts expanding. Every human being has consciousness, but not every human being has the same amount. Qualities of consciousness in that deepest level, offer unbounded consciousness. Unbounded creativity. Unbounded happiness. Unbounded love. Unbounded energy. Unbounded peace. You start transcending, experiencing that deepest level, whoa, it’s such a beautiful feeling. You infuse that. You grow in that. The side effect is that negativity starts to lift away from the human being. Anxiety. Stress. Traumatic stress. Sorrow. Depression. Hate, anger and fear start to lift away. You start to work in more and more freedom. Gold coming up from within. Garbage going out. And you are unfolding your full potential as a human being. The full potential of every human being is called enlightenment, which total fulfillment. Total liberation. Infinite bliss. Happiness. Totality. It’s the full potential of a human being and it’s every human being’s birthright to enjoy enlightenment. Transcendental meditation is not concentration. It’s not contemplation. It’s a unique form of meditation which is easy and effortless. You dive within through deeper levels of mind and intellect. At the border of intellect, you transcend and you experience this eternal level. It’s very, very beautiful. A ten-year-old child can do it and a 110-year old adult can do it. If you can think, it will work. Life gets better and better and better.

CS: You mentioned that you don’t get to see a lot of the films here, but do you still make an effort to take in art from outside sources?
Yes. I like to see what people do. It’s just that I like to work more than I like to go see stuff. But I’ve seen many things that I love and that are inspiring, for sure. I love the idea that people are out there working and working away translating the ideas that they’ve got. Everybody has creativity and it’s unfortunate that, in a lot of the world, they don’t have the tools to express their ideas. They don’t have the time because they’ve got to work all day at some job they don’t want to be doing. It’s tough to get that situation where you’ve got the tools, the place to work, the ideas and the energy to do it. It’s tough.

CS: Would you compare the effects of transcendental meditation in any way to seeing a film or experiencing another piece of art that truly moves you?
No. You see a powerful film, it’s like seeing a powerful experience in your life. People have an idea that, number one, all meditations are the same and they’re not. There are surface experiences that can be beautiful. Seeing a great film is a thrill. Some films, I think, can enliven deeper levels just like some music can enliven deeper levels. When you feel, “Whoa, man. That took me someplace.” It was so beautiful. So powerful. I don’t know how it happened, but I felt deep. But transcendental meditation takes you to the deepest. The first time and every time. It’s so beautiful. It’s so blissful. It’s so profound. It’s a cosmic experience. In brain research they see that, when a person truly transcends. Experiences the transcendent. The big self. The unified field. Ocean of consciousness. They see a wonderful thing on the EEG machine. The full brain lights up. It’s the only experience in life that does it. Any other thing we do — if we play the piano, it’s this little part of the brain. If we do a math problem, it’s this little part of the brain. We paint a picture, it’s this little part of the brain. But here’s an experience that lights up the whole brain. They call it “total brain coherence”. So it shows you the relationship of the human being to this deepest level of life. This is that level of life what they say never had a beginning. It is and it will be forever. That’s the definition of eternal. It’s not a religion to practice transcendental meditation. It’s just a technique that will get you there. It’s like being handed a key to the treasury. It will open that door to the treasury within easily and effortlessly. It’s such an important thing for the human being. So that’s the deal.

CS: Coming out of it, do you know what you’re doing with the rest of the day?
You come out feeling refreshed, happier and more energized. That’s the normal feeling. This thing of bliss is a strange feeling. Bliss takes up where happiness leaves off. Bliss is physical happiness. Emotional happiness, mental happiness, and physical happiness all rolled into one. It’s thick happiness. It’s intense happiness. Every human being was meant to feel that. Mankind was not. made. to. suffer. Bliss is our nature. The individual is cosmic. To have a human physiology is a great, great blessing. It has a full potential. It’s just not taught in schools. More and more people are realizing this. They’re called seekers. They’re looking for something and they don’t know what it is, but they know it’s there. It’s built into the human being. It’s very, very beautiful. When they have this experience, like the Maharishi said, when they transcend, more often than not, the first thing they say is, “Thank you very much.” It’s so beautiful.

CS: You’ve been a huge proponent of digital filmmaking in recent years. Do you keep up with technology? Does 3D interest you?
3D is, you know, a little bit of a gimmick. It was embraced big time by the theaters to get people to go. It’s the only place you can see the 3D experience. I always said that, if I got an idea that really needed to be 3D, I would certainly do 3D. But I like also two dimensions. Painting is a two-dimensional thing. Drawing is. There’s something about two dimensions that I really love in cinema. But I do love the digital world, for sure.

CS: Are we going to see more updates coming from your website?
Well, I have a website. Unfortunately, I don’t update it. Again, because I don’t have time to really focus on that because I want to do other things. I wish I could update it and feed it. I used to change things by doing a weather report and do a weather report each day if anyone cared to see what the weather was like in Hollywood. Now, I have a camera in my studio where you can pull a ball down and the camera comes down and rests in a certain place. It’s locked in. You pull it down and it always stops in the same place, at the same angle. I sit in the same place and I can do the weather report. After you finish doing the weather report, you put a canvas bag over the camera and raise it back up. It waits till the next day. But there’s this little bird, a red-headed sparrow, that’s now sleeping in that bag. I haven’t done a weather report because I don’t want to ruin this little bird’s house.

CS: That’s very kind of you, but also too bad. I really enjoyed those weather reports.
[laughs] Okay, cool. But that’s the reason. This sparrow is like, such a great little guy. He’s using that. He loves that. There’s lots of creatures at night that could get a little bird. He has it made. No other creature or hunter could find him. He’s inside a room, inside a bag. It’s just a beautiful home he’s found.

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