by Robert Glenn Plotner
Two episodes in to the Twin Peaks Revival I find myself still giving it a chance. I love David Lynch. I get the metaphysics — we construct an artificial reality over a quantum universe which is the ‘real’ universe(s), but I am increasingly irritated by the seeming conclusions — that we have no real agency or responsibility for our actions in this world, and that agency is but an in-habitation from a mysterious meta-reality.
While that paranoia anchors the foreboding of TP and has been the subject of Lynch’s work since Eraserhead (which is echoed in much of the new TP), it is never anchored in much beyond stream-of-consciousness associations. One is constantly left with the feeling of an auteur professing something profound in the margins but not actually having a core epiphany.
Yes, consciousness is akin to a nested Russian doll, elusive and receding, and yet the leap to a quantum explanation for agency does nothing to resolve the dilemma. It just reassigns it, and while that idea is appealing in a spooky way, it disconnects the problem from behavior, an evolutionary process. Specifically, primates exhibit both violence and altruism as a product of their social evolution. We don’t need a meta-dimensional possession to explain our tendency toward nasty behavior.
Any idea of quantum agency also comes with the problem of translation. How does the time independent universe of the quantum world translate its intentionality into the time-dependent world in which we exist? Hence, the weird time reversal communication in the Black Lodge and the mystical conversation that takes place in metaphors and riddles. Entities in that realm do not dwell in our linearly processed world so they make known their intentions through concentrated metaphors that have to be unpacked before they can be understood. Cool stuff because it makes for a cinematic dialogue of clues and mystery. It is also philosophically flawed because intentionality itself is a time dependent function between agency and its desire. It ends up being just another reassignment from our thoroughly physical world.
Perhaps then, Lynch is not addressing anything but is himself searching through his works for an answer that never develops, hence the meandering nature of his art. Open the next doll. Open the next doll. Open the next doll. I take that for what it is and can still be provoked by his artistic journey even though I agree with the criticism on a filmmaking level. After all, Lynch is embracing these questions in terms of an artist. If he were a painter or a multi-medium artist exploring these themes over a body of work, chances are his art would not incite such ire and bewilderment. It would be contemplative, take it or leave it.
But like the quantum universe in which all particles can only exist in terms of their mirror opposites (matter and anti-matter, for instance), David Lynch has chosen a medium in which he is his own doppelganger. He is both an artist and a narrative filmmaker, and these two roles can stand in opposition to each other. The artist who expands on his inner speculations is constantly confronted by the filmmaker who attempts to translate that fancy into a narrative language. He is telling a story to an audience rather than just presenting a single object metaphor to be unpacked. It is that struggle with narrative which can so frustrate his audience. The linear story veers, dissolves, and is sometimes intentionally confronted.
Witness the odd and painful use of amateurs in acting roles (ex. the woman with the little dog in the hotel is the worst of these throw-ins). These non-actors seem designed to kneecap the constructed reality of the show itself so that the viewer is constantly aware that this exercise is ultimately a farce. This is Lynch realizing the trap of his opposite selves, the nonlinear artist and narrative filmmaker, and attempting a superficial resolution with his inner self and the outer audience. He wants you to be aware that he is aware of the contradiction. If that’s his point, it is a weak one. As a viewer, I don’t need to be reminded; I’m more savvy than that, and ultimately, the stagnant mechanical deliveries destroy rather than enhance the experience. It is frustrating to witness because it strikes the viewer square out of the narrative, a narrative in which one roots for Lynch to succeed because one craves not only the rarefied story but also the artistry of questions and thought. Much like quantum theory, one craves unification rather than unresolved conflict because otherwise something is missing and one is aware of it.
Robert Glenn Plotner is one of the most inventive (and funny) indie film directors around. His web TV pilot, Let’s Get Spunky!, is a classic that already should have made him famous and a household name.
Hmm, speaking of Let’s Get Spunky: