The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Lynch Film, by Rebecca Paiva

The Lynch Film

by Rebecca Paiva


  1. Introduction
  2. Technology
  3. Iconography

    • Smoke and Fire
    • Electricity
    • Red Drapes
    • Dogs
    • Trains

  4. Narrative
  5. Stars
  6. Bibliography


I. Introduction

What is genre? Most people think of genre as a film type; "Horror", for example, includes everything from The Birds to The Night of the Living Dead. However, this type of classification is not the only denotation of the word; the term "genre" encompasses much more than the sections of a video store. Hayward (160) writes, "... genre does not refer just to film type but to spectator expectation and hypothesis." True, these are both important components to genre, but they are also not enough to define it. Audiences come to all films with expectations and hypotheses; expecting a happy ending is not grounds for a "happy ending genre." Moreover, audiences may expect a happy ending to certain kinds of horror movies (Scream ) but not for others (Invasion of the Body Snatchers.) Then, what factors must be fulfilled to classify a group of films as a genre? Hayward (165) believes "[there are] four essential component parts to genre: technology, narrative, iconography, and stars."

Keeping this in mind, it is easy to see how certain directors create films that fall into their own genre. Hitchcock is an example of this phenomenon; his films share similar aspects of the aforementioned essential parts to genre. If one were to rent a Hitchcock film they had never seen before, they could still have a somewhat accurate idea of what they would be getting.

A frequent misunderstanding of the director genre is the concept of "auteurism." An auteur is a director who writes his own screenplays. While auteurism often coincides with the director genre (as in the case of Stanley Kubrick and the Kubrick film), the two terms are not interchangeable. A director who writes his own screenplays might produce films that are too dissimilar to fit into one genre; likewise, non-auteur directors like Hitchcock have certainly established their own genre. Auteur and genre may be complementary, but not necessarily simultaneous.

This brings us to David Lynch. David Lynch is an established auteur; in fact, not only does he write his screenplays, but he has been involved with every level of his films production at one point or another: sound design, editing, camera work, lighting, casting, special effects, music, etc. His hands-on approach to every aspect of his films has helped to tie them all together with a common thread. Perhaps Lynch is an example of how extreme auteurism naturally leads to the director genre.

It is still necessary, however, to dissect Lynch's films to ensure that there are enough similarities of the four essential parts for his films to classify as a genre.

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