David Lynch is a unique director who has a profound understanding of the role of sound in film. He has the strong belief that due to the fact that sound makes up fifty percent of a film, the design and mix of the soundtrack demands a great deal of attention and imagination. David Lynch has a personal sonic style which connects his films audibly. His soundtracks are innovative and feature obscure dreamlike soundscapes that add an distinct presence to his works. The director’s signature sound is based upon an ominous soundscape that serves as a backdrop for the seemingly bizarre focuses of his films. He also uses the juxtaposition of sound and image in order to create new meaning. Nostalgic and innocent sounds are processed and played over disturbing images to represent the destabilization of the psyche and to place the viewer in the unmistakeable ‘David Lynch’ world of cinema. This world is based upon the combination of reality and dark fantasy:
“The overarching theme in Lynch’s films is the blurring of lines between what is real and what is dreamed, imagined, narrated, fantasized, or mediated […] the films do not so much revolve around answers as around the big questions of life and being.” (Wierzbicki 176).
Lynch questions life and the human experience in his images and soundtracks. His advanced use of audio processing helps dissect sounds to their very core. He then layers and mixes these sounds to create an overtly dissonant and off-kiltered sonic environment.
I personally had my first experience with David Lynch’s works when I watched Mulholland Drive. I had never seen a film that had such a bizarre atmosphere filled with ambiguity and, to be honest, I found it jarring and hard to enjoy. The more experience I’ve gained with David Lynch’s films, the more I have come to understand the powerful effect that Lynch’s techniques have on the viewer. “Lynch … throws viewers into irreducible ambiguity, or a relentless interpretive limbo; however, this limbo is not a meaningless stasis but a rich abyss that approaches the no-thing that is being itself.” (Wierzbicki 177). In essence, David Lynch introduces the audience to chaos. Seemingly normal sound takes on a dystopian essence which helps transfer the viewer into another reality ruled by confusion and disarray. At the same time, this confusion and disarray is precisely controlled as to best follow fluctuations with in the story and imagery of the film. He and his longtime sound designer, Alan Splet, spent extraordinary amounts of time and effort transforming audio samples into plot tools and devices that elevate his films into true works of cinematic genius and innovation. His work in film sound has been called ‘revolutionary’ and has served to inspire a new generation of filmmakers.