David Lynch is relieving his lockdown boredom by posting videos. He gives weather reports (nothing new for him), baffles fans with what he’s working on, and declares a daily magic number. If only I could get a couple of hundred YouTube views from pulling numbers out of a jar.
In addition to documenting these quaint activities, Lynch’s team is also posting a series of short films under the David Lynch Theater series. I don’t think many, if any, of these are new, but most are new to me.
So far, my favorite is the deceptively simple one-shot video, The Spider and the Bee. The mini-movie consists of a close-up shot of an unfortunate bee caught in a web as a spider enacts its fate. There’s no semblance of Hollywood production here, and it’s a solid guess we’re looking at an undusted window sill in Lynch’s house. It’s Lynch, not Attenborough, after all.
The scene lasts for eight minutes, a challenging length for a real-time display of a struggling insect. But I found the video transfixing, my attention aided by the remarkable sound design. Evocative use of sound is a Lynch trademark, dating back to the hisses, hums, and whirrs found in the Eraserhead score. Sound is dramatically and innovatively used to accent images and nestle implications through Lynch’s entire oeuvre, right to the recent Twin Peaks series. If you pay attention to final credits, you’ll notice Lynch is always partly or solely responsible for the sound design on his projects. And The Spider and the Bee is an experiment in sound design.
With only natural sound (or no sound at all), the video’s nothing special, a ‘circle of life’ home movie shot on a lazy day. Add the sound — the bee’s hapless buzzing, the spider’s cartoonish clicking, the swoops as the spider slides — and the story becomes compelling. The viewer is brought into this, too, as the camera thunders as it quickly changes angles. I jumped out of my seat the first time that happened.
Sound is an effective contextualizer, and inventive sound design, even when subtle, can transform a visual storyline into something heightened and unreal. It’s a fun trick played on our brains.
Bonus points: check out the documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.