Archetypal Enchantment and the Twin of David Lynch by Milana Vujkov

(CUNY Graduate Centre, New York, 2010, Cinematic Desire: A Cinema Studies Group interdisciplinary graduate conference)

Twenty years ago I saw the first episode of Twin Peaks on television. It was the first Lynchian creation that enchanted me, lulled me into daydreams, made me spend long hours playing occult detective, but it would not remain the last. During my childhood, my experiences of the numinous were mostly born out of contact with art forms, the written word, or with nature, but the most profound ones for me were, undoubtedly, begotten through the medium of the moving image. These were the ones that overwhelmed me. Many of my generation were as enchanted as I was with films and TV series, as video games have not yet made there entrance into our our collective awareness. With Twin Peaks we experienced what could only be described as a form of group reverie- our desire to participate in this other world was palpable. We felt we belonged there, beyond the screen, behind the looking glass, that we were, somehow, a part of this world, or that it was part of us, that however perplexing it was- it translated our innermost desires back to us, ones we were unable to name. As Eric G. Wilson concludes in The Strange World of David Lynch, when discussing the numinous qualities of the filmmaker’s work: “Yet while one is pained over his inability to make sense of what he witnesses, one at the same time feels pleasure over a new sensibility: a feeling that he too participates in this crushing power, that he is a pattern of its force”. (Wilson, 2007)

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This mass enchantment with media narratives is so much a common phenomena nowadays, especially with the advent reality TV and 24 hour news coverage, that it is, in contemporary cultural discourse, mostly filed under addiction to the medium. Or a scopophilic fix. Which it certainly is, to a great extent. But can media itself be therapeutic? Could powerful images heal our primordial wounds? Post-Jungian scholar, John Izod in Myth, Mind and the Screen, argues that a full engagement with a visionary narrative has the potential to change an individual’s consciousness altering ways one feels and thinks about oneself and the world. (Izod, 2001) There is something in the nature of a recording that defies rational explanation. It is a replica of life, its twin and its double, and yet, it is also its deathly echo, preserving life by embalming it for eternity. Or at least until the life of the medium itself expires. Lynch evokes this quality perfectly in his oevre. When speaking of the scene in the club Silencio in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive Wilson remarks on the eerie qualities of the playback sound that goes on while the performers are removed from stage, reflecting the inherent qualities of artifice in film, and in life, itself: “Everything we see and hear is a copy of an absent original. All is, in this way, derivative, artificial- a film. Life is an immense movie whose script and director have disappeared. It is an illusion divorced from truth, a dream.” (Wilson, pg. 151) We experience these ghostly apparitions everyday in the cinema, on television, in the darkness of our bedrooms hovering over youtube clips, creating avatars, personal profiles, in our home-made films and our relentless run of digital slides monitoring our every move. We are thus creating and re-creating a series of twin lives, multiple doubles, clones, perhaps. Some of these images affect us
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deeply. Is it because they represent evidence, glimpses of our true double life, our twin in the archetypal world? Lynch understands this instinctively when he says: "It is just like you are walking around the corner and something will happen and next thing you know it's part of the film. Sometimes you are sitting in a chair daydreaming. That is how most things come for me anyway. You go down deep and something pops into your head. They are everywhere, these ideas." (John O'Mahony, The Guardian, January 2002). Martha P. Nochimson, in The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood (Nochimson, 1992), describes Lynch as “a surfer on the waves of the collective unconscious”. In my recent work, I revisited my early fascinations by going back in time. In film theory the uncanny quality of the moving image has been pondered on by early theorists to great extent. Due to the novelty of film as medium at the time their ideas provided a freshness of perspective. I found great similarity in their discourse with Jungian and post-Jungian analysis of film, which I have already implemented in several other studies, as I did in the work of contemporary theorists that builds directly on early film theory, such as ‘savage theory’ of cinema as modern magic, utilizing primitive belief in magic as allegory to modern man’s relationship with the cinema, works relating to film as religion, as well as the occult experience in popular culture. All of this informed me and helped define the central premise of a much larger study, of which this paper is a part: the examination of a psychological affinity between a film text created by the filmmaker and the emotional disposition of the spectator, aided by the particularities of film as medium, which could provoke a specific and prolonged altered emotional state, not one of pathological psychological
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inflation, but a less intense state of partial ego-inflation, one of ‘archetypal enchantment’ and that this state would be most likely to occur when the film text relies heavily on archetypal, mythological material. The aim of this study is to grasp and, hopefully, provide a glimpse of the psychological patterns behind the experience of the numinous, and bring this understanding about through the medium of the moving image, reveal the deus in the machina. The choice of following archetypal motifs, in this case the motif of the twin/ double, rather than particular myths lies in the inherent cultural bias of myths, and my wish to circumvent this issue. But, most importantly, because the archetypal motif or figure would be the underlying cause of the numinous emotional reaction of the audience, no matter what individual myth or myths the analyzed films are influenced by. Considering the aforementioned psychological affinity between a film text created by the filmmaker and the emotional disposition of the spectator, and taking into account archetypal enchantment as heuristic assumption, an intuitive judgement on my part, one could conclude that all the participants in this process, the filmmaker, the spectator, the protagonists of Lynch’s films, along with the author of this paper, are all enchanted by a particular archetypal motif. That we are all under its numinous, and simultaneously, sinister ‘spell’. Enchantment is thus dualistic, as well. It harbors a double in its bosom and walks a fine line between inspiration and terror. Its nature is inherently arcane. Antonin Artaud in his seminal essay Sorcery and the Cinema spoke of “a whole occult life” that is revealed in cinema. Lynch is certainly inclined towards the esoteric in his work. One wonders if the philosophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, had any influence on his representation of the ghostly doppelgänger.
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In his Mystery of the Human Double Stenier goes on to describe these ‘doubles’ as spirits emanating from Earth’s electromagnetic fields, entering our bodies alongside our souls, at birth, and differing in qualities according to geography, as they are our connection to matter. In many parts of the world they are difficult to differentiate from one’s own soul, however, in the region of Americas, they can be seen, and from that geographical quality, he concludes, stems the Native American understanding of the nature of the twin/double. Naturally, Steiner did not base his theories on conjecture alone, he inherited them from Tibetan Buddhism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Zoroastrian dualism, medieval alchemical lore, as well as Theosophy, the Anthroposophical 19th century twin. This philosophical ‘melting-pot’ seems to be incredibly close to Lynch’s depiction of ‘the dweller on the threshold’, the sinister ‘shadow twin’, the trickster, double universes, transitional spaces between twin worlds (the lodges, red rooms, and haunting cabins in the woods) and his frequent use of Tibetan and Native American myths, most notably in Lost Highway and Twin Peaks lore. Lynch’s enthusiastic advocacy of Transcendental Mediation further attests to his spiritual tastes. One more proponent of early film theory, Walter Benjamin, highlighted the correspondence between the world of modern technology and the archaic symbolworld of mythology. (Moore, 2000) Lynch’s view on technology and its ability to capture the mythic, symbolic and the arcane is visible throughout his ouvre, frequently verging towards techno-paganism, a branch of new paganism that utilizes new technologies as tools of enlightenment, instruments for neopagan rituals. As Gaston Bachelard compared gazing onto the film screen with gazing into flames of fire, both processes characterized by their excessive nature and magnifying
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reverie, Lynch utilizes the metaphor of fire punctuating moments of cinematic ecstasy, desire, rage and demonic possession. And as Béla Balázs makes an ingenious observation when he assigns to the film camera the power to photograph the unconscious. (Moore, 2000) Jung insists that powerful images are the natural language of the unconscious, and, significantly, that emotion is the chief source of consciousness. At this point, before the concluding thoughts on the recurring archetypal motif of the twin/double in the cinema of David Lynch, it would be useful to remind ourselves of a few key Jungian concepts. The collective unconscious, an inherited second psychic system independent to the one of personal unconscious, has been postulated by Jung along with the term ‘archetypes’ of which it consists of. An archetype is a dynamism ‘translated’ into consciousness by the numinous quality of the archetypal image which must have a universal potential and connects the archetype with the individual by the bridge of emotion. However, archetypal images also need to be shaped by contemporary culture in order to communicate through its signifying systems. According to Jung- myths, legends and fairy tales are carriers of a projected collective unconscious. John Beebe in Jung & Film asserts that in film, as in no other medium, we can actually see the behavior of archetypes- as cinema is a medium of images it is inherently more linked to the transpersonal. (Hauke, Alister (ed), 2001) In Jungian terms, following the archetypal motif of the twin/double poses two key issues. Firstly, as twins appear abundantly in mythologies around the world the scope of this paper, unfortunately, does not allow discussing the actual myths that would correspond to Lynch’s narratives. But, as we did, however, mention the
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possible chief mythological sources of his opus, the particularities will then remain to be analyzed in further study on the subject. Secondly, in world mythology, twins are often cast in various roles: they can sometimes be protective masks, our mirror selves, but they are most frequently two halves of the same whole, or represent the aspect of the Self that is the ‘shadow’. Therefore, the twin/double archetypal motif could resonate with several key instances of the twin/double in our psyche,

according to its Jungian interpretation. Our persona, the conformist double of our conscious mind, as the external embodiment of the twin, can be seen in Lynch’s opus quite directly, frequently as mirror images, or as masks, often blank or grotesque, but most poignantly in the ‘strangeness of ordinariness’ in Lynch’s ‘gosh and golly’ characters. Further observation of the mirror image would then lead us to twinship in the archetypal realm, as it both conveys the persona, and its mirror opposite, the shadow, opening doors to the twin world of doppelgängers. The anima and animus archetypes of the collective unconscious, especially the syzygy, the divine couple, the combination of the anima and animus representing wholeness and completion, is touchingly conveyed in several Lynch films, starting with Blue Velvet, through Mulholand Drive, to Inland Empire. These doubles can be actual couples, but also same sex twins with a hermaphrodite twist. The shadow twin/double, the doppelgänger, however, is one of the most recurring images in his work, and it appears as the intruding spirit, trickster, the ‘evil twin’, the demon within. The shadow in the personal unconscious consists of all our suppressed or unacknowledged negative traits, or, as is in the case of the positive shadow- our rejected qualities. However, the shadow in the collective unconscious, becomes the archetypal shadow, an incarnation of evil itself.
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Therefore the motif of twinship can thus be directly related to the key archetypes of the collective unconscious and through archetypal images become a truly powerful source of enchantment in storytelling. Finally, in pondering on the genesis of the term ‘enchantment’ I came upon Jung’s fascinating analogy between primitive pathology and his concept of the unconscious in his Psychology and the Occult. It also invoked images of Lynchian lore, transgressing sprits, demonic possessions and soaring epiphanies. There seemed to have been a clear distinction in primitive belief between two causes of mental illness- the loss of soul, and the possession by a spirit. Jung termed the former soulcomplexes, unconscious complexes that normally belong to the ego, and the latter, spirit-complexes, ones that normally should not be associated with it. If any egoassociated complex becomes repressed, the individual experiences a sense of loss, and when it is made conscious again- an increased sense of power. However, if a complex of the collective unconscious becomes associated with the ego, thus emerging into consciousness, it fascinates the individual, but also carries with it a disturbance, an uncanny presence, alienation from every-day life. Jung refers to it as psychological inflation- the archetypal contents flood the personality blurring the differences between them and the ego. Removal of this content from consciousness should bring about a sense of relief. This analogy further inspired me to form the idea of archetypal enchantment, one of partial ego-inflation, contemplate on its possible consequences and reflect on its potential therapeutic use. Psychological inflation, of course, is a pathological state leading to mental illness, and I would not, in any circumstance, endeavor to pathologize the experience of watching films. As Izod notes, we are observing publicly circulated symbols which
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are not experienced individually as intensely. But in certain occasions, he further argues, a symbol in a film may resonate strongly with the energy of an archetype bringing on an intense psychological pressure in moments when the individual’s and the filmmakers’ desires coincide. (Izod, 2001) And as Ron Garcia argues "David [Lynch] creates an emotion in everybody by tapping into the subconscious. From a Jungian perspective, the subconscious is real: you're there until you wake up, and some people don't wake up from those nightmares." (Garcia 1992). However, as the archetypal image also harbors vast capacity for positive numinosity, its therapeutic use has for some time been utilized in Jungian psychotherapy, as well as Art Therapy, with developments in branches of Integrative Art Therapy relating to use of cinematic material. Experiencing archetypal images, enjoying their full transcendence, incorporating their power into our personal lives, enables us to view ourselves as parts of a greater whole, the Unus Mundus, which, as John Hollwitz, another Jungian scholar, concludes, feels ‘like being touched a little by the gods.’ (Hauke, Alister (ed), 2001) Bibliography Edwards, Emily D., Metaphysical Media: The Occult Experience in Popular Culture (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005) Hammond, Paul (ed) The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema (San Francisco: City Lights Books), Hauke, Christopher and Alister, Ian (ed), Jung & Film: Post-Jungian Takes on the Moving Image (London: Routledge, 2001) Izod, John, Myth, Mind and the Screen: Understanding the Heroes of Our Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) Jung, C.G. (ed) , Man and His Symbols (London: Penguin Arkana, 1990)
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Jung, C.G., Psychology and the Occult (London: Routledge Classicis, 2008) Jung, C.G., Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (London: Routledge, 2008) Jung, C.G., Psychology and Alchemy (London: Routledge, 1968) Kadinsky, Wassily, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (London: Tate Publishing, 2006) Lyden, John C.,Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals (New York: New York University Press, 2003) Moore, Rachel O., Savage Theory: Cinema as Modern Magic (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000) Mulvey, Laura, Death 24 x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (London: Reaktion Books, 2006) Papadopoulos (ed), Renos K., The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice and Applications (London: Routledge, 2006)

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