Dark secrets in public: opening up to Lynch

David Lynch presents INTERVIEW PROJECT on his website on June 1, featuring short interviews with hundreds of people — the result of a 20,000 mile road trip over seventy days across the United States. “The people told their story,” Lynch says in his video introduction, “It’s a chance to meet [them] … it’s human … and you can’t stay away from it.” Read SUNfiltered’s earlier post on this project if you missed it.

The interviews are absolutely Lynchian in style and approach, but particularly in casting. The participants seem like outsiders – not a single stock broker or middle manager in sight, at least from advance press material. What’s compelling is the degree to which the individuals open up, exposing their deepest fears and most shameful experiences, basically to strangers with a camera.

Why do people do this? In documentary, there’s a long-standing discussion regarding interview ethics and methodologies, and some of the key terms employed have to do with “building relationships” and “trust.” These are the same terms used when counseling filmmakers how to actually elicit “the good material;” the emotional stuff. I’ve always felt like the truth of capturing intimacy is much closer to the fact that some people simply want to engage in the act of telling, and that there is something alluring about revealing intimate details to someone you don’t know. This seems to be evidenced by the Lynch material: the filmmakers, including Jason S. and Lynch’s son Austin, were in fact, passing through – making warm-up, foundational relationships impossible and snap-shot opportunities to confess the norm.

Jim Carter of Roswell, New Mexico reveals quite a bit about his life and fears, and with considerable emotion, in this episode.

Logan, found in Iowa, cut himself as a kid. He talks about four near-death experiences, and one – check it out – is eerily close to something right out of a Lynch film. The difference? We imagine the imagery.

This is documentary, but fictional tropes are in the works, too, mostly in the sound design. The sound of thunder in Logan’s interview lays the groundwork for the culminating “image” – again, in our minds, involving rain. Shots of lonely buildings and the interviewee walking away add to tone.

These are self-proclaimed “ordinary people.” David and Albert Maysles were the first American filmmakers to make portraits of people not previously known to the public in their groundbreaking 1968 documentary SALESMAN. Did these Bible salesmen open up to the camera? Absolutely – although not in interview form, but observationally. Prior to that point, portraiture in documentary was more about celebrities or politicians. Here, a scene from that film, really the foundation for documenting “regular people” in non-fiction film. This scene finds a salesman in the midst of a transaction, in a sort of Lynchian living room … with some strange elements at play, including the fact that the name of the customer is … Lynch.

Read more about Sundance Channel’s on-air salute to David Lynch this month.