Method, Madness, and Metaphysical Mysteries
Tracking the conspiracies in the movies of Lynch, Rivette, and Proyas.
If you’re reading this you’re one of us. You see the patterns that no one else does. You find the answers to questions too bewildering for others to comprehend. But the deeper you dig, the more confusing things get. And then there are the shady characters who keep weaving through your journey. It's a conspiracy, but you're the only one who can see it! That path can lead only to madness. Or a movie. We all love a good conspiracy thriller, but we are mesmerized by a conspiracy plot where the answers one seeks may not exist in the material realm.
Under the Silver Lake, the latest film to explore a mystery that seems to defy the logic of science and reason, has been pushed back from its original June release date to December. Ostensibly it's to give filmmaker David Robert Mitchell time to recut the movie. But could there be another, more sinister reason behind this delay? What exactly aren't they telling us? Just who is really pulling the strings here?
These films and TV shows don't necessarily have the answers but they do send their searchers down a very different kind of conspiratorial rabbit hole.
Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) dir. Jacques Rivette
Long before Neo chose the red pill in The Matrix, the giddy investigators of Celine and Julie Go Boating popped a hard candy that sent them into a fantasy realm to save a young girl from a plot to murder her in a haunted manor. The most whimsical film of elusive Nouvelle Vague filmmaker Jacques Rivette, loved his conspiracies and puzzles, stirs Alice in Wonderland, Henry James, and Fantomas into a dreamy mystery of magic and adventure, a literary detective story by way of fairy tale enchantment.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991) / Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) / Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) dir. David Lynch
If any filmmaker embodies the spirit of dark mysteries and unfathomable evil leeching into the light of the material world, it is David Lynch, who blew the minds of American TV viewers when Twin Peaks wrapped Laura Palmer in plastic and brought Bob and the Black Lodge into suburban living rooms. It was cancelled on a cliffhanger—Lynch left our boy scout of a hero (Kyle MacLachlan) corrupted by the darkness—and the 1992 feature prequel did nothing to bring closure. But more than twenty-five years later, Lynch reunited the cast for a return visit to the town of Twin Peaks that weaves the battle between good and evil through time, space, and alternate dimensions.
Dark City (1998) dir. Alex Proyas
A man (Rufus Sewell) awakens in someone else’s nightmare–literally–in a perpetual night city of shifting landscapes and identities. But as everyone falls asleep on the stroke of midnight, Sewell awakens to watch the city morph in front of his eyes to discover cadaverous men in black on his trail. Is he mad or has he stumbled upon a conspiracy that shatters all understanding of reality? Both the strangest alien abduction story and the damnedest behavioral experiment ever concocted, Dark City is also a movie about making movies and playing with stories. Just who is the director of our destinies?
Catcher in the Rye meets Philip K. Dick when an otherwise normal, rebellious, angry teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) receives cryptic messages from a demonic looking six-foot rabbit named Frank and sees the fabric of fate that’s invisible to everyone else. Is it madness, prophecy, a metaphor for the confusion of life, or is Donnie tapping into the mysteries of the universe? Richard Kelly's grim and glorious world of nightmares and dreams was a flop in theaters but a generation of teenagers and high school kids turned this metaphysical mystery into a cult classic.
Lost Highway (1997) / Mulholland Drive (2001) / Inland Empire (2006) dir. David Lynch
Seriously, we could have populated this list solely with David Lynch titles. As a filmmaker he's fascinated by an almost Biblical concept of evil that corrupts and tempts humanity and also in the metaphysical power of acts so destructive and hateful that they rupture reality. His mysteries, simply put, are not simply about solving crimes, but plunging beyond material existence and facing the darkness without and within. These three films defy the concept of narrative logic and closure, presenting stories that jump the tracks mid-story, leap into dreams or alternate realities, and circle back in time-travelling loops with a Mobius strip twist. Beware! These mysteries cannot be solved by conventional means.
WATCH NOW: Charade – for the lighter side of a good conspiracy, check out this Stanley Donen riff on Hitchcock, starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.