David Lynch Swerves

[ Film, Media, and Popular Culture ]

David Lynch Swerves

Uncertainty from Lost Highway to Inland Empire

By Martha Nochimson

In this paradigm-shifting book, the author of The Passion of David Lynch draws on insights into the filmmaker’s creative sources that he has never revealed before to forge a startlingly original template for analyzing Lynch’s recent films.

March 2013


33% website discount price

This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.


6 x 9 | 295 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-76206-0

Beginning with Lost Highway, director David Lynch “swerved” in a new direction, one in which very disorienting images of the physical world take center stage in his films. Seeking to understand this unusual emphasis in his work, noted Lynch scholar Martha Nochimson engaged Lynch in a long conversation of unprecedented openness, during which he shared his vision of the physical world as an uncertain place that masks important universal realities. He described how he derives this vision from the Holy Vedas of the Hindu religion, as well as from his layman’s fascination with modern physics.

With this deep insight, Nochimson forges a startlingly original template for analyzing Lynch’s later films—the seemingly unlikely combination of the spiritual landscape envisioned in the Holy Vedas and the material landscape evoked by quantum mechanics and relativity. In David Lynch Swerves, Nochimson navigates the complexities of Lost Highway, The Straight Story, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire with uncanny skill, shedding light on the beauty of their organic compositions; their thematic critiques of the immense dangers of modern materialism; and their hopeful conceptions of human potential. She concludes with excerpts from the wide-ranging interview in which Lynch discussed his vision with her, as well as an interview with Columbia University physicist David Albert, who was one of Nochimson’s principal tutors in the discipline of quantum physics.

  • Preface. Critic on Fire
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction. The Perplexing Threshold Experience
  • Chapter 1. Lost Highway: "You'll Never Have Me"
  • Chapter 2. The Straight Story: "And You'll Find Happy Times"
  • Chapter 3. Mulholland Dr.: An Improbable Girl in a Probable World
  • Chapter 4. Inland Empire: The Beginnings of Great Things
  • Afterword. A Summary: Living Large Among the Particles
  • Appendices: In Their Own Words
    • I: Fragments from My March 18, 2010 Interview with David Lynch
    • II: Excerpts from My Interviews with Professor David Z. Albert
  • Notes
  • Bibliography and Filmography
  • Index

Martha P. Nochimson has had a distinguished academic career, teaching at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and serving at Mercy College as the creator and first Chair of the film program. She is the author of five previous books, including The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood.

“. . . offer[s] a fascinating glimpse into tensions between the disciplines of film studies and quantum physics, whose objects and methods are often different in ways David Lynch Swerves doesn’t fully recognize.”
Cinema Journal

“Taken as a whole, this book is nothing less than a revelation of a new David Lynch.”
—Eric Wilson, author of The Strange World of David Lynch: Transcendental Irony from Eraserhead to Mulholland Dr.

"The richness of Nochimson’s writing, the thoroughness of her interpretation, and her assured stance in opposition to the canon of Lynch criticism to date all make David Lynch Swerves a must-read for anyone interested in the films of David Lynch. Or, for that matter, the state of film criticism in American culture. If criticism at its best is a form of revelation, then this is practically a new gospel."
—Charles Arrowsmith, houseofspeakeasy.org

“To grant Lynch agency and study him as Nochimson does—through his lens—is not to indulge in sloppy hagiography, but to know something of his remarkable vantage point on the mysteries of existence. . . . Nochimson is stretching herself beyond film studies into a realm where few film studies academics have dared to go. She is up front about the excitement and dangers of this approach, but she also makes an outstanding case that—with Lynch—such stretching beyond every conceivable boundary (be it academic or ontological!) is essential. . . . This book will likely be the standard for studying Lynch’s later films.”
—Joseph Kickasola, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Baylor University, author of The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski: The Liminal Image