The philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) said: “The true purpose of the mind is to translate: only when something has been translated does it become truly vocal, no longer to be eliminated … The same is true for translating man for man. . “Rosenzweig is not simply talking about literal translation – from language to language – but about something more meaningful, our relationship with each other.
Each “thing” and each “reality” has its own language. We talk about art or philosophy that have their own vocabulary in order to be expressed and understood. In academia, it is often said that when writing a thesis, a student should pay attention to a particular “conversation” they are a part of to maintain the structural integrity of the dissertation.
Cinema is no different from other art forms. It has its own structure, language and form. Additionally, it retains uniqueness and authenticity due to a director’s specific vision. How do we “translate” the language of the film into the language of being? Should the director be included in this translation and interpretation? Why do we feel obligated in the first place to write about films, to explain what should be obvious, which is the image itself?
David Lynch writes that “a film should stand on its own. It is absurd if a director needs to say what a film means in words ”. Lynch is famous for not wanting to discuss the meaning of his films. He often hints at why and how he made particular decisions while filming or writing the script, but he refuses to tell the audience what it all means. Nor should it. An artist is not a philosopher and, as the writer Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) said, literature [and by implication all of art] mystifies, while philosophy clarifies.
Lynch is under no obligation to “translate” his vision. The lens of his camera is the conduit through which we witness that vision, that beautiful dream or nightmare that repeats itself, taking on different forms. Not wanting to play his film to supposedly make it more palatable, Lynch is also parting ways with the eventual artifact, the film. He forces us to enter the world he created, a labyrinthine dream, and the only judgment we can offer is the aesthetic one.
One may wonder if we can understand the director’s vision. Lynch replies that “them [people] understand much more than they realize. Because we are all blessed with intuition, we truly have the gift of intuiting things. Whether we write about cinema or not, whether we try to translate it into a reality other than that of which it is made, we are experimenting it. We have to let go of certain assumptions and prejudices. More than anything else, an ethical judgment must remain in the back seat.
“Cinema is very similar to music,” Lynch writes. It can be very abstract, but people have a desire to give it an intellectual sense, to put it into words. And when they can’t, it’s frustrating. But they can find an explanation from the inside, if only they allow it. “
We often feel tense when we watch a certain movie. Have you ever felt second-hand embarrassment for the character? Or did you feel uncomfortable because the film might challenge your desires and your inner self? (John Cassavetes was a master at making people exhausted and frustrated after watching his films of him because he forced audiences to look inside himself and the fake faces they created to live a lie.)
Intellectualization of an emotion can lead to a dead end. Yet we cannot help but use philosophy to clarify the mystical experience. This is a natural process of the mind. We want to have a definition, even if it changes after another view. Mulholland Drive (2001) in one interpretation can be seen in two parts: a mushy and unattainable dream and an ugly and brutal reality of a movie star who never was.
In another interpretation, it may be nothing more than a collage of images that Lynch handed us to put together, resulting in several “translations” that speak of our desires and frustrations. Finally, it can relate to the destructive nature of erotic power and the experience of such a film becomes a reality that arouses thoughts of belonging to the world. Erotic power is often destructive and abstract, as Lynch has repeatedly shown in his work. Most directors make films with an intent that includes an invitation. It is open, enter at your own risk, so that you can get lost and find yourself in the translation.