Women Protagonists/Femme Fatales
David Lynch loves women; this is why they are always protagonists in his films. Many of his films explore the female side of life and the men in their lives, there’s a palpable sympathy towards women. He also admires women from an aesthetic point of view; he always uses extremely beautiful actresses.
At some point or another in a David Lynch films, somebody is going to get up on a stage and sing a song, usually a sad one. And usually they’ll make someone cry.
Zig Zag Designs
He loves the zig zag, be it on walls or floors, you will most likely find this design in some of his films
Curtains, Curtains, Curtains
I think Lynch uses curtains a lot because they remind him of theater curtains going up before a play, also because Lynch’s films are very theatrical.
Low lighting and Lamps
Lynch loves dark, mysterious looking rooms in his films; the low lighting created by lamps does the trick.
Night Clubs, Motels, Diners
Characters always go to Night Clubs, Motels and Diners, and usually they have cool names made up just for the movie. Like the 'Winkies' diner or the 'Club Silencio' in Mulholland Dr. or the 'The Bang Bang Bar' in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With me.
This is something Lynch has done from day one in Eraserhead, his first film. And he has repeated it all throughout his career, the use of the droning sound. Basically, from hearing this sound in a scene you get the feeling that a giant spaceship is hovering somewhere outside; but also, it creates a really foreboding atmosphere, a really eerie mood, like something evil is about to happen.
Eraserhead himself, Jack Nance, actually appeared in almost every single Lynch film made up till he passed away in 1997. Nance’s last Lynch film was Lost Highway.
Roy Orbison or Chris Isaak Songs
Lynch loves his Orbison and his Isaak, he’s used their songs repeatedly. Examples: Orbison’s ‘Crying’ in Mulholland Dr.; ‘In Dreams’ in Blue Velvet and Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ in Wild at Heart.
Small town U.S.A.
Many of Lynch’s films focus on small town suburban life. Lynch likes to contrast the pretty houses and white picket fences with the messed up lives behind them.
Characters Switching Bodies or Lives
Lynch has gone down this road a lot, for example Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway all play with this idea of characters switching bodies or lives. He uses this plot device as a symbolism for our ever changing lives, sometimes we change because we want to, other times the change is out of our control. In Lynch films, when someone wants a different life, they either die and come back or steal or posses someone elses body to do it.
Lynch loves his blondes! They make their way all throughout his body of work. Sometimes they are fake blondes and sometimes very obviously so! If gentlemen prefer blondes, than Lynch is one hell of a gentleman!
Lynch himself is an avid smoker. Chances are if you see a picture or an interview of Lynch, they guy is probably smoking a cigarette. Characters in his films smoke just as much, in fact, in Wild at Heart there’s a whole conversation about cigarettes brands, there's a similar conversation but about beer brands in Blue Velvet.
They appear on those Lynch films that have a supernatural element to them. For Lynch, electric blue is synonymous with the supernatural or the dreamlike.Usually these lights are accompanied by a strobing effect which he also uses a lot.
The Color Red
In Lynch films, red is almost as important as blue. You’ll see lots of red curtains, red lipstick, red cars, red shoes, it dominates Lynch’s cinematic world, of course passion and sensuality accompanies the use of this color.
Characters Simply Disappearing
Don’t know why he does this so much, but he does! And it freaks me out! Frank disappears from the screen in Blue Velvet when he says “I’ll fuck anything that moves!” Betty and Rita disappear after they open the Blue Box in Mulholland Dr. and Peter disappears when Fred steals his body in Lost Highway!
Highway at Night
Lynch also uses this image a lot in his films, that of the camera focusing exclusively on the highway. In some of his films it represents escape, like in Wild at Heart where both of the characters find their freedom riding the highways of America, or it can represent entrapment, like in Lost Highway, which represents the main character forever wandering in an eternal 'limbo', in that film, the never ending highway is the road to hell.
This is the one element that bonds all of Lynch's cinematic universe together, the eternal mystery. Where did that human ear come from in Blue Velvet? What does the Blue Key open in Mulholland Dr? Why does Frank mutate in Lost Highway? What happened to Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks? Will the actors in Inland Empire die making their remake? Lynch understands that a good mystery will keep his audience captive and he uses that to great effect, he not only uses mystery thematically, he also creates mystery through mood and lighting. Lynch as a filmmaker is the ultimate Mystery Man; if you haven't done so yet, I urge you to check out some of his films and discover what the mystery is all about, chance are he just might freak you the hell out, but in a good way. Did I leave any Lynch trademarks out? Comment on them below!