Notions on David Lynch’s Use of Terror and the Importance of Film Sound


Session Title:

  • Long Papers Presentations

Presentation Title:

  • Notions on David Lynch’s Use of Terror and the Importance of Film Sound



  • The first impression one has when you hear the word terror is highly negative. It means great fear. But, interestingly when you look it up in the dictionary there is no fear, literally, surrounding the word terror. You will find terror sandwiched between the words territory and terra (earth or ground). On the other hand it can involve positive construction and evolution.
    These concepts of the relationships between positive and negative or yin and yang seem key to the fear that lurks in David Lynch’s movies. He has a unique and uncanny way of using terror. Unlike horror or action film which provokes terror from literal events, David Lynch renders dreamscapes which evoke extreme disquiet but also humour and whimsey.

    David Lynch leads the viewer in and yet out of the grotesque. There is a purity of expression and a dreamy beauty. Chris Rodley in his book “Lynch on Lynch” said that the indefinable mood or feeling Lynch seeks to convey is strongly linked to a form of intellectual uncertainty of being lost in darkness and confusion. Freud said “the uncanny is uncanny because it is secretly all too familiar, which is why it is repressed”.

    Perhaps the most powerful method of evoking terror in a film audience is through sound. Yet, when you watch a truly compelling movie you become so absorbed by the picture that you hardly ever notice how the sound affects you. If the audio were turned off, the moving pictures lose their impact, become flat and disjointed; however, if the screen goes dark and you hear only the track, the mind creates its own rich images.