Starting in 2007, filmmaker David Lynch hit the road in support of his David Lynch Foundation, whose goals include the construction of “peace universities” around the world, where focused meditation is hoped to bring an end to global war and suffering. The Foundation has garnered plenty of attention, much of it dismissive; Meditation, Creativity, Peace lets viewers judge for themselves whether the filmmaker’s quest merits the mockery. The doc will surely interest Lynch’s most devoted fans, whose number is not trivial, and is an intriguing present-day look at a practice whose popularity peaked when the Beatles discovered it. But theatrical appeal will be limited, with a tour of one-night engagements exposing it to TM-friendly crowds before its small-screen release.
Assembled by producer Bobby Roth from footage of public Q&As, one-on-one press interviews, and the like shot by innumerable amateur videographers, the film makes its visual hodgepodge consistent by applying a sepia-like treatment to all of it. The aesthetic will be familiar to those who’ve followed Lynch’s more obscure side projects, and serves the doc well, focusing attention on the message being delivered.
Lynch discusses more than TM here — taking cues from his audiences, he touches on everything from the “huge euphoric freedom” that results from commercial failure to the O.J. Simpson trial (“everybody knows he did that thing”). But he’s most passionate in discussing how a daily meditation practice enables not just inner peace but creativity: Again and again, he describes “diving within” an endless sea where ideas can be caught and people from all walks of life can become better and more creative in their chosen fields.
Lynch, a genius at using cinematic language to communicate emotional states words can’t capture, is less successful in using words alone to explain big spiritual experiences. Though his awestruck efforts are charming, most viewers who haven’t experienced it will walk away still unsure what Lynch means when he describes something like the “pure consciousness” that lies “beyond thought.”
Lynch’s discussion of his film work is more digestible, and often quite funny. But viewers may be puzzled by something he doesn’t address in a tour promoting TM’s ability to generate inner and outer peace. Though Lynch persuasively debunks the commonly held belief that great artists must be great sufferers, he never answers the most obvious question raised by this tour: How does a man who spends every day swimming in an ocean of absolute peace and bliss produce work so disturbingly evocative of dread and horror, and why do those states remain so compelling for him after more than three decades of TM?