David Lynch Across the Sea

The chant by German heavy metal band Rammstein is the kind of car music that will get you weird looks at the traffic light. It’s an ironically triumphal celebration of anti-Americanism that could’ve just been written in the aftermath of the Bush presidency. Despite what you may expect from such premise, the song doesn’t celebrate some sort of European superiority; heavens know we’ve provoked enough bloodshed in the last centuries to make any artist think twice before claiming anything similar. “Amerika”, however, does reject perceived US cultural colonialism, an ancient European anxiety about being gobbled down whole by the American entertainment industry. There’s something peculiarly continental in being scared about being deprived of our own stories. Moral panic about kids who can perfectly recite the Miranda warning seems a bit out of place when the global climate catastrophe and our imperial legacies are coming back to bite our bottoms with the migrant crisis.

However, those same Rammstein who so pointedly rejected Americanization (let’s stick to this esoteric term for a bit) are the same who in the 1990s asked David Lynch to direct their first music video. According to the sacred Rammstein lore, the Midwestern director refused, but he was so fascinated by the punk/techno/metal/fascism-subverting sound that he used the album to set the mood for the actors on the set of his film Lost Highway. The inclusion of two songs in the final soundtrack catapulted the band to global fame. There evidently was something linking the tense German sound with the unsettling Lynchian universe. This is already a tad bizarre in its own right.

David Lynch is, to use a long-abused epitaph, a quintessential American director. Known for his surrealism and unsettling, non-linear storylines, Lynch first started as a painter. In 1977, he shot his first movie, Eraserhead, which together with Elephant Man turned him into a critical darling. His disheveled, soft-spoken demeanor also earned him a place in the hearts of the audiences, who love when cinematography matches the person behind the camera. Who else could be the mind behind a grossly bizarre nightmare baby if not an introspective man who practices transcendental meditation?