DocEdge 2011: David Wants to Fly

David Wants to Fly
Austria/Germany/Switzerland | 2010 | Dir. David Sieveking | German, English & Hindi | 96 mins.

In 2006, David Lynch wrote a book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, about the artistic benefits that can be reaped from a practice he has been engaged in since 1973: Transcendental Meditation (TM). In this feature-length exposé, David Sieveking, a German amateur filmmaker who not only regards Lynch as an idol but seemingly wants to be Lynch, documents the object of his obsession and the various stages of its unravelling: meeting Lynch for the first time; asking him about TM; trying TM for a year and being disappointed when he isn’t able to levitate; supposing TM may be a fraud and its founding leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, something of a creep—or at least an habitual liar; investigating the foundations of TM and its history, which began in the 1950s and came to the forefront of popular consciousness with the Beatles’ mind-expanding trip to India post-Sgt. Pepper’s; digging into Lynch’s recent personal (financial) involvement with it through his Foundation; being denied interviews with Lynch on the basis that the film he’s making is damaging to the TM movement; and so on.

The two-year investigation leads him on a journey across the globe. He interviews gurus, TM leaders and former TM followers. He travels from TM centres in middle-of-nowhere small towns in Iowa to Lynch’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site of a future TM University in Germany, and heads back and forth from his home in Berlin to New York, where his girlfriend is studying. Finally, he journeys to the source of the river Ganges in the Himalayas, where he meets Tibetan monks and visits the monastery where the Maharishi studied before leaving the religion and profiting (against monastic regulations) from the wisdom he gained from his time with the order by burnishing it and adding in some New Age mumbo-jumbo. Unsurprisingly, The Lynch Foundation and the worldwide TM movement tried to prevent the film’s release because they saw it as a blasphemous malediction, a blight on the good name of a worldwide movement that has (apparently) bought happiness to “millions worldwide.” (The film has yet to be seen in many parts of the US.)

As both the unmasking of a cult and proof positive of the maxim “you should never meet your heroes,” David Wants to Fly is a stark assessment of the facts and a supremely entertaining piece of work—especially when it courageously asks, but never quite answers, that eternal question, “What is the meaning of life?”