Jun 13, 2015

David Wants to Fly

Despite the fact that he is the director of a couple of my favorite films, I have been disillusioned with David Lynch for quite some time now, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer and utter disappointment and even repugnance that I felt for him after watching the German documentary David Wants to Fly (2010) directed by young novice filmmaker David Sieveking (Sénégallemand, Vergiss mein nicht aka Forget Me Not). Indeed, although I known that Eraserhead (1977)—a film where the seemingly half-autistic protagonist ultimately brutally murders his mutant infant, among other things—was inspired by Lynch’s unhealthy feelings about becoming a father and that he apparently laughed hysterically while directing the bizarre rape scene featuring Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet (1986), none of these thing quite disturbed me, yet Sieveking’s doc made me feel more uneasy about the filmmaker than any of the various interviews I have watched featuring serial killers, war criminals, genocidal maniacs, and guys who get their cocks chopped off (aka trannies). Ultimately, the film depicts how a decidedly dorky kraut film student, the eponymous director, becomes interested in the neo-Hindu Transcendental Meditation™ (TM) movement and its recently deceased ‘guru’ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi due to his flagrant fan-boy love for David Lynch, only to discover that his filmmaker hero is arguably the foremost propagandist and (anti)intellectual gatekeeper of a powerful cult that was led by a highly hypocritical charlatan who used it as a means to defile rich and famous white woman and to live a life of leisure and luxury by deceptively conning wealthy members out of their wealth by promising them silly pipe dreams like ‘world peace’ and supernatural powers like the ability to fly. In a somewhat parallel subplot, the doc also depicts the director’s doomed love affair with a similarly dorky dame that is related to the exceedingly bitchy Hebraic second wife of Brecht. While Sieveking managed to befriend Lynch and members of the TM community during the early phase of making the film, by the time the film was complete five years later his filmmaker hero, who once blessed him and his future, was threatening to sue him and ruin his career if he released the doc, which is certainly not what one would expect from a mensch that brought the world fairly subversive films like Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. It should be noted that Maharishi first gained fame as the personal guru of popular musicians from obscenely overrated rock bands like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, but even a degenerate wife-beater like John Lennon was eventually able to realize he was a fraud and paid tribute to the brown-skinned master by writing the song “Sexy Sadie” (which was originally titled “Maharishi” until George Harrison got scared and complained) while in India about becoming disillusioned with the leader after he began making sexual advances to Mia Farrow (who seems to be a magnet for sleazy scumbags). Undoubtedly, after watching David Wants to Fly, you will unfortunately think that Lynch is a member of what might be described as a poor man’s Church of Scientology, as the auteur acts like Tom Cruise’s all-too-happy-go-lucky uncle, albeit somewhat creepier and minus the phony suave charm. 

 As narrated by director David Sieveking at the beginning of David Wants to Fly, the Berlin-based filmmaker has just graduated from film school but he still counts on his parents for rent money and feels pretty lost in life, somberly stating, “I wanted to make dark films like my idol, David Lynch. But I was lacking the darkness. He was my age when he completed his first masterpiece.”  Indeed, a fan-boy can never become as great as his master, but the young documentarian will ultimately learn that his master is a brainwashed maniac of sorts who now seems more interested in peddling masturbatory second-rate meditation techniques than directing films that challenge his talent as an artist and take him into new aesthetic realms.  Sieveking is in a relationship with an aspiring novelist named Marie Pohl and she constantly bitches at her hopelessly passive beau about petty thing, even complaining to him “You treat me like a hamster” simply because he lovingly asks her if she is still asleep upon waking up next to her in the morning. Although not referenced in the doc, Ms. Pohl is the daughter of actor Klaus Pohl (Otomo, Hannah Arendt) and Sanda Weigl, who appeared in a couple somewhat recent Rosa von Praunheim docs and whose father is the cousin of kraut commie playwright Bertolt Brecht’s Jewish second wife Helene Weigel. Upon looking online about his filmmaker hero, Sieveking discovers that Lynch is going to be giving a talk about Transcendental Meditation and how it has inspired his creativity as an artist, so he and his girlfriend get on a plane and head to Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa.  Notably, at the beginning of the doc, the viewer has no clue that the filmmaker is about to go on a long and strange journey where both his fan-boy worship and unwaveringly love for his girlfriend are going to be tested in a way that shatter his almost childlike faith in both the integrity of an artist and the power of love.

 To Sieveking’s delight, he gets to conduct a one-on-one interview with Lynch, who immediately begins spewing pseudo-esoteric TM gibberish to him like, “Were all in this suffocating rubber clown suit of negativity. And it’s stinky rubber…And why do we still want to be clowns?” Clearly out of touch with the rampant ethno-masochism that many young Germans suffer from nowadays, Lynch even attempts to appeal to Sieveking's seemingly nonexistent ‘Germanness’ by remarking regarding practicing TM, “It’s not like you dive in once and say I’m enlightened. You dive in every, regular as clockwork…regular as clockwork…it’s a real German thing…and you just do it and watch things get better.” Lynch also manipulatively attempts to use Sieveking’s dream of becoming a famous filmmaker to sell TM to him, remarking, “For a filmmaker, you want to get the best teacher you can get…and for studying life and making life better, you want to get the best teacher you can get.” Before they part ways, Lynch says to the young filmmaker, “You be a strong proponent and enjoy life and enjoy your filmmaking and you’re going to zoom forward, you’ll see. Wherever you are now, you may be fine, but you’ll just go quickly zoooom.”  Of course, by ‘proponent,’ Lynch probably means mindless promoter of the TM brand name. “Animated by David’s words,” Sieveking checks out the “Golden Dome” of Maharishi institute where people are hopping around to “increase creativity and intuition,” but they never quite fly, which is the ultimate goal of a so-called ‘yogic flyer.’ After watching a bunch of dorky white boys hopping with their legs crossed in a yogic position and trying but failing to do the same, Sieveking has a TM brain scan done and learns that he is “light years away from being a yogic flyer,” thus he must sink a bunch of cash into learning the basics of the TM technique. 

 Since he wants to be initiated into TM, Sieveking heads to Hannover, Germany and pays a kraut conman with the nonrefundable gift of “six fresh flowers, sweet fruits, a white handkerchief, and 2,380 Euros in cash” to be initiated into the movement and receive his personal mantra, which is an Indian word in Sanskrit that he can never tell anyone about which he must repeat silently for the rest of his life twice a day for twenty minutes while meditating.  Apparently, the entire TM technique can be taught to anyone in about 20 minutes, yet Sieveking was forced to pay some pansy low-level guru-cum-salesman a hefty sum for such a simple lesson in dot-head style pseudo-esotericism.  While finding the meditation techniques relaxing, the documentarian soon begins to have his doubts regarding the movement as a whole, narrating, “What have I gotten myself into? Is TM strictly scientific and non-religious as they claim? Yet, while meditating, these questions fade away.” Ultimately, the young filmmaker must admit to himself regarding his new pseudo-spiritual hobby, “When I meditate I feel wonderfully in tune with the worlds, but afterwards I’m still alone in my apartment.”  Meanwhile, although she is in NYC, Marie begins sending Sieveking text messages reading, “stop meditating” as if she is jealous of her boyfriend's new metaphysical hobby. Unfortunately, TM Führer Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who has been living as somewhat of a reclusive for the past couple years, drops dead before Sieveking can have the distinguished honor of meeting him, so the filmmaker decides to head to India to catch his funeral where tens of thousands of people ultimately come to pay tribute to the deceased guru. While at the funeral, Sieveking bumps into Lynch sporting a goofy white Indian robe and discovers that Maharishi left behind several billions of dollars which he has entrusted to his three nephews. When he gets back to Berlin, Sieveking happily declares his “dark days are over” and that it is “time for enlightenment” because he has finally obtained funding for his film and his girlfriend Marie is coming back from NYC, so he “want to surprise her by creating a home she will fall in love with.” While Marie acts like she is happy with the home Sieveking has lovingly crafted for her and tells him he is “sweet,” she ultimately rewards him by leaving him ten days later and heading back to NYC. From there, the young filmmaker must confront his disillusionment with both TM and his romantic relationship as they prove to be things that he cannot count on. 

 When Sieveking heads to Vlodrop, The Netherlands to the TM world headquarters for first annual meeting since guru’s death, he begins to realize that the cult tolerates nil criticism of any sort and many of its leaders are power-hungry vipers who have used the death of Maharishi as a means to destroy comrades and take control by any means necessary. Indeed, when one of the TM leaders expresses dissent regarding the fact that Lebanese neuro-scientist Tony Nader has been named the new Maharishi, his microphone is immediately cut-off and Sieveking is forced by cult members to stop filming the event. While Sieveking is told by representatives of TM that he cannot use any of the footage he shot from the annual meeting in the Netherlands, he decides to rebel and predictably falls out of favor with the image-obsessed cult. Upon doing some research, Sieveking learns that to become a ‘Raja’—a high-ranking TM global leader that acts as a representative of their respective nation—the person must make a simple ‘donation’ of at least one million dollars just to begin training for the distinguished position. Upon talking to Swiss leader Raja Felix, Sieveking comes to realize that TM is just selling imaginary power for an imaginary world government. Despite being one of the highest ranking leaders in the world, Raja Felix confesses that he has never personally seen any of the TM members ‘fly,’ which is apparently done by certain so-called ‘Yogic Flyers’ who have reached true ‘enlightenment.’  When asked if he ever saw Maharishi fly, Raja Felix proclaims that the guru was far too “humble” to act in such an ostentatious way as to demonstrate his actual powers.  At this point, Sieveking must admit that TM is probably a “clever business plan” and that “some say that enlightenment is for sale.” 

 When David Lynch comes to Germany to crown a fat kraut capitalist pig named Raja Emanuel as the TM global leader of Krautland, the cult ultimately suffers a major public relations disaster. Indeed, when Raja Emanuel declares during his acceptance speech, “I am a good German. I’m a German who wants to make Germany invincible” and someone in the audience retorts, “That’s what Adolf Hitler wanted,” he makes a major ass of himself by arrogantly replying, “…but unfortunately he couldn’t do it because he didn’t have the right technique.”  Of course, little does Raja Emanuel realize that a certain eccentric Greek-French woman of Greek-Italo-Anglo stock named Savitri Devi had already attempted to synthesize elements of Hinduism and National Socialism.  Ultimately, Raja Emanuel is called a “charlatan” and “pathetic pig” by the audience and practically booed off the stage, so Lynch pathetically runs out and tries in vain to save the day, thus making him seem more absurd than one of the characters in his films. TM wants to build a “university on invincibility” at a post-industrial wasteland called Teufelsberg aka ‘Devil’s Mountain’—an artificial hill near Grunewald Forest that was built with the rubble of post-WWII Berlin, covers a never completed Nazi military-technical college (Wehrtechnische Fakultät) designed by Albert Speer, and was later used by the US National Security Agency (NSA) for spying—but Raja Emanuel and Lynch’s pathetic PR stunt made sure that would never happen.  As a site with a supposedly dark history involving Nazi bogeymen and American occupiers, Sieveking seems to find the idea of building a TM university at Devil's Mountain to be ridiculous and in poor taste, but personally I think it is quite fitting.

 When Sieveking heads to NYC with the dual objective of seeing his girlfriend and watching Lynch give a speech in promotion of TM for young school children, he ultimately finds himself in a rather uncomfortable position that crushes what little hope he has left in regard to his future. On top of the fact that his girlfriend is seeing another guy and is thinking about breaking up with him, Sieveking also discovers that Lynch wants nothing to do with him. After pretending to be part of a Swiss film crew and sneaking into the filmmaker’s fancy hotel, Sieveking is told by Lynch’s fast-talking representative that he does not want to talk to him, but somehow he eventually lands an interview with Mr. Eraserhead. When Sieveking dares to ask Lynch why TM sells so many expensive ‘herbal remedies’ and other bogus health products, the filmmaker nonsensically replies “so beautiful” in a creepy and seemingly possessed fashion, stutters for a second as if attempting to think of a bullshit argument, and then proceeds to go on a brainwashed rant about how great it is that such a “business” exists and can offer TM supporters these dubiously priced pieces of hocus pocus. After the nightmarish interview that ultimately proves to be the last he will conduct with his hero, Sieveking’s girlfriend gets exceedingly bitchy on a subway ride back and complains, “I think it’s a little strange. You are harassing a celebrity for a movie you want to make because you’ve decided to be obsessed with David Lynch.”  As revealed later in the doc, Marie's bitchy rant seems to have more to do with the fact that she wants to breakup with her boyfriend than her concern with his fan-boy obsession with Lynch.  After narrating, “Her love for me seems to be on holiday,” Sieveking and his girlfriend embrace and mutually sob on a beach while a group of fat Americans swim in the water in what ultimately proves to be a unintentionally humorously absurd scene. At this point, the filmmaker must admit defeat and less than proudly proclaims, “After more than a year of meditation, my life is a complete disaster. My girlfriend dumped me, David wants to lynch me, and TM is threatening to sue.”  Of course, at least now Sieveking can completely devote himself to proving that TM is BS.

 With his life in ruins, Sieveking is finally able to dive deep into the stranger-than-fiction con-artistry of TM and its almost sinister hermetic influence on certain sectors of the Western world. After visiting a school where young children are regularly brainwashed with TM and forced to religiously recite the words of the less than great Maharishi, Sieveking visits a so-called ‘Maharishi Vedic City’ in rural Iowa where about 260 brown Indian TM ‘pundits’ are housed and quasi-imprisoned behind a large fence, but he is denied entry into the community. Seeming like some sort of scam business where illegal aliens are smuggled into the United States under false circumstances, the seemingly shitty Maharishi Vedic City has a reputation for being under heavy surveillance to the point where various pundits have jumped the fence in an attempt to escape but were immediately apprehended. Upon talking to the Maharishi’s ex-‘skinboy’—a flagrantly faggy fellow who almost talks exactly like Kenneth Anger and ultimately wasted $100,000 of his own money on the movement—Sieveking is told regarding the guru that, “He was awful and wonderful at the same time” and “He used people and then brushed them off like flies.” As demonstrated by the fact that he is depicted fetishistically touching the guru’s rotten old sandals, it seems that the ex-skinboy had a sort of homosexual infatuation with Maharishi, who was certainly no homo as reflected by his reputation for using his power and influence to regularly defile beautiful white women. Indeed, Sieveking talks to a former TM manager turned Shamanic teacher named Judith Bourque who confesses that the guru seduced her and told her “don’t tell anyone.” When Maharishi found new white women to defile, he got tired of Bourque and she ultimately opted to leave the group.  According to Bourque, Maharishi told her that if she ever was impregnated by him, she would need to marry another man immediately, thus there are probably tons of half-caste Maharishi bastards roaming around the world that have no clue that their biological father was one of the world's most monetarily successful spiritual pimps.  Probably no one else is more self-admittedly pathetic in the documentary than successful Jewish publisher Earl Kaplan, who actually donated the unbelievable sum of $150 million (!) to TM after being told the money would be used to set up a colony of 10,000 Indians who would collectively bring about world peace. Of course, the world peace never came and the village the Maharishi setup was comprised of shoddy shacks with missing roofs, thus it can be assumed that he pocketed most of the money. 

 After Lynch threatens to sue him if he doesn’t allow him to see the final cut of the film, Sieveking decides to head to the Kaplan-funded Brahmasthan of India aka ‘Capital of World Peace’ and instead of finding 10,000 Yogic flyers, he discovers a destitute ghost town that is inhabited by eight or so followers. While his pilgrimage to Brahmasthan is a pathetic disappointment, Sieveking ultimately finds true enlightenment upon meeting a seemingly genuine guru named Swami Swaroopanand who, like the Maharishi, studied under a teacher named Guru Devi. Of course, the business style structure of TM begins to make sense when Swami reveals that Maharishi served as Guru Dev’s bookkeeper and personal secretary and that he was never given the right to assign mantras and teach meditation. As Swami states to Sieveking, “A true guru has no expectation from his disciple. He never wants anything from him. It is the disciple who offers his service to the Guru. Gurus don’t sell their knowledge. They share it. Guru Dev had a sign at his place: “Donations are not allowed; you can only sacrifice your sins her.” What you have learned from Maharishi, will not bring you spiritual progress. Now you should go to Gangotri in the Himalayas to the source of the river Ganges. Try to find the meditative art of living. That’s it.” Of course, Sieveking, who did not have to pay a single penny for the insightful lesson, follows Swami’s order and takes a pilgrimage to the source of the river Ganges and on the way he befriends a mountain-dwelling monk, meditates, and bathes in icy water as if to cleanse himself of TM's corrupting influence. In the end, Sieveking heads back to Berlin and sings a song with his (ex)girlfriend Marie, ultimately stating of their relationship, “We get along better than ever since we broke up.” 

 After watching David Wants to Fly, I can certainly see why Lynch demanded more money from Showtime to do the upcoming Twins Peaks reboot, as he probably needs a steady cash flow to retain his place of prominence in TM. Of course, this would also probably explain why Lynch has also released designer coffee beans and pointless TM non-books like Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity (2006) that seem to be written for autistic children that cannot be bothered to reads pages that are full of actual text as opposed to tiny paragraphs and contrived quotes from the Upanishads. Despite the fact that he directed all of his greatest films well over three decades ago and has not done anything worthwhile in well over a decade, Lynch knows that he has a ludicrously loyal cult following that, not unlike members of TM, will purchase anything he peddles, not matter how pointless and vapid, as he is now more  of a brand name and one-man corporation than a serious artist who lives to create. With that being said, I must say that I respect David Sieveking for having the intellectual integrity and thoughtfulness to take upon the uncomfortable tasking of demystifying and somewhat effortlessly exposing a man that was his greatest hero and influence while, at the same time, still being able to acknowledge that, in the end, he, “is still a guru for me as a filmmaker.” Not surprisingly, it seems that the public relations people at TM hired a cuck filmmaker to counter David Wants to Fly, though the film in question, Beyond the Noise: My Transcendental Meditation Journey (2012) directed Dana Farley, seems somewhat hard to find.

 While I felt a sense of extreme Fremdscham while watching the scenes in David Wants to Fly where Sieveking more or less admits he is a cowardly cuckold and cries like a little baby while embracing his treacherous girlfriend who has just confessed to fucking another guy, I have to respect the filmmaker for his unflattering honesty and rather refreshing lack of pretentiousness, which is quite rare nowadays. As revealed in his most recent doc Vergiss mein nicht (2012) aka Forget Me Not, Sieveking's parents, like so many Germans of their era, were far-leftists that were involved with the 68er-Bewegung student movement who were in a ‘open relationship,’ so that might explain the filmmaker's acceptance of cuckoldry and initial interest in buffoonery like TM, which was quite popular during the counterculture era. If Werner Herzog were a Berliner instead of a Bavarian who grew up under the rabid materialism of the post-Wirtschaftswunder era instead of the despair and destitution of the Second World War, he would have probably directed a film like David Wants to Fly. Certainly, if you watch Sieveking’s doc as a double feature with Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005), it becomes quite clear that Lynch is no less delusional than Timothy ‘I got eaten by my best bear friend’ Treadwell. Of course, although he may be an insufferable whack-job now, no one can take away from Lynch his singular reputation as the man behind such true cinematic masterpieces as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and The Straight Story, among various other admirable works that demonstrate that there was at least one great American auteur that can be compared to the great European arthouse filmmakers. One can only hope that Lynch will achieve true enlightenment, ditch TM, and get back to being a serious filmmaker who lives to create, but that is probably about as likely as the cult offering broke ass documentarian Sieveking an honorary ‘Raja’ title. If you're a Lynchite who cannot bear to see the sort of shameless propagandist that your favorite filmmaker has become but still want to see a film that demonstrates how silly it is when Europids sport superlatively silly ancient Indian robes and figuratively (and sometimes literally) suck the cocks of crusty old brown men with goofy Apu accents, checkout the iconoclastic Dutch comedy Jezus is een Palestijn (1999) aka Jesus Is a Palestinian directed by Lodewijk Crijns and bask in the hilarity of post-WWII Occidental xenophilia and cultural cuckoldry. Additionally, Teutonic experimental weirdo Werner Nekes' film Uliisses (1982) features a brief scene where a Maharishi-esque Hindu guru that looks like he has feces on his face is denounced a “psychic fascist” (notably, in an interview, Sieveking describes Maharishi's hypnotic influence over people being similar to that of Uncle Adolf).  Ultimately, David Wants to Fly is a sometimes metaphysically painful and strangely disturbing yet oftentimes ironical and reasonably aesthetically pleasing reminder why it is important to have good taste in both women and charlatans lest you be completely abandoned and left all by your lonesome to perpetually meditate.

-Ty E

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