You Want People to Enter the Dream: Mary Sweeney on Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and the straight story | Interviews

That idea of ​​not spelling everything out—both as a writer and as an editor—reminds me of the final moments of one of my favorite movies, “The Straight Story,” which was the first David Lynch movie I ever saw.

Oh wow! What an introduction to David! Okay, get ready… [laughs]

I love how you dwell on the meaningful silences shared between the brothers instead of relying on reams of dialogue.

I had the great privilege of being able to rewrite if someone decided to do things with that script. I had the last word. David doesn’t sit in the editing room with me, but everything has to be to his liking, and luckily we liked a lot of the same things. There were a number of people – and David was not one of them – who wanted more at the end of the script. They thought, “Okay…is that it?” But that story is so emotionally powerful and so simple that it could very easily lend itself to emotion and snark if you’re not really, really tempered with it and keep it very sparse. The dialogue is intentionally sparse in the picture because that’s how I remember all these people growing up here. It is very much a love letter to this part of the country, and many other parts of it that are considered “flyover”. I wanted to show how the people who occupy it have a dignity and even though they may lack the power of language, they find other ways to communicate. The lack of dialogue and how I edited it was very much in keeping with that kind of laconic culture.

I feel that Richard Farnsworth’s performance in the film is one of the best in all of cinema. When I interviewed the film’s score engineer and re-recording mixer, John Neff, he said that there were instances where you read Richard his lines when he couldn’t remember them, and that you chose not to use all the prompts pictorially, resulting in Alvin coming across as a heavy thinker.

Well, let me just clarify, in honor of the late great Richard Farnsworth, that he only had one scene where he had a lot of trouble, and I think that’s what John was talking about. First of all, I wasn’t on set much. I was in the cutting room most of the time. The scene that Richard struggled with involves Alvin sharing a war story with a fellow veteran in a bar, and it featured a lot of dialogue. When we shot it, I kind of sat by Richard and encouraged him. It was actually a particularly calibrated scene because Wiley Harker, the other actor, was deeply moved by the dialogue, and you could tell Richard was too. He’s such a deeply felt person that he doesn’t need to act, but he’s also an excellent actor. Richard knows the space between the words and is really good at incorporating it. Wiley Harker was so emotional that he was sobbing at certain points, and I really had to tweak that scene quite a bit to keep his emotions in there, but not let it go too far around the bend. He was very upset. Richard was too, but smaller, and his pauses worked for the scene. I had to cut some of the air out of Wiley’s footage while keeping some of the silences, as well as keeping the transitions quiet.

The human brain’s absolute insistence on figuring out whatever it’s looking at is part of our survival instinct. “Oh, is that a dog over there? Or is that a bear?” When you can’t identify anything, your brain immediately jumps into action and tries to pull information from your life’s file and your memories to explain what’s going on.That scene is a perfect example of what happens when you give an audience a silence. It ends in a wide shot from across the bar on the characters’ backs, and they didn’t let it run long enough. I could have easily been on that shot for another five or ten seconds. It’s such a moving scene, and when you’re doing something abstract or withholding certain information – in this case, keeping the camera on the actors’ backs and not showing their faces, thereby leaving the audience sitting as if these two guys are sitting and thinking – you, as an audience member, want to fill in what the meaning of that is from your own emotional landscape These are the movies you can’t stop thinking about in the morning.

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