"I have to make what I see, whether it's a painting, a table, or a movie, or it's like a death and what would be the point of that?"
A term that David Lynch uses to describe part of his film-making technique. The "eye of the duck" is the scene in one of his movies that, in the words of Martha P. Nochimson, "is the necessary prelude to closure but not in the way the climax is". According to Nochimson again, Lynch has identified the eye of the duck in Blue Velvet as the scene at Ben's place. In Wild at Heart it is the scene where Sailor and Lula find the car crash at night, and meet the young girl who dies before them. In the Elephant Man, it is where John Merrick is "held captive by a fanciful musical pantomime", and Nochimson (like myself) believes that in Eraserhead, it is the scene with the Lady in the Radiator. I may add further speculation as to particular scenes when I re-view his movies.
This metaphor comes out of the way Lynch sees the world, and art: in terms of motion, color, and texture. A duck is beautiful to Lynch because it has a graceful, flowing form. Your eye will naturally travel a certain path over it. The duck's eye is the focal point of the duck, but it is not a part of the duck's natural "movement". It is a mysterious "jewel", and it is "the key to the whole duck".
Some, in talking about this, have thought about the eye of the duck as a miniature version of the film, within the film (www.richardgpaul.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/archive/cc/chapman.html). Though interesting, I do not think this is entirely correct.
Yes, the eye of the duck is autonomous- it can be taken as a stand alone episode involving the characters we know, without furthering the plot significantly. The eye of the duck scene could be left out (perhaps with some alteration to the rest of the movie), and what would be left would still be a coherent movie, plot-wise and thematically. But it would be missing the key: the focal point from which the rest of the movie radiates (how fitting then, with Eraserhead!). While it is not part of the story, it is vital to the story.
Let's let David speak for himself.
"Nature is the guide for making, you know, everything. There's slow areas and fast areas... the blank wall is the slow area. I always talk about the duck... the proportions of a duck, the textures work in such a way, you've got big feathers on the body, and they can't be put on the head - that would be completely wrong... it's gotta be little bitty feathers there, and the bill has to be a certain length, and the bill related to the feet in some of the textures and coloring. And the feathers curve down in this s-curve into this huge big body, which is the soft, slow area. And the eye of the duck can only be put right there, like a little gleaming jewel. It couldn't be stuck in the body, it would get lost... and it couldn't get stuck in the leg - that would be two speedy things next to each other and it would just be...a joke."
"Yeah, a duck, its a...well, one of the most beautiful animals."
"I sort of go by a duck when I work on a film because if you study a duck, you'll see certain things. You'll see a bill, and the bill is a certain texture and a certain length. Then you'll see a head, and the features on the head are a certain texture and it's a certain shape and it goes into the neck. The texture of the bill for instance is very smooth and it has quite precise detail in it and it reminds you somewhat of the legs. The legs are a little bit bigger and a little more rubbery but it's enough so that your eye goes back and forth. Now, the body being so big, it can be softer and the texture is not so detailed, it's just kind of a cloud. And the key to the whole duck is the eye and where the eye is placed. And it has to be placed in the head and it's the most detailed, and it's like a little jewel. And if it was fixed, sitting on the bill, it would be two things that were too busy, battling, they would not do so well. And if it was sitting in the middle of the body, it would get lost. But it's so perfectly placed to show off a jewel right in the middle of the head like that, next to this S-curve with the bill sitting out in front, but with enough distance so that the eye is very very very well secluded and set out. So when you're working on a film, a lot of times you can get the bill and the legs and the body and everything, but this eye of the duck is a certain scene, this jewel, that if it's there, it's absolutely beautiful. It's just fantastic."
and here, saying much the same thing, from Nochimson again:
"When you picture a duck you picture a bill, and a head, and a neck and a body and legs.... The bill is a certain color and a certain length and a certain texture. And it is completely different [from anything else on the duck], although there is something in the color and the texture that is a little similar to the legs of the duck and it is very important that that is the way that it is. Then the head comes up out of that.... And the head comes up and comes down into this fantastic S curve. And the feathers on the head are kind of short and swift because it's faster, the bill and the head have to be a faster area. It can't be very big. The head is slower, and the neck has that S curve that lets you come down to the body. The body is kind of uneventful in a way. It can't have too much fast area. And then it has those more complicated textures in the feet. And the texture is reminiscent of the bill and it returns back to the bill and makes this trip. The eye wants to go down the S curve and it gets to the feet and it makes the whole trip."
Martha P. Nochimson, The Passion of David Lynch. ISBN 0-292-75565-1
Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley. ISBN 0-571-19548-2
The City of Absurdity: The David Lynch Quote Collection. www.geocities.com/~mikehartmann/quotecollection
Ducks also come up in the Dumbland
#1 cartoon Lynch is behind, though in a rather different manner
. Check atomfilms
.com or davidlynch.com to download it.