Dissertation Title:

Psychic Presences in Cinematic Surrealism: An Archetypal Exploration into the Films of David Lynch


José Carlos Barreto Mattar

Date, Time & Place:

October 22, 2021 at 3:00 pm


Since its beginnings, the phenomenon of consciousness has been immersed in the ocean of the unconscious, which is reflected in a psychic existence that is experienced throughout and beyond the physical world. The creative impulse was thus born, as a desire to emulate the living creation and its perpetual shapeshifting, resulting in the emergence of the arts, where our self-reflective consciousness achieved its highest peak. This “seeing of ourselves” in works of art, continues to be one of the most entrancing experiences to which consciousness can be subjected, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the films of David Lynch.

This theoretical dissertation constitutes a depth psychological exploration of artistic manifestations from the history of the visual arts that are numinous in their nature, and generate an experience of the sacred in their audience. It explores certain artistic exponents of this type, from the worlds of painting and cinema, which constellate around the central genre of surrealism and its precursors, providing a cultural-historical and psychological basis for interpreting the cinematic art of the post-modern surrealist David Lynch. This research proposes a timeline of numinous or sacred art, beginning in the gothic period, passing through romanticism, and finishing with surrealism and its cinematic expressions, particularly in the work of Lynch.

Implicit connections are drawn between the psychological and the aesthetic, revealing a dimension of the cinematic art of David Lynch that has been overlooked, namely its intrinsic relationship with the sacred, which in fact pervades his entire work. This dimension I studied from three different perspectives that have the sacred as their underlying theme; dualism in gnostic related traditions, the occult and the supernatural as begetters of myth, and the Nekyia or transforming underworld journey. The dissertation proposes that the work of David Lynch, although technically post-modern, reaches back to much more ancient modes of artistic expression which brought about the numinous experience of the sacred through their works.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, E, 2014
  • Chair: Dr. Glen Slater
  • Reader: Dr. Dana White
  • External Reader: Dr. Sven Doehner
  • Keywords: Surrealism, David Lynch, Jungian, Cinema, Underworld