Grasping the Eye of the Duck

In the following video David Lynch describes his idea of the EOTD scene:

The Story of the Duck | David Lynch Foundation Television
(unfortunately, embedding this video was not possible)

Lynch compares film as a whole with the body of a duck and claims that every film has a scene that can be compared to the eye of a duck on a metaphorical level. The placement of the eye, the jewel, within a duck’s body is crucial because it would not make sense anywhere else. It “feels correct” and completes the overall appearance of the body. The very same thing applies to a film (the “body”) and a certain scene (the “eye”).
The EOTD scene is a crucial moment in a film. It should not, however, be confused with  a “narrative moment, the climax”. It is a “necessary prelude to closure but not in the way that the climax is” (Nochimson 1997, p.26).

Elena del Río refers to the EOTD scene as the pivotal scene in a movie:

“The typical pivotal scene in a Lynch movie resembles the magnetic force of the eye of the duck, in binding our eye to the asymmetrical beauty of the duck’s/film’s body.”
(del Rio 2008, p.194)

Del Río also mentions the term asymmetric, meaning that the film’s body/structure seems unbalanced and incomplete until this particular scene is added and placed at the correct spot within the film’s structure. Suddenly the film’s asymmetry (and it may still be asymmetric in general) seams beautiful, correct and complete.
Another obvious metaphor to describe this effect is the one of the “missing piece in a puzzle”. But this metaphor does not completely do justice to Lynch’s idea. The puzzle pieces are all available in the film, even without the EOTD scene, but this particular scene will help putting them together. EOTD scenes are “important, although not strictly necessary, in moving the narrative towards its conclusion” (Mactaggart 2010, p.91). They are “not directly central to the story but […] come at a specific, crucial point in the narrative and help propel it forward towards the denouement” (Mactaggart 2010, p.88).

The EOTD scene often is not clearly identifiable. Even Lynch himself occasionally struggles to find a particular scene representing it: While, for example, the scene at the theatre is frequently referred to as the EOTD scene in The Elephant Man (e.g. Mactaggart 2010, p.91), Lynch states in the following interview that he thinks it is the ending (at 1:48):


Video 2: David Lynch Interview (Part Four) (consider beginning to 0:35 and 1:48 to 2:10)

Lynch’s struggle to find the EOTD scene becomes even more apparent in the beginning of this interview clip, when he talks about potential EOTD scenes in The Straight Story and Blue Velvet. He cannot name a particular EOTD scene in The Straight Story. However, Lynch agrees – without hesitation – on the initially mentioned “In Dreams” scene of Blue Velvet as being the EOTD scene. This shows the different impact an EOTD scene can have on a film: One might argue that the easier it is to identify it in a film, the bigger is its impact on the films’ oeuvre.
Certainly a less apparent EOTD scene does not mean that a films’ quality is weaker. However, the importance of including a strong (meaning: apparent) EOTD scene may be vary from one film to another. Considering the two examples, The Straight Story and Blue Velvet, one might think that a more obscure and abstract story and structure forms the need of a stronger EOTD scene. A look at the following two films Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive will explore this thought.

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Editor / Camera Operator / DIT / Photographer / Music Geek / Werder Bremen Supporter View all posts by Paul

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