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David Wants to Fly

by Rob Scher / 13.06.2011

David Skieving is your typical fan-boy. A mounted poster of Eraserhead stares down on this recent film school graduate, as he innocently quips, “I wanted to make dark films like my idol, David Lynch. But I was lacking the darkness.” When an opportunity appears to hear his hero speak at a conference regarding the ‘source of creativity’, the young Berliner jumps at the chance, in the process he finds abundant darkness.

David Wants to Fly is a five-year journey of a filmmaker unknowingly stumbling into his first film. Beginning in the unlikely town of Fairfield Iowa, Skieving, director and narrator of the doc, visits Maharishi U, a ‘consciousness-based’ education centre launched by famed guru to the Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Mediation (TM) movement. He goes to attend a lecture given by Lynch. Girlfriend, Marie, manages to get an interview with the director for a German magazine and so David’s path towards ‘enlightenment’ begins. Lynch, espousing the magical wonders of TM through erratic hand gestures and talk of ‘yogic flying’, inspires Skieving to delve into the world of transcendental meditation. What ensues is an interesting look into the ridiculous world of this organisation and its followers.

The audience watches as Skieiving becomes a member of transcendental meditation from his introduction in the form of a hefty 2380 Euro fee, to receiving his ‘unique’ mantra. Initially enthusiastic, a turning point occurs around the death of the Maharishi. Following a hysterical scene involving a bunch of old white men bathing in the ashes of the yogi as they are poured into the Ganges, cracks begin to appear. Skieving, attending a meeting in Germany of the TM leaders, witnesses a power struggle for the leadership of the movement. Skieving’s camera is promptly turned off. It’s at this moment that this somewhat innocent documentary about TM takes the aforementioned ‘darker’ tone.

In his affable manner, Skieving sets about exposing the blatant contradictions and flaws in the multimillion-dollar empire. His efforts don’t go unnoticed and soon Lynch turns from encouraging mentor to threatened enemy. Nonetheless he continues, slowly breaking down the organisation piece by piece, essentially exposing TM as a movement that has taken the age-old practice of mediation, thrown in some esoteric bullshit and commodified the product into the massive industry that it has become.

The most powerful moments in the film come from interviews Skieving conducts with disaffected TM followers. Exposing the Maharishi as a philanderer and a rather flawed individual, the film leaves the audience wondering how so many people, including such creative geniuses as Lynch, could devote so much of their time and money to TM. It’s a strong criticism against the mass production of spirituality.

It’s an entertaining and at times humourous documentary. Despite threatened lawsuits the film has enjoyed success overseas, with many previous TM followers praising Skieving for finally exposing the truth. For Lynch fans, they can expect a counter-argument, directed by the great man himself in the near future – sure to be a comic hit.

David Wants to Fly

*David Wants To Fly is screening in Cape Town on the 13th, 18th and 21st of June at the V&A Nu Metro, and in Jozi on the 20th at the Hyde Park Nu Metro, on the 25th at The Bioscope.

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