Every filmmaker dreams of meeting their favourite director. So when aspiring filmmaker David Sieveking had the opportunity, he begins his film David Wants to Fly with a trip to the United States to hear David Lynch speak about his passion for Transcendental Meditation, a movement founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—who also inspired, among others, The Beatles and Donovan. Sieveking is granted an interview with Lynch, who encourages him to try meditation for himself, as a means for personal success. Sieveking follows this advice and it seems to work for a bit: he does get financing for his film script, but then his girlfriend moves away to New York. And as Sieveking delves deeper into the Transcendental Meditation organization after the death of the Maharishi, he witnesses an ugly power struggle in the upper echelons of the movement and begins to see TM as a corrupt business and quite possibly a scam. At first, Sieveking is given almost complete access to the organization and the Rajas, or “executives”; as soon as he starts asking questions, they try to stop his film. The film is an odd and yet engaging combination of personal discovery and doc investigation. Sieveking is the main character in this story, as well as the director; this is often a recipe for a bad doc, but Sieveking uses the technique to his advantage.
As Sieveking first follows the path of transcendental meditation, he muses on the changes in his mental state, travels to India to film the Maharishi’s funeral, and contemplates the seeming success of his new spiritual path. But as his doubts grow, many questions arise: What do we do when our mentors lose status in our eyes? If transcendental meditation apparently has helped so many people, and claims to promote world peace, why are their encampments surrounded by barbed wire and heavily guarded? Why did the Transcendental Meditation organization ask for donations of millions of dollars to build a city for 10,000 yogis to pray, when it is only occupied by less than a dozen? And why are so many former practitioners afraid to show their faces to the camera when they tell their stories of mental breakdowns and financial ruin as a result of TM? However, instead of a serious perspective, the film becomes a black comedy. Sieveking’s path of truth and “enlightenment” is so strangely punctuated with humor, pathos, and grandmothers hidden behind curtains that it is as much a play on Lynch’s own filmmaking development as it is an exploration of TM. Sieveking discovers through a brain scan that the mantra he was given does little to help his brain, and he and his girlfriend permanently part ways. None of this seems to deeply bother Sieveking; by combining his own journey with this strange exploration of his favourite filmmaker’s aesthetic and spiritual practice, he has made a unique and highly enjoyable documentary.