David Lynch: “Rabbits” (2002)

Rabbits is a series of short surreal films with the overall running time of forty minutes. It features three humanoid rabbits (two female and one male) in one single room. They sit on a sofa, enter and go out of the room, talk to each other and recite poetry. Through eerie music, rabbits’ nonsensical dialogue and strange visions, the viewers may discern that something truly unsettling has happened, is happening or is about to happen. Rabbits is a good example of a minimalist experimental short which uses the lightning, music and the theme of inexplicability to create feelings of uneasiness and barely perceivable fright. Here, inexplicability is key. Uneasiness lies in the inexplicability. Watching the film, the viewers may start pondering: “what is that?”, “what is happening?”, “what is the meaning of all this?” The meaning just about escapes us, even though we definitely sense that the three rabbits are being terrorised by something. The precise cause of what is going remains unclear and the underlying fear is transmitted to us through the specific “trigger words and phrases”, including “coincidence”, “a man in a green suit”, “I hear someone”, “It was red”, “We’re not going anywhere” and “I’m going to find out one day”. These words and phrases stand for some hidden distress. David Lynch proves once again that inexplicability and strangeness alone will sustain the interest.

The director also knows that context is everything. As Maya Deren also showed in Meshes of the Afternoon [1943], the most innocuous things, including the ringing of a telephone or the talk about weather or time may be turned into the biggest nightmare given the right context. Thus, in his short, Lynch mixed something very familiar (a living room, ironing of clothes, ringing of a phone) with something very unusual (humanoid rabbits, nonsensical speech, out-of-context laughter) and the effect is striking. “The familiar” turns uncomfortable, which may then turn horrific. Moreover, Lynch also knows that there is a very fine line between amusement and fright. In this short, public laughter out of context also makes everything more sinister and even menacing.

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