Category Archives: Shorts

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: RABBITS (2002)

“…scientists in Steve Heine’s lab at the University of British Columbia wanted to see if acetaminophen could also dampen those feelings of uncomfortable uncertainty that occur when our sense of the meaning of life is threatened — like when we think about our death or watch a surrealist film. To test their theory, they ran two experiments. First, they asked participants to write a few paragraphs about what will happen to their bodies when they die. In the second experiment, they showed participants a clip from David Lynch’s 2002 film ‘Rabbits.’”–The Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2013

DIRECTED BY: David Lynch

FEATURING: Scott Coffey, , Naomi Watts, Rebekah Del Rio

PLOT: Lynch’s own tagline reads, “In a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain … three rabbits live with a fearful mystery.” These human-shaped bunnies occupy a bare living room, where they confirm the time, question whether there have been calls, and occasionally listen to the rantings of a demon, all to the accompaniment of canned applause and laughter. 

Still from "Rabbits" (2002)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: “Rabbits” goes pretty far toward weird on its overall theme of dread and foreboding. Absurd in their enormity, the titular animals nevertheless deserve empathy for their moments of uncertainty and terror. What takes the project to another level is the suggestion of a logic underpinning the enterprise. The dialogue is almost entirely non sequitur, but it hints at an order that remains just out of reach.

COMMENTS: To my knowledge, David Lynch has never directed a stage play. But he clearly has an affinity for performances on stages. Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and “Twin Peaks” are some of the selections from his oeuvre wherein everything stops and someone takes command of the scene to put on a show within the show. So the least surprising thing about “Rabbits” is that Lynch would create a work in which that style of performance was the entire show. 

Of course, David Lynch has a very different notion of what constitutes a compelling stage show than most of us. There’s little action. Most “Rabbits” episodes open with sorrowful train horns, a steady rain beating down,  and a baleful Angelo Badalamenti theme, while Suzie stands upstage in a dressing gown, ironing, and Jane stays seated on the couch. After a moment or two, Jack walks through the front door in the kind of entrance usually accompanied by a hearty “Hi, honey, I’m home” greeting. Enormous applause from an appreciative audience greets Jack’s entrance, as though he were a TV legend making a welcome return to the small screen. But the stage offers only disquiet. 

What follows is mostly disjointed dialogue: “I am going to find out one day.” “There have been no calls today.” “It was a man in a green suit.” There are enough common elements—secrets, lost things, the time of day—to make you feel that the dialogue could be reassembled into something approaching linear coherence, but no sense that doing so would bring clarity.

But that’s not to say “Rabbits” doesn’t mix things up. Two episodes are devoted to monologues, while a third features a haunting musical number. Periodically, the telephone rings ominously, the only event that occasions an insert shot. And on two separate occasions, the room turns dark and an unintelligible monster appears on the back wall. At one point, there is a piercing scream offstage. Two episodes conclude with all of the coneys huddled on the sofa, clinging to each other for whatever comfort they can find. Lynch is almost cruel in calling his creation “a sitcom.”

The production itself is plenty bizarre. Lynch built the stage in his backyard garden and filmed at the same time each night to ensure consistent lighting, much to the annoyance of his neighbors. It appears that it really is Harring, Coffey, and freaking Academy Award-nominee Watts inside those big bunny costumes. And there’s not even a single way to watch the show. It originally appeared on Lynch’s now-defunct website in eight installments. Portions were later incorporated into his next film, Inland Empire. (In fact, those wascally wabbits were our Indelible Image.) He has since reformatted it on his own “David Lynch Theater” YouTube channel as a four-part presentation, minus the installment showcasing Del Rio’s musical contribution. (You can find the pieces assembled into a single presentation, likely taken from Absurda’s out-of-print “Lime Green Box,” while another YouTuber has helpfully adapted the series into an ambient loop, in case LoFi Girl isn’t giving you the focus you need.) 

That we are watching something being performed is implicit in the static camera, the characters’ careful respect for the downstage fourth wall, and most notably by the presence of an audience—or at least a raucous laugh track seemingly imported from an episode of “Married… with Children.” The faux audience laughs uproariously at distinctly non-comedic lines, and bursts into effusive applause every time Jack enters the room. It’s unsettling, then oppressive, and ultimately terrifying.

“Rabbits” has remarkable stickiness for such a short and static production. It has the familiar feel of Lynch’s other works, but there’s something pure about the way he whittles away the decadence of his features, including such baubles as scene-setting, linear movement, or continuity. It’s all mood, and the mood is unsettling. It’s easily the grimmest show about rabbits this side of Watership Down. They’re doing their best to hold it together in the face of awful uncertainty, but just barely. And if the rabbits can’t stay strong, what hope is there for the rest of us? As Jane says, “I wonder who I will be.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“..this is Lynch at his most nightmarish, a bizarre and disconcerting series of disconnected moments that slowly builds in its weirdness towards a typically Lynchian moment of horror at the end.” – David Flint, The Reprobate

David Lynch The Lime Green Set [DVD]
  • A collection of his own films picked by director David Lynch, including the Lynch supervised hi def re-mastered edition of Eraserhead, a collection of The Short Films of David Lynch, Blue Velvet with brand new 5.1 sound mix supervised by David Lynch, Wild at Heart, Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted, and The Elephant Man, along with new Lynch produced extras and Lynch direc

(This series was nominated for review by panicalmechanical. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)