Rabbits

Rabbits-David Lynch 2002
Rabbits-David Lynch 2002

Even by the standards of David Lynch the Surrealist sit-com (with Noir accents) Rabbits from 2002 is startlingly bizarre. First released as a digital web series of 8 short episodes with a total run-time of 50 mins and later edited and re-released as a DVD of 42 mins, Rabbits features Scott Coffrey, Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts as Jack, Jane and Suzie, a family of humanoid rabbits who reside in a nameless city deluged with constant rain  and who live with a fearful mystery.

The setting is a dismal living room which we will never leave. Suzie is ironing a piece of clothing which she will constantly iron throughout the movie, apart from the times when she leaves to summon (or exorcise) a demonic presence that appears in the wall and talks in a harsh and unintelligible language. Jane wears a dress and sits on the couch. Jack wears a suit and is the only one to regular leave the apartment. Whenever a character enters the apartment canned applause bursts out. Another alienating device is the use of a laugh track at random and often wildly inappropriate moments. The dialogue is oblique, to say the least. Clipped phrases, both banal and portentous, reminiscent of Samuel Beckett or Alain Resnais’s art house classic Last Year In Marienbad, are followed by long pauses then a non sequitur, which gives the impression that if it was ordered just so everything would fall into place. All three characters have a solo piece where they recite abstract poetry that has tantalising references to dogs and dark smiling teeth.

Rabbits is short movie where nothing happens yet is redolent with atmosphere, helped by a dank soundtrack by frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. Oppressive, shot with a dark humour, sometimes boring but always terrifying, Rabbits was used in a study by University of British Columbia to induce a feeling of existential crisis in subjects.

61 thoughts on “Rabbits

      1. Wow. This is extraordinarily weird. It feels like DL took a simple script and separated each line, through them in the air and reordered them randomly. Meanwhile the feeling of dread weighs the whole thing down, exacerbated by the score. You get the sense that something terrible happened perhaps at the harbor and each of their soliloquies is each of their memories of the event. The danger is still outside so the audience cheers each time one of them comes in through the door to relative safety. The malignant intrusion as the candelabra is brought in – is it a shared hallucination? A subconscious warning? A distorted memory? Fear personified? Whatever Lynch was thinking, it most certainly leaves you rattled and grasping for answers. Thank you for sharing this.

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      2. It is incredibly weird, the whole look and feel is one of heavy dread, the score is absolutely brilliant. That is a neat interpretation of the applause, I hadn’t thought of that. As for the demonic presence it can read as any number of things, all of which Lynch isn’t going to answer. A masterclass in atmosphere, glad you enjoyed (if enjoyed is really the word for Rabbits).

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  1. Lynch’s work is often hard to make sense of yet we still try. I have enjoyed a number of his movies. It seems Theories for Rabbit are varied but a bit chilling. This is new for me, totally unaware of his Rabbit episodes. Once again you’ve chosen an intriguing subject! Thank you Mr. C.

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    1. That is all part of the fun, trying to decode the mystery though the enigma is really the thing. Even Lynch’s own explanations fail to fully explain the work in question. Rabbits followed Mulholland Dr which for me is his masterpiece. Tell me what you think after viewing Miss Heart.

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      1. A couple of possibilities: These are souls ( hunters) are in limbo in the process of being reincarnated. The strange man who appears keeps them imprisoned, or perhaps these are pet rabbits of a child who imagines they talk (complete nonsense to others) the track represents the laughter of those watching this little world… Or Lynch is a sadist who likes to make us crazy. I too like Mulholland Dr. Was this a spin off from Twin Peaks? A fabulous neo-noir.

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      2. I think all those theories have something to be said for them… the very last line is Jane (I think) saying I wonder who I will be which certainly lends itself to that interpretation of reincarnation and all the talk of dogs and dark smiling teeth makes you think of hunting. If it is a child interpretation of her pet rabbits world I think she needs help. As for Lynch enjoying mystification that is the one nailed on certainly. The Rabbits also make an appearance in his 2006 movie Inland Empire but needless to say doesn’t clarify anything at all. Thanks for sharing your views Miss Heart.

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  2. I have not seen this short, even though David Lynch is my favourite director of all times. I agree, Mulholland Drive is his masterpiece with a big M. I love all the oddness and eeriness of this short too, I can clearly see the Lynchian elements. Superb. The applause and laughter with the creepiness (those shadows cast by bunny ears) and rain gives one of a kind feeling of “horror” that borders some despair even. Open to interpretations, of course.

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    1. In each of the solos the Rabbits mention something is wrong. No kidding, there is so much that is wrong, the lighting, the shadows, the unappetizing colour palette, all that dingy brown on brown not to mention the nonsensical conversations that hover so close to meaning and the fact that they are humanoid Rabbits, but every thing is so right, it succeeds superbly. I think of it as a cross between Sartre’s No Exit and Friends, which sounds terrifying and so is Rabbits. As for Mulholland Dr. I saw in again yesterday as was blown away fresh. The layers of possible interpretations is staggering.

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      1. Yes, everything is (supposed to be) wrong and, yet, everything is so right. I love the paradox, too.

        Re Mulholland Drive, I like to think about the story as layers of consciousness, some emerging, some receding – for example, as objects are assigned different, sometimes happier meaning, etc, as Diane tries to push certain thoughts away from her or is not so good at keeping them hidden; dream and reality interject one another, grief and guilt coming to light, etc. I probably appreciate the movie more now than when I saw it some years ago for the first time. It somehow gets better in time for me.

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      2. I was struck yesterday by a stray thought as I was watching…that the dream is actually the waitress in Winkies who is involved with the neighbour in No.12…Naomi Watts As Betty is her idealization of herself and Laura Elena Harring is the idealized lover… the second part of the movie with Diane/Camille is a monstrous revenge fantasy but in actually the ordinary waitress is living a couple of doors down from her ordinary ex-lover…but that of course leaves a lot out…the Club Silenco sequence is one of the best in the history of the cinema….I agree it gets better with repeated viewings in time

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      3. Yes there was…I love that movie as well. As for other giant bunnies in movie history there is Harvey the Frank Capra movie (Blue Velvet is thought by some to a retelling of Its A Wonderful Life) and Alain Resnais My American Uncle has a character wear a giant rabbit head.

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      4. Well, I think we are on the same page – Diane is the waitress in Winkies having a dream that she is a successful actress Betty and the revenge fits in because her female lover in real life ditched her. I especially liked the references to an espresso and it having “a bad taste” for one person there. In real life, it was probably an espresso Diane drunk in the café when she “hired” the hitman, as I recall and said “this is the girl” (also an important phrase). Any espresso will always have a bad taste for her. I have seen the movie some time ago I need to refresh my memory. Hmm, I have not made the connection about the neighbouring doors – perhaps, you are right. That must be it. I also agree with you about the Club Silenco sequence.

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      5. I like to think about the recurring phrase “this is the girl” as well. It is like Diane wants to convince herself someone made her say these words, and it was not she – so she forced a director in her dream to be forced to say “this is the girl” (against his will) – it was not his choice in her dream, but someone else’s. She wants the responsibility for these words to fall on someone else and that someone else was forced to say these words. That is the only way she can carry on living…believing that, because after that phrase, everything changed.

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      6. Yes and the director is forced to say those words by a shadowy cabal of gangsters, some guy who barely communicates in an ominous room and a cowboy. The cowboy by the way always seemed to me to be straight out The Day of the Locusts by Nathaniel West, one of the first poison valentines to Hollywood.

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      7. That is the thing about Mulholland Dr. it really is a trip down the rabbit hole. In the Club Silenco Betty finds there is no lasting comfort in illusion and has to open the box, which is Pandora’s box.

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      1. I’ve not read No Exit. However I remember another play of his in which the characters play out the action through discourse in a single room. That was a gestapo cell, and they are each waiting to be tortured for the whereabouts of their leader, who turns up by chance, locked up for some minor offence. Will anyone try to buy their freedom by telling their captors who they have?

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      2. So do they? I am not particularly fond of Sartre as he was against the Surrealists (one of those particularly French intellectual wars) but No Exit includes that great line ‘Hell is other people’ which basically the play. Four terrible people are stuck in a horrible room with no exit for all eternity.

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  3. Ok just finished it. Watched it in fragments: no one else would watch it. I’ve been watching Stranger Things with 12 year old daughter, and Journeyquest or The Expanse with 14 year old son. Kind of squeezed the watching time.

    The link to sit cons is very apt, surely deliberate. It has the same dynamic, little action but dialogue all confined in one room. While the laughter seemed eerily disconnected from the words, the applause on the characters’ entrance rang true, as did their waiting for the cheers to die away – my son would call this acknowledging the fourth wall. Unlike a sit com, a high camera angle shrank the set, so it was like looking down into (obviously) a hutch, or like a shoebox diorama, or perhaps a piece of taxidermy. The sick turquoise walls seemed to suck out light and life, The rabbit masks were a masterpiece of expressionlessness. It made as much sense as a sit com, or most of our lives. The background chords lifted by the muted engine siren haunted me.
    In summary I loved it. It’s a masterpiece. I have art like this in my head I have never found time to realise, that came alive to me with this.
    Thanks for this link.

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    1. Thank you for the comment Kestrel and glad you thought it was a masterpiece. Very good point about the unmoving camera angle which makes it seem like a model set, the kind used for clay animation (which is generally a creepy medium) but of course it’s a real set and we know this because it is humans beneath the mask. Also the dialogue which is suggestive of meaning but scrambles logic.
      I watched Lynch’s Inland Empire for the first time the other day, which features the Rabbits, both the scenes from Rabbits (sometimes from different camera angles though) and what happens when Jack lives the room and also the corridor outside their apartment (which is no. 47). But of course it doesn’t really clarify anything, though Jane does say ‘it had something to do with the telling of time’ which I don’t remember from Rabbits. Real down the rabbit hole stuff this and the White Rabbit was also obsessed by time.

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  4. This guy is obsessed by David Lynch – https://benjaminlouche.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/in-that-dark-room-and-the-big-picture-and-the-right-sound-its-all-a-good-thing/. He compered a Twin Peaks themed drawing session (my first Dr Sketchies) a couple of years ago. I remember going in to be met by a near naked guy carrying a horses head having a pint at the bar. I had forgotten Twin Peaks and had no idea what it was all about, but it was was an amazing sketching session.

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