Over the last sixty years of cinema, David Lynch’s groundbreaking films and TV shows have been the subject of heated discussion for decades. Throughout his career, he has been a distinctive and prolific filmmaker, having directed a total of fifty-three films to date. Though it was his feature films that brought him worldwide acclaim and success, the majority of his work has been short films. Despite his celebrated reputation, few film enthusiasts and fans are aware of Lynch’s early short films. In these short films, you can track the themes, ideas and techniques that Lynch then developed and finalised later in his feature films. Seeing these early works can give insight into the complex mind of the filmmaker.
In this program, we illuminate Lynch’s short-filmmaking from when he was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art up to being a household name and earning the title of ‘master of the uncanny’.
These shorts are fascinating because they’re not imprisoned by conventional cinematic techniques but rather are explorations of shape, light, texture, form and sound. These shorts show the origin of the feverish anxieties, the abiding sense of dread and disgust that runs as a powerful undercurrent throughout Lynch’s cinema. Not only do these films tell the story of David Lynch’s journey to success, but more importantly they offer a glimpse at how the seeds of his unique and daring style grew into the style known as ‘Lynchian’, a term that he would later become known for.
The themes running through these shorts include absurdity, the uncanny, surrealism and experimentalism, all of which characterise the term ‘Lynchian’ and garner intrigue and mystique to filmmakers, critics and audiences alike. The collection of short films, as a whole, has the entire pantheon of ‘Lynchian’ tropes: dream sequences, the macabre and grotesque, family dysfunction and even awkward, lengthy conversations. They also feature Lynch’s eye for use of colour, lighting and the human form with the interesting exploration of sound design.
This is a must for fans of David Lynch who have seldom had the opportunity to see the short films of the director on the big screen – while also bringing a practical, immersive element to the event. Even for those new to Lynchian cinema the frenetic images seen within the films are a masterclass in spine-tingling cinema – absolutely not to be missed!
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Made during Lynch’s second year at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the film consists of six animated loops on a sculptured screen made from casts of Lynch’s own head. Meant as an experiment to see if and how his paintings could move, the film eventually became a precursor to the cult hit Eraserhead.
Combining a mix of animation and live-action shots, this film was inspired by a child having a bad dream and reciting the alphabet in a tormented way, midsleep – a symbolic expression of the fear of learning.
Another animation/live-action cocktail of pallid horror, the story follows a young boy who concocts a grandmother after suffering neglect and abuse from his own parents. This is a film that shot Lynch into superstardom within the indie filmmaking circles.
Shot while Eraserhead was in financial limbo and written with and starring Catherine Coulson enigmatic Log Lady in Twin Peaks – The Amputee is a ‘mirror-image’ dual film consisting of two separate arts where a woman attempts to write a letter while Lynch, who plays a nurse, tends to her amputated legs.
In celebrating the first century of cinema, 40 acclaimed directors were asked to create short films using the Lumiere Brother’s hand-cranked camera. There were 3 rules – a single sequence shot of 52 seconds; no synchronous sound and only three takes. Lynch took it, morphed it and the result… the most ‘Lynchian’ thing ever made on screen.
The venue is wheelchair accessible
All films have English captions
Gender-neutral bathrooms are available in the building
Venue: Lecture Theatre A, London College of Communication, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6SB, UK
Michelangelo De Cia
David Lynch is a Palme d’Or-winning American filmmaker, painter, musician and writer, known as the ‘master of the uncanny’