A series of 5-minute line animations (drawn in the rough style and with the minimalist plots of David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World comic strip) featuring an angry and violent Neanderthal, and his family and neighbors.
Against a backdrop of bizarre shapes and textures, a small organic figure gives birth to the letters of the alphabet while a mixture of children's voices and an operatic tune are singing out. The figure's head collapses causing blood to rain on a girl while she lays in her bed, resulting in the girl violently vomiting blood herself. Written by
Who would've thought that reciting the alphabet could be so disturbing...
The second of David Lynch's films, The Alphabet, is a significant progression from his debut Six Men Getting Sick. Where the latter was a short piece of static animation, The Alphabet incorporates stop-motion and live action alongside the animated sequences. It's a much more interesting film that achieves an undoubted nightmarish mood.
Its genesis was a story Lynch's wife Peggy told him. She had witnessed her young niece experience a nightmare. In a little bed in a darkened room her niece recounted the alphabet in her tormented sleep. From this story Lynch devised a short film that approximates the feeling of a nightmare, one specifically where the fear connected with learning is the source of the unease. There is an alphabet song the like of which would be sung in schools, but removed into this context seems very disturbing. This is probably the first example of Lynch taking a seemingly harmless everyday thing and making it sinister with well chosen associative images and sounds. Indeed this is also the first time that the director utilises sound to disquieting effect, something he would become a master of. Here, we have not only the alphabet song sung by Peggy but also distorted baby crying. The latter being a recording he made of his daughter Jennifer that was corrupted because the tape recorder was faulty. But it was a mistake that produced a result the director loved, and it is indeed a disturbing sound that accentuates the mood perfectly. The Alphabet works often on a subconscious level but it does have a central core idea derived from the alphabet dream that is visualised here. A girl with a white face in a bed in a darkened room experiences the terror of the dream and ends up hemorrhaging blood all over her white night gown and bed sheets. It's a disturbing image but it represents a reaction to the forced learning that initiated the dream in the first place.
With this film Lynch moved forward in an important way. It's the first time where his dark sensibility was used in a way that approximated the mood of a nightmare.
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