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One of the most disturbing things i've ever seen. The actors in this film,
David Lynch's third film technically, but his first narrative film, were
never in any other movies - one of them, Father, died a few years ago - it
is as if they exist only in the frightening nightmare world of this boy's
life, which consists of two dog-like parents who only bark at him with
unintelligible sounds, and beat him and rub his face in the urine when he
wets the bed, like a puppy. The subject of the film (and if i don't tell you
this, it'll make so little sense to you, because its never properly
explained in the film) is the boy has no love from his parents, and no
grandmother to give him respite from them and comfort him, so he grows one
in the attic.
It is a horrifying, brilliant film, which creates an imaginative world very successfully - albeit one you desparately want to escape from as soon as possible, but it does this well at least.
The Lynchian oeuvre is almost fully formed here, right from the start. Little dialogue, atmospheric soundtrack of constant sound effects which you find in Eraserhead, Elephant Man, Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr; impressionistic approach to performance and makeup/costume and sets; the quality of estrangement in the direction, and most importantly there is the union of terrible, twisted darkness and optimistic naivety (developed to the full in Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr).
For Lynch fans, this is a thing to see. Unlike Six Men Getting Sick or The Amputee, this is not just an experiment or an early film of a Director that ruins your impression of them, it stands on its own, irrespective of Lynch's subsequent work (though it also sets the tone for his subsequent narrative work) as a great surrealist/impressionist narrative short.
Long-time Lynch collaborator Jack Nance once said that watching The
Grandmother was like spending half an hour in the electric chair. Mixing
live action (both colour and black & white) with animation, along with a
dark & unsettling soundscape created by Alan Splet (still Lynch's sound
designer today, three decades later), the film is an intensely disturbing
The Grandmother deals with the story of a boy, abused by his brutal, animal-like parents, who grows himself a kindly grandmother in the attic.
Although it does suffer from a certain 'student film' feeling, this half-hour short is a must-see for all fans of David Lynch, particularly those who admire the stark & surreal world of Eraserhead. One can definitely see the genesis of Lynch's next film within it.
This film is a must-see for anyone interested in the world of surreal
cinema. Combines fascinating visual metaphor with rich, vivid animation to
create a disturbing ambience that draws the viewer in, like a fish caught
a hook. The music (provided by a collective of music engineers known as
"Tractor") is like a grey canopy that wraps itself over your mind as you
find that time and space and your life outside of a cold, flickering
room seem to fade into this backdrop of radioactive multimedia. Make no
mistake about it, Lynch is an artist of the highest calibur, and in this
gripping work he uses everything in the film as a medium to transmit his
imagination to the outside world.
P.S. - If you like Lynch's style, I suggest looking into the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Luis Bunuel & Jean Cocteau. All of them brilliant artists in their medium.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
David Lynch's The Grandmother is a 34-minute-long experimental
nightmare. The absurdly dark, ominous visuals suggest the film is set
inside a madman's nightmare, though it actually refers to the nuclear
American family gone horribly wrong. Dialogue-free except for primal
grunting and barking, The Grandmother is carried solely through
dramatic acting and striking visuals. The soundtrack is cramped with
white noise such as discordant grating, creaking and droning that
compliments the already disturbing atmosphere. Lynch mixes hand-drawn
animation with live-action in an effort to create a world as disturbing
as it is surreal.
The film's four characters remain nameless, appearing to be generic symbols.
The Boy, whom the narrative centers on, is neglected and abused by his parents who treat him like an unwanted nuisance. They literally bark, growl, and crawl on all fours, symbolizing their distance from being human. All of the actors are caked with white powder makeup that causes their skin to glow brightly amidst the ultra-high contrast photography. The Boy's only attire is a black tuxedo with a bow tie, which combined with his solemn, pain-stricken face suggests he is attending an eternal funeral. Perhaps the Boy is dressed for his own funeral, because his life appears to be 'dead' on a symbolic level. The Father always wears a stained, moth-eaten white undershirt with equally dreadful boxer shorts. The photography is so high contrast that you often only see the Boy's stark white face and hands 'floating' around the pitch black background. On the opposite spectrum, the Father's bright clothes appear to jump out of the darkness, making his presence dominant and obvious.
Despite the abstractness of The Grandmother, several themes appear evident. The Boy expresses the loneliness and pain that accompanies a household with abusive and neglectful parents. The Grandmother character, who the Boy secretly grows from a plant-like seed in the attic, symbolizes warmth and comfort. The Boy both figuratively and literally 'grows' a parental figure, comparing the growth of love to that of a plant. The Boy's actions suggest that love should be treated like growing a plant: you first plant the seed, then nurture it until it matures into something full and complete.
After much attention and care, the Boy's plant grows into a massive, pulsating cocoon out of which the Grandmother crawls from, fully clothed and aged. The Boy and Grandmother immediately embrace and offer each other much-needed comfort. His world seems brighter for the time being, but his living nightmare is far from over. Ultimately, nothing lasts forever, as this film appears to suggest.
The Grandmother is highly recommended for fans of the avant-garde, or anyone looking for something different. If you thought Eraserhead was Lynch's darkest and weirdest film, wait until you see this small miracle.
No matter how cynical you make think this film is, it is very realistic in what our world looks like as children. Dysfunctional families are all around us and we experience neglect very often. A child's point of view of course, is always exaggerated. I can relate to some of what is shown in "The Grandmother." Throughout my childhood my grandmother was the only person i could turn to. My parents talk, and their life during my childhood was very blurred to me. And the horrifying things that happen are more horrifying than they really are as a child. Lynch may have imaged this film out of nowhere, but it still speaks. The use of sound, and animation is powerfully effective. This is a must for Lynch fans!
Sick, disturbing and surreal short from David Lynch. A man and a woman
get married and have a son who they don't really want. The child grows
up being horribly abused by his parents. Then, in a dark sinister room,
he plants a seed who sprouts into a grandmother. She, in a way, shows
him the affection his parents never gave him. There's more but I won't
The film mixes live actors with animation seamlessly. It has sound but no dialogue--the actors just make sounds somewhat like human speech. It's in washed-out color which certainly fits the subject matter. Also you see Lynch using odd noises on the soundtrack which he perfected years later with "Eraserhead". I'm giving this film a 10 but it is VERY disturbing. It's definitely not for everybody. The abuse scenes are horrible to watch and the nonstop morbidness did start to wear on me, but I couldn't stop watching. It all leads to a very sad ending. Sick, troubling and (at times) horrifying movie but just incredible. A 10 but only for those who can stand extreme subject matter.
This film is a lesson. A lesson on how you can, with minor means,
create a work which explores all ways of cinematography. And this
without any dialogue. In my idea films are not there to tell a story
(they can be used as such tough) and this movie goes straight
back to the time where films were shown at carnivals and gave you
a glimpse of new worlds to be explored. Don't worry too much about the (lack of) narritive story. Just sit back
and enjoy the huge amount of emotions that will come to you.
Fear, hatred, love and desire for a better world.
"The Grandmother" has got to be one of the strangest works of David Lynch next to "Eraserhead". In order to get the film made, Lynch got a grant from the American Film Institute. Too bad AFI doesn't fund amazing films like this anymore. In some aspects the film looks like it had a huge influence on "Begotten" (1991), except "The Grandmother" is only about 34 minutes and never wears out it's welcome. The story concerns a boy, who has very mean and abusive parents. They act like animals and only talk in barks. The little boy is very pale and Gothic looking, and almost all the film's sets are painted pitch black in darkness. This causes images to pop right out. The boy plants seeds in his bed, a huge abstract stump like object grows and gives birth to an old lady. The old lady seems to give the boy peace of mind, like a grandmother would. It's really hard to tell the exact story, since the film feels like a surreal nightmare that leaves the viewer disoriented. The music and experimental sound mix sounded way ahead of 1970. This only added more impact to it's disturbing imagery. Not to mention, it had some weird animated scenes too. From all the movies I've seen, I'd have to say the best examples of surrealism in film have to be Bunuel and Dali's "Un Chien Andalou", Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain" (1973) and David Lynch's "The Grandmother". All three of these films have images that will probably haunt you for the rest of your life.
Just recently saw this film along with "The Alphabet"...One of the most disconcerting Lynch films I've ever seen...but incredibly brilliant...the portrayal of the animalistic sides of the human psyche, and the "touching of the grandmother" scenes are quite unique...overall, I highly recommend this short film for anyone interested in film as an art. Extra kudo's to those who see the psychological metaphors throughout the film.
The Grandmother, like other surreal short films (and, of course, like
the rest of Lynch's work), is not that concerned with logic, at least
in conventional terms. If there is anything at all conventional about
the the film is that it has at its core that small statement on youth
and innocence that can be interpreted a hundred ways to Sunday- if
you're lonely and dejected you'll look for companionship. It's just
that in this case the conventional wisdom of finding someone at the
playground or at school is bypassed- here the boy, in isolation from
his barking, mad parents, plants and grows a grandmother to spend time
with. But is it all as it should be? Lynch, much as he did with
Eraserhead, leaves so much up to interpretation that on a first viewing
it's almost not even necessary to find something coherent in what goes
on. But in that sense, of course, many will likely be befuddled,
disturbed, and maybe even offended at the lack of typical cohesion from
start to finish.
What it does provide, however, is a kind of cinema experience that has to be felt, seen, heard, taken in as cinema on the technical and artistic side of things always goes. Even when I didn't know what was "going on" with the boy and his grandmother and parents, I didn't mind as long as I knew Lynch was doing something with the camera or lighting or editing or music or animation or all of the above to make it a visceral experience. Yes, there are some tedious moments here and there (which, even in being a 35 minute short film, are possibly more so than the ones in Eraserhead), yes the first two to three minutes takes some time to adjust to, and yes there ending is left about as ambiguous as can be. But it shook me up all the same, like the best parts of 90's music videos. Any time, for example, that Lynch used a sort of stop-motion technique during the live action I was thrilled in a way. The animated sequences have a crude quality that could only be matched by Gilliam's Python animations. And the actors (or maybe just pieces) in Lynch's macabre framing and set ups and pay off seem all perfect for the parts.
If you're already a fan coming on to this DVD set of Lynch short films, this may or may not come as the most eccentric, wonderfully outrageous of the lot of them; it could also be for some the most 'huh' of all of the films as it is the longest and with the most density in the surrealism. It is the mark, interested in it or not, of an artist leaving something out for a good look and soak into what it is or could be or is lacking. Grade: A
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