The Alphabet (1968) Poster

(1968)

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Another Phobia Envisioned by David Lynch
jodiac29 May 2002
David Lynch says this film was an attempt at visualizing the "fear of learning." In it, a young girl is tortured by the alphabet in a competely abstract nightmare. Lynch has always been fascinated by the darker side of dreams, the seemingly nonsensical black procession of symbols and fears, and this film simply adds another phobia to the canon.

We are shown images of a head with information going in one side, and this eventually causes the head to erupt into a black mess. Lynch juxtaposes the most innocent of subjects (the alphabet), which usually marks the beginning of our schooling, with disconcerting images of blood and vomit. Disturbing? Yes. Lynch apparently formed the idea after hearing of a girl who was found reciting the alphabet during a nightmare.

On a more profound level, the film examines a fear that perhaps appears for most later in life: the dread of knowledge. There's quite a bit of truth to the oft-repeated line "ignorance is bliss." Gradually, we realize that the more we learn, the less we understand, and therefore, the less control we have over our situations. It's a problem that has vexed people since the conception of "science." We ask questions out of curiosity, find there are no accessible answers, create a religious penumbra that satisfies a great deal with a few simple passages, and then science comes along and we are confronted once again with the inconsistencies of our faith. Thus, we fear that which turns the rock-solid black and whites of our existence to a confused mass of gray.

Also, The Alphabet hints at what linguists and intellectuals and songwriters have known for centuries; words are wholly inadequate to describe even the simplest of human perceptions. And once one has etched that list of letters into one's mind, in a sense, there is no turning back. Life becomes shapes patterned on paper, and conceptions of reality will no longer be formed purely and internally; they are immediately attached to an imperfect language and remained tethered to that which will never truly suffice.
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7/10
Frightening imagery
dbborroughs26 September 2004
Based on an actual event, Lynch's niece had a nightmare where she recited the alphabet in her sleep, this film is basically the same thing, with a young woman reciting the alphabet in her sleep while we see nightmarish imagery.

Its an interesting piece with truly frightening images. Unfortunately the animation isn't all that spectacular, consisting of animated drawings. Its a good piece that mostly works and shows the seeds of the later Eraserhead.

If you come across one of the short film videos of Lynch's early work this film, and one or two others, makes it worth renting.
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9/10
Art as horror
Stephen-126 August 1999
Lynch's first film is a bizarre, revolting and terrifying account of a bedridden young girl apparently being tortured by the alphabet. The letters appear as weird, threatening shapes which (as in his follow-up The Grandmother) seem to take on plant form. The girl herself eventually vomits blood.

The film's meaning isn't clear, and is really of less important than the visuals, which are themselves like moving paintings. The innocence of the child's 'ABC' rhyming song is warped to give a frighteningly naive background to the horrific events.

Lynch's trademark is the expression of fear, and this short foregrounds that motif in the most disturbing way imaginable. Fans of this director should try and catch his debut, as it casts its shadow over much of his later work.
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8/10
Downright horrifying
preppy-315 September 2006
VERY weird short by David Lynch. It's in black and white and shows a girl who looks like she's going completely mad while the letters of the alphabet go flying around her. She also sings that alphabet song.

I should have expected something weird from Lynch but this is even stranger than I thought it could be. In 4 short minutes he gives you a morbid and disturbing little story about the alphabet and terror. It doesn't make a bit of sense but the imagery is so strange and the sound so odd that you're pulled right in. Basically a short little horror film. You can see where "Eraserhead" came from. Worth seeing but only for those who don't scare easily. An 8.
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8/10
Disturbing animated short shows Lynch had it from the beginning.
Ben_Cheshire22 April 2004
This was the first time David Lynch shot live-action footage. It isn't really a narrative film, like The Grandmother, but its more than a filmed moving painting like Six Men Getting Sick. It is mainly animation, truth be told, but it combines live action with it. This is what a child's nightmare looks like inside David Lynch's head - and let me tell you, its quite disturbing, on a par with Grandmother and Eraserhead.

Some of its images, like the girl bleeding from the mouth and reciting the alphabet - i can't get out of my head. I don't know if that's a good thing... Lynch is a very strange man, indeed. And what we get in his films isn't half the story, as members of his website will tell you. There are images there that you wouldn't even know to be wary of, to not think about - images you don't even know to protect yourself from. But as Elephant Man showed us, he is also a master director, who can control himself and a major production to perfection. As Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Dr showed us, Lynch's world can also be lots of fun. He's one of my favourite filmmakers because he gives me both fun AND haunting in the same frame - a feat not many can do.
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8/10
haunting
enmussak23 December 2002
This avant garde piece miraculously comes off without being cliché or dismissible (as is so common with artsy avant garde film). Peggy Lynch (I'm assuming is his daughter) goes through a sequence of harrowing events that had some connection with the alphabet. I particularly liked the bed-wetting and the dirt. The person I watched this with said the dirt looked very "inviting." I strangely agreed. Only Lynch could make dirt inviting. Very interesting work. 8/10
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10/10
Your a weird one Mr. Lynch! (and that's a complement)
NateManD12 August 2005
"The Alphabet" is a really bizarre experimental film short from David Lynch. It contains images that nightmares are made of. Many strange and abstract objects give birth to the letters of the alphabet. There is many creepy sound effects that give this little short film's imagery a strange hallucinatory and hypnotic feel. I could definitely see a Salvadore Dali influence during the film's animated scenes. David Lynch's former wife Peggy than sings the alphabet song against a black background. Wow, the alphabet song has never sounded more horrifying! It's like a preschooler's worst fears caught on film. If you can find a copy of David Lynch's short films, you won't be disappointed. There's no doubt about it, David Lynch is an artist who comes up with some of the most amazing nightmarish imagery.
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9/10
Pretty Freaking Weird, Or Weirdly Freaking Pretty
gavin694221 February 2010
David Lynch's earliest work... a short film that somehow involves a girl (Peggy Lynch) and the alphabet, and what seems to be the most screwed-up nightmare anyone could ever possibly imagine. What inspires this sort of thing? I have no idea.

The film has been called "avant garde", and I really can't think of a better classification. I'd say something a bit more vulgar, but I won't. One reviewer said this film is what should have been on the tape in "The Ring", and I think that's a fine suggestion. This could scare the pants off of many people.

If you've seen Lynch's films, and I recommend pretty much all of them, you know he's capable of some messed-up imagery. I mean, the ear in "Blue Velvet"? Or all of "Lost Highway"? Crazy weird. But after you see this early work, you'll understand that Lynch has been weird for over forty years...
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8/10
Who would've thought that reciting the alphabet could be so disturbing...
Red-Barracuda16 December 2011
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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9/10
Start from the beginning... of The Alphabet
Polaris_DiB10 February 2006
This was set off the basic thematic elements of Lynch's oeuvre. Psychosubconscious horror imagery involving blood, sex, and rich textures of malaise. What's different about this is that it actually goes further, into a child's realm of disturbing imagery, which can be even more disturbing because thinking of Lynch dealing with children is kind of appalling--The Straight Story aside.

I think it's probably my favorite short of his, though, considering that it so well mixes everything in animation, stop motion, and real motion, and that overall it's quite adept at forcing you to think about all those children's shows that involve alphabet songs and alphabet animations dancing around, and how a lot of that stuff can be very disconcerting and bizarre if really looked at.

Furthermore, I believe it's probably one of his best uses of sound. Lynch is a genius at making sound affect imagery beyond levels that most directors use, and while the sound in this short are much more self-conscious and much more apparent than the underlying growling of most of his work, it's a lot more effective.

--PolarisDiB
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Awesome. Very Surreal And Abstract.
Chriser18 March 2002
I love this short movie by David Lynch. The movie, on the surface, is about a girl being tortured by the alphabet. A very surreal part in this movie for me was when the thing that melts when hit with the alphabet letters melts and that face says "Please try to remember you're dealing with the human form." I just love that part of this movie. Anyway, if you can find this movie, see it. If you're into surreal movies and abstract art, you'll love this.
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10/10
Early animation! So cool!
brooke-roberson16 February 2017
A gave this a ten out of ten because it's very good at what it is, a surrealist representation of a nightmare. Also this early animation stuff is very cool! There are so few of these early animations to go back and enjoy. I enjoy that it's a movie inspired by his wife's own nightmare. I talk in a sleep and I know I've said some creepy things! It's only four minutes so give it a watch!
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8/10
A Nightmare Caught on Film
framptonhollis18 March 2016
This is probably one of the worst films you could use to teach your child the actual alphabet. While it does contain each of the letters of the alphabet, and in an extremely memorable sequence, you child will likely be very scarred if shown this film. It feels like it was just a nightmare David Lynch had and he decided to adapt to the screen.

A lot of Lynch's early short films like "Six Figures Getting Sick" or "Absurd Encounter with Fear" aren't all too spectacular (I mean, they're okay, but they lack anything really good in them), but "The Alphabet" is definitely one of the better ones.

It feels sort of similar to "Eraserhead" with its lack of true logic, horrifying visuals, and avant garde approach. However, "Eraserhead" actually has more of a plot than this film (if you can imagine that), while "The Alphabet" is simply just a collection of images (a lot of them made with animation), and what truly nightmarish images they are!
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7/10
Interesting look at Lynch's visual chops
peefyn16 February 2016
The Alphabet is in many ways what you would expect if you put a Sesame Street-short, a Terry Gilliam animation and a Japanese horror film in a blender. What is interesting is that all of these came after this short. This is a truth with modifications though, as Gilliam was making animations before Monty Python's Flying Circus, and educational shorts existed before Sesame Street - but it's still interesting to see how "timely" this short is.

The short itself seems to touch upon themes of indoctrination, how knowledge and world views are forced from one generation to the next. Here, the knowledge is represented by the alphabet - maybe the first thing we (formally) teach our children. It's an OK approach to the subject matter, but not the reason why this short is interesting today. Instead, it's a look on a director developing his talents, exploring sound design and animation.

If you ended up looking through this short's reviews, you've either seen it, or you are curious about it. If the latter: Check it out! It's short enough to either way be worth the experience.
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9/10
Ahead of its time...
burnt_reynoldz5 October 2014
I'm a Lynch fan. Perhaps more an admirer of his art than his films. And I love most of his films.

What I like most about his short films, particularly his early ones, is that the themes or ideas presented - although abstract - are singular. I adore MD for what it is to me... A collection of brilliant short stories which parallels never really added up. I've read some clever thesis on the subject and some even struck a chord. But for me, Lynch hits hardest when he's not tied to a specific plot or timescale. Alphabet and rabbits are a prime example. I never bothered reading theories on their meanings because they made sense to me right away.

The one thing I'll say about Lynch is that he does not give any credit to his influences.
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8/10
The Alphabet
anthonymora210 May 2014
Now, I can see where a big majority of humans who see this movie will think this movie was pointless, random. I hope this majority shares these thoughts with me, for the better of course. This is everything an actual nightmare (or at least every one in my sick mind) is: creepy and distorted noises, quick flashes of haunting faces, and of course the voices of children skipping on Satan's front yard as they recite the innocent Alphabet song, a song that was one a sweet and timeless song that we all learned in kindergarten, now turned into what sounds like a damning, ritualistic chant that will summon the beasts of the blackness out of of your screen and onto your lap. Yeah, this movie did that amount of damage in the less than 5 minute run-time.

Props to David Lynch, who really created a disturbing experience. So simple at how it's done and what it is, but strong in how it's presented. This is the first short film I've seen, and I'm looking forward to more, especially knowing Mr. Lynch has more short films out there.

I highly recommend for a quick scare.
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8/10
Alphabet Horror
MatthewTHuff24 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Where can i start? I believe with the corrupt mind of this sleeping girl portioned out into a chaotic death at the end of the film. Wither the girl's nightmare came true or an utter deep symbolic meaning to this film really existed, i think that this short was overall a perfect solid eight. I can't put out a explanation to what this film really meant, but between the creepy child voices, the nightmarish voice- wind sounds, and the mumbling of the creepy girl is nothing more close to a nightmare. To put into words it made feel uncomfortable, in made me feel scared, and it made me feel completely blindsided, but hey it's just like David Lynch's " Absurd Encounter With Fear" from 1967. Both shorts are to the point, horrifying and utterly confusing.
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4/10
Spelling lesson for grownups only
Horst_In_Translation11 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If you missed your abc-education from the Sesame Street during your preschool-years no worries. David Lynch will teach you the basics in this less-than-4-minute short film. The frame to the story is an extremely pale, possible sick woman lying in bed right at the beginning and also at the end. We see a strange structure rising including the letters a to z and more and more growing as the alphabet proceeds. After a short cut to a pout with red lipstick we hear all the different ways in which the letter a can be shouted, some sounds downright creepy. Then we see an animated female figure having the letters put, literally put, into her head, which, not long after, explodes from the pressure. The blood is particularly memorable as the rest of the film is almost exclusively inconspicuous shades of gray. Then finally the cut back to Lynch's wife at this point who sings the alphabet song before she faces a similar fate like the previous girl, only she exhales the letters and the other had them inserted.

This short-film is indeed very Lynch. If you like his abstract, surreal works, you'll probably have a good time watching, otherwise you'll wonder what in God's name is going on or even be downright appalled. You won't feel nothing though, that much is safe.
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9/10
The Ring video got nothing on this
Rectangular_businessman18 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Only a filmmaker liked David Lynch would be able to turn something so simple and mundane as a recitation of the alphabet into something so terrifying. And yet, I found this short film to be incredibly fascinating, mostly because of the nightmarish nature of it.

While there have been many feature length films and shorts that try to make a depiction of the human psyche, none of those works had the same visual intensity and dream-like quality of the works directed by David Lynch, which I consider to be timeless and beautifully made (In a dark, twisted way)

Of all the shorts directed by David Lynch, this one is my favorite.
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10/10
An Inspiring and Terrifying Short
Scars_Remain11 August 2008
I'm making my way through all of Lynch's films so I figured I'd start with his early short films and I am very pleased with them. I really liked Six Men Getting Sick and this one was great too. I will be commenting on the rest of them as well. The Alphabet is very ambiguous and let's you come up with your explanation of what's going on and I think that is great. David Lynch is a genius in so many ways. I think it's wonderful seeing where my favorite filmmaker started out and very inspiring. I am still trying to figure how he pulled some of the stuff in this film off and wondering how I could do something like this myself. I will continue to enjoy Lynch and be amazed by his work. I hope you can as well!
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9/10
perhaps the more daring of the short-short Lynch works in his formative years
MisterWhiplash4 June 2006
Not sure what attracted me to this film, which is really nothing more than, as David Lynch puts it on the DVD, an interpretation of someone else's dream through his own state of mind. But I really, really felt immersed in what Lynch was doing visually with the film. Obviously, it doesn't make a lick of sense if you're looking for it, but I loved the mixture of different elements within the medium. There's actual film shot of Lynch's wife Peggy going rather bonkers while in a bed. Then this is mixed around with animation treated on-TOP of the filmed footage. Then there is other mixed media, such as a filmed animated spot shook around with other pieces of color and light. There's even a quick shot of black falling down upon white, if that makes sense (which it doesn't). I was told by some others that this one was the weakest of the Lynch shorts, but that goes without saying that each one of his early works will divide viewers like in any good old art-school class. If one knows though the lengths to which the filmmaker is ready to portray his audio-visual interpretations on screen one might appreciate it a little more if they just happen to stumble upon it. On a personal level it's one of the best student works I've seen from the period of a promising talent.
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the stuff of nightmares...
xlisax82x20 August 2004
lynch has, with this short, somehow managed to recreate with disturbing accuracy the experience of any childhood nightmare. on watching you are instantly transported back to being 6 years old, wanting desperately to wake up and not being able to. you have to wonder at the fact that lynch has reproduced this experience to such effect that when it is finished you're left with that morning after feeling of relief that the dream is over, yet also that lingering discomfort as the memory gradually fades. to be able to recreate on film with such accuracy, the sub-conscious experience of people everywhere is an impressive achievement. i wish i could do it... disturbing yet brilliant.
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8/10
A bad dream
Michael_Cronin12 December 2003
'The Alphabet' has to be one of the most successful attempts to bring the atmosphere of a nightmare to film, even more so than 'Eraserhead', which Lynch once described as a filmed nightmare.

The original inspiration for the film came from Lynch's then-wife, Peggy (who appears in the film as the little girl), describing to him how she heard her niece having a dream & repeating the alphabet.

This mostly animated short is very abstract & disturbing, with a suitably twisted soundtrack, & although it's based around the alphabet, there's plenty of blood & a bit of sexual imagery. It really does invoke the type of loose, irrational feel of an actual dream, as opposed to the usual filmed 'dreams', which try to define themselves as such with soft focus & slow motion.
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Brilliant disturbing short
jbels28 January 2003
This short lays the groundwork for themes that Lynch has explored in many of his later films including those of a trapped child and monster parents. This short really is like watching a captured nightmare, and I mean that in a good way.
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8/10
Avant-Garde 101
RJ1359 July 2002
David Lynch's "The Alphabet" is a short exploration into fear and dementia. Lynch, as was his stated intention when he began making films, creates a small world of moving paintings mixed with real action. The result is as an abstract nightmare where a girl is apparently tormented by the alphabet.
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