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(Credit: Ronald Grant Archive / Alamy)

Film

Exploring the bizarre world of David Lynch's short films

Known as the first popular surrealist in the history of cinema, David Lynch has been making fantastic features for almost 50 years now. With pioneering gems such as Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive under his belt, Lynch’s cinema is equally enjoyed by modern audiences as it once was by other legends of the medium such as Stanley Kubrick.

His reputation as a cinematic surrealist was further reinforced when he ventured into television with the iconic show Twin Peaks, an opus that would end up changing the format forever. However, Lynch’s artistic output extends far beyond that when we consider the wider spectrum of the projects he has undertakes over the course of his career.

Before Lynch even embarked on his journey as a director, he had studied painting and has continued to pursue that even later in his life. The influence of that school of thought can be clearly traced in most of his works, even painting pieces such as Bob Finds Himself in a World for Which He Has No Understanding which draws upon his career as a director.

Whether it be abstract expressionist works or even the comic format, Lynch’s paintings are a fascinating window into the machinations of the master’s mind. Even more than his paintings, his sensibilities as a filmmaker can only be properly understood if one is brave enough to travel into the bizarre world of his short films.

These short films are where he experiments with the medium more than he ever has, starting with the 1966 cult short Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) which features the repeated nauseous regurgitations of six unsettling figures. From there, he graduated to other projects like Absurd Encounter with Fear and made several shorts like The Alphabet before Eraserhead was released.

In fact, Eraserhead should always be double-billed along with his 1970 gem The Grandmother which imagines a bizarre scenario where a lonely young boy tries to grow a grandmother from some strange seeds he plants in order to find refuge from his terribly abusive parents. Using various interesting techniques, The Grandmother actually nicely complements Eraserhead’s evaluation of the human condition.

The early shorts of David Lynch are downright fascinating, exceeding the surrealism of most of his features by a mile. Even when he had established himself as a top filmmaker, Lynch continued to produce enigmatic and mysterious shorts like the 2002 fantasy short Rabbits which acts as a response to the nature of surrealism itself.

Watch a compilation of David Lynch’s short films below.