The Alphabet (David Lynch, 1969, USA)

The Alphabet (1968) is David Lynch's second short film. Lynch was initially discouraged from continuing filmmaking after Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) due to the cost of filmmaking relative to painting. However, a fellow student ended up providing Lynch with some money to make his next short. The film was inspired by a dream that Lynch's then-wife, Peggy, told him about. The dream involved her niece reciting the alphabet in her sleep. Lynch created several background textures and ended up filming the short, which involves a small figure giving birth to alphabet letters while a child recites the alphabet. Also on the soundtrack are various other sounds, including sirens, the wind, and crying. 

Peggy Lynch makes an appearance in the film as a girl on a bed, who concludes the film by violently vomiting blood. This film is certainly one of Lynch's scarier ones, and it shows his interest in the macabre and unsettling started very early on. What is the film about? Lynch is certainly known for exploring fear in his films, and The Alphabet can be seen as part of this larger trend within the director's oeuvre. Certainly, the fear of knowledge can be perceived as a prominent one in the film. 

It is remarkable how formed Lynch's aesthetic sense was formed very early on in his career. Even in this film, one can see the roots of Eraserhead quite clearly. While there were obvious technical and budgetary limitations on these early films, Lynch was headed in the right direction. Also on display are Lynch's penchant for abstract and surreal imagery. We have already discussed Lynch and horror, and the director's connection to the horror genre here is very apparent. Watching these early shorts one gets the sense that Lynch was well on his way to becoming a master filmmaker. 



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