Head with Hammer (David Lynch, 2001, USA)


Head with Hammer, made in 2001, is among the shortest of David Lynch’s short films. The film opens with what appears to be a man seated a table in a business suit. Next to him is some kind of mechanical apparatus with a grinding gear. There is also a lightbulb next to him. Most notably, however, is the titular hammer positioned next to his head. The hammer winds up and retracts, and then slams lightly into the man’s head. The film then concludes as quickly as it started. Lynch’s dark humor is clearly on display here. Namely, our expectation is that this man’s hand will suffer a violent fate. In the end, however, this light bump creates a sense of relief but also laughter at the subversion of our expectation. The bump itself is humorous in nature, too.

                There is also something quite funny about the fact that David Lynch made Head with Hammer the same year as his Oscar-nominated and critically-acclaimed masterpiece Mulholland Drive. In our exploration of the short films of David Lynch, one notices that his short films often do not aspire to be great art. Sometimes they express his personal interests. Oftentimes they are essentially “joke films”, built around a single idea that the director finds funny. What unites the shorts, good and bad, is that they all seem to be an expression of his personality. While Head with Hammer may be forgettable, it is undoubtedly very much a project by David Lynch. Even in a 15-second short, his sense of humor comes through strongly. Head with Hammer is unlikely to end up on a Criterion Collection box set, but it is still worth seeking out for David Lynch completists, and as the film runs only 15 seconds, you won’t be wasting that much time if you hate it.



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