Famous for his great success with Mulholland Drive (2001), David Lynch has been an icon of surrealist aesthetics in the cinematic world. Popularising surrealist cinematography to the mainstream audience, Lynch projects new interpretations of reality onto the big screen through his dream-like shots. The ‘Lynchian’ fever does not stop there, he casts his spell on the internet with his series of short horror web films Rabbits (2002). However, as terrifying as the visions in the series look, Lynch himself refers to it as a sitcom. With seemingly meaningless and incoherent conversations, the acknowledgment of the presence of the audience, and the mise-en-scène living room, Lynch explores the philosophy of existentialism with a surrealist parody of ‘normal’ everyday life.
As Sartre claims, the very nature of consciousness is to question its own being. Consciousness is a pandora box because it is the embodiment of both nothingness and the ground of reality. In an existentialist notion, the selfhood is under the trinity structure of being-for-itself, being-in-itself, and being-for-others. Many existentialist philosophers find most people unenlightened and thus unaware of their choice of freedom. Lynch represents the unawakened with humanoid rabbits because they are not ‘fully-developed’ human beings because they are not fully aware of their own consciousness. Lynch hints that the humanoid rabbits in Rabbits are always under observation, for example, they acknowledge the presence of the audience by speaking to the camera, the laugh track and the blurred vision under the window suggest that people are watching them, and the mise-en-scène setting of the living room indicates that they are on a theatrical stage. The actions of the characters are framed as a sitcom for us, they are doing things to make people recognise their being. Therefore, their existence remains a being-for-others. Their everyday conversations appear to be meaningless and undecipherable, the emptiness in their speeches imply that they are conforming to the ‘normalcy’ as defined by social norms. Throughout the episodes, a mysterious red source of power pops up frequently, which symbolises the bureaucratic social system behind that manipulate the actions of people.
With this great parody of the genre of the sitcom, Lynch criticises the authoritative nature of any social norms and systems. He brings the meaning of our existence into question. Do we simply exist as the object of someone else’s consciousness? The series suggests that human beings are different from other creatures because we are aware of the concept of self-consciousness. Unfortunately, no matter how self-conscious we are, it is our fate that we are bound to determinants. We inevitably see ourselves in relation to the perceptions of others. Rabbits is a very surrealist piece, but giving it a second thought, is it not just as creepy when we realise that we rely on other people’s eyes to recognise our own existence?
By Chan Tsz Yan Audrey
Categories: Movies and TV Shows