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Film / Munchausen (2013)

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Munchausen is a 2013 short film, and the fourth written and directed by Ari Aster. The film centers around a nameless mother (Bonnie Bedelia) who resorts to unethical measures to prevent her son (Liam Aiken) from leaving her for college.

Warning: Unmarked spoilers below. It is highly recommended you watch the short before proceeding any further.


Munchausen provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: The mother accidentally kills her son.
  • Book-Ends: The mother imagines herself running after her son's car as he heads off to college and the film concludes with her attempting to run after her son's coffin at the funeral. Additionally, the mother builds a garden, finding a superhero action figure formerly belonging to her son. The film ends with the garden dead and rotted with the superhero toy still being in the same position.
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  • Dies Wide Open: The son.
  • Downer Ending: Despite the mother's efforts, the son's health deteriorates and he dies, and the mother will have to live with the guilt of killing her child by pure selfishness.
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: The mother never meant to kill her son. She only wanted to make him sick so he could spend more time at home with her.
  • Hope Spot: The mother discovers "Feel-Good Again Miracle Antidote" and wastes no time with using it as a means of reverting her son's sickness.
  • Munchausen Syndrome: At least, Munchausen by proxy.
  • My Beloved Smother: The mother.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The mother initially reconsidered giving her son the sandwich laced with the Feel-Bad Sickness Prompter substance, but her son eats it anyway, believing at first she was playing a trick on him. When he succumbs to the illness she causes, she breaks down.
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  • Outliving One's Offspring: The mother as a result of her selfishness.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Despite succeeding at giving her son the "Feel-Good Again Miracle Antidote" by placing it in his soup, he nevertheless succumbs to his sickness.
  • Surprise Creepy: What starts off as a Pixar-esque sequence (much like the first ten minutes of Up's opening or the ending of Toy Story 3), ends with the son dying because of the mother's reckless actions.
  • Tragic Villain: The mother only wanted to spend more time with her son, but it's because of her refusal to let him go that caused his demise.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The son on the night that he began to get sick.
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