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Film / The Grandmother

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The Grandmother is a 33-minute short film from 1970 directed by a 24-year-old David Lynch.

It uses a mix of animation and live-action for the sort of surrealistic Mind Screw horror that would be typical of Lynch's entire career. Two of what only can be described as "people-seeds" sprout, springing from the ground as full-grown humans, a man and a woman. They sort of bounce around for a while, bumping into each other in what may be a metaphor for sexual intercourse, until a third person-seed sprouts, creating a boy of about ten.

The three people live as a family in a surreal home where various bits of furniture sit in rooms that are painted pitch-black. The parents are abusive. When the boy wets his bed the father screams at him and shoves his face in the yellow puddles the boy leaves in his bed. His mother makes a gesture as if she would hug him, but becomes physically abusive as well when the boy recoils from an embrace.

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Desperate for some companionship, the boy takes something that looks like a rock or a potato from a bag labeled "SEEDS". He dumps a pile of dirt on a bed and puts the person-seed in it. From the bed grows a grotesque tree-like thing, that eventually births a slimy, dirty grandmother.

Made by Lynch for the American Film Institute on a budget of $7200. The AFI gave him a grant on the basis of two micro-short films he'd made as a student.


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Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Two savage, brutal parents who beat and terrorize their young son.
  • Art Shift: Animation, used mostly for the sequences of people seeds sprouting from the earth, as well as the possible Imagine Spot where the boy kills his parents. Stop-motion animation and pixilation, used several times to make things look weirder and creepier. Also, the outdoor scenes are shot in black and white while the indoor scenes are in color.
  • Downer Ending: The grandmother dies—probably. The boy is left in the cemetery, literally wailing in despair, before he's back at home getting screamed at again. This is followed up by a symbolic shot of the boy on the bed that may indicate that he killed himself.
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: Played for drama, as the boy wets his bed repeatedly, and the father always flies into a rage and shoves his face into the puddle of urine.
  • Gainax Ending: The grandmother dies, probably; the boy goes to visit her in the cemetery but she's seen sitting above-ground in a chair. Back home, the parents yell and scream at the boy again. He lies down on the bed, and violently flops over to one side before...something, a strange shape, grows out of him, sticking a couple of feet up into the air. Little tendrils appear on the sides of the screen and grow inwards towards the boy in the center. Roll credits.
  • Plant Person: Sort of. Everyone in the family grows from seeds planted in the dirt, but they grow into mostly normal humanoids, although their bizarre behavior does suggest that they might not be fully human.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The boy appears to kill his parents, decapitating one and crushing the other, as depicted in an animation sequence. This may be an Imagine Spot as the parents turn up later alive.
  • Silence Is Golden: No dialogue, just shouts, squeaks, whistles. Although the father in particular sometimes sounds like he's shouting "Mine!"
  • Speaking Simlish: All the characters speak in squeaks or whistles or shouts.
  • Stop Motion: Used for some of the more surreal animated portions of the movie, like when the tree-thing sprouts from the bed, or the fountain of urine that erupts from the boy's bed after he kills his parents. "Pixilation", the art of filming live actors in a stop-motion manner, is used several times to make the movements of the characters appear creepy and bizarre.
  • Surrealism: Well, it's a David Lynch movie. People sprout out of the ground and move in odd, jerky ways. The rooms they live in are entirely black, ceiling, walls, and floor, although the furniture and knickknacks within the rooms are realistic. They speak in whistles, shouts, and grunts. Something monstrous seems to grow out of the boy at the end. When the boy wets his bed, it's represented by a large circle of yellow paint.
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