Friday, April 13, 2012

David Lynch: 'Rabbits' - A Quick Analysis

Meet David Lynch. This guy is the one responsible for surreal films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Inland Empire. His style is known for being just flat-out weird. He seems to have his own little world, where nothing makes sense. Nothing is simply explained to us, we have to look at things closely to figure out what they really mean. It’s a world where you won’t survive unless you have an open and artistic mind, essentially.
Look at his hair, you know his movies are gonna be weird.

But today, we’re gonna examine what is, in my opinion, his strangest film, and to be honest, the creepiest movie I’ve ever seen overall. Rabbits.
Starring Scott Coffey, Naomi Watts, and Satan. No joke.

Holy Christ, what is this? This is the strangest thing ever. No joke, I couldn’t sleep after I saw this. It just left me feeling quite disturbed, kind of frustrated and very very confused. To explain it as best I can, this is basically the picture here. It centers around these three humanoid rabbits who live in this small apartment. The place is always dimly-lit, it’s always raining outside, and the characters hardly ever talk. And when they do, it never makes sense.
Just for an example, in the opening we see two of the three rabbits here. Out of the blue, one of them speaks.
Nothing prompted it. And it doesn’t get brought up. She just randomly says it, and that’s it. Then after a while of just silence, the third rabbit comes in. There’s no conversation, no one says hello or anything, he just crosses the room and sits down. And then, suddenly the new guy speaks.
Out of nowhere, nonsensical dialog. Some say that if you write down the entire script of what they say, it can actually be re-arranged into logical conversation. And I will admit, I did try that, but it’s not so simple. By the way if anyone reading this is willing to try that, I would love to hear the result.
But trust me, the dialog isn’t the only worrying thing here. First of all, the general idea. Why are there three rabbits here? Why, of all things, are there three RABBITS, in human clothes, living in a human home, speaking gibberish and staring into space? Also, I should mention that there’s a sitcom laugh track that laughs at the rabbits occasionally, and we hear the sound of cheering and applause when a character enters or does something. There’s also this really disturbing scene where this demon thing appears, and at the end of the film there’s a very scary scene where the door randomly opens and we hear a woman scream, which doesn’t seem to bother the rabbits in the slightest, and they just calmly close the door again and go about their business.
So what’s this all mean? What’s the reason behind it? Well, I’ve heard quite a few interpretations, and some of them do actually sound plausible. I’ll share a few, and then go with my own.

First one, probably my favourite one, these three are souls in Purgatory. Now, I can explain.
The general theory is that these three are people who died and are now in Limbo between our world and Hell. Every now and then, we hear talk of what sounds like a murder story, with descriptions such as sharp teeth, dogs running, and other weird images that suggest a hunting trip. This implies that these three are hunters who died, and so were sent to Hell and are in the process of being reincarnated as Rabbits.
There is the occasional mention of a strange man who is expected to visit them, and the three rabbits constantly ask if he’s visiting. He could be their “boss”, or rather the one who’s keeping them imprisoned in this mundane, lifeless existence.
The demon head thing could be a visit from Satan who is informing them on their stay, and the laugh track could be other souls in Hell mocking them. Note that we hear the laugh track after lines to do with time (“What time is it?”), which implies that this is another dimension, where time is useless. The laugh track is a way of saying “You stupid rabbits, time is pointless and so are you”! We also hear Jane randomly say “I wish they would go away”, and later she says “All day..”. This suggests the rabbits know they are being watched, and that they’re fully aware of what’s happening around them which, again, is all the more reason for them to be excited when their “boss” arrives, hopefully with the good news that they can leave.
Also, the unnerving ending scene where the door opens and we hear a woman scream, this could be another soul entering Hell and seeing the rabbits for the first time. Note the rabbits are not phased by this, implying that they’re used to it, which strengthens the theory that they’re eager to leave this place.

Here’s another theory I heard. I think the other one is better because it has more evidence to hold it all together, but this one deserves a mention as well. This is meant to be three everyday pet rabbits through the eyes of a small child.
This is a child who has these pet rabbits, and, being young and imaginative, he pictures that their little hutch, their “house” is like a human home. He also pretends they’re people, and so imagines them wearing stereotypical grown-up clothes, like mommy and daddy (a suit for the male, and the two females wear either a bathrobe or a dress).
He also imagines them talking, but since he’s just a little kid and doesn’t understand adult conversations yet, he imagines them talking in complete nonsense, like the grown-ups do. The laugh-track, again, symbolizes the people watching them (the kid and his friends/family, perhaps) and laughing at how silly their little world is.
The weird monster head thing could be the boy’s pet dog or cat that somehow gets into the hutch and attacks the rabbits, and the flash of light accompanied by the scream at the end could be an accident or fire or something in the owner’s house (note the rabbit’s lack of reaction - they don’t understand what’s going on).
Also, note that some rabbits leave the home more frequently than others - Jack leaves constantly, Jane tends to wander out of the room sometimes, and Suzie barely moves from her spot. This could be the child picking favourites - his favourite is the boy rabbit, and so he likes to take him out to play with him a lot. He also likes to spend time with one of the females, but the second female isn’t very friendly and likes to stay where she is, so the child just leaves her there.

The third and final theory I want to look at is that this is meant to be a dark parody of modern pop culture and entertainment, specifically television sitcoms. These three rabbits are trapped in this lifeless world where nothing is happy, nothing is logical, and they’re in complete misery. And yet we can hear people laughing and applauding this. Why? Because that’s what people want to see; suffering.
Think about it. Some of the most well-known sitcoms are based around the suffering of others. Watch an episode of Fawlty Towers, look at the amount of ridiculous stress Basil is put through.
Take a look at Blackadder, look at the shit Edmund has to put up with, and how Baldrick seems to randomly get punched by everyone he meets.
Even animated internet cartoons. Leo and Satan is based around the Devil himself and all the trouble he gets this little child into. Eddsworld sees these four innocent characters and how they constantly have to deal with zombies, demons and vampires, etc. Dick Figures is full of Red being destructive at Blue’s expense, Happy Tree Friends is full of cute little animals being mutilated, the list goes on and on.
This is you. You sick bastard.

I think it’s apparent that the thing people want to see is suffering and misery. So that’s what Rabbits does; it spits in the face of shows like this and shows them exactly what we’re being entertained by. Now, as for the other elements..
The nonsensical conversations? Probably a take on how sitcoms never make sense. The audience doesn’t care, once the characters are miserable and we get to watch them suffer more!
The demon head? Well, would you be miserable if this massive demon head appeared and started haunting you? Naturally. So throw in a demon or two, and there ya go, suffering! Yay!
The “man in the green suit”? The director of the show, maybe? The one responsible for their suffering, and the one who will ultimately decide when the show has ended and the rabbits are free to go.
The creepy scream at the end? Possibly the viewer’s sudden realization that what they’re watching is pure evil. 
Also, in the final scene, right after the scream, Suzie says "I wonder who I will be next", and Jack says "Do not forget what I have told you". This could be Suzie's knowledge that there's still more sitcoms to be filmed - she could be wondering what her next character will be. Jack, meanwhile, tells the audience to not forget what they have witnessed, and take this event into account.
Note that the show ends right after this scene - meaning the point has been made and the show can end, leaving the rabbits to be at peace for now and the viewer to just think about what they just witnessed.

And now, finally, let’s have a look at my theory. My interpretation is actually the most simple, and here it is:
This does not make sense. It is not supposed to.
That’s my thought. This show isn’t meant to make sense. I’m willing to bet even David Lynch doesn’t know what he’s doing. You know what I think? I think Lynch was in the mood to make a film, got a case of writers’ block, and decided “Ya know, it would be a lot easier if the audience were making the stories for me.”
And then it hit him: “I know! I’ll encourage the audience to make their own stories!”
And that’s what he did. He made a film that intentionally makes no sense, then sat back and watched as we, the audience, tried to make something out of it. And it worked! Look at all the forums dedicated to analyzing this.
The demon head? No meaning.
The laugh track? No meaning.
The scream? No meaning.
The cut-up script? No meaning.
The rabbits themselves? No meaning.
No meaning whatsoever.

So there you have it. I am open to correction on this, but that is my theory.
On a reviewer’s note, Rabbits is a very interesting piece and you should really check it out. Just don’t watch it at night. Unless it's 4 AM, you're pulling an all-nighter with a friend, and you need a little something to keep you awake. Paul and I learned that the hard way.


  1. i'm one of those people who has to have answers to everything so the pure nonsensical-ness of this film annoyed me. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?! those theories you mentioned are interesting, i'd never considered it was purgatory before but that's brilliant. so yeah, thank you for this!

  2. My own theory (that David Lynch just wanted to be weird for the sake of it) I just came up with out of frustration from thinking about it for so long, haha. So it's not very good obviously, and I doubt I'm even right.

  3. Rabbits is the scariest thing I've ever seen as well. I spent about a month sleeping mostly with the light on (as an adult), and every once in a while in the years since I still have to do that.

    I'm not overly concerned with the meaning, but I do think Lynch probably has definitive intentions. It doesn't matter to me whether or not those intentions ever become clear.

    You might want to check out the documentary "Lynch". It was streaming on Netflix for a while but I don't know if it is now. It's fantastic, but don't expect "answers" - the documentary is itself like a Lynch film. In that doc, there's a scene where Lynch describes a frightening incident that may very well be part of the inspiration for Rabbits.

    1. I actually happen to be streaming Netflix stuff at the moment, I think I'll go look it up. I haven't come across it yet but then I don't really look through the documentary section often so I don't think I would have anyway. Anyway, thanks!

  4. That's what I thought when I saw this. Lynch has made so many movies which that audience can not possibly hope to make sense of, yet they still try to come up with a meaning.
    So he played a little joke by making something that was completely non-sensical and then set back and enjoyed watching us struggle to find a meaning. In that sense he's a sort of pervert.

  5. No,no,no.......The Real-The Real is so unreal it's unF'ing believable.A drawn out Alice in Wonderland comi-tragedy as we actors take our positions on the stage of The Real life.
    There is no one at the door-male rabbit withdraws into his Self,only ever momentarily, before once more taking his position.At the beginning as the maid completes the triangle, he says 'a coincidence'-but there is no coincidence:they are feeding off one another, as can be adduced near the end when the door to reality is shut.
    It is this same 'reality' which phones,the message rejected.All the while the primal scream of The Self burns through the illusion of The Real.
    But there is something coming,each of them knows it.Male rabbit* is snapping,a murderous insanity will be released-they each allude to it,and each wants it as a release from their torturous drudgery

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. the only TWO things anyone needs to know about RABBITS.

  8. I agree, I think it's not supposed to make any sense. Not every story needs a meaning, especially if it's an art film. Then it could well be just for aesthetic purposes.

  9. When you mentioned how it could be the Rabbit world through an imaginative child's eye, it struck a chord, especially when you said he has them talking in grown-up sounding nonsense, because as a little kid, I wanted to sound more like an adult on the phone to my sister who was in the Air Force. So, one time when talking on the phone, I was saying things like, "Stupid check balanced..." or something like that and I had no idea what I was talking about. I just knew that's what a lot of grown-up talk sounded like.
    Then I thought of the way one of Lynch's short films "Alphabet" was influenced by, I think, a child's (one related to him I think) dream. That one makes the most sense to me. Though, it seems like it could be interpreted in any way. That's one great thing about most Lynch films and shows. You can kind of give your own interpretation. In fact, you're kind of forced to.

  10. If anyone want a transcript just download here. It can be helpful to put the dialogue in the right order.

  11. This came from a YouTube comment I saw on the first episode of Rabbits. Kind of made sense to me, but I would have some corrections.

    "OK please hear me out :) (spoiler alert !!!!)

    Just my interpretation of this movie.

    To me it seems like they are performing a play in hell.
    There is an audience there. Perhaps damned souls, or "demons".
    I thought it was canned laughter at first but that would be on TV. It seems like its in a theater, because the set never changes and it sounds like they are in one.

    It seems cryptic at first but then I rearranged the order of when they say their lines and
    It seems like a married couple who were involved (sexually) with the wife of another man.

    This is the man in the green coat with dark smiling teeth.
    Whenever they mention him and Jane sits down.,
    They all embrace each other in a manner that shows they are fearful of him.

    That being said,

    Every time they have a solo, a match light above the doorway lights up.
    If you listen closely , you will hear them describing their last minutes alive.
    This is the only time they speak in a correct order.
    They all say they somethings wrong and speak of dark smiling teeth.
    They also speak of sirens in the distance which would be the fire department.
    They disappear after every solo performance which to me means they died.
    I think all three died in a fire.

    A fire that was set by a jealous husband.
    He is the guy who knocks on the door from time to time.
    He is the one who calls the house.
    Did you notice how reluctant they were to pick up the phone?

    Another reason I say hell is because something that I imagine represents "Satan" or "the devil" shows up twice, and they all give him a sort of creepy undivided attention.
    As if they worship him and follow his directions.

    These "rabbits".
    Whenever they speak of time, everyone seems to be unsure about it.
    They seem to be lost in time and it never stops raining.
    They speak about the rain as if they expect it to stop.
    I think they are unaware of where they really are.
    They sinned and are now in a perpetual hell , living over they same moments in time.

    over and over.

    Thank you if you read this, I appreciate it."

  12. This article was a pretty interesting read. However, there are a few details I think you could've covered.

    1) The cheering that the audience says every so often. Since I like your first theory the most, maybe the souls in hell could be happy to know that they are stuck in there, and every time one of them enters, it lets them know that they're still in there.

    2) How the 3 rabbits huddle up to each other at the end of the first 2 episodes.

    3) The final 2 episodes where it shows them reciting some strange poem/chant. That could possibly mean that they're being accepted into hell by doing some weird 'ritual'. If that's the case, however, how come only 2 of the characters had that happen to them? This can have multiple interpretations to it. Maybe, the third rabbit wasn't accepted into hell and she is forced to continue to stay down there alone. There are actually numerous interpretations which could come out of this so I'll cut it short here. You can feel free to discuss it yourself if you're interested in doing so.

    4) How there is applause at the end of the 4th episode when one of the rabbits fades away from the screen.

    5) Perhaps, the biggest detail you missed is how a scene from this appears in one of Lynch's later films: "Inland Empire" (2006). I think that "Rabbits" and "Inland Empire" have a connection to each other. I haven't watched "Inland Empire" before so I really can't interpret anything out of it, but I feel like that's a really big part to this. I'd like to see someone cover it.

    Despite what I said, however, this was a very interesting read and you gave me a lot to think about. I'm not a big fan of your theory you provided at the end as it felt a little closed-minded, but it is possible that it was Lynch's intention. Anyways, I haven't been able to find anyone who has put the dialogue in order yet, but I'll continue to look. I might try to do it myself someday. It won't be easy though.

    Anyways, thanks for giving me extra details on this!

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    Movie Scripts > Rabbits (2002)
    Rabbits (2002) Movie Script
    I'm going to find out one day.
    When will you tell it?
    Were there any calls?
    What time is it?
    I have a secret.
    There have been no calls today.
    I am not sure.
    A coincidence.
    Do not forget that today is Friday.
    Where was it?
    I hear someone.
    There is something I would like to say to you, Suzie.
    It must be after 7:00 PM
    I have heard those things being said before.
    I will bet you are both wondering.
    It is still raining.
    I have misplaced it. I am sure of it now.
    All day.
    It was a man in a green suit.
    It may even be later.
    I am going to get them.
    Where was I?
    I only wish that they would go somewhere.
    I almost forgot.
    Were you blonde?
    I could hear it also.
    When it happens, you will know it.
    Something's wrong.
    Smiling teeth.
    Moving wing, fingers.
    Smear of blood.
    Eye opened.
    All wet.
    But in bed.
    Bug in bed, crawling.
    There was a call for you,
    earlier in the day.
    We are not going anywhere.
    I almost forgot.
    I knew that was what happened
    each time I thought about it.
    Are you going to tell?
    It is the rain.
    I was wondering
    when Suzie was going to do that.
    Who was it?
    It must be the rain.
    It is 11:15 PM, it is dark outside.
    Let me tell you.
    I do not think it is the rain.
    He goes to work each morning,
    and then he comes back home each night.
    It may have been a coincidence.
    It did not happen that way.
    Distant siren.
    An old warm rug.
    A dog crawls.
    Something's wrong.
    Something's wrong.
    The dog crawls.
    Lights blown out.
    A wind.
    Smiling teeth.
    A swollen tongue.
    The dog crawls.
    The socket drips.
    Barbed wire.
    Tearing open, red.
    And wiggeling,
    wet dogs.
    Running swollen blue feet.
    Black, old blood.
    Yellow saliva.
    Dark room.
    Broken window.
    Green tear.
    Legs high.
    When did you say that?
    It was the voice of a man.
    I do not think it will be much longer now.
    Where is it that you think I meant?
    I was speaking about the other night.
    I do not know where Jack is.
    I was near the harbor after it happened.
    It was raining.
    It is 8:35 PM.
    Who was on the phone?
    It is still raining.
    It has always been like that.
    When did you go out?
    I have known since I was seven.
    It happens all the time.
    There is no moon tonight.
    I said it looks like it is still raining.
    Where was it exactly, do you remember?
    Is it that late?
    Since then?
    And getting darker.
    An old warm rug.
    A dog crawls.
    Something's wrong.
    The dog crawls.
    Lights blow out.
    A wind.
    Smiling teeth.
    A swollen tongue.
    The dog crawls.
    The socket drips.
    Barbed wire.
    Tearing open, red.
    And wiggeling,
    wet dogs.
    Running swollen blue feet.
    Black, oil blood.
    Yellow saliva.
    Dark room.
    Broken window.
    Band Aid, old grease cotton.
    Grean tear.
    Vinyl knife.
    Steam blood.
    Bugs wiggle on their backs.
    Legs high.
    Ceiling drip.
    Cold distant siren.
    Distant ships.
    Distant ships.
    Distant ships.
    Moving wing.
    Old skin.
    Oil heat.
    Smear of blood.
    Eye opens darkness.
    I saw it too.
    I am not sure.
    I went earlier, when it was just light.
    I need to tell you something.
    It was red.
    Did he say anything?
    You could not do anything?
    No one can know about this.
    It happened to me only once.
    It's past midnight!
    All day.
    There is something here!
    It happened like that earlier.
    Who could have known?
    I heard it too.
    Do not forget what I have told you.
    And then, there it was.
    No. Nothing.
    Well then, it must be very dark.
    It was the man in the green coat.
    I wonder who I will be?