For me Lynch - together with Tsukamoto - opened up the doors to a cinematic world beyond the realm of pure commercial film making. Tsukamoto's Tetsuo and Lynch's Eraserhead were two defining films in my choice to become a die-hard film fan. Through the years Lynch became a bit more laid-back and commercial-minded, but when he released Rabbits he was finally able to top his first feature film. The result is as captivating as it is alienating.
Rabbits is not so much a feature film, but a series of 8 web episodes that were originally released on Lynch's membership site. Each episode features a simple opening sequence and a short list of credits. Lynch used pieces of these episodes in his next film Inland Empire, at the same time "people" re-edited the episodes to a single (short)film. Hence the reason why it eventually found its way into my list of 100 favorite movies.
Approaching Rabbits like a traditional film is virtually impossible. There is no clear storyline, there is no meaningful dialogue. The music is a continuous repetition of the same track and Lynch applies only one camera position for the whole series of episodes. And yet, through the magic of cinema, the film remains interesting and captivating through its entire running time.
The story/dialogue of the film appears to be coherent viewed throughout its entirety. But instead of keeping them in sync, Lynch seems to have randomized them completely. One characters say a line, the next replies with something completely unrelated. By the end of the film some lines seem to have referred to question posed 20 minutes earlier, but no clear explanation is given. I guess someone with a lot time could attempt to piece everything back together, I just never cared enough.
Rabbits was one of Lynch's first digital projects, which might be the reason why he kept things very simple. The film is shot from one single camera position, there are two different effect shots/lighting twists and one single edit. It's funny how this single edit feels like quite the event within a film that is filmed from one static viewpoint, even though the edit itself is actually quite trivial and boring.
Saying Rabbits is boring cinema, art for art's sake, is actually pretty hard to contest. For me it's the soundtrack that pulls everything together and turns it into a worthwhile experience. Badalamenti's works for Lynch is typically superb (and in that sense reminds me of Oshii-Kawai collaborations), but here Badalamenti has really outdone himself. From the first notes the single music track has a hold on me and the music doesn't let go until each short is finished. If there's one film that illustrates the power of music in cinema, it's this one. Also worth of note is the laugh track edited underneath the shorts. It's completely random but it works and gives the film an even weirder atmosphere.
As for acting performances, there is not much to say. Lynch reuses his Mulholland Drive cast (Coffey, Watts, Harring and Del Rio), dresses them up in big rabbit costumes and has them deliver lines in a rather monotone voice. It's weird, it's cool, but it's not much of a performance. And that's about all there is really.
Rabbits is emotional cinema. It is something you experience rather than understand. Sure after a while several snippets of conversation might gel together, but the overarching mystery never becomes clear, let alone that some form of explanation follows. The mystery is established through the music, the visuals and the async dialogue, and that it does extremely well.
If this sounds boring to you Rabbits is probably not worth the trouble of pursuing. It's a simple, one-trick project that offers very little in the form of tangible content. On the other hand it's superbly captivating and extremely mysterious, unlike any other film I know. A prime illustration of why cinema is such a magical beast, even if we know and realize how certain things are accomplished. Recommended, though it should be approached with caution.