The folks at Subversive cinema continue their release of David Lynch exclusives with this collection of the 8 animated Dumbland shorts. Previously only available to subscribers of Lynch’s website, the DVD edition collects the films together for 30 odd minutes of enough sick and twisted animation to even make Spike and Mike blush.
It seems almost pointless to critique the episodes included in this collection without at least allowing Mr. Lynch to make comment on their conceptuality. So with that in mind, the following statement precedes the DVD release and also appears as a disclaimer on Mr. Lynch’s website.
“Dumbland is a crude, stupid, violent, absurd series. If it is funny, it is funny because we see the absurdity of it all. ” –D.L.
It is hardly practical to argue with the creator of a series about its pointlessness when by his own admission the series is “stupid and absurd”. Given that introductory qualification, I found that Lynch’s Dumbland may be absurd and extremely violent, but it is far from stupid. The animation is of the most rudimentary level and each episode only runs about 5 minutes. Although there are no “Frog Baseball” type of breakouts my favorite episode and arguable the most accessible has to be “Ants” which simply looks at the mass of dysfunction that can occur while trying to kill off the everyday household pests.
Lynch essentially populates the nuclear family at the center of Dumbland with nothing more than an assortment of tics and vulgarities. The mother figure is a frizzled mess of nerves who does little, other than cower in fear of her overbearing nightmare of a husband at every possible moment. The child is very nearly a sperm with legs and arms whose sole purpose is to spout repetitive unintelligible dialogue, while the father is a collection of the most disgusting traits associated with the trailer park mentality, belching, farting, berating his wife and kid in a manner that is so extreme that it borders on farce. However, Dumbland is not the biting social satire of Matt Goering or Mike Judge. It is for all intents and purposes, a Lynchian nightmare of surrealist anarchy. Devoid of recognizable emotion and ingrained with the worst characteristics of the human condition, Dumbland is in essence Lynch at his most primordial, commenting on the meaninglessness and pointlessness of social acceptance and consumerism while skewering the American family as mind numbing idiots prone to oblivious acts of violence.
The DVD is barebones, which should come as no surprise to the owners of Lynch’s Eraserhead and Short Films discs. Though some may argue that a commentary track from the master might clear up his views and comments on society, it is my contention that you get out of Dumbland what you put into it and exposition over intention would only serve to undermine the physical and mental immediacy of the episodes. Sure Dumbland is rude, crude and utterly devoid of any societal mores, but it is that very collection of brutality which makes it all the more enjoyable as a true piece of revolutionary seditious satire.