The Amputee (1974) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • In this plotless 5 minute short, Catherine Coulson plays a legless double-amputee who, throughout the film, is going over a letter she is writing. She makes marks on the letter, and we hear a voice-over of her reading through it. The letter is a sort of mini soap opera; she writes about things happening among a group of her acquaintances, about feelings, about who said certain offensive or endearing things. Very quickly, the droning monotony of Coulson's letter becomes a background noise which gets lost in the actions of her nurse, played by David Lynch. Lynch enters after a minute or so in a nurse costume, his hair in a long ponytail flipped over one shoulder. He begins readying his instruments, then unwraps one of Coulson's stumps. He snips away at something in the wound, probably stitches, though it sounds like he's cutting thick wire. He uses a sort of syringe to flush the wound with water and has a rubber ball that works like a turkey baster to suck fluid out of the wound. Coulson continues with her letter, paying no attention to any of this. After a minute or so of absurdist tension, Lynch turns away to empty the rubber ball, and we hear the suddenly very funny, very organic, squish-and-suck sound of the ball expelling the liquid. The stump begins to bleed freely, and Lynch dabs it with a handful of cotton balls. One of the balls sticks to the stump as he turns away, pulls out a towel, then shoves the towel under the stump. Blood pours down, soaking the towel. Lynch works frantically, trying to stop the bleeding. Then blood begins to spurt straight out of the wound, Python-style. Lynch jumps up and disappears, as though he has gone for help. And Coulson continues with her letter, intent on making a very important point about a certain something that someone either did or did not do to her or, perhaps, to someone else entirely.

  • Two versions of the same story are told. They surround a woman whose legs are amputated above the knees, and whose stumps are being attended to by a male nurse while she writes a letter concerning some interrelationships gone wrong. In the first version, the letter is meandering in its quality while the nurse in general is clinically efficient in his tasks. In the second version, the letter is equally as meandering but in a different way, while the nurse is having problems dealing with what is happening with the stumps.

  • A double leg amputated woman sits and writes a long meandering letter while her ineffective nurse attempts to attend to her stumps.


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