Directed by: David Lynch
Eraserhead (1977) directed by David Lynch, is a tricky film, it is essential an experimental horror film yet it is much more than that. From the start it feels so close to a dream that you forget that it tells the story of Henry Spencer and his journey through fatherhood. It’s been stated that Lynch’s films focus on the human experience and he himself stated that it is about “dark and troubling things” and if you look deep enough you can see that this movie portrays fatherhood as one of those dark and troubling things. He presents fatherhood as if it is this evil thing that will take over your life and not let you have any freedoms. It takes a subject that films usually don’t present in true form. Parenthood is a tricky thing that causes people stress and angst. It is a hard thing to do in life and most movie don’t present it that way. I feel Eraserhead shows it in a more true and somewhat surreal manner. When you look past that part about fatherhood you are still left to wonder about the beginning and much other things involved with the narrative; the woman in the radiator, the man in the planet, and the weird creatures that pop up here and there. These all are key factors to the story even if it is hard to pinpoint their purposes.
Henry Spencer’s (Jack Nance) life is changed when he gets unsettling news about his girlfriend and her premature birth. He is thrust into the role of being a father without a say in the matter. After a few days Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) leaves because she can no longer take the pressure of being a mother to a baby that shouldn’t be alive. This leaves Henry in the role of the lone parent at which point he escapes into his mind so that he can have his moments of peace. This is when Eraserhead turns into a surreal journey through Henry’s mind and his role of being a father. This when the woman in the radiator becomes important. She is clearly a figment of Henry’s imagination and provides him with an outlet of escaping his reality. They are never really seen together until the end when he kills his child but she is a big part of Henry’s escapism. One scene in particular is when the sperm like creatures, which look strangely like his son, come flying out at her and she keeps killing them all. This makes me think that it is Henry dreaming of a way to end the life of the creature that is his son. It is a heavy scene that gained a few laughs but shows just how much Henry hates being a father. That also brings it back to the beginning when the shot of Henry is superimposed to have the sperm like creature come out of his mouth. It once again shows just how much his son looks like said creature and his disposition with the creature and his son.
Most of the imagery of Eraserhead represents the mind of Henry and what he wants in life, it’s why he has weird sex with his next door neighbor. It is all him trying to escape the life that he is presently living, which it’s an unhappy one. He wants a life worth living and he is stuck raising the son of woman no longer present in the movie. Now some of the images don’t necessarily represent his terrible life or the sounds but the underlying them, in my opinion, is fatherhood and how it isn’t what people expect of it. Lynch himself said the movie was about dark and troubling thing, I think it refers to the fear of fatherhood and how it affects one’s mentality. Eraserhead is more than just a horror movie with a shocking finale but also a good analogy for fatherhood, industrialism, and dreams and there is still alot about this movie that no one will ever know. It is a movie that every time you watch it you find something new and more interesting than the last viewing and is also why the movie will be able to stand the test of time and affect people now as it did in 1977.
Eraserhead is a true life passion project. David Lynch spent nearly four years making this movie and you can see the love that David Lynch had for the subject. The direction is superb and is something that is replicated in any of David Lynch’s other films.
The story is compelling and really is masterfully told. It requires the viewer to think and observe what really is going on. The mysterious beginning doesn’t provide a single explanation for what is going on and only makes the movie more interesting. The man in the planet can be interpreted as a god like creature controlling the fate of Henry and the rest of the characters within the movie. The sound design of the movie is really interesting. It makes for an interesting experience and makes it seem that there is something much more sinister going on on the outside of Henry’s world. These things are what make this movie even more mysterious. There is always something else going on in this world that isn’t even explored. Lynch is able to hide his true intentions and makes for an incredibly surreal experience. Nothing is as it seems and that is the movies true power.
Criterion’s release is breathtaking and their most anticipated this year. The packaging alone is simply beautiful and the picture is the best that Eraserhead has looked. The features are plenty and give you a thorough look at the making of this movie. I could recommend this movie more and is worth the price of a Criterion blu ray.