Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead is a 1970’s Surrealist film written, directed and produced by David Lynch and starring Jack Nance as Henry Spencer. It is also worth noting as the only known film in existence that took me a few minutes to stare blankly at the screen after the film ended and comprehend what I just watched… and still felt confused. The tagline “Where your nightmares end” is an enormous understatement.

The film, from what I’ve managed to understand so far, is set within an industrial era in a declining and deteriorating urban area. Henry is invited by his girlfriend to have dinner with her and her family, and is then told is pregnant. Empire Online’s review has “The central conceit of boy-meets-girl-has-mutant-baby is still the stuff of American Gothic nightmares and Lynch's repertoire of soft squelches, thin skins, horrible blobs and panicky gestures remains an enduring archetype of puritan sexual disgust.”(Beard 2006) The rest of the movie is following Henry as he tries to cope with taking care of the mutant baby, as well as some of the more surrealistic situations the audience follows with him, such as his dreams of the lady who lives in his radiator, who at one point appeared to be enjoying stamping on fetuses.

Fig. 1

Eraserhead stand out significantly for me for one notable reason, its surrealism pushes the bounds of what can be achieved within cinema, by far. The BBC’s Film review says that “This is a film so consumed with surreal imagery that there are almost limitless possibilities to read personal theories into it.”(Haflidason 2001) Before this film I thought surrealism could only be deployed as an element within the misc-en-scene of a film, a notable example being The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Eraserhead shattered conceptions of how anomalous a director can be. Throwing out generic horror flicks’ usual scare tactics, Lynch manages to create a sense of discomfort within the audience throughout the movie, and paces it very well.

Fig. 2

And that is where this film lies in-between, Surrealism and Horror. David Lynch manages to create the stuff of nightmares, and then charges people money to see it. Film 4’s review says “David Lynch had well and truly arrived as one of America's boldest and most original explorers of the shadowy subconscious, unfolding a narrative of knotted dreams and darkest desires.”(Bitel 2008) As far as I’ve seen, no one goes as far as David Lynch’s Eraserhead in terms of creating a simple plot concept of boy-meets-girl-has-baby and twists every detail so far into the irregular and unknown that the audience is left without any sort of concise explanation for what they’ve watched. The parts that stuck within my mind particularly were the girlfriend’s oddly-upbeat father and bleeding chicken dinner, the stomping of foetuses which appeared to drop the sky (as well as get thrown onto the wall), Henry’s head popping off and the baby’s head appearing in place along with a tree, and the exquisite yet dismaying killing of the baby with a scissors causing it to spurt out what appeared to be far more oatmeal than its bodyweight could have possibly had.

Fig. 3

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. The Mutant-Baby

Fig. 2. Henry, our Hero

Fig. 3. One of the more surrealistic scenes


EmpireOnline Reviews - Eraserhead (18)
Author: Steve Beard
Dec 30, 2006
(Accessed on 18.01.10)

BBC MOVIES Review - Eraserhead (1977)
Author: Almar Haflidason
16 January 2001
(Accessed on 18.01.10)

Film4 Eraserhead Review
Author: Anton Bitel
Sep 3, 2008
(Accessed on 18.01.10)

No comments:

Post a Comment