Producer: David Lynch
Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Jeanne Bates
David Lynch's Eraserhead is an American surrealist film set in the 1950’s in a depressed industrial town. The main character is a young man called Henry who has been trapped into marriage through an ‘unwanted pregnancy’. However this is not a run of the mill love story or tragedy. David Lynch brings all Henry's nightmares and fears to life in the most disgusting and disturbing way without bounds. As Cruz points out: 'Eraserhead is a film of disturbing beauty and harsh reality. These two things may seem to cancel out, but in the talented hands of director/writer David Lynch, the film takes us on a twisted carousel trip through the human psyche and the troubled conditions of the soul.' (Cruz.2005)
Courtship, marriage and fatherhood are depicted as mans’ worst fears, which is what the film emphasizes by using a variety of symbolisms. The film starts with a scene of an industrial wasteland, a grey city which looks very dusty and gloomy (FIG.2). The city is instantly regarded as a concrete jungle, a grim and depressing place which gives no hope of joy or light. It's barren and lifeless.
Although black and white the film brings out great detail. Henry is walking quickly along the street with extreme anxiety as if he's being chased by someone. He looks very insignificant against the overbearing buildings. The audience quickly reads him as freak for a lot of reasons including the Frankenstein style haircut , his emotionless gaze into space and his slow, monologue speech. However, his body language can’t hide his anxiety and nervousness. The film quickly introduces the viewer to his recent affair through the ripped photograph of Mary. He is now forced to live up to his responsibilities and symbolically ‘put the pieces back together’.(FIG.3)
The moment when Henry first confronts the impending changes in his life is when he's invited to eat with his future in-laws.The whole situation was awkward. Mary’s parents’ conversation was hard to follow, with long pauses and spurts of weird, out of context stories. Henry remained silent and could not participate in any conversation. The father mentioned something about cutting off his numb hand and immediately asked Henry to ‘cut the chicken’- a sick connection which was followed by the mother’s moaning. The leg movements of the chicken and the fluid flowing of the chicken could be an innuendo of the mother’s sexual appetite which was later revealed when she tried to seduce Henry. Mary was silent through the whole meal, only coming to life when her mother told Henry about their premature baby. Henry is now forced to get married and completely change his life. Even thought the situation left the viewer with loads of questions it obvious how Lynch was trying to depict the scene through Henry’s worried eyes.
The couple move into a cramped apartment with their whining baby(FIG.5). The baby is more of an animal, with shiny, hairless skin with a long neck and a small body wrapped in bandages. Henry feels disgusted by the result of his love and perhaps a symbol of his failed marriage. Mary feels trapped by her alien-like off spring which refuses to eat and keeps her awake all night long. Frustrated, she leaves Henry to cope with his child. Henry, being under pressure by the child’s presence, starts having hallucinations which uncover his desires and fears. The images are revaulting like worms, intestines and internal bodyparts. In most of these women were seen as a trap if he gave in to his temptation.
In conclusion, Eraserhead is a very interesting yet too offbeat, slow film to watch.' (Snider.2008).It needs to be very intensively observed and requires a strong stomach. The lack of dialogue keeps the viewer waiting but leaves him to draw his own conclusion about the message David Lynch is trying to convey.'For Eraserhead is not simply a movie to view, but a true cinematic experience, like jumping into someone's nightmare and seeing it from their perspective.' ( Farrow.2007).
Jose Cruz (2005) Film Review http://classic-horror.com/reviews/eraserhead_1977 (accessed on 29/12/2010)
JEFarrow(2007) Film Review http://www.gnostics.com/eraserhead.html (accessed on 29/12/2010)
John C.Snider (2008) Film Review http://www.scifidimensions.com/May08/eraserhead.htm(accessed on 29/12/2010)
List of Illustrations
FIG.1: Film Poster http://home.comcast.net/~othastar/DavidLynch.html (accessed on 19/12/2010)
FIG.2: Film Still http://vamseekamana.blogspot.com/2009/10/david-lynch.html(accessed on 19/12/2010)
FIG.3: Film Still captured on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZGeTG1qQd0&feature=related (accessed on 28/12/2010)
FIG.4: Film Still http://gametz.com/Review/1007.html (accessed on 27/12/2010)
FIG.5: Film Still http://cruelanimal.blogspot.com/2005_09_01_archive.html (accessed on 29/12/2010)