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In film school it is not cool to say you like David Lynch. Film students
claim he is just a poor mans version of Luis Bunuel. Yes, I would say that
Bunuel is more talented and is the king of surrealism. But Lynch is very
good and his films do challenge the viewer. I actually have a deep affection
for his films. When his films work, they really work! However, when they do
not work, for example, Twin Peaks, Fire, Walk with Me or Lost Highway then
they quickly launch themselves into self parody. Many people claim his
material is too inconsistent and indulgent to be really liked very much.
What I find strange is that one reviewer here states that he feel duped by Lynch. Duped? Why? The films all have a story. They just have a narrative that works differently to conventional film making. If you look hard at the film and try to understand the subtext then you will pick up on what the film is about.
I saw this when I was 16. I knew nothing about films or film making then. A friend and I were bored so we decided to see a movie at capitol cinema. Capitol cinema used to be a cinema that played arty or small independent films. They used to play midnight showings of eraserhead. There was always someone smoking a joint in that place. However, you don't need drugs for this film. Lynch is drugs. This film just buzzes you out.
I had no idea what Eraserhead was about. I had never heard of Lynch and knew nothing about surrealism. I went in and was just totally blown away! Before this I had only really seen commercial blockbuster movies. Lynch gave me a whole knew perspective on what cinema is capable of. Eraserhead is the stuff of dreams. Lynch believes that watching a film is entering a dream state. Both my friend and I did not know what the hell was going on. I was fascinated...
Later I would learn this is a film about Lynch's own obsessions. His hatred of Philadelphia. His fear and anxiety at being a father. The film is just full of a kind of a compulsive, paranoid neurosis. It is a waking nightmare. He also seems to parody the nuclear family. 'Did you have sexual intercourse with my daughter?' Meanwhile that weird blond woman in his radiator seems to represent his escape. A way to transcend from his grim world. What I also find bizarre is that people then accuse him of having no sense of humor! What? There are always funny moments in his films. 'Did you have sexual intercourse with my daughter?'
Jack Nance is also very good as the main character. He seems to be playing the director and he gives a performance that is distant, spaced out and yet emotionally vulnerable. A really strange mix. The imagery is just brilliant. Black and white in an industrial wasteland. There is smoke here of course. It wouid not be a Lynch film without smoke! It also has a cool, grating industrial soundtrack that sets your nerves on edge. This is perfectly effective for the bleak tone of the film. It is so visually striking that the viewer will not forget the imagery quickly. There is a reason that this is a cult film. The other distinctive feature of this film is the long lingering shots. This reminds me of Jim Jarmusch and his movies like Dead Man and Ghost Dog. The length of the shots seems to have the effect of immersing the viewer in this strange industrial wasteland.
I have my own copy that I lend to friends. They then normally give it back to me saying that they only got through the first half hour. They also normally tell me that I am a weirdo for liking it. I think what frustrates people most about Lynch is that he will not give any explanations of what the film is about. So any interpretation is as good as any other. People want the film to be explained so they can understand it. Who said films must be understood or comprehensible? Why can't a film be abstract piece of art like a painting? Lynch's films are like an acid trip. To quote the great gonzo, Hunter S Thompson, 'buy the ticket, take the ride and if it gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, then put it down to forced consciousness expansion.'
So in other words, relax, stick it on and just run with it. Travel into someone else's nightmare for a change...
I sometimes dream of waking to a completely dark world, a world with no
sunlight and minimal artificial light. My vision is blurred, but there
is nothing to see. The streets are virtually empty, and my friends and
family are lifeless; sitting, standing or even walking, but with
nothing to do or say, and nowhere to go. No questions are asked because
there is nothing to learn, nothing is discussed because nothing is
interesting. And it is this dismal reality I am faced with, only
partially aware that there is anything better.
The existence I dream of is somewhat reminiscent of the world of Henry Spencer, the main character in Eraserhead, who becomes father to a hideously deformed baby. That's what the film is about at face value, but the very style in which it is portrayed is the real beauty of it. The setting and scenery makes the film one of the most desperately depressing I have ever seen. And although Henry seems to be devoid of any spark of personality, we can't help but sympathise with him throughout the film.
Similar to my dream, the only form of light is artificial, the streets are virtually empty, and the only person in the entire film who has any personality is the father-in-law, and the only thing he has to talk about is his poor health. He also seems to be the only one with any link to better times. ("I've watched this city turn from pastures to the hell-hole it is now.") The city they live in is completely industrialized, and the only plant life seen is dead, and in a pile of soil on Henry's bedside table.
Some have suggested it is based after a nuclear holocaust, but nothing is explained to any conclusion. One of the beauties of this film is that it practically begs the viewer to decide for themselves what any of it means, and there are many theories. I warn you not to read the message board of Eraserhead before you see the film, as it is so much more powerful and chilling to experience it first-hand.
The first time I saw Eraserhead, I was completely confused. It is possible that David Lynch just put a load of random imagery together and called it a film. Maybe he wanted the viewers to put it all together and make their own sense of it (or not). On the other hand, there might actually be a set formula behind it and only the very open-minded and discerning audience can properly decipher it.
One viewing of Eraserhead is enough to raise about a dozen questions, and to leave you gasping for answers. Two viewings are probably enough to give you theories about some of the cryptic depictions hauntingly portrayed. Three viewings might be enough to give you a completely different set of theories, battling persistently against your previous conceptions, but still leaving just a few details that don't quite seem to fit in. The truth is that there may be parts that don't make sense in one interpretation, but fit in perfectly to another. You could probably watch Eraserhead several times, and each time see a slightly different story. Or if you were to ask six different people exactly what Eraserhead is about, you would get six different answers, each equally correct in their own right, and each equally confused.
That being said, this definitely isn't a film for everyone. This is the first Lynch film I have seen, and it certainly won't be the last. But there will no doubt be many who see this purely as a lot of clever mind tricks and special effects (for its time, anyway.) There will be those who don't like much to think about, and want it all explained bit by bit in perfect detail. Well, Eraserhead is an epitome of everything such moviegoers will hate. I will say this for certain: If your favourite films are 'Love Actually' or 'Dude, Where's My Car?', you probably won't get much out of Eraserhead. But for those who like their concepts challenged once in a while, this film will probably be one to watch again and again until you understand. This is also not a film to be forgotten easily. Love it or hate it, Eraserhead will stay with you for a very long time.
I can think of very few films that have sound as their most commendable
feature. The Exorcist is one, a film that, aside from infrequent strains of
`Tubular Bells', adopts minimal incidental music. This is laudable in a
horror genre where shocks are clearly signposted and predicted by
overgenerous musical stings. The Exorcist may be flawed, but its avoidance
of this field cliché is worthy of praise.
Eraserhead is the other film that excels in sound. A frankly disturbing concoction of industrial score and white noise with undercurrents of musical hall and sonorous church organ, it is almost an extra character in the film, and easily it's most prominent factor.
Yet Eraserhead is to be recommended for more than its incidentals. An impenetrable and gloomy work, what is it actually about? Who is the credited `man in the planet' who pulls levers that control giant spermatozoa? Many questions like this permeate a film which perhaps has to be seen several times to get over the initial shock of it's avant gardism. Lynch extracts the everyday and supplants it with the exceptionally bizarre. The experience of meeting a girlfriend's parents for the first time is never worse than here, where the parents in question gyrate spasmodically to the animated legs of a blood-spitting chicken. It's these scenes along with the deformed mutant baby that could lend the film the air of an abortion debate. Birth and repressed sexuality thrive throughout the film, from suckling puppies to the seductive appeal of the `beautiful girl across the hall' and a mother-in-law that gets too close for comfort. I guess the entire film could be a man's mental breakdown when faced with the premature responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood. Though to be honest I couldn't even begin to imagine what it's really all about.
Encroaching blackness fills every scene, where lights are intermittent at best, and at worse fail completely. Often sets particularly the bedroom when `Mary X' is feeding the child are like prison cells. Two of the most eerie segments involve a title-explaining dream (?) where Henry's (Nance's) head is carved into pencil rubbers and an unsettling musical number from the `lady in the radiator'. This is the same lady with two candyfloss-like lumps on her cheeks that alternates her stage appearances between stamping on giant sperm to singing with religious convictions.
Direction and cinematography are brilliant throughout, though the climax is the ultimate extension of a film that borders on darker, extremely unpleasant aspects of reality. I took a girl to see this film once, where the conclusion formed the final straw in what could be seen as a cycle of repellent imagery. I wonder why I never saw her again?
I've watched Eraserhead countless times. In theaters. Off of the
infamous Japanese-subtitled VCR copy. Off of the recent Lynch
re-release. From around the late 70s onward. Yes, that long.
I have friends who won't let me recommend movies to them any more.
Anyway, the capsule summary, "Can't be summarized," is pretty close.
First, it is not a movie. It is not a film.
It is a piece of art.
All of the comments I read that attempt to describe it as a movie fail for precisely that reason. If you read the ones that can handle it, they handle it as an art review.
So don't even think of it as a movie. Don't recommend it as a movie. It doesn't work.
I'll also admit that I sat in a haze for decades, absorbed in the imagery. In awe of the impressions. And finally, an image crystallized, an image of what this was a portrait of. (And, of course, I expect this image may change with repeated viewings...) And as I watch it, with this in mind, a continuity appears.
We are living in hell, we just don't realize it.
I'm always a bit worried when I'm about to express my love towards this
movie by the genius director David Lynch... I figure it's the perfect
indicator for psychiatrists to claim that you're completely nuts :)
But what the heck, they're a lot of nutballs on this website, so I can speak my mind freely. Indeed, I love this movie...although 'love' may be a wrong term to describe my feelings towards it. This movie 'fascinates' me is a much better saying. Usually, a movie is something in which you can live yourself in...in order to escape the stress of real life. Eraserhead is the exact opposite of that ! When watching this film, you can only hope that you'll never awake in the wold like Lynch shows it here. The horrible noises, the colorless and tasteless locations and the insensible characters...you all hate to love it. Eraserhead takes a walk with your emotions, you don't know whether to be disgusted or intrigued by it. So you'll feel uncomfortable when watching it and that's a wonderful experience for a cinema freak !
Eraserhead is the ultimate cult film in my opinion and a must see for every fan of this delicious genre. In fact, I would go so far to say you can't call yourself a cult-freak if you haven't seen it yet.
David Lynch begins his highly impressive career with this one and it still lives on. Eraserhead isn't his best film at all ( certainly not when it comes to storyline ) but it's his most deep and personal tale. 25 years old and still the "weirdest" film ever. That's an achievement, certainly with all this artistic filmmakers lately...or, at least, they try to be...)
I want to encourage as much people as possible to see this one, but it's for the best that some groups of people avoid it. Surely not recommended if you're depressed or suicidal...The image of Jack Nance and the rest of the cast could even put you more down, I think. The tagline of this movie - "In heaven, everything looks fine" - could become a stimulus, I'm afraid. Pregnant women and young couples in love should beware as well !! This film is the ultimate nightmare for that what should be the greatest miracle of life...The hideous but yet harmless "baby" ( I really don't know how I should call it, actually )is the purest form of horror that ever occurred on the screen.
You must have respect for director David Lynch. If you imagine how hard it must have been to create and finance this production. But it worked...hell, even comedy legend Mel Brooks was deeply impressed. Based on this film, he decided to let Lynch direct "The Elephant Man" a few years later. By that, David's career was launched and of course he made a masterpiece out of it. For me personally, his highlights were the 80's with terrific movies like "Blue Velvet", "Dune" ( very underrated, in my opinion) and "Wild at Heart" at the end of the decade. And let's not forget the best TV-series ever made: "Twin Peaks".
Please, watch this movie !! Three times in a row if possible. I know a lot of people who just stopped watching it after half and hour ( or less ) and yelled "What the f*** is this ???". Real shame, if you ask me. It's an insight to a great mind and a unique event. If you really don't see the magic of it, at least try to admire the very stylish haircut of the main character. I'm thinking of doing the same thing with mine...
How frightening. How unnerving. What a spectacular piece of film-making. I saw the film for the first time with a tiresome former colleague who kept turning to me and whispering : "Please exhale" "Are you breathing?" "Please breathe" or "Please stop breathing" I wanted to run away but I couldn't I was glued, stacked, hooked. The world of David Lynch is made of kindly horrors, normal monsters, poetic nightmares. I wonder what planet is he from. I think it would important to know so we can all avoid it. That's what any average Joe may say because every average Joe, me included, finds something familiar in this fascinating, peculiar, horrifying vision of the world. You want to close your eyes, but you can't. Even if you could, you still can hear. the whimpering of the thing, the child, the figment of David Lynch's imagination. How can you recommend a nightmare to a friend? Well you must, if friendship involves sharing every possible experience. "Earserhead" will put you to the test in a way no other film has ever done. Go! I dare you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, let me say that Eraserhead is not a film for everyone. Many
people will find themselves confused by the strange atmosphere, surreal
imagery, and signature David Lynch sense of purposefully awkward
That out of the way, I would have to say that this is possibly one of my most personal favorite films. It is dark, tense, atmospheric, and filled with sounds and images that will send chills up your spine. It is a film that takes more than one viewing to truly begin to comprehend, but is quite a ride nontheless. There are moments in this movie that will literally scare you, so much so that one could almost call this eerie surreal art-film a deconstructed domestic horror movie. This film, along with the original black and white Night of the Living dead, are two of the only films in existance that still scare me to this day. (Side note: Also, I reccomend that you see Luis Bunuel's movie "Un Chien Andalou" to see where strange art-films like this originated from.)
Anyway, the film's plot while initially incomprehensible to most, can be broken down into the tragic tale of a man named Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) stuck in a dark decaying city overrun by industry. During the film, he is forced to deal with the prospect of taking care of an illegitimate premature child birthed by his girlfriend, Mary X. (Charlotte Stewart) However, he is consumed by his guilt, and begins to comprehend suicide as a way out. But the story is told through such a swirling mixture of dreamlike imagery that this is not always readily apparent.
However, in order to better understand and appreciate the film, one must figure out what each of the images mean. Here's a short cliff notes guidline to some of the more common recurring images in the movie:
***THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS***
Worm = sin. These creatures appear all throughout the movie. Henry even tries to hide his "little" sin from Mary at one point, only to have a nightmare where Mary is consumed by worms. Henry's room is also filled with piles dirt and dead plants as one might notice, which makes his room a breeding ground for worms.
The Baby = The product of sin. You might have noticed that the baby looks an awful lot like a worm. Futhermore, the baby is a part of Henry, and later during the dream sequence, we discover that Henry IS the baby. When Henry kills the baby, he kills himself.
Eraser = Memories. Henry feels that his memories, or his brain with his bad memories, is like an eraser that needs to be rubbed out. In his dream sequence, he sees himself losing his head, and having his brains turned into eraser bits to be rubbed out and blown into dust on the wind.
The lady in the radiator = Death. Death looks grotesque, yet strangely appealing to poor Henry. The radiator gives off warmth and seems to become a stage where death performs for Henry, promising to stamp out his sins (worms) and telling him that "in heaven, everything is fine." At the end of the movie, Henry embraces the lady in the radiator before blackness falls.
The man in the planet = God. In addition to disposing of Henry's cofessed sins at the beginning of the movie (the worm coming out of Henry's mouth) the scarred man in the planet appears to prevent Henry from opting for suicide during his dream sequence. He silently reminds Henry of his sacrifice (the bleeding tree) though it is in vain as Henry shows God what he really is underneith. (the baby)
The last is a theme that occurs in all Lynch movies:
Electricity and electrical lighting = The presence of good. Darkness = The presence of evil.
There are other aspects of the film that keep popping up, such as the reocurrence of the unlucky number thirteen. Henry waits thirteen seconds for the elevator to open up, the lady across the hall takes thirteen seconds to appear, Henry's apartment numbers add up to the number thriteen, etc. Also, there are many other images which I will let you figure out on your own.
***END OF SPOILERS***
All in all, the movie is quite an experience. This is a film that you will either love or utterly hate. For myself, I managed to "click" with the movie from the first time I saw it and have enjoyed it since. Repeated viewings only add to the enjoyment of the film, as you begin to notice more and more that you never saw before. All in all, I say that it is an excellent and extremely layered film.
With that, I give you some fun facts about the movie:
-The pencil eraser machine actually worked. It was put together by Lynch and a friend of his.
-To this day, Lynch will still not disclose how he constructed the amazingly convincing baby creature, though he claims is was created with substance/objects that anyone could find around the house.
-Jack Nance's hair was incredibly malleable. Literally, all it took was a little bit of trimming on either side of his head and some combing to get it to stand upright.
-In order to get a better sense of textures for the film (possibly for the organs of the baby) Lynch dissected a dead cat.
-When driving around town with the "Henry hair" Jack Nance would sit in the center seat while Lynch and someone else would sit on either side to keep his gravity-defying hair from being seen.
Let's say it right here and now: David Lynch is a genius. I don't care if you love him or hate him, you can't take away that simple fact. "Eraserhead" is his masterpiece -- the most original and personal film ever created by any film maker. It's as far from the forgettable fluff of mainstream Hollywood as you can get, and as weird as it is, it strikes a chord deep in the human psyche. I don't think anyone could experience this film without being deeply moved. This beautiful, industrial nightmare comes as close to depicting a fever dream as any film ever could, or ever will! David Lynch pulled out all the stops to make "Eraserhead" as perfect as any film can be, and it shows. It is a great work of art in its own right. The characters and setting are unforgettable, and are as strange as they are familiar. The story is slow-moving, but steadily builds with the fury of a small hurricane. The film walks a tightrope somewhere between the reality of the world we know, and "someplace else." Where that is, only David Lynch knows for sure. Lynch is a fine example of a film maker who isn't afraid to take huge risks. That's how masterpieces are made. "Eraserhead" is the proof.
You have to dissect it, watch it more than once, eat, breathe it and live it before you can get it. There are lots of explanations for all of the things that "make no sense"... it's art in it's purest form - you take away from it what you want! You can see Henry struggling with suddenly being thrust into the role of father and husband, his sin, his temptation, his life, his death, his dreams... too much symbolism to even get into here... anyone who dismisses this film as "junk that makes no sense" will never get it, and that's OK. But for the rest of us, it's on our "Top Ten Films of All Time" list. Brilliant and beautiful and horrifying! Makes you think for weeks... YEARS. I love it. Highly recommended to those who are open-minded! AMAZING FILM!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When on the hunt for cult films, this one should not be overlooked.
Filmed over the course of five years (1972-1977), this film is the very
first full-length masterpiece of artist David Lynch. I say artist
because he began not as a director, but an art student. Finding canvas
too confining, he moved on celluloid, eventually moving on to AFI to
fund his script 'Eraserhead'. According to Lynch, the film was inspired
largely by his stay in Philadelphia. To know how he views it, the film
must be seen.
The script itself was only 21 pages long, so it was assumed to be roughly a 21 minute movie; most people wouldn't expect that the film would be a living, breathing piece of art.
The elements of the film cannot even be understood by film scholars. Lynch himself has said that in the 25 or more years it has been out that no critic or viewer has given an interpretation that is in line with his own. There appear to be prevalent themes of sexuality and conception, not to mention claustrophobia and physical discomfort in simply living. The film is definitely very affecting on a visceral level in certain scenes where Lynch appears to deconstruct the simplicity of family life and bring to the surface the inherent disgusting nature of feeding. Near the end, simple curiosity gets the best of the main character, played extraordinarily well-reserved by Jack Nance, and his mistake ends up causing his world to fall apart. Overall, the film logic seems to be one of a nightmare, an open-ended metaphor dealing with one man's fear of fatherhood.
Put simply, there is no other film like it. Not even Lynch's later work can compare. This is on the must-see list for any film student, however, it may be annoying and make absolutely no sense to the casual viewer.
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