This disturbing post should have been written around Halloween but I’ve been busy with other projects lately. So without further ado…it was around Halloween time of 2011 and my awesomely weird and irresistible boyfriend said, “You’ve gotta see Eraserhead. It’s an older, artsy film about this couple who have a really weird looking baby.” Being a weird person who enjoys strange things, I figured Eraserhead was right up my alley. Think of it as a horror/sci-fi/fantasy/avant-garde combo.
Here are 4 faces I made frequently during the viewing of this 1977 David Lynch film (excuse the robe and disheveled look):
After seeing the film, I read up on themes, background and reviews. I found this anonymous person’s view particularly amusing:
“A lot of arrogant film watchers often point to this movie as some sort of neo-surrealist endeavor and act as if understanding it is some language only understood by smart people. In reality, “Eraserhead” is simply a stupid movie where a bunch of things that have nothing to do with each other happen on a screen. “Eraserhead” is not art. David Lynch merely threw a bunch of things together and somehow got his heart broken when no one liked it. Only a fool with low standards would find this film the remote bit interesting. A perfect example of how not to make a film.”
I must say, I found the film more than a bit interesting and I think it’s safe to say I’m not a fool with low standards. Does a movie have to make sense to be good? (*cough*No*cough*) It seems that reviewers either love or detest this movie.
I much prefer this view on the film:
“However, Eraserhead is not a film that you can watch and expect to be mindlessly entertained by. To achieve more than boredom and frustration, a little effort needs to be put into resolving the symbolism, throwing light upon what initially seems to be a darkened room. If you can’t do this, at least appreciate Henry’s awesome hairstyle!”
Basics – I won’t give away too much detail in case you haven’t seen this film
Setting: Post apocalyptic…in a nameless, industrial city filled with urban decay. You can hear machine-like sounds such as clanks, hums and rumbles in the background. The film is in black and white. Throughout the movie one can see lots of baffling imagery – won’t go into detail here or I would spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.
Who/what: Henry Spencer, a printer who is on vacation. He has a girlfriend called Mary X. They have a weird mutant baby. Strange things happen! You will be baffled.
Mood: bleak, hopeless, full of despair, nightmarish
Some possible themes
Fear of adulthood, committment and responsibility – Henry has an angry girlfriend and a constantly crying mutant baby
Sexual fear and anxiety – spermlike things falling from the sky and getting stepped on, Mary’s mother grilling Henry about whether he had sexual intercourse with her daughter and then pawing at him, spermlike things being pulled out of Mary’s vagina by Henry
Suicide – the easy way out? (lady in the radiator singing of heaven’s promise) because of his fears and forced marriage, responsibilities of fatherhood, committing to marriage, loneliness and isolation since Mary returns home to her parents and the girl across the hall rejects his advances, Henry finds himself thinking about the lady in the radiator
Some background and interesting facts:
- The film was created over 5 years, with many sets rebuilt after being torn down to make way for other work.
- David Lynch had a lot of trouble getting financial assistance from the AFI, because the script was only 20 pages long. He received a grant from AFI but after about 3 years of production, ran out of money. At one point Terrence Malick screened the film for a potential financial backer, who walked out, calling the movie “bullshit”.
- The mutant baby was apparently created from the embalmed fetus of a calf, although David Lynch has never confirmed this or described how he articulated it. During filming when he watched rushes, he even had the projectionist cover his eyes when takes with the baby were playing, so that no one would know how it was made. After completing the film, Lynch reportedly buried the “Embalmed Calf” in an undisclosed location. At the wrap party, they had a mock wake for it.
- Though only released at first as a “midnight movie,” a number of Hollywood A-list directors saw the film and were impressed by it. John Waters, whose Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble played the same venue, often mentioned Eraserhead as a favorite film, urging viewers to see it. Stanley Kubrick reportedly said the same; this was one of the films he made the cast and crew of The Shining watch to get in the right frame of mind for. Mel Brooks saw it and offered Lynch the chance to direct The Elephant Man; Lynch accepted. George Lucas asked Lynch to direct Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi; Lynch turned it down.
- There is no dialogue for the first 10 1/2 minutes of this movie. It is David Lynch‘s feature debut.
- David Lynch refuses to say anything about Eraserhead because he wants to let viewers decide for themselves what they think it means.
- David Lynch performed many duties on the film himself, e.g. directing, writing, producing, production design, special effects, etc.
- It is often erroneously stated that Lynch’s wife at the time, Peggy Lynch was pregnant during the making of Eraserhead. In actual fact, Jennifer Chambers Lynch (Lynch’s daughter) was three years old when the film was first being prepped, and would be eight by the time it was finished.
I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, so I’ll just let you watch it if you haven’t seen it. 😉
Credits for Info: