When I was in 9th Grade, I was over at a friend's
house. We'd been taking it easy after a
massive week at school and decided to usher in
the holidays with some beers. As the night went
on, we started flicking through the channels to
see what was on. Crap, crap, music videos (which
were, at that moment, crap) and then there was
this black and white movie, and something about
it immediately struck us as being oddly discomforting.
We decided to stick with it and see what was going
on. Little did we know that we were about to embark
on the most disturbing viewing experience our
developing minds could handle, or in my friend's
case, couldn't handle.
|Director: David Lynch
Starring: John Nance,
Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates
Screenplay: David Lynch
Notorious oddball director David Lynch came into
the film business with Eraserhead as his first offering, and it became a very clear
case of first impressions lasting. Eraserhead was, and still is, a very bizarre and nightmarish
trip and established a style and atmosphere that
would be carried throughout Lynch's career,
and would also inspire generations of filmmakers.
The story, as best as one can put it, is about
a man named Henry, who finds himself the father
of a horrifying baby/thing, married in a shotgun
wedding to a girl who is, along with the rest
of her family, clearly a few trees short of a
forest. However, as this story progresses (or
meanders, depending on your point of view), Henry
finds himself seduced by the mysterious woman
across the hall, and constantly barraged by nightmarishly
bizarre occurrences within his apartment.
Lynch has always been extremely ambiguous in
regards to Eraserhead, never
saying anything about his ideas behind it and
therefore leaving it entirely open to the viewer's
interpretation. This may have even been the intention
the whole time, but either way, it is a very thought
provoking film and is great in that it truly is
one of those films you can find yourself in very
deep conversation afterwards as there are many
varied and mixed interpretations of what happens
in this film and what particular moments may or
may not represent.
To me, the whole thing is like a dream put on
film. Neither good, nor bad, just a series of
events that seem to unfold in a rather disjointed
but somehow seamless fashion, just as they feel
and appear to in one's dreams. In reality,
it doesn't really make much sense at all,
but in the world of your dream, it all fits together,
no matter how bizarre or seemingly out of place
things are. This is exactly how Eraserhead feels to watch, but as it isn't your dream
you're watching, there's an extremely
disturbing quality to the whole thing.
Many times the film becomes visually repugnant.
The black and white photography along with the
general mise en scene is discomforting
enough, but the lighting, sparse make up and grotesque
effects make up help create some truly off-putting
moments. But of course, this film wouldn't
be anything near what it is if the performances
what they were. The girl behind the radiator,
Mary and her parents, Henry, all perfect performances
that really do make the characters what they are,
but they don't even come close to the performance
of the baby.
The baby is probably the most disturbing thing
about the whole film. It's easily one of
the best puppets I've ever looked at, but
could technically be the best. It's completely
seamless, and how or what this thing was made
from is a complete mystery. Lynch has never spoken
out about what the thing is, some reporting it
to be a dead and embalmed calf or sheep, but the
way it's manipulated makes me think otherwise,
especially when it's eyes and tongue move.
Even with a background in puppetry, this thing
has me completely baffled.