David Lynch, mostly known for his films that lack any sense and challenge the viewer to put the puzzle back together to discover what the movie was actually about. And his debut film Eraserhead is no different. But does it still hold up to this day?
Eraserhead is a movie that doesn’t rely on its plot really, in fact, it barely has a plot. But it gives you just the bare minimum to have some sort of understanding to what is happening. Our main character is Henry Spencer, and he is currently taking time off from work (a holiday as it is put in the movie). His girlfriend called Mary, and they are just after having a child together. But their child isn’t any ordinary child, the child is some sort of deformed, mutant child. We follow Henry as he struggles through this time.
One thing to note about Eraserhead is, it is a very quiet movie. In fact, David Lynch had a lot of trouble getting financial help from the AFI (American Film Institute) because the script for the movie was only twenty pages long. Lynch did end up receiving a grant from the AFI after about three years of production when he eventually ran out of money. Terrence Malick (director/writer) screened Eraserhead for a “potential financial backer” at one point, and he walked out calling the movie, “bullsh*t”. But what the movie does do is, it focuses on sound, imagery and mood instead an deep plot. In lots of scenes in Eraserhead there is very little dialogue between anyone, let alone Henry and Mary (who are the focus points, Henry more so than Mary). Even for the first ten and half minutes of the movie, there is no talking at all.
But what Lynch loves to do in his movies is blur the line between reality and dreams/nightmares. And this is where it all started, at sections of this movie it is near impossible to tell whether or not something happening is real. And it is a recurring theme throughout, if you don’t like confusing movies, you won’t only not like Eraserhead, but you’ll most likely dislike the majority of Lynch’s work (apart from some).
One scene in-particular where you (the viewer) can’t really tell what is reality and what is dream is, when Henry opens up his mutant child and stabs him/her/it. This makes the child grow huge in size, its head becoming bigger and bigger and bigger were it is nearly the same size of Henry’s room.
Which leads to another point which is, many of the dream/nightmare (type of) sequences do not have any sort of narrative. You aren’t sure on how these sequences impact the overall story, or how they will later on in the film. Nothing is explained for you in Eraserhead and that is the way Lynch wants it.
The film is very confusing and has lead to tons of discussions on different internet forums, with people throwing in their own interruption of the movie and hopefully having it somewhat correct. A lot of people think the first section of the movie is suppose to mean how tough parenting a child can be, and how much time and effort goes into it. But in the second half of the film is where people tend to get lost along with the meaning.
But since 1977 when the film first released, not once has Lynch said what the meaning of the film actually is. Only in the 2000 release of the film on DVD, Lynch said that “no one has come close to the true meaning of the film.”
But just because Eraserhead lacks a script and a meaning (until Lynch, if ever, tells us) it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It’s filled with terrific sound design, directing and writing. For its time it also has unbelievable special effects. And Lynch done all these duties himself, which tells you something about how great he is.
I have seen tons of horror movies, I have seen tons of torture porn movies and most of all, I have just seen a lot of messed up stuff in movies. But Eraserhead is one of the few that really made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Everything about it is creepy, and even a bit scary at times. From Henry’s mutant baby to his horrid nightmares, it really got me on edge for the majority of the movie.
*Should you watch this? If you haven’t seen Eraserhead yet and find it somewhat interesting, then yes, it a must see. If you like David Lynch’s previous work and think you could like this, then yes it is at least a watch. If you don’t like confusing, very weird and David Lynch type of movies then no, you are better not wasting your time on it. I’ve seen a lot of people just think it is a bunch of random shots strung together with a very basic plot and they think it was an utter waste of time (which is fine, mind you). So, find out what group you are in and then choose to watch or not!
*Does it hold up to this day?
Yes, Eraserhead does indeed hold up to this day and still remains as one of the most disturbing, weird movies ever made. And there has been a lot since 1977 too, which says something.
*If I liked this, what other movies from the director would I possibly like?
Lynch has a lot of messed up, confusing films that are all great. Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Inland Empire and Mullholland Drive are all great movies that you could possibly enjoy. Lynch also done a short called Rabbits too which clocks in around 40 minutes long and too is very confusing, and still has that Lynch feel with the short runtime.
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Thank you for reading!