Review by Simon Kiorgaard.
Eraserhead by David Lynch
“A dream of dark and troubling things” – David Lynch. In a single sentence this is possibly the closest one can get to describing the film (it is in fact the only description of the film you will find on the DVD case, if you were so inclined to buy it). Here is a film completely in and of itself; inspired not by some other work of art but inspired by the imagination of the genius who conceived it – a dream as it were. And as dreams tend to be, this film is bizarre, unnatural and completely raw.
Any attempts at discerning a clear and flowing plotline from the film would be entirely futile. Furthermore, any attempt at finding objective meaning from the film would also be entirely futile like so many of Lynch’s other films. This movie is about a feeling, macabre, vile, anxious, fearful and wholly obscene.
From the very first sequence which goes for a whole ten minutes, we are immediately drawn into another world not by an intense action scene, a fast paced conversation or even an unusual soundtrack. One becomes immersed in a dark and mysterious atmosphere which exists through a series of unintelligible images and sounds.
We are acquainted with a middle aged man who sports a weirdly shaped haircut – who will later be revealed as the main character Henry Spencer – superimposed upon a small planet in outer space. As his head slowly drifts across the screen our point of view gradually focuses on the planet till we arrive at a crater. Inside of which we are introduced to a beastly man who proceeds to pull a series of levers which result in a small alien like creature crawling out of our main characters mouth. So ends the opening sequence and already one can tell that this film will be slow, deliberate and entirely unconventional.
From here we are presented with what one can infer will be the setting of the rest of the film; a rundown industrial zone teeming with urban decay. Henry Spencer who we previously saw floating in space is seen to be bustling through the streets as if someone were following him.
After a series of grotesque scenes involving Henry’s girlfriend and her family, Henry is informed that he is the father of a new born child. Or is it a child? The ‘thing’ in question could scantily be considered a child at all; in fact it could barely be considered even humanoid. Rather a grotesque devil spawn of which the movie is famous of. And so the movie descends into complete madness – one can never be sure whether a scene is part of Henry’s imagination or reality – until its vile and dramatic finish.
Here is a film with minimal dialogue, very few characters, a dark and mystifying setting, a bizarre soundtrack and an omnipresent atmosphere both intense and subtle all woven through and around the single immensely complex central character Henry Spencer and what appears to be combinations of his fantasies, desires, fears and deepest anxieties.
Not for the casual movie-goer; to truly enjoy the film one must be willing to immerse themselves in it’s ‘world’. Shutting it out or watching it from an objective stance will more than likely result in one coming out of the film thinking, “well that was a big waste of my time, not only was it extremely difficult to follow and boringly slow, but it was also obscene and offensive”.
It is no small wonder that Eraserhead is a cult film.