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19 January 2012

Eraserhead (1977)

Directed by: David Lynch

Written by: David Lynch

Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Jeanne Bates

Genre: Art House, Mystery & Suspense

B&W 89 Minutes 


In 1976, David Lynch made his first feature film by the name of Eraserhead. For me, this is the most bizarre and strange film I have ever seen in the best way possible. Combine German Expressionism, surrealism and tones of horror and you get Eraserhead. The style in which the film has been made is far from convention, and in the film’s black & white tone, things are disorientating, peculiar, idiosyncratic and in some ways even haunting. The film has been interoperated in many different ways, and despite having a linear narrative, it is a black & white nightmare trip never to forget; One of the 70’s most unique films. It is a pure mind fuck in the most enjoyable way.

What is the plot exactly? There is no true conventional plot, but the story is linear. Our story begins with weird sounds and a close-up of Henry Spence’s (Jack Nance) face, with the moon in the background. The film soon follows Henry in the industrial nightmarish wasteland where he lives. Upon learning that a past romance has resulted in an impending pregnancy, Henry agrees to wed mother-to-be Mary (Charlotte Stewart) and moves her into his tiny, squalid flat. Their baby is born hideously mutated, a strange, reptilian creature who’s piercing cries never cease. Mary soon flees in horror and disgust, leaving Henry to fall prey to the seduction of the girl across the hall (Judith Anna Roberts).
Eraserhead has a hypnotic charm that makes it one of the most distinguished and unique cinematic experiences you could ask for. 

Everything you see is questionable and it feels as if you are spiralling into a nightmare of extremely troublesome things. From start to end, the film is uniquely shot, atmospheric and masterfully edited together. Lynch spent five years filming this and it has given it an unbelievable result. With all the strange imagery, disillusioning characters, crazy visuals and hyperactive sound effects and music (not to mention the dialogue) it has phenomenal editing for its time. 
I think it is the style hat is the films biggest attraction. Combine The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Un Chien Andalau, Metropolis, and you get the style and atmosphere of Eraserhead. The film of course, is very original in how it has been put together. The dialogue of the characters makes no since with its glitches and jittering. It is simple to say there nothing quite like the film and it goes for quite an experience. The film is definitely up for interpretation and to Lynch’s claim, that it is the product of his own fears of fatherhood, which definitely helps to digest the narrative. 


The reception of the film at the time was not fully positive, with one critic from 'Variety'  calling it a "sickening bad-taste exercise". Over time the film has gained cult status and recognition by filmgoers, with even Mel Brooks, being a fan of the film calling Lynch in to director The Elephant Man in 1980. In addition, it was one of Stanley Kubrick's favourite films. The script of the film was no more than 21 pages and due to Lynch being a minimal directorial experience, no film studio backed the project. Lynch eventually won a grant from AFI, and shot most of the film at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, which was at the time the Institutes headquarters. And thus, the film began to be made, and would later become an eerie horror film with strange suspense.


I have heard a few critics use the word ‘pretentious ‘against this film. To begin with, that term pisses me off because it is used against most films that are ‘different’ in some way. If it is not conventional, it is ‘pretentious’. That I cannot agree on. David Lynch has explored and went somewhere different to create a different kind of experience, and the achieved it through his direction, editing, the use of Misé-en-scene and music. I shall say no more about this word.

The film has a horrific look at parenthood and a post-apocalyptic future full of industrial nightmare. The baby that we see plays a big part of the film and its bizarre, disfigured appearance is enough to haunt you for a while. The black and white makes it all the spookier. Another memorably strange scene is the one were Henry is dreaming of the blond chipmunk-cheeked girl. As she does her, slow and strange dance as she smiles spookily there is something eerie about it. Eraserhead ultimately is a dreamlike horror film. 
The film is definitely ahead of its time, and even today you might not find a film with its nature. This is why it is great to watch older films, it breaks away from what you get in recent years and allows you to see a wider variety of style per-Se.
By the time the film is over you will say to yourself, gob-smacked, "What the fuck did I just watch!?" (excuse the language) It is not a film for everyone and for people with little patience (and low attention span) will probably just look at it as a black & white piece of crap. It is no masterpiece, but the film definitely has a high standpoint of originality, and you can see it has influenced Tim Burton in some way. Just look at Beetlejuice, or his early short, Vincent, it definitely has a touch of surrealism and expressionism to an extent. The thing is with this film, on first viewing you have no idea what is going on and were the film is going to go next. Most of the film is I a dream realm that expresses Henry’s troublesome thoughts. Through Lynch’s surrealism, artistic talent and superb story structure Eraserhead presents itself as an eerie and unforgettable experience.  

My Rating: 9/10

Extra Information
Country: USA
Language: English
Distributed by Libra Films
Edited by: David Lynch
Cinematography by: Herbert Cardwell Frederick Elmes
Budget: $20, 000 (estimated)
More Info Here

5 comments:

  1. Great review, man!

    Unlike you, though, I think Eraserhead is a masterpiece, and it is odd how films that stand the test of time usually don't get the best, warm reception at first.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent job, Thomas. LOVED this film! Some of my favorite films tend to be very bizarre, surreal, perhaps even senseless (which isn't the case with this fine, surrealist satire of the general fear of parenthood). So what a coincidence that I liked this one so much, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  3. great review. I'm afraid to see this one, i fear it may be too weird for my liking.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Its worth a try.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I see what you mean, it is another 'cult' film.

    ReplyDelete

 

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