If I may be so bold and borrow a joke from the Simpsons regarding getting pregnant at a young age. “So You’ve Ruined Your Life.” It’s the perfect description which pretty much sums up this film:
Henry (John Nance) is a printer in an industrialised world who knocks up his girlfriend Mary (Charlotte Stewart) and marries her out of guilt. Life doesn’t get any easier and he tries to juggle between fatherhood and his depressed wife, who can’t get a night’s rest with their crying, deformed baby. Temptations arise with the woman next door, but will he give in to his lust and passion or will he stay committed to his family?
I would like to consider myself a part of the David Lynch fan club. I enjoy his films. Well, almost all his films. There are some I can’t get through. But there is no denying the man is a talent. Even if you can’t fully grasp the symbolism, there is enough to comprehend a genius at work. I’ll admit I have never seen Eraserhead until last night. But I was not disappointed.
Eraserhead blew me away with its visceral imagery and chilling sound design. I sat in a dark room, alone, with the TV up to a comfortable level, and I regretted every decision. Instead, I should have turned up all the lights, lowered the volume to a minimum, and woken up my girlfriend and force her to hold my hand throughout. But if I did that I would have done myself a disservice.
Every moment is carefully composed and heightened for maxim effect. Shots deliberately linger longer than you expect them too, which adds an element of unease. The industrial world, in which the movie is set, is contained to a few choice shots. Most of the world is constructed using sound. Very much in the way Jaws used music to represent the shark. They are haunting sounds of machinery and steam combining to make an eerie and distinguished soundscape.
The film cannot be fully interpreted unless you are David Lynch. Are you David Lynch? I can tell when you’re lying. But I think the story itself paints a pretty clear picture. Eraserhead is a very personal film. It’s his first feature film, and by definition is extremely personal. David Lynch married at a young age and had children. But during production Lynch went through a divorce. This definitely comes through in the movie as I believe the film is an allegory for marriage and family and how it can ruin you forever.
The film puts us in the point of view of Henry, who accidentally impregnated his girlfriend. Doing the right thing, he marries her. But this doesn’t turn out to be the best solution. She turns into a nightmare and leaves him with the baby. The baby is an absolute horror to look at. It’s some kind of mutated chicken foetus. I’m wondering if this is what Lynch believes people, who don’t have children of their own, see when they look at couples with young babies. Or that he believe his kids looked like chicken foetus’ when they were young. Either way, its gross.
Eraserhead does an excellent job at making the audience feel trapped, like Henry is trapped in his current circumstance. We delve deep into his mind as he tries to deal with being a father. But he doesn’t do a very good job, smothering the baby’s mouth as he flirts with the sexy, temptress next door. He proves to be a worst father still when he ignores the cries of the child while making love to the neighbour. There is a third moment in which Henry fails at being a decent father, but I won’t spoil it. It’s quite a harrowing scene.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen, not for a second. It sucks you into its bleak, black and white world and doesn’t let you go. From the bizarre to the downright insane, Eraserhead is a mastery piece of filmmaking, invoking fears I never thought were there. This is a must see film. Bold, dark, and with an odd sense of humour, exaggerated beautifully into an awkward and beautiful 89 minutes.
Best Line: “In Heaven, everything is fine. In Heaven, everything is fine. You’ve got your good things. And I’ve got mine.”
Best Moment: The family dinner with the cooked chicken having an orgasm.