Eraserhead (1977) film review

(Warning: Spoilers, sort of)

I don’t believe anything my mind could have imagined only from watching the trailer could have come close to what I witnessed from this feature.

From watching the trailer to David Lynch’s most famous feature, I presumed the plot would be mostly dream based around a man who’s haunted by his own fantasies – somewhat Alice In Wonderland inspired. To my surprise, there was more of a story set in the human realm than I’d presumed.

When viewing the ‘Man in the Planet’ (congratulations Lynch on working on this piece the way many media students do – not naming characters, but, rather, titling them, instead), I assumed he would have an important, but mostly unexplained purpose to the plot, much like the metal fetishist in Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). After watching the film, I attempted researching what his character’s purpose was, and found nothing more than what I’d already gathered: he most likely has something to do with the baby, but otherwise shows no purpose to the plot.

What I’ve gathered and interpreted from this creative feature is that Henry Spencer (played by Jack Nance) lives in an alternate Earth where resources are much more basic than what we’ve accumulated; as though the universe of A Clockwork Orange meets Tetsuo: The Iron Man. He and his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), have a baby that isn’t born human. This infant is somewhat the creation of the Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk), who knows Henry personally for whatever reason – perhaps they work together at the printing office, or maybe Henry did something to upset him like hit him with a car and screw his girlfriend against a tree, rather than helping the man he hit. By pulling the levers in his home, the Man in the Planet can use the baby to tap into Henry’s mind waves and cause him to hallucinate happenings and images, such as the Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near), having an affair with Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (Judith Ann Roberts), the dead maggot he’d brought home coming to life and escaping, and his own head falling off.

I’m also going to assume that he either died, or is comatose, due to the hallucinations.

Now, the entire feature is visually beautiful – a real treat for the eyes, using stop motion, amazing designs for the baby, jump-cuts, and brilliant use of white light and white noise. However, I couldn’t help thinking the baby (which, according to Wikipedia, is supposed to look snake-like while also resembling a spermatozoon) looked a lot like the Mon Calamari from Star Wars (1977).

monsters-baby

Overall, I enjoyed the film, despite not fully sure first time round what to make of it. In all honesty, I felt a connection to the feature, feeling as though it’s similar to what I’d imagined my own film would turn out as, if ever I was to make a feature length. I’m yet to watch Lynch’s explanation on the story behind the whole thing, but for now I’m happy to leave the whole thing to interpretation.

I recommend this film to anyone who’s interested in studying film or working in the industry – most definitely a must see for any of you. Also, anyone who enjoyed Tetsuo: The Iron Man. I tried my hardest not to compare the two, but I’ve heard Tetsuo being referred to as the Japanese Eraserhead, so it’s difficult not to think of them as being somewhat like brothers.

-Frank

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