So after successfully completing the Year of Hitchcock challenge I’ve decided to set out on a new one in which I watch every feature film directed by David Lynch. I chose David Lynch for a variety of reasons; firstly because of a planned trip to Europe I needed to find a director who had made 11 films (allowing me to holiday for a few weeks without watching a film) and secondly because he is a director who is notorious for making strange, weird films and one of whom has greatly influenced in my own life in many ways. The first film of the challenge is Eraserhead and is a difficult one to review but I will try.

THE PLOT

Vacationing factory worker Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) suddenly finds that a girl with whom he had slept with has given birth to a mutant baby. He is thusly forced to marry her and led into a strange world of symbology and sexual metaphors in which reality is difficult to fathom.

 

THE GOOD

Personally I think that this is a fantastic film; it took five years to create due to financial problems, however Lynch’s attention to detail hide the change in time almost perfectly. Everything about the film is perfectly crafted with Lynch’s love for composition coming across in every extremely long take.

Framing

The films industrial setting really takes the audience into a world that although obviously not real feel as if it could be in a weird sort of way. There are giant machines constantly working, pipes and smoke everywhere, light bulbs flickering on and off, all adding to the idea of the world becoming a horrible and industrious place. The characters too seem to react to this with the father of Henry’s girlfriend talking extensively about a machine accident in which he lost feeling in his arm. The old man and the child both rushing to sell a disembodied head summarise the state of the world in Lynch’s mind in that everyone is desperate to escape from their circumstances.

Social awkwardness is a theme explored in this film, particularly through the performance of Jack Nance. Every time he interacts with a person there is a degree of awkwardness created through his body language and facial expressions; particularly when interacting with his wives’ parents. These moments offer a moment of slight comic relief and help the later, darker scenes come across as even more disgusting.

Henry

The mutant baby is the most memorable part of the film and rightly so; if opinion is to be believed Lynch himself, using a calf foetus, created the baby. Even if this is untrue the result still looks disgusting. The baby is used cleverly in the film as it gets progressively grosser looking as the film goes on. At the start of the film it looks deformed; however when it gets ill it looks disgusting and then when the bandages are opened up even more so. This works well in bringing a reaction from the audience as when watching you don’t believe it can get any stranger.

Baby

There are many other good moments in the film regarding the symbology and messed up nature of it that it would take far too long to cover every point; just know there are many key moments that are vivid and memorable throughout.

 

THE BAD

As I previously stated I really enjoyed this film as I find it extremely interesting to analyse imagery and not have a film force-fed to me. However if you are not a fan of cinema that makes you think and is full of sometimes pretentious metaphors then you probably won’t like this film.

When I previously showed the film to my classmates at my University’s Film Society it was poorly received with many people becoming bored and several leaving; it is not a film for everyone, but one that I find worth the effort of watching.

Pretentious is a word that is often thrown around in this film and one that I have already used and I can understand why. The film explores many themes such as sex, religion, society, birth and death using complicated metaphors which are difficult to decipher; with the use of long takes making it extremely hard to figure out not only what is happening but what it means. However endeavour and re-watches (this was my third viewing) do help bring some of the metaphors to light and make the film more enjoyable.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Eraserhead is not a film for everyone but it is easy to see why it has such high esteem and why Lynch was able to use this as a platform to a great career. I therefore give it a maximum five Lynch’s.


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