Classic Films (9+) Film Film Reviews

FILM REVIEW: Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977)

Pipes, holes, void, semen, pus, heat, shadow, mud, erasers. These are just a few of the ingredients fermenting inside David Lynch’s brilliant and disgusting surrealist masterpiece Eraserhead. Where to start with a review for this film? A technical breakdown of its qualities and flaws doesn’t really seem appropriate SO instead let’s go on a brief and bloody journey through some of the things that make this movie so intriguing.

Contrasts…Eraserhead is full of beautiful hazy soft focus and lighting but its images are harsh and industrial. It demands repeated viewings to be fully understood but actively repulses the viewer away from watching it.

Broken bodies…perpetual disgust at the oozing squishy and soft nature of everything INSIDE like all the doors opening and closing and all the pipes and orifices that we enter through and emerge out of with the camera. I wonder if Lynch is trying to make a point about how technology distances us from our bodies?

Daring imagery…all the Lynchian themes are here even at this early stage: sex, fear, dreams. The neighbours face emerging from darkness. Jack Nance silhouetted against a cloud of dust or maybe stars. The lady in the radiator singing adorably while limpid foetuses rain down on her head. All sublime.

Religious tones…the mother is Mary, the baby (if we can call it that) is wrapped up in blankets like some kind of twisted nativity…the dog puppies suckling their mother at Mary’s parents house…

Classic surrealism…the influence of someone like Bunuel is very evident here, before the Lynch style developed and absorbed swathes of genre like noir and crime and mystery. And I get shades of Samuel Beckett, particularly Endgame, from the minimal and claustrophobic atmosphere, too…

Eraserhead is Lynch in his foetal state: everything that has made his movies so wonderful and twisted and unique over the last forty years is clearly on show in this debut, as fresh and sticky as a newly born baby. Second only to Mulholland Drive in concept and ambition, I think this is Lynch’s most poetic and most ambiguous film, and one that deserves to be endlessly dissected. I’m equal parts excited and terrified to return to it.


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