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Completely classic chaos.

  • Aug 30, 2011
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

"Eraserhead" is an abrupt vision. It arrived in 1977, when people weren't open enough to appreciate what writer-director David Lynch was trying to say. This was his debut film, he was relatively new to filmmaking, and he just made a movie that reflected his dreams as well as a past life-style. The film is both funny and disturbing; a mind-game, a true surrealist film. It could be seen as a dark satire, or just an art-show in which Lynch displays the deepest, most perturbing of emotions. Either way, you can say that you saw it, you survived it, and that for once in your life; you experienced a film rather than watched it.

Most stories are told in the same style, but that's the way that most people like it. "Eraserhead" will always divide audiences for this reason; it tells a story in the non-traditional way, through imagery and through sound. It's been resurrected many times as a midnight movie, because that is what it is. You could literally get high, watch the movie, and get the same experience out of it all in the end. This is because there is a story, but it's such a simplistic yet hidden one, that perhaps not thinking about it is the most flawless of approaches.

Set in broken-down apartments and even more broken-down streets, as well as frontiers induced by the dream, "Eraserhead" follows its protagonist, Henry (Jack Nance), as he slowly (very slowly) begins to lose his head. Of course, the film opens with the infamous fetus-alien dream that takes place in space, in which the said fetus flies towards a silent, but screaming Henry. This is the first sine of insanity in a film that seems to lack the alternative, and it just keeps getting weirder-and-weirder.

I suppose this sequence was dreamt as a result of Henry recently impregnating the beautiful Mary X; who invites her lover to dinner one night at random. Her creepy mother, and her father (who in one scene gives Henry a really creepy and prolonged smile) disturb the protagonist greatly with their uncomfortable discussions, as well as their disturbingly alive dinners (a chicken that kicks its little legs on touch, and literally gushes what could either be blood or gravy out of its asshole). After this, Mary moves in with Henry; and they pick up the child from the hospital, bring it home, and start their life off new.

The problem is that the child is hideously deformed; a crying, whimpering little bastard that won't shut up so much as to give his old man and mother a good night's rest. The child's late-night cries drive Mary to the edge, and she eventually leaves Henry and returns home for some time. Henry clearly has a phobia of being left alone with the baby, even though the thing is under wraps, and is expected to remain so for a long time now. The child seems to be falling gravely ill, and in the meantime, the situation isn't so easy on Henry's mental state.

Before we know it, there's a woman in the radiator standing on a stage and singing "In Heaven", babies are becoming planets, and men are literally losing their heads and having their now beheaded body-part swallowed whole by pools of blood, dropped into the streets, and taken away by little boys to factories where the heads are turned into eraser shavings.

But...it's all a part of the experience. This is a film that is all imagery and little straight-forward storytelling or characterization. I mentioned the possibility of the film being a satire, and now that you've read further into my review, maybe you can understand why this may be. Of course, some may find it hard to laugh at a film that also includes images of fetus-stomping and the mutilation of organs, but the point of the film is to shock, disgust, and fascinate. It does its job according to Lynch's grand plan. I believe the satire comes from paranoia and the phobias of parenthood. I suppose that none of us can truly relate to the exaggerated results of these "phobias" that Henry is going through, but does it really hurt that much to admire and have a little bit of fun with disturbance?

In heaven - Lynch's heaven, that is - everything is fine, as the song goes. Criticism for "Eraserhead" should be avoided, for there really isn't much to be pissed about. Why not just go for the flow and accept the man's film, his vision, for what it is? Surrealist films don't have to make sense on sight and on first viewing, they are meant to be deciphered. That is why you revisit them, more than once, for both the feeling and for the messages within. This is not a film for everyone, and it is not a film for most people, but surrealism is my thing; and this, my friends, is a hell of a surrealist joint. You either dig it or you don't; it's a film meant to be hated by many and loved by perhaps even more. You cannot match what Lynch has done here, and this is one of his best films. It can either be simple, or it can be something to look deeper into in the future. Deal? I think so.

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September 01, 2011
I see you reviewed two of Lynch's best movies, Ryan! pretty awesome write ups!
 
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More Eraserhead reviews
review by . May 03, 2009
Eraserhead is David Lynch's first feature length film. It was a piecemeal project that took nearly five years to complete. After directing several shorts, Mister Lynch took on the task of creating a film. This surrealistic vision of a nightmarish future confused and shock many people (even to this day). Using black and white film stock and a jarring soundtrack, David Lynch has made a film that stands on it's own even to this day.     A strange young man finds himself in a loveless …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

Wiki

David Lynch's feature length directorial debut.

The film took over 5 years to complete production.

Half of the film's budget was made on a $10,000 grant from AFI.

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Details

Director: David Lynch
Genre: Drama, Horror
Release Date: March 19, 1977
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: David Lynch
Runtime: 89 minutes
First to Review
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