Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Film Review: Eraserhead

The fourth film we watched from the ‘Unhomely’ film programme was Eraserhead, which was directed by David Lynch and was released in 1977.

Fig. 1 Eraserhead Poster
One of the most grotesque and disturbing films to watch, Eraserhead pulls upon the fears and consequent horrors that come with world of deformity. If you can look past the painfully deformed and suffering creature that is the child of the main character Henry, we realise that Henry is experiencing a sort of severely disturbed yet rather fascinating, psychological journey.

The opening scene to Eraserhead has to been one of it highlight moments. Before we even know what the story is about we are shown puzzling images with no explanation of what they are or even mean. As review from That guy with the Glasses felt:

"The opening scene where we see Henry floating in space seems to me to be a surreal sex scene, the orientation of Henry, being horizontal across the screen, and the release of the sperm like creature from his mouth is rather suggestive." (That guy with the Glasses, 2010)

The way this scene is portrayed, without any prior knowledge to what is happening, would strongly suggest that this is indeed a very surreal sex scene, one that only director's such as Lynch could create. But because we aren't specifically told what is happening this interpretation would best fit the scene and for that matter the entire film which deals with the life of this horribly deformed child of Henry's. Although not mentioned, the presence of lone and deformed figure is also seen within the opening scene in which he operates levers. If this were to be related to the idea that this scene is in fact a Lynchian sex scene, it could be suggested that this figure is an essence of Henry's mind that controls his sexual interactions.

A particular element about this film that pushes it deeper into the realm of the strange is the use of sound, or lack thereof. As Lucy Reynolds says:

"Sound in Eraserhead is always present it could be said, even if you count the roaring silences which threaten at the sidelines of the story. In the background there can almost constantly be heard a low atonal hum, resonating and emanating an uneasy mixture of discordant noises and off pitch screeches." (Reynolds, -)

The background sounds of humming machines provides a very mechanical and unnatural feel which immediately becomes unsettling. This combined with the human cry from something that in no way resembles a human and the painful silence that runs as consistently running theme only deepens these unsettling feelings.

One may question as to the significance of the girl in the radiator of which several interpretations can be drawn upon. In one aspect she could be a figment of Henry's psyche, a visual representation of his feelings and dreams of being rid of the thing that lays crying on the table. Rumsey Taylor points out:

"A theory (not my own) underlines this image, and forces an interpretation of the film. This lady in the radiator is death. She intrigues Henry because she is a form of escape from his existence. To further secure this claim is her soothing anthem “in heaven everything is fine.”" (Taylor, 2004)

This is a rather interesting take on who she is and why she is there and it definitely seems to have its place within the film. In one instance she is seen squashing the sperm like creatures on the stage, which would be a likely hint of  who she is but also what she intends for Henry to do to the thing in order to be with her and escape.That and the song she is repeatedly heard singing crystallises what could very well be an accurate interpretation of why she is there.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1 Lynch, David (1977) Eraserhead Poster. At:
(Accessed on 15.12.10)


That guy with the Glasses (2010) Eraserhead:A Critical Review. At:

(Accessed on 15.12.10)

Reynolds, Lucy (-) Eraserhead. At:
(Accessed on 15.12.10)

Taylor, Rumsey (2004) Eraserhead. At:
(Accessed on 15.12.10)

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