“Eraserhead” (1977)


The mark of a good filmmaker is one who’s output is diverse.David Lynch is no exception.His films at times can be dark,surreal,depressing and above all entertaining.Films such as The Elephant Man proved he could make a sorrowful,dramatic picture.Wild At Heart showed he could take a bland crime novel and adapt it into an impressive work, with several references to The Wizard Of Oz.And although I never really cared much for Twin Peaks, It no doubt had a huge impact on a lot of people.

But it’s his first film, 1977’s Eraserhead that many people hold in high regard.There’s a well known saying: “Ask 6 people what the film is about, and you’ll get 6 different answers.”Lynch has stated several times the film is based on his fear of fatherhood, and his time living in a very rough area of Pennsylvania.He’s also cited Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis  as the key influence to the story.But because the film experience is different for everyone else, I have my own interpretation of the film.

I honestly feel this is Lynch giving a middle finger to the bright colorful Hollywood cinema of the 1950’s and 60’s.Lynch is a filmmaker who has consistently gone against the grain of conventional cinema.Instead of having a dashing leading man, you have a bland, fatalistic misfit named Spencer who is trapped in a world he obviously does not want to be a part of.Which makes it all the more easier for a typical film goer to empathize with him.Most people don’t have the charm of Carey Grant or James Garner.A lot of us are working stiffs trying to get by day by day.

The prime rule of real estate also applies with this film:Location,Location,Location.Instead of the stereotypical suburban house with white picket fence and well kept lawn.Lynch gives us a more realistic view of America.A cold industrial wasteland, full of droning factories and smog belching smoke stacks.The films black and white tones accent this perfectly.The complete void of color, is key in illustrating the bleakness of our main character’s living conditions.Speaking of stereotypical suburbia from the 50’s, We have the complete polar opposite of the “Nuclear Family”, We have one family who are total degenerates and have no social morays whatsoever.When we think of a young couple living together raising a child, and living “The American Dream”, We would never think of a child as being hideously deformed and at times almost painful to look at.Also, Lynch really did an amazing job at satirizing the theme of “The girl next door.”A blatant slap to the face of the fading facade of traditional American values.

Which brings me to the next element of Lynch dragging “Americana” right through the mud.The infamous lady in the radiator who keeps popping up in Spencer’s hallucinations.There’s a haunting melody she sing called “In Heaven”, Rather than the famed musicals of Rogers and Hammerstein, and huge elaborate stages with flashy costumes and chorus girls, You have a lady who is not only unpleasant and ugly.She sings on an empt stage with no crowd.You would never see anything like that in That’s Entertainment.

As far as the rest of the music composed for the film.What else can I say, It fits perfectly.Because everything is set in a industrial wasteland, Where hope and optimism are completely absent.A dark ambient score accents the mood as the film progresses.At times it even seems to mimic the sounds of clanging machinery and bellowing smoke.

And finally, If you sit down with this film for a view.You’ll never look at chickens the same way again.

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