Eraserhead (1977) Review


There are some films that are just mindless entertainment that offer viewers an escape from their everyday lives. Then there’s ones that challenge the viewer and wants them to think about what they’re watching. Then there’s “Eraserhead”.
Written and directed by David Lynch, the film tells the story of Henry Spencer who’s currently on vacation from his job. After having dinner with his girlfriend’s family he discovers that he’s the father of a newborn baby, at least it might be a baby. The view then follows Spencer as he deals with his deformed possibly not human child, his angry girlfriend and bizarre world he seems to inhabit.
A story that’s seemingly simple in premise but is anything but. “Eraserhead” is a surreal nightmare of a film. Everything is open to interpretation and to say the film is “weird” would be an understatement.
The imagery the viewer is treated with can be off-putting as well. Malformed babies that constantly cry, a woman who seemingly lives in a radiator and sperm-like creatures just to name a few. Any viewer will sit there and ask “what does this mean?”
The industrial world that Spencer inhabits can make viewers ask even more questions. Is this the result of a nuclear war? Was this caused by man’s constant building of factories and railways? Both?
At this point someone reading might be thinking this is a movie that’s a confusing mess and want to avoid it. They’re half-right. The film is confusing but it’s never a mess. Every part of the film is deliberate in it’s way to make viewer think deeper about what they’re watching.
The film is laden with themes of sexuality, fear of commitment and even suicide. It’s only when you stop taking the film literal and think abstractly do they start becoming clear.
Spencer, played wonderfully by Jack Nance, is a wonder himself also. He’s seemingly child-like in the way he simply allows people to tell him what to do and speaks to others. But under that innocent exterior, there is underlying darkness that slowly starts to become more apparent as the film progress.
The film is a marvel when it comes to its sound design. There’s rarely a silent moment as there’s constantly sounds of white noise, industrial machinery or faint music playing in the distance. It culminates into a film that constantly has you on edge due to the unsettling nature.
“Eraserhead” isn’t for everyone though. Viewers who are more squeamish may not particularly enjoy some of the sequences Lynch has in store. Those who also want a film that’s straight-forward in its meaning might want to steer away as well.
For those who want a film that challenges you and makes you think critically about what you’re viewing, “Eraserhead” is for you.