Eraserhead (1977) Movie Review
Written By: K.M.C
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: David Lynch
Producers: David Lynch
Writers: David Lynch
Date Released: March 19, 1977
Jack Nance as Henry Spencer
Charlotte Stewart as Mary X
Allen Joseph Mr. X
Jeanne Bates Mrs. X
Judith Roberts Girl Across the Hall
Laurel Near as Lady in the Radiator
Jack Fisk as Man in the Planet
Darwin Joston as Paul
Rating = 3.5 /5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Henry Spencer is a simple man who’s world turns into a nightmare when his girlfriend, Mary, unexpectedly gives birth to an inhumane child. As the audience is sent into a downward spiral of Henry’s inner consciousness, the film shows Henry’s struggling with lust, misfortune, anxiety, and emotional turmoil that surround the child.
Given that the film is in black and white, it is easier to digest the many questionable gore scenes in Eraserhead. Blood oozing from fist-size rotisserie chickens to blood squirting from an alien-like baby isn’t really the most enjoyable way to consume gore. Although there is no color to the blood, it still looks incredibly realistic and can leave the viewer feeling icky when having a meal right after.
The Grave Review
It is important to note that David Lynch is a pioneer in including extreme symbolism and multiple interpretational scenes within his films. This is what makes him a leading role in the film industry. The first screening of Eraserhead took place in Los Angeles and screened at midnight. Once the film ended, the crowd was completely silent not because they disliked the film, but because they all collectively needed a minute to take it all in. Then, there was a roar of applause.
Since Lynch refuses to give any input behind the meaning and/or symbolism within his films, it is up to the viewer to interpret what he is putting out. Especially with a film such as Eraserhead. The following are the most common interpretations that I, and many others, grasped after the film.
The music used in the film serves an immense purpose in inducing a constant state of anxiety. The unsettling pitch of an orchestral instrument mixed with the overblown sound effects makes almost every scene uncomfortable to sit through. The overblown sound effects mainly pertain to the industrial, or technological, objects in the film that are thought to be a large factor that causes Henry to be miserable. Some instances we see this in are when Henry is waiting for the elevator doors to close, when he arrives at Mary’s house and the vent is screeching, and, more importantly, when the radiator constantly screams and steams.
The audience is also led to believe that the other source of Henry’s unhappiness is sex. The child, which is ultimately the main source of his unhappiness and dismay, is a result of sex. His failed affair, which was the final straw to Henry completely losing his mind, is the result of giving in to his sexual tendencies. We can interpret this through the atomic bomb picture that happens to be hanging above a dead, potted plant. This is to symbolize how destructive his sexual tendencies have become and how life is literally sucked from his being.
The son is not only to represent the consequences of his sexual tendencies, but to also represent Henry himself. The son represents everything that Henry loathes about himself and how the child becomes sick due to Henry’s infidelity and the pushing away of everyone in his life. In conclusion, the son and Henry are one. It is also said that the son can also be interpreted as a phallic symbol that is also intended to represent Henry’s unwanted sexual tendencies.
The audience is not viewing the reality of Henry but his conscious take on the nightmare he is living in. This is represented in the very first scene where we see a planet rising from his head and us seeing within this planet. We can also see this throughout the film where, like in a dream, the beginning seems real but then the dream spirals into a fantasy.
The name Eraserhead derives from the scene where Henry’s decapitated head is turned into pencil erasers which is supposed to symbolize his constant need to erase the mistakes he has made. This scene is also a symbol of his mind being erased aka he is losing his mind because of his constant miserable state in which he can not escape as well as the fact that sex and technology are hateful themes are wearing his mid down.
In the end, we see Henry unite with the Lady in the Radiator. She is meant to represent the perfect woman in his life. She can’t get pregnant, she is “pretty”, she can sing and dance, and she is welcoming. It is thought that in the scene where she sings of heaven, she is actually representing death and the idea of heaven. In turn, the common interpretation of the final scene is Henry taking his own life and joining her in heaven.
Aside from the interpretations of Eraserhead (1977), the acting alongside the strange and disorienting effects really make this film a pioneer in arthouse AND horror history. From a personal view point, though Eraserhead can be praised for it’s out-of-the-box concepts and intense symbolism, it is a film that leaves you feeling weird about having sat through such an intensely fantasy-base graphic conscious nightmare come-to-life film.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Eraserhead (1977) three and a half graves out of five graves.
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