Director: David Lynch
Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph
Plot: Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.
Genre: Fantasy / Horror /Sci-Fi
Rating: Officially rated PG13 by the Singapore Board of Censors, but I think there is a mistake. The film should be classified with at least an NC16 rating for disturbing scenes and gore.
International Sales: MK2
International Sales: MK2
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Anyone who has seen Eraserhead knows how good a debut film it was by American auteur David Lynch. With this breakthrough, Lynch laid the foundations for a brand new style of filmmaking that is a fusion of elements of what has transpired before Eraserhead and what came after this cult film, of which Lynch has attempted to reinforce, though not entirely, with films such as Blue Velvet (1986), and Mulholland Drive (2001).
Eraserhead is still his most nightmarish film to date, a film that is at once repulsive yet strangely beautiful to watch. It hooks you from the start with its haunting imagery, and never lets go until its shocking climax.
Eraserhead is imbued with an intoxicating Lynchian mood and tone. It is a psychedelic and surreal trip into a world of madness, one that is bounded by the rules of reality, yet subsuming all other matters of rationale and logic to give an uncomfortable cinematic experience that will stay long in the mind.
Jack Nance plays Henry Spencer, the film’s lead character, and whose eyes we see this terrifying world with. Henry lives in a polluted land, ravaged by decades of industrial work that seemingly does not pause. There appears to be few living souls around as people hide in their homes, perhaps out of fear of the environmental contamination.
Lynch’s vision is extraordinary. Shot in high contrast black-and-white, Eraserhead echoes traces of German Expressionism, of which seminal films such as Nosferatu (1922) provide some kind of artistic influence. Surrealism comes in only after some time, most notably in arguably the film’s most disquieting sequence – the lady in the radiator who sings a skin-crawling song about heaven, as slug-like creatures drop around her onto the stage.
The "stage", I feel, is an omnipresent visual motif in a number of Lynch’s films. In Eraserhead, I feel the “stage” represents some sort of eternally-blissful platform where reality and surreal-ity meet, only that what appears to be blissful is just a façade.
Eraserhead is quite gruesome, and in many ways, it is a film best left to watch on an empty stomach. The black-and-white veil does not hide the film’s power to disgust, both at a visceral level and in a bizarre, sexual way. Phallic symbols adorn the film, sometimes in seductive ways, other times in threatening ways.
But it is the film’s thick and unsettling atmosphere, coupled with the brilliant use of creepy sound design that make Eraserhead such a fascinating film to watch. It is depressing, revolting, and morbid, but that’s where the fascination lies. And that’s why this Lynchian horror art film has achieved its notorious cult status.
Verdict: Outstanding debut by David Lynch, Eraserhead is as nightmarish and surreal as they come.
Click here to go back to Central Station.