What I Watched Last Night: Eraserhead (1977)


Director: David Lynch ( other films include Mullholland Drive, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet)

Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Judith Roberts

David Lynch is a crazy, intelligent and highly influential director. His film Eraserhead – which took five years and huge personal sacrifice- is proof of that.

Jack Nance plays Henry, a frantic factory print worker with a towering head of frizzy hair. His on-off girlfriend Mary X summons him to dinner one evening, whereupon it is revealed that she had a baby by him- it was extremely premature, and apparently not quite human- and her family insist they be married. From here most of the film takes place in Henry’s flat, as he slowly succumbs to delusion and hallucination while looking after the disgusting, maggot-like alien child. The drab black and white, the constant braying of the freak baby and the shrieks of the plumbing add to the nightmarish quality.

Eraserhead comments on the decline of the human condition and our increasing disparity with nature through its alarmingly bleak future setting. The characters live in a post-apocalyptic environment, signified by a picture hanging on Henry’s wall (at first it seems to be a still-life bouquet but on closer inspection turns out to be a nuclear mushroom cloud).


David Lynch also makes use of symbolism to portray the sapping life force which everyone feels from time to time: otherworldly imagery at the start of the film shows huge, grotesque alien sperms dragged from within Henry’s body, and later we see a bitch being assailed by her feverish suckling pups. Do we only exist to provide for the next generation, to be cast aside like a piece of gum once all our juices have been chewed up?

Eraserhead was reportedly screened by Stanley Kubrick to his cast on The Shining in order to get them in the ‘mind set’ for the picture. What exactly that mind-set might be is unclear, but most probably it would have been a bad one. This is not to say that the film is bad (its brilliant), only that it is profoundly disturbing and one’s immediate desire afterwards is to have a shower and not see it ever again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: