The Mixed Tape

Fears in Film, Pt. 1: Eraserhead by Andy Motz
July 2, 2010, 2:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The first film I’ll be looking at David Lynch’s surrealist nightmare Eraserhead.  When released in 1977 critics didn’t know what to make of it. It was avant-garde and thoroughly disturbing. However strange it might be Eraserhead makes sense, not in a literal way, but in a metaphorical one. Plain and simple it is a story of a man dealing with manhood a.k.a Lynch’s own fears of what comes with growing up and “becoming a man”.

The protagonist of the story, Henry, is on vacation from his job. He lives not in a world we know, but one of industrialization, shadows, and small shabby spaces.  Throughout the film this strange man deals with meeting the parents of his girlfriend, becoming a father, commitment, and being given major responsibility. All of these are what society equates with man hood. So how does Lynch address his fears?

He addresses them by creating a horrifying nightmare where the normal events listed above are twisted into abnormal creations. For example the baby his girlfriend gives birth to is no ordinary baby. It is a hideous monster, it’s body covered in mummy wraps. Its wails permeate ones eardrums all throughout the night, yet Henry has to take care of it. He has to make sure it is safe even when it gets sick (a truly nasty scene). The fear of meeting the in-laws is no normal dinner, the chicken spews black ozze, the Dad is beyond strange, and the unhealthy mother tries to seduce him. The fear of Henry losing his individual identity because he is a father is beautifully illustrated in a dream sequence where Henry’s own head pops off and the monster baby head replaces his.

It all seems truly hopeless except for the woman in the radiator singing “in heaven everything is fine” as sperm drops onto to stage. This strange woman with enlarged cheeks squishes the sperm. What does this mean? And who is the disfigured man pulling the gears? And what happens in the end? I’m not exactly sure, but that is the beauty of most Lynch films; there are layers to be discovered.

Eraserhead is important because it was Lynch’s first film, a cult film, and it is still a unique viewing experience. Without a doubt one of the creepiest films I have ever watched, the third act will have one squirming in their seat. Yes it’s disgusting, yes it’s dreamlike. However it rings true with every man’s fears and displays them through a twisted yet engaging narrative making Eraserhead unforgettable.


1 Comment so far
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I enjoyed reading your analysis of this film. I have been a fan of David Lynch since I first watched this with my high school pals back in 1988. The film had a major creep out effect on me, but until now I hadn’t really thought about why. I think you are dead on with how this film is a metaphor for taking on life’s responsibilities. Great job.

Comment by Don Wake

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