Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead (1977), directed by David Lynch.

I had serious qualms about seeing this again. I attended many midnight viewings back then and thought about it more than any other film in those days. But now: did I really want to put that stuff in my head again?

Well, many years have passed and my response is less visceral. I also think this is a film that doesn't work very well in home theater, at least on modestly scaled displays. It needs to be (a) on film, to catch the dark grayscale textures, and (b) larger than the viewer, a size more intimidating than a TV set.

A plot summary would be pointless, and Lynch is not that kind of director anyway. It's a series of surreal vignettes about Henry and his dread of everything: fatherhood, babies, sex, machines, the city, shabbiness, poverty, and apparently all other aspects of reality. It suggests those half-waking thoughts in the middle of a restless night when the filters of the mind are down and the dark stuff emerges.

All set to a background of Lynchian howling wind and ominous industrial drone. I love the way the camera glides through the apartment like a spaceship discovering a new solar system, revealing the surface grittiness of fixtures as if they were giant planets. It discovers strange shadowy loathsomeness in the corners: an unpotted plant on his nightstand and what look like piles of seaweed on the dresser. Again: grayscale reproduction is vital here.

If reality is disgusting, what else do we have? Have you noticed that his films always end with a glimpse of Heaven?

Other thoughts:

Lynch displays a disturbed genius here. And I mean that literally. Genius. Disturbed. While watching every one of his films I have thought "Mental illness is sad and scary". From what I have seen of him he behaves more or less normally. He chain-smokes and swears like a sailor on the set. I've always thought him an intuitive director without much planning or need for storytelling. It varies. After Inland Empire I've given up on him, but I've said that before.

In my thumbnails below I could not bear to record some of the more grotesque scenes, although they are perhaps the most memorable bits.

Later: since I wrote the above a Criterion Blu-ray has appeared.