The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous façade, there is revealed a person of kindness, intelligence and sophistication.
A film that defies conventional logic and storytelling, fueled by its dark nightmarish atmosphere and compellingly disturbing visuals. Henry Spencer is a hapless factory worker on his vacation when he finds out he's the father of a hideously deformed baby. Now living with his unhappy, malcontent girlfriend, the child cries day and night, driving Henry and his girlfriend to near insanity.Written by
Catherine E. Coulson did then-husband Jack Nance's hair throughout the five year production of this film. The process involved lots of pulling and picking at Nance's hair, which the actor hated. Coulson later joked that her duties as hairdresser ruined her marriage to Nance, and resulted in a subsequent divorce. The two, however, did remain friends for the rest of their lives. See more »
Camera shadow visible, tracking into the light towards the end of the film. See more »
There are no opening credits, just a long, tilted close-up of the face of Jack Nance. See more »
The original print of the film ran 20m longer and featured a number of characters who are referenced in the credits but do not appear: The people digging in the alley show up in the second half of the movie. Henry comes across two kids excavating rows of dimes from the asphalt in the street. The landlady shows up in the second half, in a scene where Henry goes into the lobby of the apartment building and takes out his anger on a bench. "You stop kicking my bench!" the landlady shouts at him. "That's good wood!" See more »
Unlike some of Lynch's more recent works ("Mullholland Drive" and "Lost Highway" for example) Eraserhead is a film that doesn't benefit from being "figured out".
The film left me with several strong emotional impressions, mainly having to do with the hell of a forced marriage and the burden of caring for an unwanted child. In spite of truly bizarre occurances (Roast chickens start kicking and oozing blood at the dinner table while Mom has a seziure apparently unnoticed by everybody else; grandma seems catatonic, but mom still gets her to toss the salad, etc., etc., etc...), Mary comes from a rigidly "traditional" family, completely crass in it's need to know if Henry had sex with Mary, what Henry does for a living, and it's assumption that he will marry Mary after presenting him with flimsy evidence that they've had a child together. The values that force Henry and Mary to marry are shown to be as much a part of the machine that has created the industrial hell in which they live as any other force.
Their universe seems post-appocalyptic in its desolation; not a wisp of vegetation anywhere, and almost no clues about time of day. I suspect a rational explanation for the setting of Eraserhead might include some alien takeover; Henry and Mary's "premature baby" doesn't really look human, and it's introduction to their lives is more than a little suspect. Not to mention the "worms" that keep appearing everywhere,looking like dissected human central nerve chords.
While I firmly believe there is no one way to interpret Eraserhead, it
does touch on a number themes that fall into the "social commentary" bin. Isolation deepening simultaneously with physical connection (pipes)as a metaphor for sex that alienates, marriage forced by circumstance, etc. It manages to get the viewer (at least this one) thinking about these issues in an abstract way. I don't know that I really enjoyed the film (although Harry's dream where his brian gets turned into eraserheads was humorous) but I didn't find it worthless. As an image and soundscape, it was truly brilliant.
The intentional mix of plot and diversion succeeds in tempting and then thwarting analysis, like a painting or a sculpture. As such, this film is guaranteed to alienate a large audience. Some of Lynch's more recent films ("Mulholland Drive", for example) are puzzleboxes that start the viewer out in this state of confusion, but actually make a lot more sense once the puzzle is figured out. "Eraserhead" deliberately induces confusion, and intentionally maintains confusion throughout, with no resolution intended. As such, it is typical "student work", untainted by the need to be palatable to large numbers of people, unencumbered by the idea that many will lose interest because they do not see value in maintaining states of confusion (it's called developing an attention span). As with all things, it's a matter of taste.
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