Thursday 30 December 2010

Eraserhead movie review

Eraserhead - 1976
Director - David Lynch

1) Eraserhead poster

Plot summary / review:

"No plot summary can do justice to the unsettling experience of watching Eraserhead for the first time. Confounding, hysterical and almost unendurably tense, it leaves viewers as disoriented as Henry himself." (Bitel, 2008). Aptly put by Anton Bitel, Eraserhead is one of those films the audience must endure, with its disturbing visuals and haunting soundtrack, it will have a lasting psychological and physical affect on the viewer.

The plot is relatively simple in broad terms. Henry Spencer (John Nance) works as a printer in an undisclosed time, but seemingly post apocalyptic, industrialised world. Surrounded by bland buildings, heavy machinery and smoke spewing chimneys, Henry returns home to his cell like apartment.

2) Henry Spencer.

After checking his empty mail box, Henry is greeted by his mysterious but beautiful neighbour (Judith Roberts), who informs him that Henry's girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) left him an invitation to have dinner at her parents house that night. Henry attends and events get even more peculiar, not only because of the artificial salad and moving chicken carcass' served for dinner, but sexual tension between Henry and Mary's mother and her strange family.

3) Family dinner.

It is revealed that Henry and Mary had pre-marital sex and she has in turn given birth to a mutated baby. Henry is forced to marry Mary and move her and the baby into his one bedroom apartment. The agonising cry of the deformed baby takes it's toll on them both. Henry becomes more distant and falls deeper into his dreams and Mary eventually walks out on him and the child.

4) Baby

Henry becomes more erratic, falling deeper into his dreams and subconscious. After consorting with his beautiful neighbour, his dreams become more powerful, imagining a lady in the radiator singing on a stage, his head falling off replaced by the deformed baby's and the most iconic eraser pencils made from his decapitated head.

5) Lady in the radiator

The film comes to a gruesome end with Henry stabbing the baby after apparently cackling at him when he sees his neighbour seducing another man. The baby's insides spew and guzzle over electrical wires causing a blackout. Returning to the start of the film, a man on a rocky planet pulling levers is electrocuted and Henry is seen embracing the Lady in the radiator.

6) Man in the planet.

Lynch has created a cult classic full of symbolism and metaphors, in fact it is so jam packed it is down right strange and confusing. The whole film feels like an experiment, a way for Lynch to explore his own anxieties through his first full length feature. Weather he intended it to be or not, it opens up the film to multiple interpretations on the fear of commitment, relationships, fatherhood, adultery, sexual intercourse..... the list goes on. "There is certainly a strong sexual undercurrent combined with the trappings of commitment in relationships. But while there are some stark and shocking moments, they're floating in an undisciplined exercise in experimentation." (Haflidason, 2001).

Lynch reportedly spent six years making this movie proving it to be a real labour of love. As strange and as hard as it is to follow, he succeeded in creating memorable, often shocking images and sounds which stay with you after the credits have rolled, for all the wrong reasons. It is a triumph in the exploration of the subconscious and inner mind, delivered in a Salvador Dali'esque inspired vision. "‘Eraserhead’ is a singular work of the imagination, a harrowing, heartbreaking plunge into the darkest recesses of the soul." (Andrew, 2006).


Andrew, Geoff. Timeout movie review 26th January 2006 - accessed 30/12/10

Bitel, Anton. Film4 movie review 3rd September 2008 - accessed 30/12/10

Haflidason, Almar. BBC movie review 17 April 2001 - accessed 30/12/10


1) Eraserhead poster - accessed 30/12/10

2) Henry - accessed 30/12/10

3) Family dinner - accessed 30/12/10

4) Baby - accessed 30/12/10

5) Lady in the radiator - accessed 30/12/10

6) Man in the planet - accessed 30/12/10

1 comment:

  1. great review, Paul - it's obviously not a film to be enjoyed (endured!), but in this time of Transformers 2 and other instantly forgettable fodder, Lynch's movie is, in a strange way, rather exhilarating! Still, it's The Shining next time around - Here's Jonny! :D