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Review: Eraserhead

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Mark Kermode | 12:50 UK time, Tuesday, 9 September 2008

David Lynch's transcendentally sublime debut feature is compulsory viewing-and-listening.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I watched this film for the first time about 2 years ago and subsequently watched it another 2 or 3 times in a row - in addition, I will be seeking this out at my local arthouse cinema. Why? Because I'm convinced that Lynch is either:

    1) taking the mick out of the world in a career long confidence trick.
    2) Is deadly serious about what he does and has a deeply obscure 'point' buried within his works.

    I'm still not entirely sure which of the two options I agree with (or indeed that they are mutually exclusive).

    What I DO feel certain about is that every single element of every one of his films is entirely intentional and totally deliberate, even if those elements aren't necessarily mutually coherent with each other.

    I think of all his films, this is probably the most confusing and the yet also the most concise - certainly a great deal less of an ordeal to get through than the recent "Inland Empire" was.

    To return to my original point, I think Lynch's work positively demands several viewings to further enhance your appreciation, however true understanding is perhaps permanently deferred.

  • Comment number 2.

    Will this be a nationwide re-release or is it just London village?

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm afraid i fall into the 'baffled' category. The film does have scenes that stay with one forever; particularly the scenes with the chicken and the one with the baby/cow-fetus thing.

    Having said that, I am always suspicious of films that, twenty years later, people are still asking what its about. Perhaps its like a music video where Lynch is just showing off and it actually doesn't have a point.

    For me Lynch's best film is The Straight Story.

  • Comment number 4.

    When I first saw Eraserhead I was completley thrown by it, and I wasn't sure whether I'd just watched something awful, or a work of genius. Subsequent viewings confirmed that it was the former.
    I've always wondered whether maybe the film was just too clever for me and that I'd repeatedly missed the point. Indeed, I think there is much to be said for films that not everyone is able to "get". But if after 30 years nobody has even come close to what the film is about then maybe the problem isn't with the audience, it's with Mr David "overrated-in-the-extreme" Lynch.

  • Comment number 5.

    I hate the fact it's rated 18, it's unsettling but it's there's no violence, no language, no sex, so why not 12? at least for scenes of unsettling nature.

    I need to re-watch it, It's hard to sit though but it's fascinating masterpiece of the bizarre.

  • Comment number 6.

    It seems that I'm in tune with Mark and the other posters on this blog.

    I have seen Eraserhead several times and have moved from baffled to fascinated. I was glad to see Mark highlight the sound mix because it's one of the very best. I also think the use of black and white photography is critical to its "success".

    Like for many others I'm sure, there is imagery in this film that is impossible to shake from your conscious. I dunno, i find myself drawn to rewatch it every few years. This is more than I can say about most films.

    As for David Lynch. he 's out on the edge of course. This means that his films are always fascinating if not always liked. How can one person produce the terrifying Blue Velvet (again note the sound design) and the sweet and hypnotic Straight Story?

    Mark, I love your blog and your weekly reviews with Simon. I just wish i could get over from San Francisco and see you play some skiffle.


  • Comment number 7.

    I saw the movie for the first time on the big screen in Sheffield just two days ago, and I can't get it out of my head. I keep humming that bloody 'In Heaven' song and feeling freaked out. It's the best Lynch movie I've seen (and I've seen most of them, I think). Its 18 rating does seem to come from how unsettling and disturbing its images (and indeed sound effects) are; and although the baby may be some kind of mutant, it's still a horrifically violent moment when (SPOILERS) Henry cuts him open and stabs his innards.

    And just because people are still arguing about what it is 'about' doesn't throw into question its status as a classic; what is "Un Chien Andalou" 'about'? What is "Nashville" really about? To quote Roger Ebert: 'a movie is not about what it is about; it is about how it is about it.'

  • Comment number 8.

    ^Reading that back, I have no idea why I used 'him' to describe the baby/mutant/foetus, who certainly seems genderless in the context of the movie.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well I wouldn't say I'm baffled by Eraserhead because I've never tried to read too deeply into what it's about: I'm not entirely convinced it's about anything. What I will say is that when I saw the movie a few years ago, I first felt boredom, then frustration, then a sort of almost tangible headache. You might say the film was successful in that it moved me. I consider it the worst film I have ever seen.

    It's never left my mind since. I've spent the intervening years hating that bloody movie. The worst part is that I know that one day I'm going to end up watching it again. I doubt I'll feel any differently about it, although I am familiar with Mark's story about his initial reaction to Blue Velvet. I keep meaning to watch that film.

    It took me a long time to brave any other David Lynch films, but in the end I relented and watched Mulholland Drive. I actually liked that one, the first hour and a half of it, anyway; after that, it just lost its atmosphere. I have a copy of Inland Empire upstairs. Oddly enough, despite it being even less coherent than Eraserhead (not to mention twice as long), I quite liked it.

    So...yeah. Worst film evar etc. It saddens me to see that I seem to be alone in this reaction here.

  • Comment number 10.

    You're not alone, SirJessop; I hated this movie, too. I rented it here in the U.S. and was frustrated by the film's plodding pace. It didn't help that there were no 'chapters' so you couldn't skip through it. If you tried, you wound up back at the beginning. Annoying!

    Dave Lynch's commentary (90 mins) also had no chapters. His commentary was also snail-paced and plodding. He said nothing, really. I ended up doing things around the house while listening to it as I wanted to see if I was missing something to such an 'important' film. I did: 90 mins of my life! :-(

    The film may have been fun if stoned on LSD/acid at midnight w/other stoner friends. These days it was just boring.

    Sorry, Mark.

  • Comment number 11.

    Now that was different! And the sound FX made the movie.

  • Comment number 12.

    I just saw this film for the first time, which also popped my David Lynch cherry. Blimey, what an introduction. I've never seen a film that disturbed or scared me more. As much as I obviously don't understand it, I loved it. The sound design certainly is excellent; it is consistently creepy and unsettling throughout the whole duration of the film. Marvellous!

  • Comment number 13.

    It saddens me when people talk of coherence. Eraserhead is an excellent example of what films should be about, and that is filmmakers having a 'voice'. What this means is that excellent examples of films are subjective films and therefore 'estranging', films. Strange to audiences outside the artistic vision of the filmmaker, who struggle with the way in which a film is constructed. This does not mean a film does not make sense, it means it's artistic.

    I remember the first time I saw Eraserhead at a friend's house. We wanted to turn it off...But we couldn't because Eraserhead is too compelling.

    Years later when I started writing scripts I realised that subjectivity is a strange and wonderful thing that seems to be ever increasingly a thing of the past.

    Eraserhead is a masterpeice, made in the same year as its masterpeice opposite, Starwars.


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