Eraserhead, the lugubrious little layer cake of dread that some refer to as a film, sets it’s sights early on dragging it’s audience into some kind of multi-faceted fear of being alive – and keeps right on sinking like a junky with a stomach full of river rocks. Easily one of director David Lynch’s more solid films, the piece follows Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) as he subsists in a concrete limbo that bloomed industrially before rotting socially, his awkward interactions with equally skewed fellow inhabitants and some sublime dream sequences that have bled dangerously into his waking life.
As is sometimes the case with Lynch, the plot isn’t wholly the point, with the film (d)evolving into a sequence of moods, feelings, thoughts and otherwise surreal intangibles and as is most always the case with Lynch, the sound design is impeccably intentional from start to finish. The visuals will keep you seated, but it’s the soundtrack that has your balls in a vice. Punctuated at intervals with sequences that depict sinking into various incarnations of an ever-present black hole, the film calls attention to notions of scale and significance; in their most grandiose meanings. A slug writhes on harsh earth and henry meanders through a concrete jungle. The film explores some defective sexual imagery and hopeless broken musings of what it means to be the byproduct of cell-division, seeming to move between new wave sensibilities of “dead-time” and more disjointed avant-garde and expressionistic contrasts, creating a sense of pace and realism of it’s own. Where nothing happens, yet everything happens. Where some entities are metaphoric, while others remain quite literal – and the two share a can of beans in an unopened bomb shelter in Hiroshima.
Ultimately, the film feels like a recurring dream, where location and time hang, dwell, flit and twist on the whim of symbolism. With the thought that bore the dream into existence being the only constant. Eraserhead, like all great provocative pieces, will invade your personal space, slide it’s charcoal fingers somewhere deep inside you and tug on that loose-thread you spent a great deal of time ignoring. Results may vary.