Directed by: David Lynch
Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts, Jack Fisk
David Lynch’s debut feature Eraserhead (1977) consistently defies analysis, which hasn’t kept people from trying. Over the years I’ve heard more interpretations—some from folks in altered states of consciousness, some from perfectly sober people and some from people where it probably made no difference. I’m not sure that any of these readings were wrong, because I’m not sure that any response to the film can be wrong. Lynch himself has merely called it a “dream of dark and troubling things,” and that’s pretty undeniable. At the same time, reading it as a film about the dread of childbirth seems pretty on the mark to me. Linking it to Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953), with Eraserhead’s Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk) standing in for Bela Lugosi’s puppet master from the Wood film—not to mention Eraserhead‘s overall “retro” look—also makes as much sense to me as anything else. I mean, we are talking about a movie that features a tiny woman living in a radiator.
The best approach to Lynch’s largely plotless nightmare movie is just to go with it—something that may be easier now than it was in 1977 without the context of Lynch’s subsequent films. (Of course, back then it was a mark of coolness just to find it “profound.”) Seen today, Eraserhead may make no more sense than it did 30 years ago, but its casually sinister air can now be seen as so much a part of Lynch’s mature work. Think what you like of Lynch, there’s a remarkable consistency to his body of work, and so much of it is grounded in the desolate imagery found in Eraserhead. The distance from this film to Inland Empire (2006)—an equally impenetrable film—is not very far. Simply sit back and be disturbed.
The Asheville Art Museum will screen Eraserhead for one show only at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, at the Fine Arts Theatre. Info: 253-3227.