You mention Eraserhead, and most filmophiles will instantly know what you mean. You haven’t said anything else, and already the mood of the conversation has shifted into that ethereal madness that David Lynch’s film so easily encompasses. I’ve used the term “madness on celluloid” before to describe a couple of films, but no one is a crazier man behind the camera than David Lynch, bar none. Even Cronenberg has mellowed out considerably since his Videodrome and Naked Lunch days, but even those films were coherent, if somewhat bizarre. Eraserhead is something else entirely; it is the personification (or rather, cinematogrification) of surreal, of confusion, of incomprehensibility.
It’s a good thing I don’t go into too much depth on plot summaries, because I couldn’t tell you half of what this film is about, let alone the whole thing. Here’s just a smattering of the disconnected events that happen in Eraserhead: a man on a planet in space pulls random levers as he looks out a window, a cooked hen spewing viscous fluids onto a dinner plate as it desperately wriggles around, a disturbing reptilian fetus of a baby sputtering up baby food (really the baby itself deserves more than just a mere mention, it is easily the most horrifying thing I have encountered in a film; it’s like the demonic bastard half-brother of E.T.), a miniature woman in a radiator dancing and squishing sperm-like worm creatures with her heels, the main character’s head falling off and his brains being used as materials to make pencil erasers, the baby in question spewing blood and organs and a foamy substance as its head extends from its neck, and so much more that just defies description. To try to make sense of any of this is to try and squeeze a square peg through a round hole. The linearity of the narrative isn’t the point of the experience, it’s the strangeness of the experience itself that is the point. There is little more to Eraserhead than that.
I’ve said all I could say, and I’ve said all I needed to say. I could talk about the stark black and white cinematography, or the ever-present white noise sound effects, but there’s really no need. This is a test, a barometer of how serious you are as a film buff. Have you seen this film, or haven’t you? If you haven’t, you can’t be blamed, but this is enough of an essential viewing that the question is still there. I did mention this is essential viewing, but in what way? In what fashion? Just how is this essential? I have no freaking idea, and yet it still is, if only for the insanity of it. See this, just so you can be one of the few amongst your circle of friends to be able to say, “I have seen it. I have seen Eraserhead.”
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10