Excluding a few documentaries, David Lynch has made around a dozen feature films. He managed to go beyond being a cult success and is a genuinely admired name as a director an innovator. Which is why I feel kind of guilty that until today, I had seen a grand total of one of his movies. The Elephant Man. Well now, I have doubled that number, by watching his feature film debut, Eraserhead.
In the perfect kind of weirdness that seems so appropriate, the movie opens with Jack Nance as Henry Spencer, kind of just floating in space. Super imposed over a planet that represents his brain, I think. Then some kind of fetus thing floats out of his mouth. What does it all mean? Who cares? It looks amazing.
Henry goes to dinner at his girlfriend’s parent’s house where it turns out she gave birth to a weird alien, cow, baby thing. Still with me? Probably not. I’m not still with me. Her parents think he’s the father and should marry her, there’s a man who seems to be making the planet move and a girl with giant, mutant cheeks who sings a song. You know, just regular movie stuff.
Made and pieced together over several years, that disjointed feel is obvious and I don’t think it can all be put down to deliberate Lynchian weirdness. Not that Eraserhead is attempting any sort of conventional story with a beginning, middle and end, but the flow seems to have become even more jerky as a result of the years and years of filming.
I can’t think of anther film maker who has kept their art house sensibilities so much in tact while also finding such mainstream success. Maybe John Waters is up there with him, but David Lynch makes the weird movies that even regular, casual movie goers seem to be kind of aware of.
If it doesn’t exist already, some band needs to make an album that syncs up with Earserhead, a-la Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz. Because even if the story frustrates and aggravates you, it is visually stunning enough to make the best 90 minute music video ever.
Apparently Lynch has made a point of rarely talking about this movie or going into detail about what it means. His reason being, he wants people to come to their own conclusions about the movie and what it’s about. I’d like to think the real reason is because even Lynch doesn’t have a clue what Earsehead is about. For some reason, I think that would make it even more successful as a piece of experimental art.