“This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top.” – David Lynch
Multi-talented American filmmaker David Lynch, who is also a painter, musician, sound designer, actor, singer and photographer, is revered for his brilliant films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive as well as his cult classic television series Twin Peaks.
His work is critically acclaimed, with Lynch being labelled as the “first popular surrealist” and collecting a cult following in the process. In 2007, a panel of critics assembled by The Guardian concluded that Lynch is “the most important filmmaker of the current era” and cemented his place in the annals of cinematic history.
With Eraserhead, one of the most influential and unique films of the last century, David Lynch’s remarkable directorial debut is an unparalleled inquiry into the subject of male paranoia and the anxieties of becoming a parent. Set in a universe that looks like an amalgamation of Eliot’s Waste Land and Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Eraserhead launches a scathing attack on enforced reproductive expectations in a world where everyone is impotent. The experimental body-horror film introduced David Lynch to the world and served as a declaration of the surreal darkness of his artistic vision, a characteristic absurdity which would grace most of the later works in his filmography.
Five years in the making and shot entirely in black and white, the film tells the story of Henry Spencer, a man trapped in an industrial wasteland who cannot bear to look at his own deformed creation. Lynch toys with the binaries of the grotesque and the sublime, blurring the lines between the two distinct categories and insisting that modernity has made it impossible for us to separate the beautiful from the ugly. He deconstructs the ideal notion that a child is divine, turning it an object of disgust, anxiety and eventually, violence.
To this day, nobody knows how Lynch made the baby featured in the film, even though some suspect that it was a cow foetus. Between January 1993 and December 1996, filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley conducted a series of interviews with David Lynch for his book Lynch on Lynch (1997). In one such interview, Rodley asked, “What about the baby? How was it made?” and Lynch declined to talk about it, stating, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
The picture polarised viewers who were deeply disturbed by the film’s visceral and psychologically volatile content, leading some viewers to believe that Eraserhead was the work of a madman. The script was inspired by Lynch’s time in a troubled neighbourhood in Philadelphia. “I saw so many things in Philadelphia I couldn’t believe,” Lynch once said. “I saw a grown woman grab her breasts and speak like a baby, complaining her nipples hurt. This kind of thing will set you back.”
Over the years, Lynch has been hesitant to clarify what Eraserhead actually is. He leaves it to the viewer to interpret his beautiful nightmare as any good artist should. He once explained, “People don’t realise it, but as soon as they hear or see that, something dies inside them. They’re deader than they were. They’re not, like, happy to know about this stuff. They’re happy not to know about it. And they shouldn’t know about it. It’s nothing to do with the film! And will only ruin the film! Why would they talk about it? It’s horrifying!”
However, one fan has been bold enough to make a hilarious 60-second clip of Lynch’s masterpiece in order to demystify the abstractions of Eraserhead. Martin Funke spent ten days re-enacting some of the pivotal moments from the film, putting them all together in a minute-long compilation. The short piece was entered into the competition for the 2011 German ‘Done in 60 seconds’ Jameson Empire Award where it made it to the Top 10 shortlist.
Watch the short film below.