Eraserhead (1977) dir. David Lynch



David Lynch acts pretty coy when it comes to the ‘true meaning’ of Eraserhead, repeatedly stating he’s never read anyone construct a perfect interpretation of the film. Of course, trying to find the true meaning in much of Lynch’s work is already a futile effort (I personally have no way to even describe, let alone understand, Inland Empire), but Eraserhead seems to have one of Lynch’s more obvious thematic explorations. That of fatherhood, family, and fear surrounding it.

David Lynch’s daughter was born shortly before the pre-production of this movie with severely clubbed feet. If the fear of how this birth defect would affect his daughter’s life doesn’t manifest itself in the baffling creepy ‘child’ produced in this movie, then Lynch is beyond interpretation. Because, frankly, it seems obvious. Eraserhead also features sublimely offbeat family dinner scenes that seem to convey the sense of isolation Lynch felt trying to interact with modern ‘nuclear’ families.


Pictured: A baby?

Yet I say all this, and then think back on all I don’t understand about this movie: the man with the lever, the chipmunk girl in the radiator, the title and the scene the title is derived from, et al. Perhaps Mr. Lynch has never read a perfect ‘explanation’ of Eraserhead because there isn’t one. Maybe in Lynch’s brain he has explanations, but to the lay-viewer his scenes of surreal are nearly impenetrable. Hence, I suppose, the need for the term Lynchian.

Really though, the ‘meaning’ of this movie doesn’t so much matter. What matters is the tone, the baffling combination of pat humor and existential, industrial darkness that would come to define the term ‘Lynchian’ gets its start here. And not to mention that amazing soundscape!

If you’re looking to intellectualize this movie like I tried to do, go to the Coolidge and give it your best shot.


dir. David Lynch
88 min.

Screens Saturday, 9/24, at midnight, as part of Coolidge Corner’s After Midnite series; “programming for cinephile insomniacs.”

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