Eraserhead is one of those strange movies by David Lynch, with his obsessive use of close-ups and tantalizing stills of silent action. The character, Henry, lives in an industrial nightmare, walking in streets filled with odd, squirmy sounds and metal-racketing. Smoke fills the air constantly, in the tradition of an old silent movie like Metropolis. Henry is a quiet fella who lives a modest life as a printer; his lapel is filled with pens, and he wears the suit each and every day. The scenes are filled with odd tweaks to modern design; the light is shaped like a ‘T’ upside down, and their are mounds of what looks like cement, with a plant peaking out the top.
The connections that we make throughout the movie often have little merit: it is inherently metaphorical. It isn’t inherently anything really. The personality of Henry is very interesting, if not the most interesting, aspect of the film to me. He is quiet, yet when he speaks it will be for his benefit; “move over” he says to Mary, his wife, when she is squishing him in bed. When he does speak, it often feels like he hasn’t completed a sentence and will say more, but he wont: he’ll simply put his head down a little bit, resigned. Henry is invited to dinner with Mary and her parents, and he comes inside the house in his tense manner, though he says later that he is nervous, we do not know for sure because he seems to act the same way all of the time. The news leaks while Henry is cutting the chicken, a biologically-mutated thing, and he is made aware that Mary was pregnant, and the bay is at the hospital.
The baby is the subject of the rest of the film: It is a disfigured, big-eyed, alien-like creature with no hands or legs. It’s bottom half is wrapped in a cocoon of tissue, hidden. The shrieks turn Mary away, for she cannot stand it any longer. What does Henry, with his calm and unchanging gestures, think of all this? Is he sad that his son is so malfigured? These questions aren’t answered, but through Henry’s actions we are shown his state of mind: his desperation for acquaintance, after making love with his next door neighbor who has always looked over at him, and his somewhat iconic blank gaze at his child, eyes wide in terror.
Most people wonder what David Lynch was thinking about if it took five-years to make Eraserhead; maybe just how to get more money. I really don’t know, because Lynch’s motives, like Henry’s gesture, ultimately seem out of aesthetic purpose, not meaning. A strange, moody piece with a unique style that’s worth witnessing at least once.