Plot [which is not really possible to describe]:
Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) lives in a big city filled with machines. He has a girlfriend, Mary (Charlotte Stewart). Mary had Henry’s child, a weirdly deformed creature that screams incessantly. They move in together and Henry lives through a joyless world of nightmares. Or maybe realities.
Good grief, I had forgotten how weird David Lynch’s films are. Although there were many moments I liked about it, I couldn’t really get into it.
For me, Eraserhead is mostly a film about fatherhood and fear of fatherhood. Henry struggles with being a father – the child isn’t really a child at all, it’s a creature, a monster, a thing. And all it does is scream. When Henry tries to take care of it, he causes the child pain, it falls apart and turns into an even bigger monster than it already is. In the end, the child takes over Henry’s head, basically erasing his entire identity – but which is almost a hopeful act for Henry, as death is his way out.
It’s also interesting to consider the women in the film (though Lynch certainly doesn’t seem to have the best view of them). They all make promises of some kind, or at least Henry interprets them as promises: Mary(‘s family) promises a stable family life – but she leaves. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (Judith Roberts) promises a new beginning – but she doesn’t stay faithful to Henry. It’s only the Lady in the Radiator who does keep her promise that everything will be better in the end. But what a way of keeping it!
There were a few things about the film that I liked a lot. The lady in the radiator first and foremost. A wonderful character and I also liked her song. I also liked the Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk) – a rather scary person/thing/creature who gave me the chills. I liked the movie’s strange mix of desperation and hopefulness.
But in the end, I couldn’t really relate to (what I perceive as) its core – neither the fatherhood struggles, nor its ambivalence towards women. I felt like the film wasn’t made for (people like) me – and that’s probably true. But it’s a film that is worth looking at more closely.
Summarizing: Interesting. If you can deal with the weird, watch it.