David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) is probably one of the most famous Surrealist films. Eraserhead is a story about a man named Henry who marries the girl he’s had a fling with after discovering she’s pregnant. The baby turns out to be a strange looking creature (that I think looks a little like a disfigured lamb), and won’t stop crying.
I found the scenes that featured the baby to be quite disturbing, especially when the baby gets sick and is covered in sores. It turned my stomach a little.
I did find this film a bit difficult to follow, but I think I may have been a bit distracted by the general strangeness of it, it was the first Surrealist film I’d seen. Thinking back on it and reading up about it, I’m now able to make a bit more sense of it.
Personally, I think this film is about the fears one faces when confronted with parenthood and the stresses that it puts on new parents. During the film, the mother, Mary, leaves Henry and the baby because she can’t handle the baby crying all the time so Henry has to take care of the baby by himself.
Being a Surrealist film, which is a very artistic genre, Eraserhead can be interpreted in many different ways. The way I see it, this film shows you the ways not to deal with the stresses of being the parent of a new born. Henry, due to the constant wailing of the baby, is sleep deprived and has a lot of strange visions and dreams. The most memorable of these are the lady in the radiator and Henry’s head being made into erasers. The lady in the radiator appears several times, she has puffy cheeks, making her face look a little like a moon, lives in the radiator, and sings and dances. Henry seems to treat this vision as an escape from his reality as it is far more peaceful and relaxing, and he has no responsibility in it.
I think the vision of his head being made into erasers can be considered a metaphor for the way the crying baby is eating away at Henry’s sanity like an eraser being rubbed on paper. This makes sense considering, at the end of the film, Henry seems to cut open the baby when he cuts the cloths it is wrapped in. Henry then seems to slip into another dream with the lady in the radiator where she embraces him, perhaps symbolising he has fallen into complete insanity. Although an extreme example, I think this can be considered an example of how not to let the stresses of parenthood get the better of you.
Eraserhead is certainly the strangest film I’ve seen, but I did quite enjoy it, even though it was a bit difficult to follow.