BSA206: Eraserhead

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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.

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BSA206: Surrealist Film

The Surrealist movement began in the 1920s and it has been noted since then that there have been many similarities between the movement and filmmaking. [1]

The objective and technical processes of filmmaking shared affinities with the surrealist project of disassembling reality into a multiplicity of images, and then reassembling those images to achieve a marvelous and uncanny “dream world” that redoubled reality and captured the consciousness of mass audiences [1].

Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (2010) is full of surrealist elements, after all, the main part of the story is set in Alice’s dream and surrealism in film often focuses around dream sequences.
Catriona McAra explores the idea of Lewis Carroll, the writer of Alice In Wonderland, inspiring a lot of surrealist art and writings of the time saying,

“The surrealist movement claimed the Alice books’  writer Lewis Carroll (Charles Ludwig Dodgson, 1832-98) as an important precursor. Traces of his influence can be found in a stream of surrealist works, and, further, surrealism can be seen to have co-opted the curiosity of his heroine Alice as an investigatory trope, in keeping with its research-based practice.” [2]

The difference though between Alice In Wonderland (2010) and traditional surrealist films is the same as many other modern films with surrealist elements; it has a narrative.

The two images below, the first from Spellbound (1945) and the second from Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice In Wonderland, illustrate the similarities in the sets between a Surrealist film and a modern film with Surrealist elements.

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Spellbound (1945) [3]
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Alice in Wonderland (2010) [4]
Below are two images, one from the 1932 Surrealist film Blood of a Poet and the other from Alice In Wonderland (2010), that provide a strong example of the influence of Surrealism on contemporary film. The  hypnotic element of the Cheshire Cat and the way it appears and disappears piece by piece seems to have been influenced by this scene from Blood of a Poet. In this scene, the man slowly appears, piece by piece, as the hypnotic spiral spins.

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Blood of a Poet (1932) Source: 5
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The Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland (2010) Source: 6

 


References

  1.  http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199791286/obo-9780199791286-0139.xml
  2. http://www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal9/acrobat_files/McAra%2013.9.11.pdf
  3. http://facets.org/blog/facets_excl/surrealist-cinema-and-the-avant-garde/
  4. http://multiple-sclerosis-research.blogspot.com/2013/11/alice-in-wonderland-and-ccsvi.html
  5. http://lostmediaarchive.tumblr.com/post/43623348833/secret-bonus-ismn-the-blood-of-a-poet-1932

(6) http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2010/08/alice-in-wonderland-blu-ray-review/

How to make a surrealist film: http://www.theguardian.com/film/features/featurepages/0,,2026690,00.html

Surrealist Cinema: http://www.filmreference.com/encyclopedia/Romantic-Comedy-Yugoslavia/Surrealism-SURREALIST-CINEMA.html

https://books.google.co.nz/books?id=_dvIX1OZYwUC&pg=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=surrealist+films+vs+western+films&source=bl&ots=IzNWMafoxL&sig=K7Tu_SwjImvUCz2VWIHLwgMxvMg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiTyJGa1PPLAhWFjpQKHf8EBlsQ6AEIRzAI#v=onepage&q=surrealist%20films%20vs%20western%20films&f=false

BSA206: Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi is a New Zealand director, actor, writer, and producer best known for his films Boy (2010) and Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016). His acting credits include one of the main roles in Boy, the lead role as Viago in What We Do In The Shadows (2014), and Tom Kalmaku in The Green Lantern (2011). Currently, he is working on Thor: Ragnarok, due for release in 2017, which Waititi is directing. [1]

Hunt For The Wilderpeople, released in 2016, is Waititi’s latest film and focuses on the themes of family and acceptance. It broke box office records in New Zealand in it’s opening week grossing $1.26 million in it’s first four days of release. [2]
The film is based on Barry Crump’s book Wild Pork and Watercress.
I thought this film was excellent, I spent the whole time either laughing or crying. Boy is one of my favourite films and I also loved What We Do In The Shadows, so I was really looking forward to this film. I really enjoy the way Taika Waititi tells stories, like Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, more or less through the eyes of a child. I think it’s very clever the way he makes them largely humorous, but there’s always something more serious going on.


  1. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0169806/?ref_=tt_ov_dr#director 
  2. http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/78514350/hunt-for-the-wilderpeople-breaks-kiwi-box-office-records
  3. https://youtu.be/n8Xvsjy57X0

BSA206: Favourite Films (or near enough)

Top Ten favourite films/Top three favourite films plus a bunch of others that I really enjoy.

Top 3 (In no particular order)
1. The King’s Speech 
(2010), Tom Hooper/Momentum Pictures (Drama)
2. Pride & Prejudice (2005), Joe Wright/StudioCanal (Drama)
3. Boy (2010), Taika Waititi/Transmission Films (Drama)

Others that I really enjoy (also in no particular order)
4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Ken Hughes/Warfield Productions (Musical)
5. October Baby (2011), Erwin Brothers/Provident Films (Drama)
6. Shutter Island (2010), Martin Scorsese/Paramount (Thiller)
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Gore Verbinski/Walt Disney (Fantasy)
8. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Peter Jackson/WingNut Films (Fantasy)
9. Titanic (1997), James Cameron/20th Century Fox (Drama)
10. Bridesmaids (2011), Paul Feig/Universal (Comedy)

Though some of the films on my list haven’t been categorized as drama, most of them cross over into that genre too. For me, Bridesmaids is a comedy/drama as the themes in it have been very relevant to me and I think that’s the point of the drama genre, to be relatable.
I noticed that half of the films on my list were released in 2010/11; must have been a good couple of years!