And the award for the most mental film I’ve ever seen goes to: Eraserhead, the debut feature-length body horror feature by David Lynch, a startlingly unique director. Filmed over several years with its production shrouded in mystery, this black and white film has become a cult classic.
It’s hard to give the premise of this film, as it’s just so damn weird. Jack Nance plays Henry Spencer, who lives in an industrial landscape. He discovers his girlfriend (Charlotte Stewart) is pregnant, and she gives birth to a bizarre looking and totally helpless creature. The last thing that seems to make any sense is a scene showing how the creature must be pampered at all times. Afterward, Henry seems to drop in and out of a dream world in which some rather nightmarish things occur.
For all its weirdness, the film is strangely compelling. For one thing, the tale is rather linear, so at least the confusion the audience feels hasn’t come from confused story telling. Watching the film, you become aware that there won’t be a conventional ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ ending, and you wonder in desperation what on earth the ending could be like. It’s a film like no other you’ve seen before.
For myself, the best aspect of the film was undoubtedly the soundtrack, written partially by David Lynch himself. For the most part, it consists of monotonic drones that change with intensity between scenes, rather like the early music of John Cale. Strangely enough, I’d never been interested in drone music before, but when set to pictures, it all seemed to make sense. The industrial feel of the film is perfectly captured through the drones. I can now go back to the soundtrack and just enjoy it by itself. The song that the Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near) sings, titled In Heaven is incredibly simple but also quite powerful, as it uses a juxtaposition of light and dark chords, underneath what is a seemingly positive message.
I don’t really mind that this film doesn’t make a lot of sense. When you have a nightmare, you don’t try and make sense of it, and it’s the same with Eraserhead. The film benefits from not having too much to understand. What I do enjoy is the highly artistic and aesthetic feel of the film, coupled with the brilliant soundtrack. It’s not the kind of film I’d want to see every day, but I’m very glad to have seen it.