“In Heaven, everything is fine. You’ve got your good things. And I’ve got mine.”
Eraserhead is a strange film, there’s no doubting that, but despite appearances, it is not a random one. Behind everything it does is some kind of meaning, however obscure it may first seem. As David Lynch’s directorial debut, it also set the tone for what the man’s work would become known for: surrealism, metaphor and psychological storytelling.
Jack Nance plays Henry Spencer, an aloof man who comes across as a victim of circumstance. The entire film gives off the aura of a half-sleeping dream, perhaps Henry’s dream, or that of someone else in which he is merely a helpless participant. Regardless, much of the experience (an experience is definitely what this film is) features Henry’s subconscious projections of his paternal insecurities and sexual frustrations.
This kind of storytelling would later repeat itself in the Silent Hill series (the first two of which I often refer back to as among my favourite video games). Numerous tenets of that series were borrowed from Eraserhead; from its thematic components and stylised body horror, to the overall juxtaposition of surrealist imagery in an industrial landscape.
Is it a film capable of being appreciated by a wide audience? Clearly a wide enough one, for it to have gained such a favourable reputation in mainstream circles. Yet at the same time, Eraserhead has a niche style that won’t be for everyone. I kind of like it that way.