David Lynch’s first full length film was made piecemeal between 1971 and 1977 and is the perfect visual accompaniment to an era obsessed with industrial decay – check out the music of Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle for the aural equivalent. It follows a passive, expressionless man with a perpendicular hairstyle through a succession of grim, clanking scenarios back to his home, where his livid girlfriend and their newborn child – a cross between ET and something that might crawl up your urethra and start living in your insides – seem to be waging psychic war on him. Is he schizophrenic? Are we viewing these scenes from inside his mind? Lynch won’t say, never has. But as with so many films Lynch has made since, there appears to be a piece of information missing. If only we knew what it was, everything would make sense. And it’s this voyeuristic straining after the bits we can’t quite see as much as the puzzlement over the bits we can (what’s going on with the radiators in Eraserhead, for example) that has driven Lynch’s best films since, with Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and his last great film, Inland Empire, all eliciting similar murmurs of baffled appreciation. And here, in Eraserhead, is the motherlode.
© Steve Morrissey 2007