This surreal nightmare examines male paranoia. Our hero and title character, Henry, faces a number of horrifying obstacles in meeting someone of the opposite sex, meeting her parents, and procreating. Produced during a one-and-a-half-year period while director David Lynch was a student at the American Film Institute, the film launched him as a major new talent admired by cinephiles and filmmakers all over the world. It stands today as a milestone in personal, independent filmmaking.
Eraserhead is a 1977 American surrealist body horror film written and directed by filmmaker David Lynch. Shot in black-and-white, Eraserhead is Lynch’s first feature-length film, coming after several short works. The film was produced with the assistance of the American Film Institute (AFI) during the director’s time studying there. Starring Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Jeanne Bates, Judith Anna Roberts, Laurel Near, and Jack Fisk, it tells the story of Henry Spencer (Nance), who is left to care for his grossly deformed child in a desolate industrial landscape. Throughout the film, Spencer experiences dreams or hallucinations, featuring his child and the Lady in the Radiator (Near).
Initially opening to small audiences and little interest, Eraserhead gained popularity over several long runs as a midnight movie. Since its release, the film has earned positive reviews. The surrealist imagery and sexual undercurrents have been seen as key thematic elements, and the intricate sound design as its technical highlight. Thematic analysis of the film has also highlighted these issues and has elaborated on Spencer’s fatalism and inactivity. In 2004, the film was preserved in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.