In film school it is not cool to say you like David Lynch. Film students claim he is just a poor mans version of Luis Bunuel. Yes, I would say that Bunuel is more talented and is the king of surrealism. But Lynch is very good and his films do challenge the viewer. I actually have a deep affection for his films. When his films work, they really work! However, when they do not work, for example, Twin Peaks, Fire, Walk with Me or Lost Highway then they quickly launch themselves into self parody. Many people claim his material is too inconsistent and indulgent to be really liked very much.
What I find strange is that one reviewer here states that he feel duped by Lynch. Duped? Why? The films all have a story. They just have a narrative that works differently to conventional film making. If you look hard at the film and try to understand the subtext then you will pick up on what the film is about.
I saw this when I was 16. I knew nothing about films or film making then. A friend and I were bored so we decided to see a movie at capitol cinema. Capitol cinema used to be a cinema that played arty or small independent films. They used to play midnight showings of eraserhead. There was always someone smoking a joint in that place. However, you don't need drugs for this film. Lynch is drugs. This film just buzzes you out.
I had no idea what Eraserhead was about. I had never heard of Lynch and knew nothing about surrealism. I went in and was just totally blown away! Before this I had only really seen commercial blockbuster movies. Lynch gave me a whole knew perspective on what cinema is capable of. Eraserhead is the stuff of dreams. Lynch believes that watching a film is entering a dream state. Both my friend and I did not know what the hell was going on. I was fascinated...
Later I would learn this is a film about Lynch's own obsessions. His hatred of Philadelphia. His fear and anxiety at being a father. The film is just full of a kind of a compulsive, paranoid neurosis. It is a waking nightmare. He also seems to parody the nuclear family. 'Did you have sexual intercourse with my daughter?' Meanwhile that weird blond woman in his radiator seems to represent his escape. A way to transcend from his grim world. What I also find bizarre is that people then accuse him of having no sense of humor! What? There are always funny moments in his films. 'Did you have sexual intercourse with my daughter?'
Jack Nance is also very good as the main character. He seems to be playing the director and he gives a performance that is distant, spaced out and yet emotionally vulnerable. A really strange mix. The imagery is just brilliant. Black and white in an industrial wasteland. There is smoke here of course. It wouid not be a Lynch film without smoke! It also has a cool, grating industrial soundtrack that sets your nerves on edge. This is perfectly effective for the bleak tone of the film. It is so visually striking that the viewer will not forget the imagery quickly. There is a reason that this is a cult film. The other distinctive feature of this film is the long lingering shots. This reminds me of Jim Jarmusch and his movies like Dead Man and Ghost Dog. The length of the shots seems to have the effect of immersing the viewer in this strange industrial wasteland.
I have my own copy that I lend to friends. They then normally give it back to me saying that they only got through the first half hour. They also normally tell me that I am a weirdo for liking it. I think what frustrates people most about Lynch is that he will not give any explanations of what the film is about. So any interpretation is as good as any other. People want the film to be explained so they can understand it. Who said films must be understood or comprehensible? Why can't a film be abstract piece of art like a painting? Lynch's films are like an acid trip. To quote the great gonzo, Hunter S Thompson, 'buy the ticket, take the ride and if it gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, then put it down to forced consciousness expansion.'
So in other words, relax, stick it on and just run with it. Travel into someone else's nightmare for a change...