Eraserhead by Claire Henry
Trade Paperback – British Film Institute – May 2023 – 120 pages
A surreal and darkly humorous vision, David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) has been recognised as a cult classic since its breakout success as a midnight movie in the late 1970s.
Claire Henry’s study of the film takes us into its netherworld, providing a detailed account of its production history, its exhibition and reception, and its elusive meanings. Using original archival research, she traces how Lynch took his nightmare of Philadelphia to the City of Dreams, infusing his LA-shot film with the industrial cityscapes and sounds of the Callowhill district. Henry then engages with Eraserhead‘s irresistible inscrutability and advances a fresh interpretation, reframing auteurism to centre Lynch’s creative processes as a visual artist and Transcendental Meditation practitioner. Finally, she outlines how Lynch’s ‘dream of dark and troubling things’ became a model midnight movie and later grew in reputation and influence across broader film culture.
From the opening chapter on Eraserhead‘s famous ‘baby’ to the final chapter on the film’s tentacular influence, Henry’s compelling and authoritative account offers illuminating new perspectives on the making and meaning of the film and its legacy. Through an in-depth analysis of the film’s rich mise en scène, cinematography, sound and its embeddedness in visual art and screen culture, Henry not only affirms the film’s significance as Lynch’s first feature, but also advances a wider case for appreciating its status as a film classic.