Eraserhead is David Lynch’s first feature film. It was completed on a mere $20,000 budget, coming from an initial $10,000 grant from the college where he was studying, and loans he collected over the years from friends, when the grant money was over. This is why it took Lynch six years to complete production. It’s the story of a few days in the life of Henry Spencer, a printer on vacation, and his relation with his estranged girlfriend, who leaves him with the mutant monster of a baby she has just given birth to. It’s a post-atomic society, as we see from the atomic mushroom portrait picture, hanging on top of Henry’s bed. Most of the characters aren’t meant to be the representation of people, but rather that of dreams, psychoses, literary topoi, grotesque allegories maybe, but certainly not people. But here and, as the audiences will discover, in his later films, Lynch gives themes and motifs actual roles in his films, personifying certain types or characters, so that they can openly and directly show us the interaction they have with the people in the story. This is why some characters in Eraserhead have names like Beautiful Girl Across The Hall, Lady In The Radiator, and Man In The Planet.
The director defined this debut film as his most spiritual to date and, personally, I do appreciate it from a spiritual point of view; the sense of immanence of which the movie is permeated is a clear sign of the presence of a longing for something higher, an attempt to discover the mechanics behind everything and move in unison with them.
This film is Lynch through and through, as we have come to appreciate him and his visions, but it does have a certain naïveté about it, and the sense of active experimentation is very strong; possibly, because of this, his best film to date.