Commentary Track

Eraserhead (1977)

This week on The Spectator Film Podcast…

Eraserhead (1977) 7.5.19
Featuring: Austin, Maxx

Commentary track begins at 12:41

— Notes —

  • We watched the Criterion Collection release of Eraserhead for the show this week. It’s an excellent release. Eraserhead is also available on The Criterion Channel.
  • The Impossible David Lynch by Todd McGowan — Here’s the main resource we used to help structure our conversation this week. This is an excellent introduction to Lacanian analysis by way of Lynch’s films, and regardless of whether or not you prefer Lacanian theory this book does an excellent job of breaking down the films and making sense of them. Highly recommended for any fans of Lynch. We’ll include some relevant quotes below, although the entire chapter on Eraserhead is excellent:
    • “The loss of the lamella produces a world in which the subject constantly experiences its own lack, and the object that would fill this lack remains perpetually out of reach. The loss of the lamella and the onset of mechanical production unleash a world of desire…As subjects, we create the world of desire through our experience of loss. According to the logic developed by the film, our determinate being-in-the-world is not primordial but the result of an initial, pre-ontological act that gives structure to the world. Though we can only access this act through the vehicle of fantasy, an understanding of it is nonetheless crucial for our ability to see the relationship between the subject and capitalist society” (32).

    • “The distribution of the light emphasizes the experience of absence… We can never look at a scene and experience the overpresence that we are used to seeing in a film. The gaps in the lighting create a world that entices desire by highlighting what cannot be seen or known” (33).

    • “Henry constantly seems to be missing something. He desires something that remains absent or at least concealed, but he does not even know enough about this object to know what he desires…In this first part of the film, Henry’s desire does not have the coordinates that might direct it toward an object. It is in this sense that Henry is the pure subject of desire: his desire is unalloyed by fantasy to such an extent that it has no direction at all. Henry privileges no particular object but views the whole world as a mystery that might disclose the object” (34)

    • “The film perpetuates Henry’s alienation on the spectator. Watching the film, one must endure the lack of light, the barrenness of the image, and the long stretches of time in which nothing happens. This alienation pushes the spectator, as it does Henry, into the position of the desiring subject: like Henry, one experiences oneself in the middle of a world that doesn’t make sense, and one desires to access its mysteries. One experiences this desire all the more because a hidden enjoyment seems to be lurking everywhere out of reach” (35)

  • “‘Eraserhead’ – The Nightmarish Journey into the World of David Lynch Begins” by Lovorko Marić from Cinephilia & Beyond — Here’s a characteristically excellent article written about Eraserhead for Cinephilia & Beyond, which may be the best film blog on the internet. Check it out.
  • “Lynch, David” by Thomas Caldwell from Senses of Cinema — Here’s the great director profile on David Lynch from Senses of Cinema.
  • “On David Lynch’s Eraserhead” from Exorbitance — Here’s a really neat and succinct blogpost I found discussing Eraserhead in a way that cuts right to the bone. It’s a wonderful quick overview of the film’s goals.
  • David Lynch and Quinoa
  • Get Real

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