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German title Eraserhead
Original title Eraserhead
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1977
length 89 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director David Lynch
script David Lynch
production David Lynch
music David Lynch
camera Herbert Cardwell
Frederick Elmes
cut David Lynch

Eraserhead (Eng. "Eraser Head") is an American feature film from 1977. Directed by David Lynch , who also wrote the screenplay and also acted as producer and film editor. The film is assigned to the genres of horror film , fantastic , surrealistic as well as punk and science fiction film. Eraserhead is also known as " completely sui generis ", i. H. as a film that stands for itself and doesn't fit any specific genre.

It tells the story of Henry Spencer's fatherhood, which burdens him physically and mentally. When the baby dies, Henry's problems dissolve, and so do he.

After initially negative reviews, the film was received largely positively in the mid-1980s and early 1990s and became a cult film, which is reflected, among other things, in its inclusion in the National Film Registry List 2004.


In a desolate area with flickering lights, leaky pipes and ruin-like buildings, where nature has been completely replaced by industry, nothing can be heard except for the aggressively whistling wind and mechanical hum of running machines and electrical devices.

The shy, naive printer Henry Spencer is invited to dinner by the parents of his ex-girlfriend Mary and learns that she has given birth to a baby after an extremely short pregnancy. Under pressure from their parents, Henry and Mary take care of the deformed child together, with Mary finally giving up out of desperation and excessive demands and leaving Henry alone with the baby. When the child falls ill and takes Henry's life completely, both in dreams and in reality, he resorts to the last resort that occurs to him: he kills the being by using scissors to cut one of the organs that were left after the bandages were removed step openly from his body.

During the film, Henry looked at an apparently hallucinated, deformed blonde with exceptionally large, spherical cheeks on a stage behind his radiator several times. He can watch them alternately dancing or singing. In one sequence, fetuses fall on the stage that are identical in physique to his deformed baby. The blonde crushes her. When Henry tries to approach the woman, she abruptly disappears from the stage, whereupon the insecure Henry's head falls from his shoulders. The latter is sinking in a pool of blood that runs out of a tree, and (eng., In the next scene in a factory to eraser for pencils Eraserhead ) processes.

Further plot lines show Henry entering into an affair with his neighbor and a decaying man looking at the scenery who operates levers. He seems to be on another planet.

History of origin


Eraserhead has gone through a long and confused creation process. In 1970 the young David Lynch applied for a place at the Center for Advanced Film Studies of the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles . He had to submit a completed work and an idea for a script. The Grandmother was the finished film and Gardenback the script project that Lynch worked out into a 45-page script after his adoption. Lynch was made aware of a 20th Century-Fox producer by his fellow student Caleb Deschanel , who was interested in his film project Gardenback . He was willing to support Lynch's project with US $ 50,000 on the condition that the 110-page script be worked out so that a real feature film could be made. Lynch, who couldn't get used to this idea at all, turned it down in frustration after a few editing attempts. Gradually he lost enthusiasm for his horror adultery story and told the AFI that he wanted to implement a project called Eraserhead instead . He found inspiration among others in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915) and Nikolai Gogol's short story The Nose (1836). “ Sometimes, under pressure from Gardenback, I would sneak away and make notes for Eraserhead . Because ideas came to me that I knew wouldn't work for Gardenback , but that I found pretty exciting anyway. […] And suddenly I found Eraserhead a lot more interesting, ”says Lynch. Those responsible at the AFI approved the new project.

The Eraserhead script was 21 pages long. Since AFI calculated one minute of film per page of the script from experience, it was assumed that the film would last about 21 minutes. They were not prepared to finance a feature film because such a large project had failed shortly before. Now Lynch had an extremely condensed writing style and wanted to develop many scenes while shooting. He therefore mentioned that the film would take longer. They agreed on 42 minutes, black and white and 35 mm. He also received a budget of $ 10,000.


Philadelphia's industrial landscape has had a major impact on Eraserhead .

At the beginning of 1972, the preparations for shooting finally began. The film team included sound designer Alan Splet, production manager Doreen G. Small and cameraman Herbert Cardwell. Lynch wanted to take care of the music, decor, production design and editing himself. He was able to win over his friends Jack Nance and Jack Fisk for the roles of Henry Spencer and The Man in the Planet, respectively. Lynch built the sets with his brother John and friend Alan Splet. They had a few small rooms and a huge storage facility. Above all, the warehouse later served as a filming location, where most of the decorations were also erected. For US $ 100 they bought " a lot of partitions from a bankrupt film company that they used over and over again. " On average, a decoration could not cost more than US $ 30 so as not to exceed the production budget. One of the greatest challenges was the creation of the monstrously deformed baby. Most of the time in the movie, it's lying on a dresser in Henry's apartment. It's wrapped in gauze bandages and looks something like a calf fetus. How this " secret star of Eraserhead " came about has been kept secret by Lynch and his crew to this day, because if one were to unravel the secret of how the baby was made, in Lynch's opinion the film would be ruined. It is speculated that Lynch specially dissected a cat and used human umbilical cords supplied from the hospital by a friend.

Lynch was influenced by personal experiences during the scriptwriting and filming preparations. The director had lived in the American east coast city of Philadelphia from 1966 to 1970 and said that without his experience of the urban nightmare there, the film would have been inconceivable. This industrial and machine influence is omnipresent in the finished film. In addition, Lynch had a deep impact on the birth of his daughter Jennifer in 1968: She was born with deformed feet, known as club feet . An experience processed in the monstrous baby? Lynch answered the question: “ Of course, since people live and perceive things in their surroundings, ideas come to them. But then there would have to be 100 million eraserhead stories. Anyone who has a child does eraserhead ? That's ridiculous! That's not all. Millions of things come together. Every family has a different way of dealing with themselves and their problems. " Jennifer Lynch said in an interview that starting a family was a" nightmare come true " for her father . Lynch's film can therefore also be seen as a processing of his fatherhood and his family life.

Filming and post-production

Shortly before shooting began on May 29, Lynch showed the entire film crew Sunset Boulevard (1950) by Billy Wilder to show the “ black and white experience of a certain atmosphere ” that was to be decisive for Eraserhead . Lynch estimated the duration at around six weeks, but even after a year the filming was not over. After nine months of shooting, cameraman Cardwell had to leave the production for financial reasons. He was replaced by Frederick Elmes . It was filmed exclusively at night. Lynch said: “In the evening everyone was gone. And it was a night film. The atmosphere was right, that's the decisive factor. "

The production conditions turned out to be extremely difficult. When the AFI ran out of money, no further grants were given to Lynch's project. The technical means will continue to be made available if the director himself takes care of the financing of the shooting, it said. Lynch fell into deep despair and toyed with the idea of ​​realizing the remaining scenes with small puppets as animation. " [I wanted] to build a eight-inch miniature Henry and trick it through cardboard miniature sets to fit in the missing scenes, " he recalls. The idea was quickly rejected. After a year-long hiatus, production was resumed in May 1974 when Lynch managed to borrow money from friends and family. He also worked as a newspaper delivery boy for two hours every day at midnight and carried out the Wall Street Journal for $ 48 a week .

After you had all the scenes in the box, the sound had to be created. The AFI set Lynch and Splet a deadline that could not be met and then both literally left the door. They then set up a recording studio in a garage, where from summer 1975 to spring 1976 they worked on the soundtrack for Eraserhead . Meanwhile, Elmes was shooting missing scenes with The Man in the Planet in his own living room. After four years of work, the film was finally completed in the summer of 1976.

Publication and reception

First performances and timely reviews

David Lynch tried to register Eraserhead for the competition at the Cannes International Film Festival in the summer of 1976 , but missed the French selection committee that had traveled to New York. A little later, his registration for the New York Film Festival was rejected. Motivated by his future wife Mary Fisk, Lynch submitted his film to the Los Angeles Film Festival Filmex. There Eraserhead was premiered on March 19, 1977 in a 108-minute version, which Lynch subsequently shortened to 89 minutes. The reason for this was the reaction in the screening room, which had made it clear to him that the last third of the film was too long and too slow.

Writer and director David Lynch 1990 - 13 years after the premiere of Eraserhead .

The first public discussion in the American film magazine Variety was a slap. In the New York Times , Tom saw the film only as a " gloomy, grandiose shocker ." Critic Jim McBridge described the film as an " excruciatingly tasteless experience ". Furthermore, he assumed an inadequate plot and a lack of subtlety Eraserhead . Nevertheless, the festival performance was to mark Lynch's artistic breakthrough. Ben Bahrenholz, independent film distributor from New York, who became known for so-called midnight screenings in off-cinemas, became aware of Lynch's film and immediately included it in his program. That same fall, the film was shown in the Cinema Village in New York City. 25 people attended the first performance, 23 or 24 the second. After that arduous start, however , Eraserhead became a midnight underground insider tip and ran in 17 US cities with 32 copies by 1982. The film was also shown at various festivals in parallel. These included the Chicago International Film Festival , the London Film Festival , the Fantasporto International Film Festival and the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, where Lynch won the jury award.

From 1979 onwards, the film was also increasingly discussed by film critics in Great Britain and Germany. The reviews were mostly positive and saw Eraserhead as an " artistically ambitious film " that is in the tradition of European auteur cinema and comes close to Surrealism and Expressionism . Nigel Andrews said in The Financial Times that the film provokes " shock, joy, nausea and dizzying incomprehension ". And Paul Taylor came in Monthly Filmbulletin early 1979 concludes: " Eraserhead is a movie you will experience should experience instead ." Helmut W. Banz described the film in the period of 14 December 1979 even as a " cult film in the coming years ". It is said to be of " disturbing fascination ", possesses an " ominous ambiguity of the images " and an " oppressive intensity of the sound ". In 1984, Bernd Schultz from Cinema also spoke of a cult film that was "a fascinating piece of work ". In addition, he dealt with the genre Eraserhead s and was of the opinion that the film was science fiction, punk and horror film at the same time. Eraserhead has been compared primarily with the surrealist work An Andalusian Dog (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí , Alien (1979) by Ridley Scott and Zombie (1978) by George A. Romero .

New version and success

Georg Seeßlen said in the epd film in 1993 that Lynch's work had lost none of its “bizarre beauty, this elegiac portrayal of a depressive push or a bad trip ” over the years . In the summer of 1994 Eraserhead came to the cinemas in a new version with revised sound (Dolby Stereo). Lynch says: “ Sound technology [has] developed enormously, and that's why Alan Splet [...] and I wanted this film, in which sound plays such a decisive role, to benefit from this development in retrospect. [...] The sound is exactly the same as in the original version, but thanks to the new technology, things fly around your ears with full force in a cinema with a good pitch, good screen and absolutely dark hall! “The production costs of around 20,000 US dollars were brought back to around seven million US dollars in the USA alone. The film was also able to achieve greater popularity because directors such as Stanley Kubrick and John Waters named Lynch's work as one of their favorite films. Swiss artist HR Giger also praised the film by speaking of the best film he has ever seen.

In 2004 the film was included in the list of the National Film Registry . She takes care of " the preservation of culturally, historically and aesthetically valuable films in the USA ". The film magazine Premiere took Eraserhead in its list of The 25 Most Dangerous Movies Ever Made and Entertainment Weekly magazine in its The Top 50 Cult Movies 14th place in 2010 ended Lynch's first feature film behind Orson Welles Citizen Kane No. 2 in the list of 100 Best First Feature Films of All Time from the Online Film Critics Society . The film has been shown regularly at various international film festivals since its appearance.


Eraserhead had influence on various films by renowned directors such as B. Shining (1980) by Stanley Kubrick , Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) by Shin'ya Tsukamoto , Begotten (1990) by E. Elias Merhige and Pi (1998) by Darren Aronofsky . In addition, Lynch's work also had an effect on the work of David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam . The 2009 film Splice - The Gene Experiment by Vincenzo Natali is also about the creation / birth of a monster baby.

Meanwhile the film has found its way into pop culture. The Pixies interpreted the song that the woman behind the radiator sings as In Heaven on the EP Pixies (2002). This radiator song, written and interpreted by Peter Ivers for the film, has been covered several times. Keith Kenniff, American composer and producer, used it for his album Ayres and Zola Jesus also covered the song under the title Lady in the Radiator . Furthermore, the song Too Drunk To Fuck by the Californian political punk band Dead Kennedys says: " You bawl like the baby in Eraserhead ". Another interpretation of the "Heizkörper-Song" is from the industrial band SIN (Secrets of Industrialized Noise), the song was called "Heaven * 3 Mask Men" and was released in 1993 on the CD album "SIN" under EMI Electrola GmbH . In addition, there are two other interesting cover versions of this song: The first from the post industrial band Haus Arafna , "In Heaven" was released in 1998 on the CD album "Children of God" by GALAKTHORRÖ. And the second cover version of "Heaven" is by the new wave band Norma Loy and was released in 2009 on the CD album "Rewind / T-Vision" on Infrastition.


Sui generis

In Eraserhead is a self-contained movie reality. It is a film that is " inwardly directed "; H. who is more focused on itself than on the viewer. A world will be created that works with its own laws and logic, says film journalist Robert Fischer . The viewer sits right in the head of Henry Spencer and thus gets to know the inner workings of this figure. It is a completely alienated, bizarre and absurd world that comes from the protagonist's own logic. This point of view is supported by a statement by Lynch, which also refers to the autobiographical traits: “ I felt Eraserhead , not thought. It was a silent process: from inside me onto the canvas. "

This fact makes the film appear as a completely independent work, as " completely sui generis ", as one critic of the film Quartly called it. It is therefore extremely difficult to classify eraserheads . There is talk of a prenatal perceptual fantasy, of a horror film, a slime orgy, a macabre comedy, a science fiction film, a social drama, a punk film or even of the “ last avant-garde film in film history ”.

The sui generis character of the film, with its own logic and alienated world, points directly to another level of the film: playing with dreams and reality.

Dream and reality

The mixture of dream and reality as well as (surrealistic) dreamscapes, both of which occupy an important place in later films by David Lynch, come to the fore here for the first time.

In Eraserhead there are essentially three elements that point to dreamy levels: first, the cognitive unreliability of the narration, second, the comparison of Lynch's film with the everyday world experienced, and third, the fluid transitions and boundaries between different worlds or levels of reality.

The first element is supported by the non-localizability of space and time. For example, throughout the film, it's completely unclear what time he is actually playing. The clothes, the premises and the music hall sound " refer to the American lower class in the period between 1910 and 1950 " - but there is no confirmation. Furthermore, Henry's house and that of Mary's parents appear unnaturally placed, almost exactly within an industrial area. A comprehensible urban structure does not exist and thus indicates a completely bizarre living situation. There are no people to be seen in front of Henry's house, any more than on the way to Mary's parents. The film does not offer any “ explanations for the creation of this urban living situation ”. In addition, the lack of a unit of action, the multitude of seemingly unmotivated scenes and the discrepancy between image and sound suggest a dream. A constant stamping and pounding can be heard on the sound track, a continuous “ machine sound carpet ”. Sometimes it fits the scene just shown (when Henry walks home past the industrial area, working machines sound), sometimes it doesn't, e.g. B. if the machine noise can also be heard in the room. Physical sound and space do not always have a logical relationship to one another. Alienation is the result.

The second element arises from the comparison that the viewer draws between Lynch's film world and the everyday world they experience. The incoherence and inconsistency experienced during Eraserhead lead to a “ feeling of disorientation, of being at the mercy and ultimately of fear .” The people shown behave in an extremely strange way. For example, when Henry is invited to dinner with Mary's parents, the father behaves extremely strangely. He tries to adequately introduce himself to his son-in-law, but fails completely. Mary's father seems like an emotionally disturbed personality who doesn't know how to adapt her feelings to the current situation. Instead, he slips into various roles that he seems to switch at random.

The third element is the most obvious connection to an imagined world, because the film does not explicitly differentiate between reality and dream. The transitions between the two worlds are fluid, the boundaries blurred. The best example is probably the sequence in which Henry lies on his bed and stares into the radiator, behind which a stage suddenly appears. Now the camera dives into the world of the woman behind the radiator. This object thus serves as a kind of “ transition point between the worlds .” Lynch seems to be interested in inseparably connecting reality and dream. Three levels of reality can be distinguished in Eraserhead : Henry's life, the world behind the heating and the man who lives on another planet. The irritating thing is that all levels flow into one another.

The film journalist Charles Martig comments on the role of the dream in Lynch's work: “ [It's] about the decomposition of the familiar viewing and listening space. As a movement of unrealization, they [the dream sequences] lead to a strange intermediate state, a separate space-time that can be described as the Lynch universe . "

Henry Spencer and Sexuality

Eraserhead is often understood as a " mirror of the inner constitution of the [protagonist] ". Henry's fears are revealed through the alienated, sometimes surrealistic images. For his age he seems very childlike and naive, as if he was “ not yet grown up, not born to the end ”. Indeed, Henry does not behave like a confident young man who can lead a successful social and sexual life and protect and support a family. Fischer believes that this behavior comes from the “ evocation of a prenatal state, [the] longing for security in the womb, combined with the fear of the act of childbirth, with the fear of being a helpless being in some form or whatever always looking world to be pushed ”. Henry would prefer not to obey the commandment: leave the family and start your own. He would have preferred to stay in the womb and through this wish he penetrates the film on an abstract level, " deeper and deeper, to the point at which he was conceived, up to a renewed union, this time between mother and father ."

The killing of the baby, which functions as a kind of phallic symbol , is understood in this context as a negation of Henry's sexuality, as a kind of self-castration. By killing the "penis baby", he frees himself from his fear of his own sexuality. But the baby, i.e. the sex drive, turns out to be stronger than the head in the end: In one sequence, it even knocks Henry's head off his shoulders and takes his place. The baby does not die through its annihilation, " but [expands] into the cosmic, while the head is shredded into instruments, into erasers ." The woman (fairy) on the stage behind the radiator serves Henry as a projection surface for escapism, it is a refuge from sexual problems. It is there that he ultimately finds something like redemption “ in the fairy's embrace bathed in gleaming white ”.

Absurdity and humor

The absurd moments in Eraserhead are reminiscent of the absurd theater of Eugène Ionesco or Samuel Beckett , but also of Jacques Tati's films, among other things through “ the extreme experiences of speed and slowness and the importance of the sound track ”. The film is funny in parts because of its absurdity. Like when Henry enters an elevator and waits motionless for an eternity until the door finally closes. The sometimes naive and clumsy embodiment of Jack Nance is reminiscent of silent film comedians à la Harry Langdon . The critic David Cheal even sees the film as a " parody of family life ".

In addition to these humorous interludes, the dinner at Mary's parents is a prime example of the absurd theater. Lynch achieves this by building on communication problems which, like the dream sequences, are an integral part of Lynch's oeuvre. During the meal, the mother groans and drools, the conversation between father and son-in-law is limited to the minimum and before that in the living room, Mary “has a kind of epileptic fit in which she grimaces, cramps and moans, only to continue the conversation shortly afterwards . “The different characters often seem to talk past each other. Motives and causes for the characters' actions and behavior remain completely unclear, they appear to be purely arbitrary. Communication is portrayed as having failed; as a means of expression, it is perverted. So it's hardly surprising that there are very few dialogues in the film - not a single word is spoken for the first ten and a half minutes.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Certificate of Release for Eraserhead . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , February 2011 (PDF; test number: 126 698 V).
  2. a b c Bernd Schultz: Eraserhead. (No longer available online.) In: Cinema , reproduced on the website . Archived from the original on March 28, 2013 ; Retrieved March 4, 2013 .
  3. a b c d Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 41
  4. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 42
  5. Rodley (Ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 82ff
  6. a b Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 44
  7. a b c d e f Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 46
  8. a b Rodley (ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 103.
  9. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 50.
  10. a b Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 60
  11. Rodley (Ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 95
  12. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 48f
  13. Rodley (Ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 86
  14. ^ Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 38f
  15. Rodley (Ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 98f
  16. Rodley (Ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 85
  17. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 53f
  18. a b Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 39
  19. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 63
  20. Tom Buckley: The Screen: 'Eraserhead'; Monster and Man , , accessed April 22, 2020
  21. McBridge quoted in Fischer: Traumkino . P. 19: "sickening bad-taste exercise"
  22. a b Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 64
  23. a b Seeßlen: David Lynch and his films . P. 27
  24. Release dates for Eraserhead. In: Internet Movie Database . Retrieved March 4, 2013 .
  25. a b c Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 40
  26. ^ A b Todd: Authorship and the Films of David Lynch: Aesthetic Receptions in Contemporary Hollywood . P. 24
  27. ^ Paul Taylor quoted in Eraserhead. In: New Zealand International Film Festival. Archived from the original on February 13, 2013 ; accessed on March 7, 2013 .  : " Eraserhead is a movie to be experienced rather than explained."
  28. a b Helmut W. Banz: Film Tips - Bizarre. In: The time . Retrieved March 4, 2013 .
  29. Georg Seeßlen: Eraserhead. (No longer available online.) In: epd-Film , reproduced on the website . Archived from the original on March 28, 2013 ; Retrieved March 4, 2013 .
  30. Lynch quoted in Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 270
  31. Frederic Albert Levy: HRGiger: Alien Designer. (PDF; 385 kB) In: Cinefantastique (pp. 35–39). Retrieved March 4, 2013 .
  32. ^ The 25 Most Dangerous Movies Ever Made (by "Premiere"). In: Internet Movie Database . Retrieved March 6, 2013 .
  33. Premiere Magazine's 25 Most Dangerous Movies Ever Made. In: Retrieved March 6, 2013 .
  34. Top 50 Cult Movies. In: Retrieved March 9, 2013 .
  35. Online critics post top 100 directorial debuts of all-time. In: The Independent . Retrieved March 8, 2013 .
  36. ^ A b Eric D. Snider: What's the Big Deal ?: Eraserhead (1977). In: Retrieved March 8, 2013 .
  37. Dead Kennedys - Too Drunk to Fuck. In: Retrieved March 8, 2013 .
  38. a b c Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 42
  39. a b Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 62
  40. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 9
  41. Rodley (Ed.): Lynch on Lynch . P. 89
  42. Seeßlen: David Lynch and his films . P. 38
  43. a b c d Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 43
  44. a b c Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 55
  45. ^ Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 44f
  46. ^ Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 46
  47. ^ Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 47
  48. ^ Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 48
  49. ^ Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 50
  50. Martig quoted in Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P.56
  51. ^ Anne Jerslev: David Lynch. Mental landscapes . Vienna 1996. p. 69.
  52. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 12
  53. a b Seeßlen: David Lynch and his films . P. 36
  54. Seeßlen: David Lynch and his films . P. 34
  55. Andreas Platthaus : The Lord of the Inner Empire . In: Werner Spies (Ed.): David Lynch - Dark Splendor . Ostfildern 2009. p. 280
  56. a b David Cheal: DVD reviews: Charley Varrick, Iron Man, Eraserhead, The Short Films of David Lynch, Festen 10th Anniversary Edition. In: The Telegraph . Retrieved March 8, 2013 .
  57. Fischer: The dark side of the soul . P. 69
  58. a b Schmidt: Life in disturbed worlds . P. 52
  59. Trivia. In: Internet Movie Database . Retrieved March 6, 2013 .