The Late Reviewer: David Lynch’s Eraserhead

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October 24, 2017- by Steven E. Greer, MD

I recently attended the Los Angeles Festival of Disruption curated by David Lynch. When Lynch gave a talk to the theater audience, he allowed Q&A. Several of the artsy people praised Lynch’s first feature-length film called “Eraserhead” that debuted in 1977. So, I watched it.

What I immediately spotted is how the 2017 season of Twin Peaks continues the themes and characters of Eraserhead. Surprisingly, none of the TV critics writing about the newest Twin Peaks made any mention of this obvious fact.

Eraserhead is where Lynch first showed us the twig tree and the left arm characters that we see later in Twin Peaks. We also see for the first time the parquet floor that became the iconic floor of the red room of The Lodge in Twin Peaks. We see in Eraserhead a photo of atomic bomb detonated, which was later explained in Peaks. We see steam and hear the sound of steam, which was a major character in Peaks. We see a slimy alien that enters through open mouths of people sleeping, which we see later in Peaks.

And, of course, we see the same bizarre human characters in Eraser that we see in Peaks. Eraser has characters zoned out thinking about another world, much like the Candie cocktail waitresses in the newest Peaks. The main character, Mr. Eraserhead, lives in a surreal dream world much like Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI character in Peaks.

Stylistically, Eraserhead and the 2017 Twin Peaks share the black and white look of the 1940’s and 50’s. Small theater stages with curtains are a theme in Eraser and Peaks. The music is similar too, with solo female singers from the era.

Eraserhead was acclaimed and became a cult hit in 1977. It is worth watching. This breakout film led to Lynch directing Elephant Man, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1980.

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