Essay and Annotated Script Transcription by David Johnson
“A dream of dark and troubling things.”
–David Lynch’s synopsis of Eraserhead
“My dream is a code waiting to be broken.”
–Special Agent Dale Cooper, Episode 3, Twin Peaks
1. Why Now?
2. Eraserhead and Me
3. Cinematic Detective
4. Why I Did What I Did
5. Crazy Film, Crazy Approach
6. What the Hell Just Happened
7. What Others Think
8. We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
9. The Clue that Unlocks the Puzzle Box
10. The Man in the Planet, Revisited
11. Fear and Sex
12. So What Exactly is the Baby?
13. Fear Itself
14. Fear, Intuition, Bliss
15. Breaking the Code
16. Beauty in Contrasts
17. One Final Guess
18. The Script
19. Works Cited
The recent release of Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, and the stunning announcement that the series will return in 2016, has sent me back to the film catalogue of one of my all-time favorite directors, David Lynch. It also made me realize that I had a huge hole (more about holes later) in my own collection—I did not own a copy of Eraserhead. How could I claim to be a true David Lynch fan and not own a copy of Eraserhead? It’s not only the film that launched his career, but also the source of the term “Lynchian.” Eraserhead is, in my view, the most Lynchian of Lynch films. Created over a five-year period, Lynch seems to have complete control over every element in every frame of the film. And it is his most baffling–unlike Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and INLAND EMPIRE, later films which also rely heavily upon dream logic, Eraserhead does not include a framing device set in the “real” world to give us clues to the meaning of the “dream” sequences. In Eraserhead, we are in the “dream“ the entire time. Additionally, ideas and images from Eraserhead appear again and again in later Lynch films. Clearly, it is one of his most important works. I needed it in my collection.
So I quickly ordered a DVD copy on Amazon.
The arrival of the DVD began an obsessive quest for meaning that has let not only to this essay, but, shockingly, a transcription of the entire film in script format. You will find my transcribed script, with annotations in bold, attached to the end of this essay. My comments attempt to decode the mysterious symbols and bizarre sequences within the film and connect them to larger themes. They constitute the “evidence” for my interpretation of Eraserhead.
I did not intend to write a critical essay about Eraserhead. And I certainly did not intend to transcribe the entire film in script format. I simply wanted to understand what was going on. But, like Henry, I was naive and driven by unconscious forces towards a goal I didn’t understand. And also like Henry, I followed my intuition and tried to turn the nightmare into a dream.
Eraserhead and Me
I first saw Eraserhead in the late 80’s. I had recently discovered the incredible world of independent cinema, thanks to films such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Reservoir Dogs, and Roger and Me. I was hooked. And I was intrigued by the weirdness of the granddaddy of all independent films, Eraserhead. I viewed my rented VHS copy several times. But I didn’t know enough yet, and hadn’t lived enough, to make sense of the film. I didn’t have the critical tools or the life experience needed to take apart such a strange and personal film. I became a Lynch disciple with the release of Twin Peaks and recognized echoes of Eraserhead’s iconic imagery in Lynch’s later films. I collected these films, especially the ones I considered to be opaque and difficult (INLAND EMPIRE yes, The Straight Story no). But, for some strange reason, I never returned to the challenging world of Eraserhead. Until now.
There is scene very early on in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me where FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole, played by David Lynch himself, presents the character Lil to Special Agents Chet Desmond and Sam Stanley. Lil wears a red wig, and a tailored red dress with a blue rose pinned to it. She spins around, squeezes one hand into a fist continually and dances in place. Her sole purpose in the film is to send the agents messages about the case, in code, with her appearance and behavior. Presumably, this visual and enigmatic form of communication not only saves Cole a lot of explaining, but also keeps his agents’ detective skills sharp. It forces them to make observations and connections. The scene takes on a self-referential quality though when viewed a metaphor for the way Lynch presents his films to his audience. Just like Cole, Lynch presents visual enigmas for his audience to decode. In this sequence Lynch seems to suggest that we go along for the ride with him and accept his bizarre codes. Of Lil’s dress, Agent Desmond points out matter-of-factly (while driving a car!) that “Tailored dresses are code for drugs.” “Oh” replies Special Agent Stanley, quickly accepting this as perfectly reasonable. Later in the film we are told explicitly, through subtitles, that creamed corn, or “garmonbozia,” represents pain and sorrow. Like the exploding television in the opening shot of Fire Walk With Me, Lynch give us clues about how to approach and decode his films.
In the years since that first viewing of Eraserhead I had became something of a “cinematic detective” myself. Like Agents Cooper or Desmond, or the many other detectives in Lynch films, I love nothing more than solving the mystery. Few things excite me more than taking apart a difficult film, such as Synecdoche, New York or The Master. I love to discover how they work and I love to extract meaning from them.
But, for some reason, Eraserhead lay dormant in my critical consciousness. It was something I would get back to “some day.” Unconsciously, I may have recognized that Eraserhead was the Mt. Everest of enigmatic films. Perhaps, like Henry, I feared it a bit and walled it off in my mind. But as the film itself demonstrates, repressed things don’t stay repressed. The film had lodged itself in my subconscious, and deep down it was an irritant—the great unresolved cinematic mystery. So after watching a few minutes of my new Eraserhead DVD, my cinematic detective instincts took over and I vowed to make my peace with the film.
Why I Did What I Did
There is a danger in offering an interpretation for a film as enigmatic as Eraserhead—it could derail the train of thought and feeling the film is clearly designed to inspire. This is likely why Lynch has refused to offer an interpretation himself, in all the years since it’s release in 1977. As he states in an interview:
“It kind of wiggles around in there, and it’s how it strikes each person. It definitely means something to me, but I don’t want to talk about that. It means other things to other people, and that’s great.” (Saban and Longacre)
By providing analysis, others may no longer feel the need to do the uncomfortable (but rewarding!) work of wrestling with the film and coming up with their own interpretation. And for me, there is no greater cinematic challenge than Eraserhead. The film is created to engage the audience’s mind and intuition, and a clear analysis could ruin a great cinematic pleasure for a great many people. So, for those who prefer the joy of arriving at an their own interpretation, stop reading now.
But if ever there were a film which cried out for close, careful scrutiny, it’s Eraserhead. A film like this, which encourages such deep thought and provokes such a visceral reaction, is also a film which demands a response. Besides the intellectual challenge of trying to unpack the film’s strange symbols, Eraserhead engages the audience with sequences that challenge our moral compass. Eraserhead’s most audacious challenge is it’s most horrific—the apparent murder of the Baby by the film’s central character, Henry Spencer. This action demands that we understand it enough to reconcile it with our own sense of morality. Either that or turn away in horror and, like Henry, repress what we’ve seen.
Furthermore, aside from the challenges within the film, we as cinematic detectives have been challenged by the film’s creator to come up with an interpretation which reflects his original intention. In a recent interview with Vulture.com, David Lynch states:
“I like to have people be able to form their own opinion as to what it means and have their own ideas about things. But at the same time, no one, to my knowledge, has ever seen the film the way I see it. The interpretation of what it’s all about has never been my interpretation.” (Ebiri)
Lynch has repeated some form of this statement many times since Eraserhead‘s release. For a cinematic detective, such a challenge is almost impossible to resist. It practically dares us to divine an interpretation which might reflect his personal vision of the film. Challenge accepted.
And finally, of the interpretations readily available, none seem wholly adequate. Eraserhead is still a great mystery for a great many people. I am not aware of an interpretation which encompasses the film in its entirety; all of the strange characters, bizarre symbols, and puzzling sequences. Most interpretations focus upon a few select symbols, sequences, or themes; none, that I’m aware of, address all the elements and therefore the sum of the film. I believe that a thorough analysis of Eraserhead must account for all major elements of the film. Otherwise, one weird symbol or baffling sequence could bring the entire interpretation crashing down like Henry’s decapitated head.
In the research I conducted after arriving at my own interpretation of the film (more on this later), I found one reading which initially seems in line my thinking about the Baby (at the blog Cinema Beans—see Works Cited page). But this interpretation also quickly goes off track. It is a good effort, but in my view ultimately fails to identify the key clues and make the logical connections necessary for a complete and satisfying interpretation of the film.
It’s been 37 years since Eraserhead’s original release and there is still no consensus about what it all could mean. No one has put forth a definitive interpretation of the film. Therefore, hubris be damned, this is my attempt.
I do not think, as some do, that such an interpretation is impossible. I just think that it is very difficult. This difficulty, this rational impenetrability, is one of the fantastic things about the film. It forces the viewer to take the film in intuitively, rather then intellectually. By Lynch’s account, the film was “felt,” (Lynch, Lynch 64) or created intuitively, with reason applied later. (For more about this, see the discussion about the Biblical quote at the end of this essay.) But despite it’s apparent lack of order, Eraserhead has a set of rules that it follows closely. It is not a random mass of bizarre images. There is a logic to what happens in the film, as David Lynch has stated:
“Everything makes sense to me, you know. Eraserhead is real logical to me, and it has rules that were followed and it has a certain feeling that was followed all the way through. And you sort of tune into that at the beginning of the film, and you sort of know what’s right. And it makes certain sense to me and it feels right.” (Saban and Longacre)
Through the processes of writing we can bring dark things into the light and make the unconscious conscious.
Crazy Film, Crazy Approach
For Eraserhead, I initially tried my usual method of analyzing a film, i.e. watch it several times, take notes along the way, and use those notes to come up with an evidence-based interpretation. No problem, right? Wrong.
I quickly discovered that this method was not anywhere near adequate for Eraserhead. Eraserhead is an incredibly dense, subtle, and symbolic film. My detailed notes on a particular scene still left out too much potentially important information. I decided the only way to really capture what was happening in the film was to transcribe the entire thing, as closely as possible, in script format. If I could recreate an accurate script for the film, I might be able to study it’s structure. Hopefully I could use the script to unpack the strange symbology and bizarre sequences. I would also get to know the film very, very well in the process. Rationally, I didn’t know if this method would work. But I followed my intuition. Eraserhead is an unconventional film and it felt like it required an unconventional approach.
This method paid off greatly. For me, the transcription process revealed critical elements of the film that had been hidden in plain sight. These elements proved to be the important keys that unlocked the film’s central themes. Having to describe each environment, character, scene, and action forced me to think deeply and precisely about what I saw. I could no longer let something pass unexplained because I couldn’t understand it and had difficulty describing it; I was forced to describe it. This led to connections I hadn’t seen before and opened up new possibilities of meaning for the film’s strange symbols. I discovered surprises and reveals in the film that had only registered on a subconscious level, if at all. Many of these discoveries I have not seen described in print anywhere else. And now that they have been consciously acknowledged, they are impossible to ignore. For me, the film has become not only a much less confounding experience, but also a more pleasurable one. It’s become one of my favorite films.
Regarding the use of outside sources to aid in the initial analysis, I’ve taken David Lynch’s advice. In Catching the Big Fish he briefly discusses film interpretation:
“You don’t need anything outside the work. There have been a lot of great books written, and authors are long since dead, and you can dig them up. But you’ve got that book [i.e., the film-DJ], and a book can make you dream and make you think about things.” (Lynch, Catching 19)
While I’ve used many outside quotes and references to Twin Peaks in my subsequent explanatory essay, all of this is supporting evidence gathered after the fact. For my initial interpretation of Eraserhead, I made a conscious effort to use only the film. No other source helped me arrive at my conclusion. Of course, as stated above, I have a history with Lynch, and it is quite possible that my familiarity with his work subconsciously informed my reading of the film. But I can’t speak to my subconscious. And I truly believe that Eraserhead stands on its own. All the clues necessary to understand the film are contained within.
All you need is the film. Eraserhead has made me dream and think about things. Actually, it has lit my brain on fire. Walk with me.
What the Hell Just Happened
The summary below is necessarily detailed because, with Eraserhead, the devil is most definitely in the details. In order to unlock the mystery, it is important to have all the clues:
A dark, deformed man –The Man in the Planet–lives in a shack on a dark planet inside the mind of the film’s central character, Henry Spencer. The shack has an electrical cord which attaches to a large hole on the planet’s surface. The Man in the Planet stares out a window inside the shack, into darkness. Henry’s head floats in space and his mouth opens as if to scream. Seemingly as a reaction to something he sees outside his window, the Man in the Planet pulls factory-like levers in front of him. Each lever causes one of following actions: a spermatozoon creature to shoot from the frightened Henry’s mouth, a dark puddle to appear on the planet’s surface, and the spermatozoon creature to splash into the dark puddle. It sinks deep in the liquid of the puddle. The result is then birthed into Henry’s bleak industrial world through a hole that resembles the shape of the puddle.
A frightened and bewildered looking Henry walks home through this industrial wreckage. He passes a frightening power station and steps in a puddle on the way home.
He reaches his apartment building, checks his empty mailbox, and takes the elevator upstair.
Before entering his apartment he has brief interaction with the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall. She says that a girl named Mary called and invited him to dinner at her parents’ house. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall seems attracted to Henry, but he takes no action.
In his apartment Henry plays music and dries his wet sock on a radiator. There are many bizarre features to his apartment, including a twig-like substance around the base of his radiator and a mound of twig-like substance on his dresser. There is also a leafless tree branch in a small mound of dirt by his bed. There is a window of bricks above his radiator. He stares at the brick window for long time. He then goes to his dresser, takes out ripped pieces of a picture of Mary, puts them together and examines the picture closely.
Henry walks to Mary’s parents’ house through the dark and fearful industrial environment. Mary accuses him of being late. He goes inside and sits in the living room with Mary and her mother, Mrs. X. Mrs. X grills him about his job. Henry says he’s a printer on vacation.
Mary’s father, Bill, comes from the kitchen saying they’re having chicken for dinner. The chickens are strange, small, man-made and new. He then complains about have to put all the pipes in the neighborhood and how it’s degenerated over the years, from pastures to the “hellhole” it currently is. Mrs. X chases him to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Mrs. X makes an old lady toss a salad by controlling her arms. The old lady stays in the kitchen when they leave, even though the light is out.
At the dinner table Bill says his arm is numb and asks Henry to carve the chicken. When Henry sticks a fork in the chicken it starts moving it’s legs back and forth and gushes blood from a hole in its end. Mrs. X makes orgasmic sounds then screams and runs away. Bill seems numb to the scene.
Mrs. X returns and pulls Henry aside to talk. She demands to know if Henry had sex with Mary. Henry doesn’t answer, and Mrs. X aggressively comes on to him sexually. Henry is fearful of this and calls for Mary. When Mary arrive Mrs. X says there’s a premature baby at the hospital, Henry’s the father, and they can pick it up after they get married shortly. Mary says they’re not sure it is a baby and Henry thinks it’s impossible. His nose starts to bleed. Mrs. X gets ice.
In Henry’s room, Mary tries to feed the baby. The Baby, which looks like the spermatozoon creature, has a strange reptile head and bandages around its body. The Baby spits the food out and cries constantly, frustrating Mary. Henry goes to his mailbox and finds a small box. He takes to the street and opens it. There’s a small seed inside.
Henry hides the box in his jacket pocket and returns to his room. He lies on the bed and stares at the radiator. A light turns on in the radiator and we see a small stage in the radiator. Mary continues trying to feed the baby. She asks if there is any mail and he says no.
We see many ominous shots of the brick window while in Henry’s apartment.
In the night Henry takes the box from is jacket and places it in a floral cabinet. The baby cries continually. A fearful-looking Henry looks reaches over to Mary for sex, but she shrugs him off.
The baby’s cries won’t stop. She screams for it to stop and it won’t. Mary can’t take it. She gets dressed, pulls her suitcase out from under the bed in a fearful and sexual manner, and leaves.
After she is gone Henry has a vision of the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall.
The Baby is then unusually quiet. Henry gets a thermometer from his dresser and the Baby’s temperature is normal. But when he turns around again the baby is covered in boils, gasping for breath.
Henry set up a respirator for the baby and sits by it. Henry looks at the seed in the floral cabinet and puts on his coat to leave, but every time he tries to the baby starts crying more, forcing Henry to stay in his room.
Henry has a dream of a woman with mashed potato-like cheeks —the Lady in the Radiator—who dances on the stage in the radiator and crushes spermatozoon creatures with her feet.
In the night Mary mysteriously appears back in his bed. She thrashes around in a strange, wet-sounding manner. Henry finds spermatozoon creatures under the covers, coming from Mary. He throws them against the wall and smashes them.
The floral cabinet opens and the seed dances away onto the dark planet. One end of the seed opens up, revealing an eery, dreamlike image of Henry in his room at night. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall knocks on the door and asks if she can spend the night. The Baby cries but Henry puts his hand on its mouth. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall moves in to kiss Henry.
We then see a pool of white liquid on Henry’s bed, with Henry and the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall naked inside it, kissing. The Baby cries and the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall stares at the baby while kissing Henry. They sink into the pool.
The white liquid vanishes, leaving darkness. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall sees the dark planet and is afraid of it. She vanishes in the darkness.
The Lady in the Radiator appears on the radiator stage and sings a song about everything being fine in Heaven. Henry approaches her on the stage, but the environment turns into white light when he touches her. He is scared and she disappears. The Man in the Planet appears briefly and the scene turns into a nightmare. The crushed spermatozoon creatures are blown off the stage. A giant version of the dirt tree wheels itself onto the stage. Henry retreats behind a witness stand on the stage. His head then pops off and falls onto the stage, pushed off by a phallic object that shoots out of his collar. The tree starts gushing blood and Henry’s head is surrounded by the blood. The Baby’s head emerges from Henry’s collar. Its screams fill the stage. Henry’s head splashes into the blood and disappears.
Henry’s head falls onto a city street. His scalp tears away, revealing his brain. A child in the street grabs the head and runs away. He takes it to a factory and gives it to the Boss. The Boss then takes it to a machine operator. The operator extracts a sample of Henry’s brain and feeds it into a machine. The machine produces pencils, using the brain sample as the eraser heads. The operator draws a mark on a piece of paper with one of the pencils and erases it. He lets the Boss know it’s okay. He sweeps the eraser dust into the air.
Henry wakes. We see a prominent shot of the brick window. We also see several shots of Henry’s empty bed.
Through barbed wire we see the road below. There is a large puddle with a pipe coming from it. We then see two figures by the puddle. One appears to attack the other with a club near the puddle.
Henry watches through the window. Henry then decides to knock on the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall’s door. There is no answer.
Henry returns to his apartment and the baby snickers loudly, seemingly to mock him.
Henry hears elevator doors and opens his front door. He sees The Beautiful Girl Across The Hall at her door, with another man. She is taking him into her apartment, presumably to have sex. Henry continues to stare at them. She looks at Henry and sees his head replaced with the Baby’s head, quaking in fear.
Henry returns to his apartment and the Baby begins snickering loudly, mocking him again.
In anger Henry takes a pair of scissors out of his dresser. He cuts the Baby’s bandages open while it quakes in fear. The Baby’s hideous organs are revealed. Henry stabs the organs with his scissors. The Baby begins spewing blood from it’s mouth and organs and appears to be dying. Henry turns away in horror. The lights flicker violently.
The mashed potato-like substance begins spewing from its organs, consuming it’s body. Its head appears to pull away from its body, but Henry still doesn’t look at it. The lights continue to flicker violently.
The Baby’s head becomes gigantic and appears to jump around the room.
Henry finally looks at the head. The Baby’s giant head lunges towards him and the lights burn out. Henry looks away.
In the dark we then hear a loud crack. Henry looks at the head again. He sees the dark planet from the beginning. The front of the planet explodes open.
We see the Man in the Planet pulling on his levers for all he’s worth. Sparks from the levers hit his face and body. We see the mashed potato-like substance on his face and body.
The screen then turns to white light and white noise. We see the smiling Lady in the Radiator. She embraces Henry warmly. Henry accepts the embrace with a look of peace on his face.
What Others Think
There are many, many theories about what Eraserhead could mean. Below I’ve listed three common ones. It is easy to see why these interpretations endure: each of them holds a kernel of truth about the film’s meaning.
1. It’s an Illogical Dream (or Nightmare)
The interpretation goes like this: Eraserhead is a crazy and scary dream that, like a dream, ultimately makes no sense in and of itself. It’s meaning is derived strictly from what the viewer brings to it. Therefore, it can mean anything at all. Eraserhead is like an inkblot and all interpretations are equally valid.
I do think there is some truth to this interpretation. I do think that the entire movie is a dream of some sort (more on this later). But just because it’s a dream doesn’t mean it lacks rules and logic. If it has rules and logic, it can add up to something.
Claiming a film can mean anything at all is often the easy way out. It is usually a knee-jerk reaction to material that is difficult, confusing, and uncomfortable. For a cinematic detective, it’s the ultimate excuse for not doing the difficult analytical work necessary to arrive at meaning; it’s ultimate rationale for turning off your brain when something becomes too hard to understand.
While inkblots are fun to play with, Eraserhead is most definitely not an inkblot. The film was constructed with exquisite care over a five-year period. It is cohesive. I take David Lynch at his word when he states above that there is logic (albeit dream logic) at work in Eraserhead, and that it follows it’s own rules, from beginning to end. Just because these rules may be difficult to uncover doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
2. It’s About Suicide
Others believe that Eraserhead about Henry’s suicide. According to his interpretation, the Baby turns out to be Henry. Henry kills the Baby, therefore Henry kills himself.
There is some truth to this reading as well. The Baby does seem to represent Henry in some way (again, more about this later). And Henry does kill the Baby at the end.
Intuitively though, this doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason for a great movie. This reading turns Eraserhead into nothing more than a dark joke, with the punchline being that Henry kills himself in the end.
It also doesn’t seem logical. In Eraserhead, Henry fears that the Baby will replace him in some way. We see this twice: in the “trial” on the radiator stage when his head falls off and is replaced with the Baby’s, and also near the end, when the Beautiful Woman Across the Hall sees him with the Baby’s head instead of his own.
Does it make sense that he’s afraid of replacing himself (i.e. his own head) with himself (the Baby’s head)? Why would this be something to fear? Logically, it’s still himself.
3. It’s About the Fear of Fatherhood/Anxiety About Parenthood
This seems to be the most popular interpretation, and with good reason. Many people believe the film is primarily about Henry’s anxiety regarding becoming a father and the responsibilities that role entails.
There is a lot of truth to this interpretation. Clearly, Eraserhead explores the anxieties of new parents in its storyline about life with the difficult Baby. Any parent can relate to aspects of Henry and Mary’s plight. This reading cannot be dismissed.
At least, on the surface.
This surface story can be summarized as follows:
Young lovers Henry and Mary have a baby out of wedlock. The baby is premature and deformed. Mary’s parent make them take the child. They get married too young and move in together to care for the child. Mary can’t take the baby’s constant crying and leaves. Henry takes over the care of the child, but feels trapped. The constant demands of his sick and needy child prevent him from pursuing an adulterous relationship with his neighbor. In anger and resentment he kills the child and ends up in a form of heaven, where everything is fine.
In this interpretation Henry ultimately kills his child, as strange and deformed as it is. If we follow the logic of this interpretation, Eraserhead is a straight up horror film. An evil man kills his child and is rewarded with Heaven. The Lady in the Radiator would have to be a sort of demon. In this reading Eraserhead could be considered perhaps the darkest film of all time. It would be the ultimate celebration of infanticide.
Yes, the Baby is a burden. It cries all the time. It drives his wife away. It’s sickly. It keeps him from pursuing his beautiful neighbor. Yes, he fears that the Baby will replace him and that he will be erased. It truly seems to mock him.
But morally, none of this can come anywhere close to justification for killing it.
Intuitively, it feels wrong that Lynch, now a father of four, would put so much time and effort into a film whose sole purpose is to show the horrors of child rearing, and one which ultimately rewards its child-murdering protagonist. Like Agent Cooper when all the clues point to Ben Horne as Laura’s killer, the intuition rebels. This conclusion doesn’t feel right. There must be more going on in the film.
Likewise, it doesn’t feel right that the Lady in the Radiator, such a beautiful figure in the film, is ultimately a demon. The scenes with her are just too joyful. The final shot with her is nothing short of ecstatic. The song she sings is reassuring. The white light she occupies certainly does not look like Hell. Typically, Lynch adheres to the tradition that Hell is dark and Heaven is light. The crescendo of white light and white noise that ends the film definitely feels like a triumph of some sort.
So, Eraserhead either has the darkest ending imaginable or, somehow, a triumphant one. I’ve come to realize that it is indeed triumphant.
We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Eraserhead own bizarre nature undercuts a surface reading of the film. Clearly, there is more going on than what is happening on the surface and we are not meant to take events at face value. The characters in Eraserhead often do not act like “normal” people and there are events in the film which could not possibly occur in the “real” world. For example, when Henry won’t tell Mrs. X whether or not he had sex with Mary, Mrs. X says something very bad is going to happen to him if he doesn’t tell and then starts “coming on” to him sexually. She starts kissing him and nibbling on his neck. This is bizarre and not at all a human response. Likewise, the roasted chickens we eat do not bleed and start thrusting their legs back and forth when we begin to carve them on our dinner tables. Actual babies do not look or act like the hideous, impossibly-brought-to-term Baby that Henry and Mary bring home.
Little details in the environment are off or strange, signaling that we’re not in the “real” world: Henry seems to approach the X’s house from two directions, the X’s home has strange flower-like objects embedded in its walls, their kitchen appears to have multiple stoves, their oven seems to be in a cabinet, their clock has one hand, a twig-like substance surrounds Henry’s radiator, Henry’s elevator rises unbelievably slowly, the elevator doors on his floor are painted with dark textured material, the wallpaper and paint always seems haphazardly applied (as if quickly put on to cover something), the strange paper-like bricks outside his window, etc. The film is absolutely loaded with bizarre, verging-on-impossible environmental details.
Clearly, we are in some other “reality” than our consensus reality.
David Lynch has described the film as “A dream of dark and troubling things.” (Olson 60) I would emphasize the word “dream” in this summary. I believe the entire film takes place within the mind. In the film Henry states that he is on “vacation.” I believe that he is on a mental vacation and that Eraserhead is the ultimate head trip.
(Note: since the dreamer is not ultimately identified in the film, from this point forward I will refer to him—judging from the fears we see illustrated, I presume it is a male dreamer–as “Henry,” i.e. we are in Henry’s mind in the film.)
If Eraserhead does take place entirely within Henry’s mind, then all the elements within the film—the environments, the characters, their actions, etc.–are created by Henry.
This would explain why characters often don’t act or react in human or realistic ways in Eraserhead. These are not actual people, but representations of something within his mind. Representation of what is the question.
If we are dealing with the architecture of the mind in Eraserhead, it opens up the possibility of a deeper story than the surface one described above. It means there could be two levels of meaning in the film:
A.) A surface story with about the anxiety of becoming a parent, with bizarre events and character too strange to take at face value.
B.) An underground story, or deeper level of meaning, which remains mysterious until we collect and decode all the representations, or clues.
The Clue that Unlocks the Puzzle Box
For any mystery, one must have all the necessary clues in order to unravel it. The same is true of Eraserhead: we must have all the necessary information in order to make a sound interpretation. But Eraserhead is a still a great cinematic mystery. After 37 years there is no critical consensus about the film’s meaning. No one has been able to identify all the clues and show how they are connected. Consequently, there is no interpretation that had been entirely convincing.
I believe this is because David Lynch has hidden his clues very well in this film.
In Greg Olson’s Beautiful Dark, David Lynch says of his films: “I always hide all my fears, and sometimes my films hide them too, only in different ways” (Olson 58).
Like his fears, Lynch withholds and obscures what may be the most important clue in the film.
That one clue, when added to the other clues, unlocks mystery of the film. With this clue Eraserhead springs open like Eckhart’s puzzle box in Twin Peaks. It is a clue that is repressed by Henry and withheld by Lynch. It is a clue that he saves for the final act of the film. And when presented, it is presented subtly. It is a clue I have not seen referred to in any interpretation of the film. And it is a clue that I think it is absolutely vital to understanding the film.
That clue is what’s behind the bricks in Henry’s window.
Those odd, paper-like bricks outside of Henry’s window. Are they keeping Henry trapped? No, he can walk out his door. Perhaps they are keeping him safe from something? If we are dealing with Henry’s mind in the film, then the bricks could represent an attempt to repress something. Hide it behind a brick wall. Repressed things don’t stay repressed though, and that paper-like brick wall could be torn away at any moment.
If you look closely at the film, you will see how many times we are shown shots of that window. (In fact, you can count how many times in my script translation below.) Over and over and over we are shown this window, usually in dark shadows and with an ominous wind. There is often a slight hint of a scream in the sound of the wind in these shots. It is shown again and again and again. It must important. Yet no one, to my knowledge, has asked why we see so many shots of this window or questioned what might be behind those paper bricks.
Lynch does eventually show us what is behind them: after Henry’s eraser factory dream, he wakes up, and looks like he’s had a realization of some sort. We see him dressed, back turned to the window, staring at his empty bed. In the next shot, through blurred barbed wire, we see the dirt road below. There is a large puddle in the road with what looks like a pipe coming out of it. We then see two figures and what appears to be a violent assault that takes place by the puddle. One of the figures appears to attack the other with a club of some sort.
The next shot is of Henry looking out his window. Remember, previously there were paper bricks that blocked that window. Now, magically, the bricks seem to have disappeared and Henry stares out his window at the attack below.
This is what Lynch has withheld and Henry has repressed behind his paper-brick window: a violent attack in the street.
The shot of Henry looking out his window recalls another shot of another character looking out his window. We are led back to the beginning of the film.
The Man in the Planet, Revisited
The shot of Henry looking out his window is very reminiscent of the Man in the Planet staring out his window at the beginning of the film. Like Henry’s room, there appears to be a puddle of some sort outside his shack. This cannot be a coincidence. Instead of a pipe coming from the puddle there is an electrical line. After Henry’s silent scream while floating in space, The Man in the Planet appears to react to something he sees outside his window with a shiver or spasm. He then pulls the levers that leads to the conception and birth of the spermatozoon creature.
Connecting these two clues, The Man in the Planet creates the spermatozoon creature as a result of Henry witnessing the violent attack in the street. The spermatozoon creature represents fear. The Man in the Street then launches fear into Henry’s world. As Greg Olson points out in Beautiful Dark, in the first shot we see of Henry in his industrial environment, he is looking over his shoulder in fear. (Olson 61)
Lynch has often stated that Eraserhead is his Philadelphia Story, and that the film was inspired by living in Philadelphia. For Lynch, Philadelphia was a place of fear:
“Philadelphia, more than any filmmaker, influenced me. It’s the sickest, most corrupt, decaying, fear-ridden city imaginable.” (Hartmann)
“‘It wasn’t a normal city when I was here,’ Lynch recalls. ‘The fear, insanity, corruption, filth, despair, violence in the air was so beautiful to me.'” (Adelson)
The opening sequence of Eraserhead is a creation myth for fear. It shows how fear was conceived and how it came to be in Henry’s world. But by withholding the critical clue of what’s behind the window, Lynch has made it difficult for us to interpret this sequence. We cannot unravel the mystery of the spermatozoon creature until we know what is behind the window. Of course, it’s the lack of this knowledge that makes the film what it is—an incredible mystery.
Fear and Sex
If the beginning of the film is a creation myth for fear, the process through which it enters Henry’s world is sex and birth. Fear’s “parents” in the film are the dark puddle where violence occurred and Henry’s reaction to it, a scream. After the spermatozoon creature splashes into the puddle, we see a shot looking up in the darkness to a hole of light with grass around the edges. We then move through the hole, out of the darkness and into the light. This shot movement is reminiscent of birth, and represents fear being born into Henry’s world.
(In is also interesting because this shot movement is a microcosm of what the film ultimately does—move from darkness to light. More on this in the “Beauty in Contrasts” section.)
In the process of creation, fear is strongly associated with sex in Henry’s world. The two become intertwined and twisted together in Henry’s mind. Henry’s world, and in fact the fabric of the entire film, is super-saturated with both sex and fear. They twist Henry’s mind and consequently Henry’s environment into a bleak, frightful industrial world where young lovers are forced to take the Baby, the product of fear.
It’s amazing how many times fear and sex appear in close association with each other in the film. The two go hand in hand in Eraserhead. Some examples from the transcribed script:
–The creation myth for fear that opens the film
–The many, many camera movements into a dark hole: moving into the planet, moving into the shack, moving into the seed’s hole, etc.
–Stepping in the dark puddle
–Mary having a fearful seizure when Mrs. X bring up “what Henry did”
–The chicken thrusting its legs and bleeding
–Mrs. X reacting orgasmically, then screaming in terror, when the chicken is stabbed
–Mrs. X “coming on” to Henry after stating something bad will happen to him
–Forcing Henry and Mary to take the baby.
–The Baby itself—a fearful object that came into the world through sex
–The fearful look on Henry’s face as he tries to initiate sex with Mary
–The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall’s fearful reaction after sex with Henry
–Henry’s head being pushed off by a phallic object and enveloped in a pool of blood
–Henry’s brain sample going into the pencil machine
It is certainly not unheard of that fear could become intertwined with sex. Before the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, fear and sex were closely associated with each other in American culture. An interesting way to look at Eraserhead is as a critique of 1950’s attitudes towards sex. The X’s on one level represent a satirical take on the 1950’s ideal. The nice family’s home has been twisted by fear.
How exactly has fear entered their home? Once again, Lynch makes the abstract literal: Fear has been pumped in through the large pipes in their home. Pipes which are connected to the puddle, the source of fear. Bill, the family patriarch, installed these pipes himself.
Bill, for his part, has become increasingly numb to the fear which has saturated his home and his environment. His response to bizarre and fearful events is to wear a plastered-on smile and carry on inane small talk (“So Henry, what do you know?”). His arm has literally gone numb from it, like Teresa Banks’s arm goes numb in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Likewise, the old lady in the kitchen seems to have become completely numb and paralyzed by fear. She can’t even move enough to toss a salad, enjoy a cigarette, or leave the kitchen when the lights go out. The longer these characters live with fear, the more numb and paralyzed they become.
For the young Henry and Mary, having sex has led directly to the fearful dinner scene. The X’s force the young couple, the next generation, to take fear with them into their own home, to raise and nurture themselves. They both know something is not right (it’s impossible that there is a baby already, says Henry; they’re not even sure it is a baby, says Mary), but they take it anyways, carrying on the cycle.
So What Exactly is the Baby?
The impossibly brought to term, reptilian, deformed, repulsive, crying, needy, watching, controlling, mocking Baby, with outer bandages hiding hideous internal organs, clearly represents something. David Lynch is a master code builder. We are not meant to take such an important and bizarre object at face value. And just as creamed corn represents pain and sorrow in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, I believe the Baby represents fear in Eraserhead.
The Baby is a larger version of the spermatozoon creature from the opening sequence. On the surface level, it’s the product of the young, scared parents Henry and Mary. But on the deep level its “parents” were Henry’s scream and the dark puddle where violence occurred. The Baby itself is fear.
Here is the chain of (dream) logic that leads from the puddle to the Baby:
Dreamer witnesses violence by a puddle–>Reacts with a scream–>Fear is created in the mind–>Fear is repressed by the conscious mind–>Fear is associated with sex–>Fear defines the subconscious world–>Fear is an unnatural state for the mind–>Fear cannot stay repressed permanently and must be dealt with in some manner–>Fear bursts through, manifesting itself in a bizarre form which the mind can handle–>The Baby
Once you plug in what the Baby represents, the film takes on an entirely different meaning than the surface story. For example, in the surface story:
Sex has led to the Baby. The Baby drove Mary away. The Baby prevents Henry from acting freely. The Baby stops Henry from having sex with his neighbor. Henry is afraid that the Baby will erase him. Therefore Henry kills (erases) the Baby and goes to a Heaven of sorts.
In the deep story the themes become clearer. Henry’s actions are no longer immoral, and the film makes more sense:
Sex has led to fear. Fear drove Mary away. Fear prevents Henry from acting freely. Fear stops Henry from having sex with his neighbor. Henry is afraid that the fear will erase him. Therefore Henry erases fear and goes to a Heaven of sorts.
Instead of committing a horrific act by killing an actual baby, Henry performs a triumphant one by killing the fear within his mind.
Plugging “fear” into the equation of the entire film:
The film takes place entirely within Henry’s mind and begins with his scream. Immediately after the scream The Man in the Planet, while staring out his window and connected via electrical power line to a dark puddle, instinctively reacts. He begins the conception of fear, creating the spermatozoon creature, the puddle, and causing the two to come together with his factory-like levers. Fear is then born into Henry’s mind and therefore his world.
The architecture of Henry’s mind is saturated with fear, as represented by the decayed and frightening industrial landscape. Henry gets fear on him physically by stepping in the dark puddle. The deeper Henry goes into his subconscious, represented by his apartment building, the darker it gets.
Henry has repressed the true source of fear behind a brick window in his room. Repressed things do not stay repressed though. The come out in other ways, forcing us to deal with them.
In his mind, this deep repressed fear comes out in the form of a common fear for young people —an unwanted pregnancy. The X’s force Henry to take the manifestation of fear, the Baby.
In short order fear drives Mary away. Fear keeps Henry trapped in his room by getting sick and demanding attention. Fear watches him constantly.
Henry dreams of a woman (the Lady in the Radiator) who destroys fear by crushing it with her shoe. Mary mysteriously appears in his bed, producing more fear, but Henry destroys them.
We see into Henry’s secret desire, his neighbor, the Beautiful Woman Across the Hall. She represents possible escape and relief from fear.
Henry tries to quiet his fear during his dream encounter with her, but she becomes afraid when she sees Henry’s fear for what it really is, a dark planet. Henry’s dream then turns to the Lady in the Radiator, who comforts him by letting him know that in Heaven everything is fine and that they will be together there. Henry approaches her, but is scared of her white light. Fear asserts itself again and the dream turns into a bizarre trial where a phallic object forces Henry’s head from its body. Henry’s head is then replaced by fear’s head. Henry’s head falls through a puddle of blood into another world, where it is taken to a pencil factory and turned into erasers for pencils. He fears that sex will destroy him, turning him (a printer) into a destructive force (an eraser).
By acknowledging this though Henry has taken a step towards confronting his fear. After waking from his dream he is finally able to see what is outside the brick window (and what the Man in the Planet reacted to)—a violent attack by a puddle. He is slowly peeling back the onion of fear.
He goes to his neighbor’s door. There is no answer. He returns to his apartment and fear mocks him. He then hears his neighbor in the hall. He goes out to meet her but she is with another man. In her view, she sees him with fear’s head.
Henry returns to his apartment and fear continues to mock him. In anger he confronts his fear. He cuts open fear’s outer layer (bandages) and stabs it’s heart. Fear’s body is overwhelmed by the same material that makes up the Lady in the Radiator’s cheeks (and therefore her smile). Fear’s head escapes it’s body, becoming giant and burning out the lights.
Despite this Henry eventually looks at fear and sees it for what it is—a dark planet. It then begins to blow apart. The Man in the Planet tries to stop the process with his levers, but cannot. The white sparks from his levers begin to overwhelm him, and the same material that makes up the Lady in the Radiator’s cheeks begins to consume him. In a moment fear is destroyed and all that remains is a white, blissful light. We see the Lady of in the Radiator and Henry embraces her without fear, in peace and with a sound mind.
Fear is destroyed by bliss. The nightmare turns into a dream.
Fear, Intuition, Bliss
In the second season finale of Twin Peaks, Windom Earl, Agent Cooper’s nemesis, uses Annie Blackburn’s fear to enter a mysterious realm by a dark puddle (a puddle, by the way, that is very reminiscent of puddle in Eraserhead). That mysterious realm is the Black Lodge and fear is the key to its gates. Likewise, in Eraserhead, fear is the key to the mysterious realm of Henry’s mind.
When we understand that the Baby represents fear in Eraserhead, we learn that:
–Fear is buried deep down
–Fear is all-consuming
–Fear is dirty and decayed
–Fear can become intermingled with sex
–Fear can be inherited and passed on
–Fear can disguise itself
–Fear is difficult to see
–Fear is like a deformed monster
–Fear is constant and nagging, like the crying child
–Fear can attach itself to you
–Fear can feed off of you like baby’s umbilical cord
–Fear can control you
–Fear laughs at you, and mocks you
–Fear keep you from action
–Fear keeps you from love
–Fear is hideous on the inside
–Fear is unnatural as a constant state
–Fear is difficult to face directly
–Fear can be destroyed
–Fear can be transformed into bliss
Once fear moves into Henry’s room, both Henry and Mary, almost immediately, seek relief from it. Fear is not a natural state and the moment it begins we instinctively try to move away from it. In the film Mary gives up trying to feed it, going through the motions of the relationship until she can escape from Henry’s room. Henry also looks for escape from fear. This opens him up to the possibility of an affair with the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall. We see the seed of his desire for her soon after the Baby moves in.
If fear is an unnatural state, then what is our natural state? According to David Lynch, in Catching the Big Fish, humans naturally want to progress towards bliss:
“And why is it so easy [to move towards bliss–DJ]? Because it’s the nature of the mind, because the mind wants to go to fields of greater happiness. It just naturally wants to go there. And the deeper you go, the more there is of that until you hit 100% bliss.” (Lynch, Catching 52)
When Henry cuts the Baby’s bandages and stabs its organs, he is not consciously aware that he’s killing fear. He is driven by internal forces to commit an act which on its surface is repellent to our nature. Fear is so intense though, and so antithetical to our true selves, that the urge to kill fear is overwhelming. We recognize fear on a deeper level, and we are moved to destroy it.
Eraserhead, simply put, is about confronting fear, destroying it, and embracing bliss.
Breaking the Code
As Eraserhead‘s perpetually frightened and bewildered protagonist, Henry tries to navigate a world built in dark code. He has little awareness of the forces driving him and little understanding of the symbols around him. As David Lynch stated in 1986:
“Henry is very sure that something is happening, but he doesn’t understand it at all. He watches things very, very carefully, because he’s trying to figure them out. He might study the corner of a pie container, just because it’s in his line of sight. He might wonder why he sat where he did. Everything is new. It might now be frightening, but it could be a key to something. Everything should be looked at. There could be clues in it.” (Chute 38)
As Henry tries to understand his bizarre world, so do we. But because Eraserhead is populated with representations of the mind, rather than “real” people and situations, it is up to us to decode them.
Like the two wrapped packages he carries home with him in the beginning of the film (representing his two loves at the time—Mary and the Lady in the Radiator), Henry has repressed and hidden many things: in his dresser, in the radiator, underneath his bed, in a box, in his jacket pocket, in the floral cabinet, and, most notably, behind the brick window in his apartment.
One of the more bizarre things he has hidden, at least on the surface, is the Lady in the Radiator. With her mashed potato-like cheeks, she sings and dances on a small stage in the radiator, stomping on fear. Since cold is associated with negative feelings, it makes sense that the ultimate symbol of goodness would live someplace warm. Her cheeks are puffy with a strange mashed potato-like substance that seems to have been generated by her smile. This same material consumes the body of the Baby and the face of the Man in the Planet. You could say that they were both consumed by her smile. Why mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes are comfort food, just as The Lady in the Radiator is a source of comfort for Henry. Mashed potatoes also go hand in hand with chicken, which was the meal of fear at the X’s dinner table: chicken and mashed potatoes, meat and potatoes, fear and bliss. Two sides of the same coin.
Piled upon Henry’s dresser, around the base of his radiator, and the edge of radiator stage, there is a twig-like substance, which, considering that Henry has hidden his two loves (Mary and the Lady in the Radiator) in these locations, seem to represent a threshold to them. The twigs also look very much like pubic hair, which is a threshold to the sexual organs. The twigs are dark and strange though, and therefore also associated with fear. The rule holds that sex and fear are linked in Eraserhead. The trees in Twin Peaks also seem to indicated a threshold to mysterious places, like the White and Black Lodges. Twigs, of course, are strongly associated with trees; another strong connections between the worlds of Eraserhead and Twin Peaks.
The dog with the litter of puppies in the X’s living room appears to represents an animal instinct to procreate at work in Henry’s mind. Again, we see branches and twigs in close proximity, indicating a threshold to this instinct. This drive is the awkward elephant in the room with Henry and the Xs. It sits there, loudly nursing its pups, while Mrs. X, with Mary at her side, interrogates Henry. Yet even this instinct whimpers when faced with fear.
The lamps the X’s living room and Henry’s room, as well as the lights in his elevator, run on electricity. Electricity seems to have a strongly negative connotation in both Eraserhead and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. In the creation myth for fear that opens Eraserhead, the shack that the Man in the Planet lives in is connected via electrical power line to the dark puddle on the surface—the ultimate source of fear. Electricity can be thought of as bad energy, and the lights indicate how much bad energy is flowing at the time. When fear is low, so are the lights. When fear is at its highest levels, the lights burn out. The patterns on the floors of both Henry’s apartment entryway and the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks are reminiscent of electrical waves. In Fire Walk With Me the word “Electricity” is spoken by the Black Lodge demons at their meeting and spelled out explicitly in subtitles. We are exposed to a burst that bad energy through the flickering lights when Agents Desmond and Stanley arrive at the dinner in Deer Meadows. And there are many ominous shots of power lines as Agents Desmond and Cooper investigate the trailer park where Teresa Banks disappeared. The characters in the trailer park seem intuitively aware of the bad energy that flows there. Some of these characters appear to have been deformed by it. Likewise, electricity represents bad energy in Eraserhead. The lights burn out when Mrs. X takes Henry aside to tell him about the Baby after the horrific dinner; they also burn out when the Baby’s giant head lunges at Henry in the film’s climax. In both cases fear is at an extremely high level.
The wind that blow through Eraserhead, and blows through the trees in Twin Peaks, is an indicator of something dark and fearful. Much like the electricity in the film, the wind increases as Henry’s fear becomes more and more intense. If you listen for the wind, you will hear it prominently featured in the third act of the film, as Henry confronts the source of fear.
The small dirt tree in Henry’s room (the branch in the pile of dirt with the doily on bottom) seems to represent Henry’s superego—his sense of right and wrong. Henry navigates very similar mounds of dirt in the opening of the film. The branch in the dirt tree represents a threshold, as described above. In this case, it is a threshold to right and wrong. In Biblical terms, the dirt tree is reminiscent of the the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: the mixture of two opposing forces, just as sex (a creative force) and fear (a destructive force) are mixed in the film. In Eraserhead, it is of great importance when something is lit and when it is not. Being lit indicates that the object is question plays a role in Henry’s thinking at that particular moment; not being lit indicates that it is not on Henry’s mind at the time. The dirt tree is lit when Henry’s thoughts or actions challenge his sense of right and wrong. It is prominently lit while he thinks about the floral box with the seed in it, which represents his hidden and growing desire for his neighbor, the Beautiful Woman Across the Hall. In Henry’s nightmare on the radiator stage, there is a giant version of this tree. The dirt tree occupies the judge’s position in this dream trial scenario. The doily at the base of the dirt tree is reminiscent of a jabot, which is sometimes worn by judges. The giant dirt tree then appears to pass judgement on the twitchy Henry, who nervously awaits his sentence on the witness stand.
Beauty in Contrasts
In Eraserhead David Lynch uses the most complicated and disturbing of means to convey a message that is ultimately simple and peaceful. He creates a dark and negative world as a means to a light and positive one. These ironies and contradictions are one of the many ways in which Eraserhead is a movie awash in beautiful contrasts. Like the black and white film stock used to create the film, Eraserhead is a gorgeous battle of opposites, and this struggle is ingrained in the very fabric of the film.
We need look no further than Henry himself to see these contradictions (as the film itself looks no further than Henry’s mind). With his sky-high hair, Henry appears to be in a perpetual state of cartoon-character fright. But physically, Henry also looks like a surreal pencil, with an eraser on top. Henry describes himself as a “printer.” A pencil is also a “printer.” It is a creative force. The other side of the pencil, the eraser side, is destructive. Two ends, two poles, yet still one object. Henry is driven by sex (a creative force) and paralyzed by fear (a negative one). He is a creator (a printer who creates fear) who ultimately destroys (killing the baby and erasing fear).
Many objects in the film lead to contrasts. Fear led Henry to commit violence, but also led to the bliss of the radiator. The dresser hides Mary, his object of love, but also hides the scissors, an instrument of death. The symbol of bliss is hidden in the radiator. Yet the radiator is right next to the window, which hides the symbol of fear.
Some of the contrasts or opposites in the film: black and white, darkness and light, good and evil, fear and bliss, warmth and cold, sex and violence, organic and industrial, beauty and ugliness, birth and death, meat and potatoes, milk and blood (the two liquids Henry bathes in during his dream), man and women, young (Henry and Mary) and old (Mary’s parents), birth and death, creation and destruction, phallus and vagina, sticks and holes (the club used by the puddle), pencils and erasers, music and wind, seductive and accusatory (the two uses of “late” in the film), moving in and moving out, beginnings and endings (the end of Eraserhead is new beginning for Henry–one without fear), surface and deep.
An incredible thing about Eraserhead is the way it finds great beauty in these contrasts. While there are far too many instances to list here, I’ll point out one: the composition of exterior shot of Mary’s home. The dark, ominous house with Mary’s body-less head trapped fearfully in the window, the wreaked, decayed yard with steam and particles billowing impossibly upon it. Yet this yard still manages to yield a handful of gorgeous roses. Beautiful life is trying to break through the bleak industrial landscape. As always, David Lynch finds bursts of light in the overwhelming darkness. In my view, no Lynch film better exemplifies this effort than Eraserhead.
One Final Guess
David Lynch has offered up yet another mystery regarding the interpretation of Eraserhead. In Catching the Big Fish, Lynch states that Eraserhead is his most spiritual film and no one understands why:
“Eraserhead was growing in a certain way, and I didn’t know what it meant. I was looking for a key to unlock what these sequences were saying. Of course, I understood some of it; but I didn’t know the thing that just pulled it all together. And it was a struggle. So I got out my Bible and I started reading. And one day, I read a sentence. And I closed the Bible, because that was it. And then I saw the thing as a whole. And it fulfilled this vision for me, 100 percent.” (Lynch, Catching 33)
Lynch, of course, isn’t saying what that quote is. But I will venture a guess. While I’ve had the fortitude to carefully transcribe a script for the film and write an analytical essay, I haven’t the time or will to re-read the Bible in search of the proper quote. A newfound awareness of Eraserhead‘s themes make this an intriguing possibility though, and perhaps one day I will. Until then, a Google search for Biblical quotes related to the themes I’ve uncovered will have to suffice. And that search did reveal a very promising possibility.
From II Timothy 1:7, in The Holy Bible, King James Version: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.”
The two opposing spirits described above (fear and love) recall the opposing states that Henry A) finds himself in at the beginning of Eraserhead and B) instinctively arrives at in the climax of the film. Henry begins the film with the Man in the Planet, possessed by an unnatural spirit of fear. He ends the film with the Lady in the Radiator, in the presence of love and power, with a sound mind and peaceful expression. Eraserhead is a spiritual film because it shows Henry’s journey away from fear, and his ultimate arrival at God’s spiritual ideal for us.
This quote is also striking because of its similarity to way Lynch described yogis, after seeing pictures of them for the first time:
“There was such a presence of power and dignity—and an absence of fear. Many of their countenances held playfulness or love, or power and strength.” (Lynch, Catching 37)
Therefore, the quote above from II Timothy is my best guess at a Biblical quote which could encapsulate Eraserhead. When dealing with a film as challenging as Eraserhead, and an artist as intuitively brilliant as David Lynch, a best guess is all a cinematic detective can hope for.
[Note: Please forgive any formatting errors. WordPress seems to have a tough time with standard screenplay formatting.]
Script Transcription and Annotations (in Bold) by David Johnson
EXT. SPACE – HENRY AND THE PLANET
Henry Spencer’s upper torso floats horizontally in space, looking bewildered and frightened. His hair stands up straight from his head (like a scared, surreal cartoon figure and a human representation of an eraser on a pencil) and he wears a dark suit with pocket protector containing pens and a large eraser. His figure is transposed over the dark and textured planet. (The planet’s shape is very similar, if not the same, as that of the Baby’s head—the two are linked—both are fear, both get destroyed in the end.)
Henry floats away and we zoom in on the planet. We pan over the dark crevices and valleys on the planet’s surface, until we go into complete darkness. (The first of many times we will make a camera movement into darkness in the film. The crevice is v-shaped—-vagaina–represents one of the “parents” of Henry’s fear. It awaits the spermatozoon creature from Henry’s scream.)
EXT. PLANET – SHACK – NIGHT
In a bird’s-eye-view over the planet, we see a small metal shack on the surface, with a large black hole in the roof. There is a power line going from the shack into the ground (It might be going from the shack into the puddle. The shape in the ground looks like the puddle. Fear is transferred to the shack via electricity). We zoom into the black hole until we go into complete darkness again. (Again moving into darkness, and one of many, many times in the film that we will move into a hole of some sort. The sexual act is woven into the fabric of this film. The shape of the hole is similar, if not the same, as that of the puddle.)
INT. SHACK – NIGHT
A hideous, disfigured man–The Man in the Planet–sits in the shack, staring out of a window with broken planes. We can see his reflection in the window. (Reflecting his dark, twisted inner state.) There are a series of levers in front of him. (This is very similar to the way Henry stares out the window when he sees the assault near the puddle. Mary will stare out of a window fearfully as well.)
EXT. SPACE – HENRY
Henry, still floating horizontally in space, opens his mouth. (As if to scream—he looks very frightened.)
INT. SHACK – NIGHT
The Man in the Planet has a spasm/shiver. (Looks instinctual, animal-like, involuntary. Reacting to something he sees out the window—which we find out is the assault by the puddle.)
EXT. SPACE – HENRY
A spermatozoan creature (similar to the Baby’s head with an umbilical cord) comes out of Henry’s mouth.
INT. PLANET SHACK – NIGHT
The Man in the Planet has another shiver. He suddenly pulls one of the levers. (Again, The Man in the Planet reacts to something fearful he sees out the window. Henry blocks this with bricks for a long time in the film.)
EXT. SPACE – HENRY
The sperm-like creature shoots away from Henry’s mouth, (from his scream) into space.
INT. SHACK – NIGHT
The Man in the Planet pulls another lever.
We see a large puddle of liquid on the planet’s surface. (The Man in the Planet creates the puddle by pulling the lever.)
INT. SHACK – NIGHT
The Man in the Planet pulls a third lever.
EXT. PLANET – NIGHT
The sperm-like creature splashes into the liquid of the puddle, sinking down into darkness. (The Man in the Planet cause the conception of the Baby. The Baby represents fear. Because it’s a baby, it’s associated with sex. The Baby’s “parents,” the puddle and the spermatozoon creature, are fear, therefore he Baby is fear. Fear is also intertwined with sex. The Man in the Planet is responsible for conceiving fear through the process of sex.)
In the darkness we pan until we see a hole of light, with grass around the edges. We move upwards from the darkness into the hole of light. (In this shot fear is “born” into Henry’s world. Therefore, fear comes into Henry’s world through sex. This opening sequence is a creation myth for fear, and show that fear and sex are intertwined in Henry’s mind. In the surface story, after sex with Mary her parents force fear upon them by making them take the Baby, the symbol of fear. But we don’t know the real cause of fear yet, what the Man in the Planet was reacting to—we haven’t seen what’s out the window.)
EXT. CITY – DAY
Dissolve to bewildered and fearful-looking Henry, carrying a bag standing in an decayed, oppressive, post-industrial environment. He walks towards an opening in a large wall in the background. (Henry literally walks into darkness here.)
Henry walks over mounds of dirt (like the mound for the dirt tree in his room—navigating right and wrong), with more decayed buildings in the background.
As Henry walks through the mud of the road, he steps in puddle with his right foot. (Going into a puddle again—here it represents Henry getting fear on him, physically.)(It’s the right foot—continuity error later.)
Henry continues walking past decayed buildings, industrial wreckage, oily water with broken things in it, run-down factories, and a frightening electrical plant (electricity, or bad energy, is associated with fear). He clutches his bag and looks fearful.
Henry comes to the front of an old brick building and walks in the doorway.
INT. HENRY’S BUILDING ENTRYWAY
The entryway has flower patterns on the walls and furniture, and wave-like patterns on the floor (the floor pattern is similar to electrical waves. As Henry moves deeper into the building, the flowers become less and less) There is a mirror on the wall, furniture and mailboxes.
Henry walks by a mirror (the building reflects his inner state) and checks his mailbox, which is empty. (No adulterous thoughts coming in yet—he’s an innocent.) He enters the elevator and waits a long beat for it to take him up. (Henry is reluctant to go deep into his subconscious.)
In the elevator Henry looks fearful and the lights begin to flicker. (The deeper Henry goes into his mind, the stronger fear becomes. The lights represent and attempt to fight fear. He’s scared to go deeper into his mind)
INT. ELEVATOR LANDING
Henry arrives on his floor. The doors to the floor are similar to the doors in the entryway, but covered with dark, strange textures. (Like tar on the doors. Again, the deeper we go into Henry’s subconscious, the darker, stranger and more lifeless it gets.) Henry exits the elevator.
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE HENRY’S ROOM
Henry walks down a narrow hallway, past a payphone, to the front door of his apartment. In an little nook on the background wall there is a strange tree of mostly branches and what looks like stars. As Henry opens the door (Apartment 26) we hear the voice of Beautiful Girl Across the Hall. (We can’t see this doorway easily in the wide shot of the hallway—it’s not lit initially. It seems to come out of nowhere.)
BEAUTIFUL GIRL ACROSS THE HALL
Are you Henry?
She stands at her half open door, in a dress that shows a lot of cleavage.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL ACROSS THE HALL
A girl named Mary called on the payphone. Said she’s at her parents and you’re invited for dinner.
Long beat as Henry appears to be thinking about something.
Henry stares at her for a long beat. He then turns away with a frightened look.
Thank you very much.
Henry walks in his apartment and, after giving her another glance, closes the door. Beautiful Girl Across the Hall stares at Henry’s door disappointedly for another beat before closing her door. (Apartment number 27 is hers.)(She plants the idea of an affair in Henry’s mind at this point. The seed will soon show up in his mailbox.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM
Henry is in the dark in his apartment, clutching his bag (clutched to his heart, representing his two loves, Mary and the Lady in the Radiator) and looking scared. (The Beautiful Girl in the Hall threatened his relationship to his two loves with her sexual advance.) He switches on the wall light and a floor lamp that has a horizontal florescent bulb. The florescent bulb doesn’t come on. (The light represents Henry’s struggle against fear. It’s a weapon against fear for Henry. Fear is at a low level at this point, so the light is at half-power. The lights start overloading when fear is at its highest.) He puts his key on a small table and clutches his bag. He then takes two packages, a small one and a larger one, out of the bag, tapping the small one with his thumbs (The Lady in the Radiator) before putting it down. He stares at the larger package angrily for a beat. (They are both wrapped up and hidden away—as they are hidden in the dresser and the radiator. He stares at angrily at large one, the Mary package, because she hasn’t come around for a while.)
Henry’s has a bed, dresser, record player, floor lamps, radiator, and small table in is apartment. The dresser has with what looks like a mound of twigs on top. (As opposed to the radiator, with a pile of twigs around the base.) By his bed there is a leafless branch stuck in a small mound of dirt—the dirt tree with a doily at the bottom. (The doily is like a judge’s shirt. The dirt tree represents the tree of knowledge of good and evil—something that watches and judges him—his superego.) Above the tree there is a small picture of a mushroom cloud. (More fear in the background– in this case the constant cold war/nuclear annihilation threat that twisted everyone psyche at this time.)
Henry’s room layout, clockwise: small table, floor lamp w/florescent bulb, corner, door, record player, dresser w/twigs, floral box (not lit) (id), corner, small tree, bed, bathroom door, corner, floor lamp with no cover, radiator with window above, corner, door, back to small table.
Henry goes to the record player and plays music. He skips a few tracks on the record, but it’s all the same piece of happy organ music. (He’s trying to be happy—the happy organ soundtrack represents positive self-talk, a positive emotional soundtrack he’s trying to introduce into his mind.) He remembers his wet foot and goes over to his bed.
On the bed he takes off his left shoe and sock puts it on the radiator. (The radiator warms the sock–relieves fear.)(Left foot. Different foot from the one which got wet in the puddle—continuity error.)
There are twigs all around the bottom of the radiator. (Looks like pubic hair. Like pubic hair twigs represent a threshold to sex or another emotional state) Henry stares at the twigs. (The radiator and the dresser both have twigs—one on top, the other on the bottom. They’re opposed to each other. They represent a choice between two emotional states and two women, fear or bliss, Mary or the Lady in the Radiator, respectively. Both women are hidden in these objects.)
Henry then looks up at the window above the radiator. Outside the window are bricks, which look like they’re made of paper. He stares fearfully at the bricks for a beat. (We find out what’s behind the bricks later–the assault on the road near the puddle. For now he’s walled off this part of his mind—avoided, denied, repressed it.)
Henry snaps out of it after a moment and goes to his dresser with twigs on top. (The unconscious specter of fear reminds Henry of the dresser and Mary.) He opens the top drawer.
In the drawer, among other things, there is a bowl of water (another form of puddle) with coins in it. Henry looks through the drawer, finds one half of a ripped picture, finds a coin and drops it in the water (making a wish that things will get better with Mary, but also making something enter a pool, which indicates sex and fear in this film), and find the other half of the picture.
Against the backdrop of the twigs (again, a threshold to something. Henry knows not what), Henry puts the two halves of the picture together.(Reconstructing her image–a creative act) It’s a picture of Mary. The picture is a little dark and dirty (sexual pun with dirty, but also because she’s been stained by fear). It is ripped so there is a head half and a body half. (Head separate from the body, just like Henry in his dream and the Baby at the end. She had been ripped in two, decapitated—a destructive act.) He looks at the back of the head half, then puts the picture back together again. (Looking for twigs on her head, like the ones he sees later when she’s in bed. A threshold, but to bliss or to fear? He doesn’t know.)
EXT. THE X’S HOUSE – NIGHT
Cut to a frightened-looking Mary, staring out the window of a door. (We can only see her head, as if she’s decapitated. Like Henry, she’s a scared person looking out a window, especially when she’s decapitated. When she’s whole she’s sweet. She appears trapped in fear.) She has a hearing aid in her left ear. (Foreshadowing the Baby’s crying. She is especially tuned into the sound of fear.) She is looking for Henry. After a moment she turns away from the window and stares down in the dark.
EXT. CITY – NIGHT
Henry through the city’s broken down, post-industrial landscape. There are old railroad tracks. He walks towards camera from behind a railing, towards the railroad tracks. Cut to a wider shot of him walking towards camera from the railroad tracks. (He seems to approach from two different directions in these shots—the first time from behind the railing, the second along the train tracks. Creates the sense that this is not a “real” world.)
Dogs bark and there is a loud sound of glass breaking. Henry quickly moves away from that direction and looks scared. (Obviously, violence and fear pervades this environment.) After a beat he resumes walking towards Mary’s house.
EXT. THE X’S HOUSE – NIGHT
We see a dark vent with steam blowing through it.
Henry comes to the front of Mary X’s house. He checks a piece of paper then looks at the house. The house is bathed in darkness, with dead or dying flowers in the front yard. On one side there is a large vent that billows steam into the front yard and onto the flowers. (Parallel to the respirator blowing on the Baby.) Mary looks out the window of the front door. Henry approaches the house slowly.
You’re late, Henry.(Beautiful Girl tells Henry it’s late as well,
but in a seductive way—opposites.)
I didn’t know if you wanted me to come or not. Where have
you been? (Sexual pun on coming/cumming.)
Mary stares at him without answering. (She’s been consumed by fear.)
You never come around anymore.
Mary looks around in the house then opens the door and steps onto the porch.
Dinner’s almost ready.
Henry moves onto the porch. (House address is 2416.) Henry and Mary stare at each other for a beat. Mary expression then changes.
Come on in.
Mary enters the house and Henry follows.
INT. THE X’S HOUSE
Mary’s mother, Mrs. X, sits in the living room, next to a small table. On the table is a lamp and a hair brush. Mary and Henry enter.
(looks at Mary briefly)
I’m very pleased to meet you.
Mary and Henry sit on the couch next to Mrs. X. They both look uncomfortable.
In the living room there is a dog nursing a liter of puppies. Behind the dog is a dresser with no drawers (nothing hidden—fear in the open). There are piles of twigs where the drawers should be (threshold has been emptied). There are strange, flower-like objects embedded on and in the walls and floral patterns to the drapes and furniture (Organic life is trying to break through the industrial environment.)
It’s Henry, isn’t it?
Long, uncomfortable beat.
Mary tells me you’re a very nice fellow. What do you do?
Oh, I’m on vacation.
What did you do?
Mary suddenly starts having a seizure of some sort—shaking, moaning, eyes crossed. Mrs. X picks up the hair brush and vigorously brushes Mary’s hair.
Oh, I’m sorry.
Well, I work at La Pelle’s factory. I’m a printer.
Mary’s seizure suddenly stops.
Henry’s very clever at printing.
Yes, he sounds very clever.
A door suddenly squeaks. Henry, Mary, Mrs. X and the dog look towards it. We see Bill, Mr. X, standing behind the dining room table. There is a large pipe just outside the dining room.
I thought I heard a stranger.
We got chicken tonight. Strangest damn things. They’re
man-made. Little damn thing. Smaller than my fist. But
they’re new! (Explicit links between the chicken and the
Baby—both new, man-made, little, strange.)
Hello, I’m Henry.
Henry’s at La Pelle’s factory.
Printing’s your business, eh? Plumbing is mine. 30 years.
I seen this neighborhood change from pastures to the
hellhole it is now! I put every damn pipe into this
People think that pipes grow in their home, but they sure
as hell don’t! Look at my knees!
Bill steps out from behind the table. Bill’s knees are bent. The dog starts barking.
Look at my knees!
Mrs. X gets up and steers Bill back towards the kitchen.
(retreating to kitchen)
Are you hungry?
Bill and Mrs. X go into the kitchen while the dog continues to bark.
In the kitchen MRS. X rip up lettuce and tosses it in a large bowl. The old lady sits lifelessly in a chair nearby.
In the living room Mary and Henry sit silently, listening to the sound of puppies nursing.
In the kitchen Bill bastes a pan of chicken in the oven. (There doesn’t seem to be room for Bill in the kitchen. Also, the oven he uses is not under a stove. There appears to be two other ovens under the stove. The one Bill uses is separate, connected to drawers.)
Mrs. X puts seasoning and dressing on the salad. She then puts the salad bowl on the Old Lady’s lap. She takes both her hands, places them on the utensils. Mrs. X moves behind the Old Lady and, holding the lifeless Old Lady’s hands, tosses the salad. When finished she takes the old lady’s hands off the utensils and puts the bowl back in the sink. Mrs. X then takes out a cigarette, puts it in the Old Lady’s mouth, and lights it. The Old Lady puffs once.
Bill takes the pan of chicken out of the oven and turns off the light. (The Old Lady is still in the kitchen, with the light off.)
Shot of a coo-coo clock with one hand. The hand points to 8. The little bird comes out of the clock’s door, spins around and chirps.
In the dining room, Henry, Mary, and Mrs. X sit at the table. Bill brings in the pan of chicken, sets it on the table and sits down.
The girls have heard his before, but 14 years ago I had
an operation on my arm here. Doctors said I wouldn’t be
able to use it. But what the hell do they know, I said,
and I rubbed it for a half hour every day. And I got so’s
I can move it a little bit, and I so’s I could turn a
faucet and pretty soon I had my arm back again. Now I
can’t feel a damn thing in it. All numb.
(He is numb to the fear.)
Bill hits his arm. Mrs. X slowly reaches for the chicken pan, as if by compulsion.
I’m afraid to cut it, you know? (Bill is afraid to confront/cut the fear. Stabbing the chicken also links to Henry stabbing the Baby at the end.)
Mary usually does the carving, but maybe tonight you’ll
do it, Henry.
Bill puts a tiny chicken and fork on Henry’s plate.
Alright with you?
Henry looks anxiously at his plate.
Of course. I’d be happy to.
Henry picks up the carving knife.
Do I just, ah, just cut them up like regular chickens?
Sure, just cut them up like regular chickens.
Henry’s fork goes into the chicken (Two prongs, like the scissors at the end.) Blood leaks out of the chicken’s rear end and it’s legs start moving back and forth (Fear, blood, is “born” from the chicken. Blood=Fear. The legs moving looks like in a sexual encounter. The chicken symbolizes sex and fear together. They are serving a meal of sex and fear. Later they will “serve” the Baby to them.)
Henry reacts in horror to the bleeding and moving chicken. Mrs. X appears to go into a orgasmic state, with head back, mouth open, tongue out, and eyes rolled up. She starts whimpering and panting in pleasure. Mary looks at the chicken in horror. As the chicken continues to bleed Mrs. X’s panting turns into crying and screaming. (Again, sex and fear linked.) She suddenly gets up from the table and runs into the other room. Bill seems indifferent (numb) to the scene. (A comment about being numb to the horror in your environment, including your own home.)
She’ll be alright in a minute.
Mary suddenly leaves the table, following Mrs. X.
Henry and Bill sit at the table for a long, uncomfortable beat. Henry puts down the fork and carving knife. Bill still appears indifferent.
Well Henry, what do you know?
After a beat Bill breaks into an comically exaggerated smile, which he holds for the rest of the scene.
Oh, I don’t know much of anything. (He’s naive.)
Bill continues smiling for another long, uncomfortable beat. (Putting a happy face on horror.)
Mrs. X, composed again, comes back in the dining room.
Henry, may I speak to you for a minute?
(gestures away from the dining room)
Mrs. X walks off. Bill continues smiling. Mary, upset and crying, pokes her head in from the door. Henry looks at Mary, gets up from the table to go to Mrs. X.
The lamp in the living room starts to flicker and burns out. (The fear has become too much—it overloads the lights.)
Mrs. X pulls Henry aside by the large pipe outside the dining room.
Did you and Mary have sexual intercourse?
Why are you asking me this question?
I have a very good reason, and now I want you to tell me.
I, I’m very… I love Mary.
Henry, I asked you if you and Mary had sexual
Well, I don’t, I don’t think that’s any of your business.
You’re in very bad trouble if you won’t cooperate.
Mrs. X suddenly comes on to Henry, kissing/nibbling on the neck. (Sex is twisted into a form of violence—a frightening sexual assault.) Henry turns away in fear and horror.
Well, I…. Mary!
Mary comes running in. Mary is still upset and crying.
I’m too nervous.
There’s a baby. It’s at the hospital.
And you’re the father.
But that’s impossible. It’s only been…
Mother, they’re still not sure it is a baby.
It’s premature but there’s a baby. After the two of you
are married, which should be very soon, you can pick the
baby up. (She forces them to take the child of sex and fear.)
Henry feels his nose, which suddenly starts bleeding. (Connection with the bleeding chicken, the bleeding tree, and the Baby. Fear, blood, is “born” from Henry, fear leaks out of him.) Mary continues to cry.
Mom, he’s got a nose bleed.
(looking at Henry’s nose)
I’ll get ice. (She’ll bring more cold.)
Mrs. X moves off. Henry tries to stop his nosebleed. Mary is still upset.
You don’t mind, do you, Henry? I mean, about getting
Oh, no. (He doesn’t mind taking on fear, not knowing what it will do to him and he will do to it.)
Mary cries more. (She doesn’t want to take on fear.)
Mrs. X walks past Bill in the dining room. Bill stops her.
This dinner’s gettin’ mighty cold. (Layers of meaning–what we’re serving is getting dark and fearful.)
Mrs. X continues into the dark kitchen. The Old Lady is still sitting there, eyes closed with the cigarette in her mouth. Mrs. X walks out the back door and we hear the freezer door close. (Mrs. X brings cold, the Lady in the Radiator brings warmth. Cold is bad, warmth is good in this world.)
Henry holds a cloth to his nose. He looks to the living room where the dog starts whimpering. We hear the wind and it blows the twigs in the living room. We zoom out the living room window into darkness. (A dark and scary window is shown. We will realize the importance of fearful windows later. Bill and Mrs. X served meals of sex and fear to the next generation and passed it on to them.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM
Mary sits at the small table in Henry’s room with the Baby. The Baby has a strange, alien-like head, (fear is twisted and deformed) which rests on a pillow. (Henry will rest like this later on.) The Baby’s body is completely wrapped in bandages. (The true hideous nature of fear is hidden beneath the bandages.) The Baby makes a constant cooing/crying sound. Mary is trying to feed the Baby, but the Baby screams and spits the food back out.
INT. ELEVATOR LANDING
Henry enters the elevator from his floor and goes down.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM
Mary keeps trying to feed the baby and it keeps spitting the food out. Mary gets frustrated, gets up and sits on different chair, away from the baby.
INT. APARTMENT ENTRYWAY
Henry exits the elevator and checks his mailbox. There is a very tiny box in it. Henry stares at it.
EXT. CITY – DAY
Henry walks in the streets. He stops, looks around, then takes the tiny box from his pocket. He opens the box and there is a tiny, bean/seed in it. He puts it back in the box.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM
Mary still sits in the chair away from the Baby. She hears he sound of the elevator and returns to the table with the Baby.
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE HENRY’S APARTMENT
Henry, holding the box, approaches the apartment. He is about to enter when he stops at the door. He looks at the box, thinks for a moment, then puts the box in his pocket to hide it before entering.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DAY
As Henry enters Mary is again trying to feed the Baby. Henry smiles at the Baby’s cooing, lies on he bed. The baby spits something out and Henry smiles again. He then stares at the twigs beneath the radiator. Pan up to the radiator where light goes on and what appears to be a tiny stage is lit up.
INT. RADIATOR STAGE
Inside the radiator we see a spotlight light up the stage. (Lighting up an object indicates something coming to prominence in the mind.) There is a witness stand on the stage, but it’s not lit.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DAY
Outside the radiator, as the light inside it goes down and we hear the Baby crying. Mary keeps trying to feed it.
Is there any mail?
Henry looks like he’s hiding something.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
We see dark shadows on the window with bricks. We hear the Baby’s cries and faint screams in the distance.
Henry and Mary are in bed but not sleeping. Henry get up, picks up his jacket, and takes the box from the pocket. He opens the box and it emits an energy-like sound. Henry puts the seed in the little floral cabinet by his bed that has floral patters on the doors—the floral cabinet. (It’s now lit, but hasn’t been previously. Putting a seed in a box is more sex—sperm in the vagina. The cabinet is associated with the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall.) Henry closes the doors, makes sure Mary hadn’t seen him, and the power sound dies down. (The dirt tree is lit now.)
The Baby begins to cry again. Both Henry and Mary are in bed with eyes wide open. Henry, looking fearful, reaches over to Mary, but she shrugs him away. (Fear and sex again. Fear prevents sex.)
In bed Henry looks at the back of Mary’s head (link wit the torn picture–he looked at the back of her head then) and sees branches at the back of her head. (He sees a threshold, like the twigs. It provides comfort to Henry.) Henry goes to sleep.
We see dark shadows on the window with bricks. The shadows envelope the window in darkness.
The Baby continues to cry incessantly. Henry sleeps (he can live with fear), but Mary, still in bed, is wide awake and looks very tired. She can’t take it anymore. (The constant cry of fear drives her away.)
Henry wakes up. Mary gets up and stands over the Baby.
Mary gives the Baby some food. The Baby stops for a minute and Mary goes back to bed. The Baby starts crying again as soon as she gets back in bed.
Mary gets up again and turns on the light . Henry wakes up. She and goes to the bathroom and comes out dressed. She puts her coat on.
I can’t stand it. I’m going home. (Fear drives her away.)
What are you talking about?
I can’t even sleep. I’m losing my mind. You’re on
vacation now, you can take care of it for a night.
Well, you’ll come back tomorrow?
All I need is a decent night’s sleep!
Mary takes her bag from the table and goes to the door.
Why don’t you just stay at home.
I’ll do what I want to do! And you better take real good
care of things while I’m gone!
Mary goes to the foot of bed and reaches under it. She starts pulling at something. The bed shakes and squeaks and Mary grunts and moans, pressing her face into the bars with a fearful look. (Sex and fear linked again.) She finally frees a suitcase from under the bed and walks out the door with it. Henry looks surprised and the baby continues crying while he lies in bed wide awake.
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE HENRY’S ROOM – HENRY’S VISION
Henry has a vision of the BEAUTIFUL WOMAN ACROSS THE HALL walking in the hallway outside his apartment.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
Henry awake in bed. The Baby is strangely quiet. Henry gets up and puts his robe on. Henry takes a thermometer out of the top dresser drawer and puts it in the Baby’s mouth. After a beat he takes it out and reads it. It shows normal temperature. Henry turns to put the thermometer away. Suddenly the baby is covered with tiny boils, (a link to the Man in the Planet—both have boils) with strange skin color, gasping for air.
Oh, you are sick!
Henry examines the sick Baby as it continues to gasp.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DAY
Shot of the window with bricks.
The Baby is still sick, but there’s now a respirator blowing steam (like the front yard in the X’s house) onto the Baby. Henry is dressed and sits by the Baby.
Another shot of the window with bricks. (Fear is now controlling him).
Henry gets up, goes over to the floral box and opens it. We hear the power sound from the seed. He closes the doors. Henry thinks for a beat.
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING ENTRYWAY – HENRY’S THOUGHT
We see Henry’s mailbox. It is dark in the box and we can’t see what’s inside. (He’s open to more thoughts of escape.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DAY
Henry puts on his suit jacket and walks towards the door. He checks on the Baby and is about to leave when the Baby starts crying. Henry goes to the Baby and it stops. He tries to leave again and it starts crying again. Henry goes back to the Baby and sits down. It stops crying, but still looks sick. He thinks he hears a little snicker from it. (Fear is controlling Henry now, and that fact makes it laugh.)
Tight on the respirator. Tight on the Baby’s labored breathing. (We see how grotesque fear is.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
Henry, still dressed, turns out the light.
Tight on the Baby’s eye, like a monster, always watching. (Fear is always watching.)
Henry lies in bed, dressed and awake. The dirt tree is lit. (Judging, symbol right and wrong, knowledge of good and evil.)
Tight on the Baby’s eye again, still watching.
Tighter shot of Henry, wide awake in bed.
The radiator starts lighting up from the inside.
Another shot of Henry in bed, perhaps falling asleep. (Thinking warm thoughts about the radiator, comforting, escape.)
Close on the lit radiator grates.
Some metal pieces open, like stage curtains opening.
INT. RADIATOR STAGE
At the edge of the stage there is a threshold of twigs and lights (for Henry, twigs and lights are good). The lights light up one by one, like stage lights. We hear Henry’s happy organ music in the distance.
There is a woman on the stage—The Lady in the Radiator. She is blond, wears a nice dress, white shoes, and has a rose pinned to her waist. She smiles constantly. Each of her cheeks are large, white, roundish with lumps, and textured. (They look like mashed potatoes—meat and potatoes–the meat is the chicken and these are the potatoes.) She dances back and forth across the stage and giggles at times. There is a witness stand on the stage that is not lit.
Suddenly a spermatozoon creature falls onto the stage. She continues dancing and giggling. Another creature falls, then a third and a fourth. The Lady keeps dancing, carefully avoiding them, and giggling.
When the music stops, she stomps on one of the spermatozoon creatures, squishing it. She giggles. The music starts and she dances carefully again, and squishes another one when the music stops. (She destroys fear. She is encouraging Henry to do the same. He does so shortly.)
She suddenly backs up and fades away into black. (She is his warm thought, she helps him get to sleep, comforting.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
Slow pan across the individually lit floral cabinet and dirt tree (watching, judging), to Henry, who is sleeping in bed.
Mary appears from under the sheets. She is sweating, and there is a moist, organic sound as she thrashes around in the bed.
Mary clicks her teeth, rubs her eyes, and thrashes in bed with wet, organic, exaggerated sounds (Mary is a fearful object, all those little annoyances about a partner that drive you crazy).
Move over. Move over!
Henry feel something in the bed. He reaches under the covers and pulls out a small spermatozoon creature. (Head like the Baby and an umbilical cord—same as in the beginning.)
Henry reacts with horror and throws it against the wall.
He reaches under the covers and pulls more of spermatozoon creatures out of Mary. Mary seem to produce them as she thrashes around. (Fear coming out of Mary. She’s moving around like the chicken in a sexual way and producing fear.) He throws them against the wall as well. They splat as they hit the wall by the well-lit floral cabinet. (He begins to destroy fear. There is an opening/chance for the seed now.)
We then see a spotlight on the floral cabinet and the doors slowly open. Henry looks at it. We see the seed in the cabinet dance away, moving onto the planet from the beginning. It dances around on the surface, going into the crevices, until one end opens up into a large black hole and we move into it. (Going into a hole/puddle again.)
We see dark textures with a puddle in it. Inside the puddle is Henry sitting in his room. (This look very much like the puddle the spermatozoon creature splashed into in the beginning, and the hole through which something was born and we first saw Henry.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DREAM SEQUENCE – NIGHT
The room is eerily lit, the mood is eery. Henry sits on his bed in pajamas and robe. Henry picks at something on his robe and tries to brush it away. (Trying to get this seed off of him—this bad idea that has attached itself to him, like a burr.)
There is a knock at his door. Henry answers. After a long beat of Henry trying to see who it is, the BEAUTIFUL WOMAN ACROSS THE HALL comes out of the darkness. Henry backs away frightened as she enters.
BEAUTIFUL WOMAN ACROSS THE HALL
I locked myself out of my apartment.
And it’s so late.
She looks around Henry’s apartment more and turns away from the Baby. The Baby starts crying. Henry puts his hand over it’s mouth.
BEAUTIFUL WOMAN ACROSS THE HALL
Where’s your wife?
She must’ve gone back to her parents again. I’m not sure.
The baby keeps trying to cry and Henry keeps his hand on it’s mouth.
She rubs her hands on the dark bed railing, still with her back to the Baby. (Parallel to Henry turning his back to the window later.) She approaches Henry, coming very close, as if to kiss him.
BEAUTIFUL WOMAN ACROSS THE HALL
Can I spend the night here?
Henry looks very frightened. She slowly moves in to kiss him.
In a new shot we slowly pan from the bed railing up the bed. There is a large pool on his bed (another version of a puddle) containing white milk-like liquid. (Milk=bliss, blood=fear.) Henry and the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall are naked inside the pool, kissing. The dirt tree is prominently lit. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall hears the Baby cry and stares at it fearfully while kissing Henry. They sink into the pool of white liquid until we see can only see her hair. (Sinking into milk=very good, sinking into blood=very bad.)
Close shot of the white liquid as it dissolves away, leaving only darkness. (Revealing the fear beneath.)
The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall emerges from the darkness. She sees the planet in the darkness, which is shaped like the Baby’s head. She appears frightened of it and recedes in the darkness. (Again, fear prevents sex.)
INT. RADIATOR STAGE
Out of the darkness the Lady in the Radiator appears. She stands on the stage in the spotlight, hands clasped at her chest. With organ accompaniment she sings (hymn-like, with organ):
LADY IN THE RADIATOR
In Heaven, everything is fine
In Heaven, everything is fine
In Heaven, everything is fine
You’ve got your good things
And I’ve got mine
In Heaven, everything is fine
In Heaven, everything is fine
You’ve got your good things
And you’ve got mine
In Heaven, everything is fine
(First verse, the good things are separate—you’ve got your, I’ve got mine. Second verse, they are together—you’ve got yours, you’ve got mine. She is part of him) (A bug flies through the shot at one point—continuity error.)
She finishes and we hear the wind blow. Henry climbs over the twigs, up on the stage. (Through the threshold of twigs—a threshold to another emotional state.) He approaches the Lady in the Radiator, avoiding the crushed spermatozoon creatures on the stage.
She opens her hands to Henry. Henry looks scared, but then reaches for her hands and touches them.
INT. WHITE SPACE
The screen goes completely white, enveloped in light and white noise.
INT. RADIATOR STAGE
Henry appears back on the stage as he takes his hand off her hand. Henry touches her hand again.
INT. WHITE SPACE
The screen and sound goes completely white again.
INT. RADIATOR STAGE
The Lady in the Radiator clasps her hands to her chest again and suddenly vanishes. Henry looks bewildered and fearful. We hear wind blowing, getting louder and louder.
After a beat the Man in the Planet appears briefly. (Bliss has been replaced by fear.)
The crushed spermatozoon creatures are blown away from the stage. (The dream is turning into a nightmare.)
We hear squeaking and a giant version of the dirt tree rolls itself onto the stage. (The judge appears at the court.)
Henry retreats behind the witness stand on the stage. He starts rubbing the bar nervously, back and forth.
Suddenly Henry’s head is decapitated, pushed off by a phallic object that thrusts itself out of Henry’s collar. His head falls on the stage. (This is Henry’s fear that sex will lead to death with his head being turned into an eraser and replaced by the child’s fearful, crying head.)
Ominous shot of the dirt tree branches. (The branches judge him and pass a sentence—death.)
Henry’s hands keep rolling the bars on the witness stand.
The tree begins bleeding, gushing blood onto the stage. (The tree’s blood represents fear being “born” on the stage. It provides a pool for the phallus, and Henry’s head is the spermatozoon creature in this nightmarish sequence. This conception and birth will lead directly to death and destruction.)
We hear the Baby’s cry in the distance and the Baby’s head slowly emerges from Henry’s collar, growing larger and larger. The cries get louder and louder.
The blood completely surrounds Henry’s head.
The Baby’s cries get louder and more constant, until Henry’s head slashes into the blood and disappears.
EXT. CITY – DAY
On the street Henry’s head falls from the sky, landing with a splat on the ground.
The scalp peels off and his brain is revealed.
A bum nearby looks at the head.
A boy runs out from behind a building, picks up the head and runs away. The bum reaches out for them.
INT. FACTORY LOBBY
Paul, a man behind the counter, a cleans his hands.
The boy comes in the front door with the head. (The flower pots on the ledge.)
Paul starts pressing a buzzer over and over.
The Boss bursts through a door behind the counter, goes up to Paul and sticks his finger in his face.
He turns to the boy and smiles. He gestures for the boy to come closer.
Hiya sonny, what’d you got there?
The boy brings the head to the man. He looks at the brain, giggles in approval and pats the boy on the head. He the leads the boy through another door. Paul tries to follow. (Bosses treat their workers horribly.)
Another man, the Pencil Machine Operator, sits at a strange machine. The Boss and the boy approach. The man puts down his pad, gets a drill and extracts a section of the brain from Henry’s head. He puts the section in a hole in the machine. (More holes and phallic shapes, sex leading to the creation of something destructive.) He starts the machine and feeds pencils into it. We see eraser-less pencils move on a conveyor to where the Henry’s brain sample is feeding into the machine. (Like sex—brain sample entering the hole, turned into eraser. Sex, machine, phallic symbol, hole, pencil is a phallic symbol as well.) The pencils come out with erasers on top.
The Pencil Machine Operator (a parallel to the Man in the Planet) pulls a lever twice and two pencils come out onto his work table. He sticks the pencils in a hole to sharpen it (again sex, going into a hole), makes a line on a piece of paper and erases part of it. (Erasing is a destructive act for a printer like Henry. In his nightmare sex and the fear associated with it have decapitated Henry. This leads to the Baby’s head replacing his and to an industrial process through which Henry’s head is transformed into an object of destruction.)
The Boss and the boy look on anxiously. The Pencil Machine Operator nods his approval.
PENCIL MACHINE OPERATOR
The Boss pays the boy. The Pencil Machine Operator collects the eraser dust in a little pile and wipes it off the work table. We see the floating eraser dust against the black backdrop. (We will see a triumphant variation of this image in the climax, as Henry erases fear, turning it into bliss and transforming the nightmare into a dream.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
Henry lies in bed, dressed, with his hands behind his head. He looks disturbed by his dream (Afraid that he’s going to be erased. He is starting to unravel fear, peeling back its onion layers.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DAY
We see a shot of Henry’s empty bed.
Henry stands by his bed railing, looking at his bed, his back turned away from the window. (Not ready to face fear quite yet.) We see the bricks clearly in the background. (These bricks will disappear shortly.) Henry fidgets with the bed railing. We hear a wind blow through the room. (Start of the wind, increasing acknowledgment of fear.)
Another shot of the empty bed as Henry stares at it for a moment before turning away as if remembering something. (Seems the recognize the association of sex and fear. Looking at the empty bed leads to looking out the window.)
EXT. ROAD – NIGHT
Through buildings and blurred barbed wire we see a dirt road with large puddle in it. There is a pipe going into the puddle. (The pipe links to the X’s—Bill put in all the pipes in town.) A person chases another person to the puddle, grabs them, and begins attacking them violently with a club. The wind continues to blow. (This is the scene that has been walled off in Henry’s mind. We are finally seeing it for the first time.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
Henry appears to be watching the scene through the window. (The bricks appear to be gone now!) The wind is still blowing in his room.
Henry hears something, perhaps a door opening, from the hall outside his room. Henry opens his door and, after a beat of looking back and forth, steps in the hall.
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE HENRY’S ROOM
Henry knocks timidly on the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall’s door. There is no answer.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – DAY
Henry returns to his room, disappointed. The wind continues to blow. The Baby starts snickering, mocking him. Henry looks at the Baby with anger. The Baby stops laughing. (Fear has now lead to anger, anger eventually will lead to violence.)
Henry takes off his coat and lies on his bed, face up, like the Baby. (Explicit connection between the two here—they are both lying face up) The Baby starts snickering at him again. Henry hears his happy organ music in his head (trying to think happy thoughts) but he also hears more sounds coming from the hall. He tries to ignore it. He picks at this bed with one hand, tearing a tiny hole in the blanket. (Subconsciously trying to tear a hole in the fabric of his illusion, and trying to see fear for what it really is.) We can see many other holes in the blanket. Besides Henry and the bed, the dirt tree is lit up.
The Baby starts snickering/mocking again. He hears more sounds in the hallway. (Henry wonders if she is inviting other men in for sex.Henry is obsessed with sex—his subconscious is super-saturated with it.)
We see the darkened floral box. (Trying to shut off this thought.) The wind continues to blow.
We see the florescent light of his floor lamp. Both lights are on.
EXT. ROAD – THROUGH HENRY’S WINDOW – NIGHT
We see the mud puddle outside with someone crawling near the edge of it.
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
Tight shot of the radiator.
We see Henry as before, lying on his back like the Baby. He looks very troubled. A wind blows through Henry’s room.
We hear the sound of the elevator opening in the distance (Same direction as the floral box. The seed in the box—more sexual metaphors. Floral box=Beautiful Girl Across the Hall.) Henry suddenly gets up, looking at it. He puts his jacket on, and opens his front door.
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE HENRY’S APARTMENT
The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall is with a man. He has his arm around her. They almost kiss, but she gestures to go inside.
Henry looks at them with anger.
The Beautiful Girl from Across the Hall stares at Henry.
In her point of view, she looks him and sees that Henry’s head has been replaced with the Baby’s head. The Baby looks frightened, as if in a silent scream.
Henry (appearing again as he usually does) quickly closes the door to his apartment. (Fear has kept him from sex now.)
INT. HENRY’S ROOM – NIGHT
In his room Henry turns off the wall light and looks through the keyhole. He sees the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall’s door shut.
As Henry turns away we hear the wind blow again.
Henry looks at he darkened radiator. (There’s no comfort coming from it.)
Henry stares angrily at the Baby, as it lies quietly. (Fear has led to intense anger.)
Henry suddenly gets up and goes to his dresser. He opens he top drawer slowly and takes out a pair of scissors. (A two-pronged device, like the fork at the X’s dinner table.)
Henry walks over to the Baby, staring at it for a moment. He sits down, trying to decide whether or not to do something.
After a beat Henry starts cutting the bandages, from the bottom towards the head. The Baby starts crying and quaking in fear.
Once Henry gets to the top, the bandages open to reveal blood and the grotesque inner organs of the Baby. (Fear is hideous inside.) The organs are reminiscent of the chicken from the dinner at the X’s house. The Baby has no skin inside its bandages.
Henry stabs the organs with his scissors. (Fear has led to violence. This scene is parallel with stabbing the chicken at the dinner.) Liquid shoots out of the organs. Henry recoils in horror. The Baby spits dark liquid and dark liquid pours from its organs. The Baby cries and shakes. Henry goes to the other side of the room, to the dirt tree and looks away. (He is not facing fear yet. He hides his face from it.)
A mashed potato-like substance starts gushing out of the Baby’s organs. (Which looks exactly like the substance on the Lady in the Radiator’s cheeks. The stuff that comes from her smile. Bliss is destroying fear.)
Henry’s floor light begins to flicker. (Like the lamp at Mary X’s house. Fear is overloading the light.)
Henry crouches by the dirt tree in intense horror and fear, still looking away from it. (Still not facing it directly. Henry is horrified by what he’s done and the consequences. Fear led him to committed this violent and destructive act. He’s now associated with the violence he’s seen outside his window. He’s becoming what he feared—the Eraserhead.)
The mashed potato-like substance envelopes the Baby’s body and comes up to its head. (Bliss has almost overcome fear. Fear puts up a good fight and makes a last stand)
Sparks fly out of the light socket where the floor lamp is plugged in. (Fear is incredibly high now.)
The Baby’s head, looking withered, extends far away from it’s body. There is a long umbilical cord attached to the head. The mashed potato substance has completely consumed the body.
The Baby’s head and umbilical cord tries to pull away from the melted body and mashed potato-like substance.
The Baby’s head, still looking withered, shoots liquid and tries to pull away.
Sparks continue to fly from the light socket.
The floor lamp continues to overload and flicker.
In the next shot the Baby’s head is huge, much larger than Henry, and faces the camera. (Very much resembling the planet) As the lights flicker the giant head appears in different parts of the room.
Henry finally turns towards the Baby. (Finally facing fear directly.)
The Baby’s giant head lunges forward quickly, aggressively, towards camera.(Trying to scare Henry.)
The floor lamp finally blows out (Fear becomes so overwhelming that it overloads the lamp and burns out the light.)
The giant head revolves in the room in the dark, like the planet.
Henry turns away away from the giant head briefly. We hear a cracking sound and Henry looks at it directly again. (Fully facing his fear now.)
EXT. SPACE – PLANET
We see the dark planet in space. Suddenly the front pieces of the planet explode off into starless space. (Fear is being destroyed, we are really peeling back the onion layers of fear now.)
We see Henry with a backdrop of darkness and planet dust flying around his head (He is the Eraserhead, but it is a triumphant image. He has destroyed fear. The planet dust parallels the eraser dust from his dream. This is a triumphant image now. Sometimes you must destroy (fear) in order to create (bliss). Henry is instinctual though and can’t intellectualize this. He still looks frightened and bewildered.)
More pieces explode off the front of the planet and we see more dust around Henry’s head. He still looks frightened and bewildered.
The Planet now has a large black hole in its front. We slowly move in to the dark hole (We’re moving into a dark hole once again. The shape of the hole resembles the hole in the beginning. We moved out of the planet in the beginning and now at the end we move into the planet.)
INT. PLANET SHACK
We see the Man in the Planet, pulling on his levers with everything he’s got. (Still trying to control Henry, but he cannot anymore.) Sparks fly from bottom of the levers onto his body and face.
In a tighter shot we see the Man in the Planet grimace as the sparks fly onto him, hitting his body and face. There is white substance where the sparks have hit him.
In an even tighter shot of the Man in the Planet’s face we see that the white substance looks exactly like the mashed potato-like substance that consumed the Baby’s body. It is the same substance that makes up the Lady in the Radiator’s cheeks. (And her smile, the source of her bliss. The Lady in the Radiator, a symbol of bliss, is overcoming the Man in the Planet, a symbol of fear. Fear is being destroyed by bliss. This links to the dream sequence when the Lady in the Radiator stomped on the spermatozoon creatures.)
INT. WHITE SPACE
The scene dissolves into a white space of pure light and white noise. (This is exactly like the light from radiator stage. The nightmare has now been turned into a dream. Fear has been transformed into bliss) The Lady in the Radiator appears, smiling broadly, with arms clasped at her chest.
We see Henry in the light. He turns towards the Lady in the Radiator. She embraces Henry warmly. Henry looks completely at peace as he accepts her embrace. (This image is ecstatic. Fear can no longer control Henry. He embraces bliss without fear.)
CUT TO BLACK.
David Lynch film and television projects:
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Meridian. November 1974.
Lynch, David. Lynch on Lynch. Ed. Ed Rodley. London: Faber and Faber. 1997.
Lynch, David.. Catching the Big Fish. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. 2006.
Olson, Greg. Beautiful Dark. Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. 2008.
Chute, David. “Out to Lynch.” David Lynch: Interviews. Ed. Richard A. Barney. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. 2009.
Online articles and resources:
Saban, Stephen and Longacre, Sarah. Eraserhead: Is There Life After Birth? New York: The Soho Weekly News. October 20, 1978.
Hartmann, Mike. The City of Absurdity. Eraserhead online resources. November, 1996.
Bean, Travis. Eraserhead, or: The meaning of the baby; the meaning of fear. Cinema Beans. June 7th, 2012.
Ebiri, Bilge. David Lynch Thinks No One Will Ever Agree on Eraserhead. Vulture.com. Sept. 19, 2014.
Adelson, Fred B. David Lynch: “Philadelphia is Percolating in Me.” Delaware Online. October 23, 2014.