Thursday, September 15, 2005

Eraserhead Baby Graduation Picture

Eraserhead Baby Graduation Picture

Eraserhead Baby Graduation Picture (2002)

Never talk about the baby.
--Catherine Coulson, Assistant to David Lynch on Eraserhead

See? I can go a week without being political. Although it's cathartic to vent and commiserate about Bush, let's talk about something less scary.

I always knew that one day this kid would grow up -- well, if it hadn't died, that is. Can we talk about the baby now?

From The City of Absurdity -- A short conversation with David Lynch about "the baby":

David Lynch even used to blindfold the projectionist who ran Eraserhead's rushes while the film was still in production because he never wanted anyone to see the effect of how he did the baby (nicknamed "Spike" by Jack Nance). Following is an interview excerpt between him and writer Stephen Saban in the September 28, 1978, issue of the Soho News:

Question: Did you make that thing?

David Lynch: That I . . . I don't . . . I . . . Stephen, I don't wanna, uh . . . talk about that.

Can you just tell me if it's a . . . sculpture? It's so well done. Someone I saw it with thought that it might be a calf fetus.

That's what a lot of people think it is.

I thought it was made, but couldn't figure out how you got it to move. Was it battery-operated?

I really don't . . .

You credit a doctor in the film. Is that related?

Well, I was looking into different ways, you know, in the beginning...


If I say, I'll really feel bad.

Is it because you'd be giving away a technical secret, or because you'd be arrested?

You know, there's no promotional photos of the baby because people, like, know... it's like, nice to discover along in the film and not to know, like...much about it.

You say all the sounds are organic. Do you use the sound of a real baby crying?


Then what is it? Or won't you tell that either?

I'm sorry, Stephen. Doggone it, you know, I'm not trying to, you know... It's just the baby stuff, I....

With answers like that, who does Lynch think he is -- John Roberts? Oh, wait -- sorry, political. Let's get back into the frame. I think I hear the baby crying. From DVD Verdict's review of Eraserhead:

For most people, children are a joy. They find their laughter as sweet as nature's own elixir and their round, cherubic faces like heaping helpings of Olympian ambrosia. True, there are those misguided demons that want to harm wee ones, to abuse and confuse them with adult yearnings and sticky feelings. And there are those kinder forged from an anvil too hot or mixed from a pool too sugary so that their brain and body chemistry malfunctions, leading to all manner of anti-social, but still vehemently excused, behavior difficulties. For the most part, the general consensus is that kids are spectacular. So much so, in fact, that all of society revolves around them. Rights are undermined, justice usurped, and adult privileges yielded for the sake of a small fry's fragile psyche and ability to grow up worry free. So what does it say about Eraserhead that the most hideous, heinous entity in the film -- far more foul than cooked mini-chickens that spew blood and bile from their roasted orifices or sicker than drilling into the soft, springy gray matter of a decapitated skull for pencil toppers -- is a newborn child: or more accurately, a premature blob of almost human like flesh that screeches like an undead cat. The "baby" in Eraserhead is one of its most enduring and disturbing images, not only for what it physically represents on camera, but for what it stands for thematically in the piece. The baby represents sex at its most evil, biology at its most perverted, and responsibility at its most trying. It is Eraserhead's central visual cue because, in 1972 as it is now, the child is the universal expression of higher order.

Don't touch that doorknob, daddy...

This image scared millions of men into involuntary sterility.

Now, hmmm, what exactly does the Eraserhead baby look like? Oh yeah, now I remember. From senses of cinema -- "The Evil That Men Do" by Thomas Caldwell:

Eraserhead is a nightmare vision of a world where men control all aspects of reproduction, turning sex into a mechanised process. The result is a world of industrial decay where life is more morbid than death itself. The infamous baby in Eraserhead is not naturally conceived but created by The Man on the Planet (Jack Fisk), a deformed monster who unnaturally creates life by pulling levers. Without love, life is an artificially created abomination.

At the centre of this mechanical world is Henry (Jack Nance), one of Lynch's many alter egos, who is a mixture of innocence and dark desires. Henry is forced to look after his deformed baby who constantly traps and enslaves him in the automated world of death-like existence. In this world, the baby, resembling an overgrown penis, both represents male sexuality and symbolises Henry's own sexuality. Similar to uncontrollable sexual urges, the baby-penis constantly demands attention from Henry who becomes its slave. Henry realises that he must kill the baby-penis in an act of self-castration to rid himself of his loathed sexuality. The baby-penis is the centre of the world created by unnatural sexuality, hence its destruction obliterates the world of Eraserhead.

That's sure Freudian enough for me, although it does give the designator dickhead a slightly less metaphorical connotation. Perhaps the last word should go to a critic reviewing Eraserhead and writing at The Four Word Film Review:

"Yucky baby spreads discontentment."

I suppose that beats "Blog fills another post."


Anonymous said...

From my umpublishable manuscript:

Underground Cinema

(1985) 30 Minutes. A documentary on the counter-culture and the rise of independent film, through Midnight Movies and cult festivals. Adult Content and Language.

Henry hoards his mail delivery
until a theater in heaven sunbursts
before a deformity of goiters that
entrances his head to pop off.

What else is marriage than
egg-bearing bodies that whip
and writhe beneath silk sheets
birthing premature maggots!

Vivisection of the child wounds
partridge wings beneath the radiator
where a scratchy Fats Waller '78
power surge blows the light out.

The brain's just another muscle
screwed to the end of a pencil
at the mercy of industrial waste
brushed off as cosmic dust.

Anonymous said...

This picture of Eraserhead's baby reminds me of ET. Who knew?!


cruelanimal said...

"This picture of Eraserhead's baby reminds me of ET. Who knew?!"

Remember how Data had Lor, an evil brother, on Star Trek: The Next Generation? Same deal...

Anonymous said...

stop quoting other people and find something original to say.

cruelanimal said...


Can I quote you on that?

Jakob said...

Interesting bit of info... I only wish this blog post ended by revealing with the hell that monstrosity of a baby really is!

Lynch keeps his secrets well.

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