A Heady Nightmare: Experiencing Eraserhead at the Dryden Theatre
I recently had the pleasure of seeing David Lynch’s first feature length film at The Dryden Theatre in Rochester NY — that film being Eraserhead (1977). It’s a film that is as head scratching, as it is claustrophobic, tense, squirm inducing and disturbing.
Eraserhead, if you have not seen it, is a film that revolves around Henry Spencer, a new father, played by John Nance, and his bleak, all be it surreal and scary, life. This is the closest you can possible get to a summary, considering this film’s plot is anything but conventionally linear or logical. In fact, you would be hard pressed to come up with much of a plot or meaning behind this film without it being two parts speculation.
Following the screening, I found myself feeling hopelessly trapped, like Henry in his dark, cramped, apartment, with his screaming strange “child.” I also found myself feeling out of my element — much like Henry in the film who, regardless of living in this surreal and grotesque world, seems just as much the fish out of water as the viewer. What’s more, I continued to feel this way an hour after the screening, which I think attests to how effective this film is!
As for the introduction given before the film, something the Dryden does before every screening, it too was quite effective. Most importantly, it gave this film’s production some back story, illuminating some possible interpretations of the film along with details surrounding the life of its eccentric director. Lastly, the print shown was quite nice — leading me to the conclusion that the only way to see this film, or any film for that matter, is on the big screen, on film.
With that said, if you get the chance to see this film at the Dryden, please do. The whole experience will leave you with a feeling that, try as you might, you will never be able to lose prematurely. Instead, you’ll have to go to bed and let the screening wear off on its own accord. Failing to let the screening do so could cost you your sanity — something that you’re going to want if you’re going to go back to the Dryden and see Eraserhead again.
A special thanks to the Dryden Theater and the George Eastman Museum for allowing me and my fellow reviewers, Josh and Jessica, to see this film. Watch our interviews below with Jurij Meden and Alex Vasile, the two people who made this screening of Eraserhead possible.