Eraserhead turns 40

Forty years ago, David Lynch made Eraserhead, a strange little black and white independent feature film funded by an AFI grant whilst Lynch was a student at the school. Almost twenty years ago I watched the film as a teenager and my life was forever changed as a result. Prior to seeing Eraserhead, my ideas about what movies should and could be had largely been informed by big-budget megaplex fare or whatever was on television or available at my suburban video store. Seemingly out of nowhere this unusual movie entered my life and challenged everything I had previously thought about what cinema could and should be. As a young artist and writer, I learnt that cinema could function as a moving painting; that each frame could be paused and appreciated and that it didn’t have to be literal, it could be symbolic or suggestive. As a young musician, I realised how crucial sound design and music was to an onscreen narrative. I had always loved watching movies, but after seeing Eraserhead I became obsessed– I became a cinephile. All these years later cinema is my god; my place of worship where I can find sanctuary when life gets hard or I need some relief. I guess you could call David Lynch one of my saviours. Eraserhead found me during a difficult time in my life and allowed for me to reflect on and explore the bigger picture things, especially death, which I was trying to make sense of after the loss of someone close (the same goes for Twin Peaks, which I also discovered around the same time). Eraserhead is a divisive film with many detractors, it’s not an easy watch, but I will always love it and carry a fondness for it as if were an old friend. Eraserhead taught me that cinema and, on a larger scale, art itself, can challenge, can conciliate and, ultimately, can save.

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