Saturday, 18 December 2010

David Lynch's 'Eraserhead', 1977

Fig. 1 Eraserhead poster.

David Lynch's Eraserhead is his first feature length film and it explores the melancholic existence of the main character, Henry Spencer, through some intense surrealist techniques.
Fig. 2 Industrial housing.
The first environment the audience is introduced to is a heavily industrialised city or town in which Henry lives. Despite the film being shot in black and white the audience can still see the grime and dirt, how thick the air must be.  Brian Jarvis described the setting as "Lynch's depiction of an Urban-industrial milieu in which the city - with its indefatigable assembly lines and hissing pipes - appears considerably more animated than its listless inhabitants." This is supported when the only people the audience are introduced to are Mary, his girlfriend, and her parents.  These characters have many uses throughout the narrative but in this case they are seen as shells of people, drones that keep the industrial heart beating. Kylo-Patrick R. Hart and Annette Holba believe that the mise en scene used  to portray this setting, combined with the strange events that are yet to happen represent "the natural confluence of denial and panic in response to the encroaching end of the world." (Hart, Holba, :38).  Throughout the narrative there are suggestions of a sparse population (the audience never see more than 4 people in one place), indications that there's no 'green' life, such as plants and trees and the use of a framed picture of a nuclear bomb in Henry's apartment are all symptomatic of an event that's brought humanity to the end of it's world as it knew it.

Fig. 3 The Lady in the Radiator.
The feeling of hopelessness attached to such a catastrophe is also carried over by the director. Erica Sheen and Annette Davison divulged that "Eraserhead offers little if any hope of salvation, liberation or deliverance from evil; even those characters and scenes typically held up as beacons in the midst of the film's literal and metaphorical darkness (for example, The Lady in the Radiator, Henry's 'mercy killing' of his diseased infant, his tryst with the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall) are themselves sources of disgust, loathing and fear." (Sheen, Davidson, 2004:5)  Henry is presented with a dystopian future which he cannot escape from.  He becomes engulfed in the industrial world, smothered by overwhelming mechanical thrumming even when at home.  The audience reads into the dark and dysmal portrayal of the future through the literal dark spaces and shadows so when Henry escapes into his own world within the radiator the audience interprets this bright space as safe from reality.  However, as Davison and Sheen explained, the contorted actions that 'The Lady in the Radiator' commits, such as her giggling while squashing foetuses under her shoes, combined with her incredibly engorged and scarred cheeks create an unnerving juxtaposition for the audience.  They're presented with a area that Henry seeks to escape to but it appears just as damaged and unpleasant as his reality.
Fig. 4 Henry Spencer.
The sound, as mentioned previously, is not only smothering to the characters but to the audience as well.  As they sit and watch this film that is much more about 'emotion than narrative' they are battered by an amalgamation of mechanical hums and industrial crashes.  Noises so smothering that the viewer is unsure whether to keep watching or step outside to take a breath.  Jarvis revealed that "The incessant drone of heavy machinery, an industrial symphony, accompanies the deconstruction of organic desire by technological will in a surreal ballet mécanique." (Jarvis, 1998:176) The sound is not only significant in indicating the industrialised state the inhabitants live in but is used to display the decay of humans desire both the characters within the narrative and the audience alike.  The sounds act as a constant reminder to Henry that he can't live the life he desires any more, due to reasons unknown to the audience. He can't escape his monotonous existence and his awkward and unhappy relationship with Mary and the audience can't escape from the chains the sound holds them by.

Fig. 5 Dinner with Mary's family.
This entrapment that Henry feels is from the relationship he has been forced to have with his girlfriend, Mary, via her parents. Bartłomiej Paszylk deciphered that Henry "finds it impossible to communicate with Mary's family, as they all behave as if they were saddened automatons using the presence of Henry for nothing else but channelling their frustration." (Paszylk, 2009:146)  Henry experiences one of the most uncomfortable social experiences of anyone, meeting their partner's parents for the first time.  Lynch makes sure to create as much discomfort for Henry and the audience as possible via the awkward and inappropriate conversations with the parents.  The discussion of 'sexual intercourse' comes from Mary's mother and the audience soon discovers that Henry has been trapped through Mary's pregnancy. Shortly after however, the audience are introduced to the full horror of Henry's situation in that his 'baby', isn't really a baby at all. Martha Nochimson explicated that "This "baby" is the essence of illusionist reality - there is something there, but it is actually formless, held together only by the word and a bandage-like swaddling.  It is an ironic representation not in that it is the new life of the infant but rather the preclusion of new life by a social will." (Nochimson, 1997:151)  This deformed and unnatural 'baby' can be seen as a metaphor for the 'new life' that Henry's just been forced into due to the cultural implications pregnancy.  The parents made it clear that he and Mary should marry and live together to raise their 'baby' and it is the culmination of finally meeting the parents of his long-term girlfriend that has sealed his fate, trapped by social will rather than his own.  
Fig. 6 The 'baby' replacing the father.
Hart and Holba made another intriguing observation about the 'child', that "For Lynch, the impossible fruition of the oedipal struggle, and the inevitable traumatic consequences thereof, is apocalyptic in and of itself." (Hart, Holba, 2009:37)  The study of Freud's Oedipus complex would suggest that the 'baby' is to become the force behind Henry's downfall.  Within the narrative the audience is shown a dream sequence in which Henry is decapitated from within, and his head is replaced with that of the 'baby', clearly indicating the Oedipus struggle as the father is killed by the child.  This display of fear for his survival is important as it foreshadows the later death of the 'child' at the fathers hands, allowing the audience to interpret it as self defence or self preservation.  This fear is supported by Nochimson's view that "The more culture tries to dominate form, the more powerfully matter and energy beyond control assert themselves." (Nochimson, 1997:156)  Due to Henry's sudden realisation that the 'baby' could be a threat to him, he cuts through its bandages revealing only organs and tissue, no skin or matter to hold it together.  As he becomes engulfed by the revelation that the 'child' is less 'human' than he or the audience could have expected, the unnatural and 'formless' creature asserts itself stronger than Henry can handle, expanding and pouring its alien bodily fluids everywhere, dominating everything in the apartment, including Henry.

Eraserhead is a mighty experience of a film.  To the audience its soundtrack is smothering, visual concepts are overwhelming and its surrealist horror is incredibly visceral.  It needs to be seen to be understood and stays with the viewer for perhaps a little too long.

List of Illustrations

Figure. 1 Eraserhead (1977) Eraserhead poster. At: (Accessed on: 18.12.2010)

Figure. 2 Eraserhead (1977) Industrial housing. At: (Accessed on: 18.12.2010)
Figure. 3 Eraserhead (1977) The Lady in the Radiator. At: (Accessed on: 18.12.2010)

Figure. 4 Eraserhead (1977) Henry Spencer. At: (Accessed on: 18.12.2010)
Figure. 5 Eraserhead (1977) Dinner with Mary's family. At: (Accessed on: 18.12.2010)
Figure. 6 Eraserhead (1977) The 'baby' replacing the father. At: (Accessed on: 18.12.2010)


Hart, Kylo-Patrick R., Holba, Annette (2009) Media and the Apocalypse. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Jarvis, Brian (1998) Postmodern Cartographies: the Geographical Imagination in Contemporary American Culture. New York: St.Martins Press

Nochimson, Martha (1997) The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood. Texas: University of Texas Press

Paszylk, Bartłomiej (2009) The Pleasure and Pain of Cult Horror Films: an Historical Survey. North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Sheen, Erica, Davison, Annette (2004) The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions. London: Wallflower Press

Friday, 17 December 2010

Feedback please, LOTS of thumbnails!

I know my scene is here somewhere I'm just not sure where :S




 11- 16




They're numbered left to right, I hope they're clear enough :S

I know I want to capture movement, like static in the air just before the storm, I'm just not sure if any of these are close enough to doing it...
I really like the idea of having elements of humanity in there, the dress and mannequin and the gas mask.

The lighting isn't very clear either but I want it to either be very dark with one source of light or really bright really unnatrual light.  I'm also thinking I want to create a nostalgic theme, either sepia or black and white or something similar to this:

Where it looks really old but there's still colour in it...I'm really unsure though!

Criticism please, mostly constructive though I hope :P

Awesome Texture Painting with Photoshop Phil...

Being a numpty I'm afraid I only saved a couple of the images because I got carried away and forgot to keep 'saving as'. It's not as good as the source image but I really enjoyed learning how to do it!

 Source Image

Only tiny differences in the images I'm afraid but I really like the way it looks! It's not quite good enough to texture something but definitely a good start :D

Lovely Shinys For You All!

I can't wait to do the rest! :D

Camera Screenshots...

Just to prove I made one :D

Thursday, 16 December 2010

While Working on Thumbnails...

Here are some of the images I've been drawing ideas from:

 < Very Unsettling!

I'm at home at the moment so I can't upload my thumbnails until tonight when I'm back with my PC but there'll be plenty and I'll need as much feedback as I can get ! :D

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Nuclear Tests...

Literally the scariest thing I think I've ever watched.

I really want to capture the moment that the bomb has just gone off. There's a tone of complete silence and weightlessness as everything light gets lifted off the ground. I think this would be incredibly unsettling, especially if it's done subtly and combined with an unnatural coloured light source.

Watch this space for my thumbnails! They'll be here promptly!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Guide to my Project so far...

I'm afraid that due to my lovely housemates hogging all the bandwidth I can't get onto Scribd, or at least I can't get it to respond. So to make up for it I'm going to make as clear a guide as I can about everything I want to have in my project.

Here are the main images I'm looking at for the moment, put together in 3 influence maps:

Different artists work and old photos:

Screenshots from films:

 Different decaying textures and camera positions:

Here is the link to the few thumbnails that I've managed to do:

I would say that what I really want to have in my final image is a feeling of nostalgia and dust.  Like there was something happening there a long time ago but everyone left for some reason.  One idea, which is shown in my thumbnails, is to have an upwards shot of a stairway and a door, perhaps at the top of the stairs which you can see just a little of the next room through.

Another idea I'm keen on is to have a room with a door on one of the walls which is ajar, and a series of old benches or chairs with a couple of old gas masks and papers just sitting around, decaying.  I know I haven't drawn these up yet but that's because I've really struggled to make a decision about my final scene.

I'm really happy with how my research has been going, I've even got more films to watch and refer to but I've really got myself in a tizzy deciding exactly what I want for my final scene.  I'm about 80% sure I want the decaying empty room with gas masks/chairs/flyers littered around I just NEED to get these drawn up in thumbnails so I can see exactly what works.

I also really like the idea of having hanging shaggy cloths/nets around but that will take more practice in Maya I think.  It'll be great to have anything that can make this room look like it was once homely but for some unknown reason was abandoned.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Some Thumbnails...

The few thumbnails I have so far:

They're mostly involving stairs and doors.  This is definitely something I want to carry over to my final scene but I want to squeeze in a gas mask here and there.  I was thinking I may go for more of a large empty room with a door to the side of it or at the end. I NEED to do more thumbnails before I can be sure, and I plan to, I've just been struggling to make decisions.

Maya's Getting Hairy!

And I like it! :D
 All Bear fur:
 All Bison fur:

Bear and Bison 50/50.

All Sheep wool.

All Porcupine fur:

Mixed Porcupine, Sheep, Bear and Bison, 25% each.

Bear Fur:
 Global Density 50,000.

 Global Density 5,000.

 Global Density 50,000 and UVs 64.

Global density 50,000 with Baldness 0.182

Polar Bear fur:
 Normal fur length.

 Longer length.

 Long length with black Lambert underneath.

Self Shade Darkness 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8 & 1.

Custom Furs:
Defaul fur with black lambert.

Default fur with ray tracing.

 Default fur with checkered pattern but low density.

 Checkered fur with high density.

 High density Checkered fur with scraggle.

 Checkered fur with clumping and scraggle.

 Clumped and scraggled fur in strips.

 Strips of high density scraggle with inclination.

 Strips of high density fur with scraggle, roll and polar.

Strips of high density fur with scraggle and polar.