last night I watched eraserhead for the first time since I was…17?
it’s one of those movies that I remembered just about shot for shot. this viewing felt different—the horror/shock/revulsion of the imagery was dampened, letting me appreciate the movie more on a purely aesthetic level. it’s beautiful. the light and framing of each shot is painstakingly crafted, near-perfect.
now that I’m an adult living in a post-industrial city, I feel the characters’ alienation much more strongly. lynch sets organic matter against industrial structures in high contrast, implicating humans as paradoxical organisms uniquely at war with their own biology. in the dialogue, mr. x refers to the industrialized city as “hell”, while the lady in the radiator hints at an eventual escape in “heaven”. the environment antagonizes the characters inside it. flickering lights, hissing machines, and a constant, ominous drone disrupt their sleep, terrorize them at all hours. eraserhead is not a nightmare so much as it is the delirium incurred by sleeping horribly, or not at all
even the actors’ voices sound detached from the soundscape that surrounds them, dubbed in flat and close, never meshing with the drone. I don’t know any other movie that operates on two planes of sound like this: ambience and dialogue, completely separate from each other.
and then there’s the body, which can also be an environment that antagonizes, which also operates on its own will, seeping and mutating and decaying and spitting out babies on a whim. there’s hair everywhere on the sets—I don’t think I noticed the first time—hair around henry’s radiator and the lady in the radiator’s stage and a whole bookshelf full of hair in the xs’ house. the city at odds with the body at odds with the self.
the horror is really not in the violence, not even at the climax. the horror is in how the world feels in this movie, huge and oppressive and totally indifferent to the suffering it contains. and this is a world built by people, people who will buy a human head off a child because the brain makes good pencil erasers, because what else is a human body worth beyond what industry can extract from it.
now I’m listening to black pus for the first time and I guess this is how I’m doing halloween
It’s not that white and black cultures should not interact, or that musicians should not look outside their frame of existence for inspiration. But Arcade Fire’s primal, tribal, magical marketing only serves to reinforce white society’s narrow view of the black experience as such, by presenting it as creative reinvigoration to last a single album cycle. A vacation.