For this week’s Hit Me With You Best Shot at the Film Experience, Nathaniel selected one of my… well, calling Eraserhead a “favorite” movie would be pushing it, but it’s a movie that I love with no tiny love. So skipping this week was not an option.
The problem, I quickly found, was that I don’t have a particular favorite shot from Eraserhead. Not because it’s not visually memorable – oh, Lord, no. The issue was whittling down the list of 20 or so images that all leap to mind, jangling for attention, whenever I think of the movie. In a film where the narrative is almost entirely a function of the paranoid mood created by the various surreal images, picking just one of those images is a damn hard job.
So I punted, basically. If I couldn’t pick just one shot without going as nuts as Jack Nance does in the movie, I’d go for the shot that gets the whole ball rolling: aye, the very first shot of the film!
A simple shot, but with a lot of movement, as the giant superimposed head of Henry Spencer (Nance) floats in space, over a planet.
Eventually, Henry’s head finally starts to drift up towards the top of the frame, and eventually out.
And once he’s gone, a long, slow track into the planet begins. The whole shot lasts well over a minute, and the track is a good 20 seconds of that.
Arbitrarily chosen or not, I’ve gotta say that the shot ends up saying a hell of a lot about the film to follow: here is an untethered man drifting about, a man with so little personality that he’s literally translucent. Given that the horror of the film to follow is chiefly derived from Henry’s inability to deal with the broken-down, heavily artificial world around him, and his loss of identity through marriage and fatherhood, I’d say that our introduction to him as essentially a ghost, blithely floating around on his side with a vaguely worried look, is a pretty damn good introduction to the hall of nightmares awaiting us.
And there’s one other thing I kind of love, that I never noticed. Look at the title again:
That has to be a deliberate parody of this, right?