I've created a graphic nonfiction novel that reveals some never-before discovered/announced secrets about the movie Eraserhead by David Lynch. Publication is on March 19th, 2017 - the 40th anniversary of the film's first screening. I will release it as an eBook. Prior to publication, I am revealing a panel a day from the introduction.
This "reveal" isn't a typical Freudian analysis of this-represents-this and that-represents-that. I've found a literary text that contains dozens of lines that virtually describe images and events in Lynch's film. The meaning of that older text shines a whole new light on the themes presented by the film. In fact, it opens the door to one additional text that tells the scope and meaning of the overall story. Given these sources, I then share my interpretation of the film. Does David Lynch share the same interpretation? I doubt that we will ever find out. In any case, this book gets us many steps closer.
When I discovered the relationship between the older text and the film, I needed to decide how to share it. Should I scream it from a rooftop? Should I blog, tweet, and post about it? Should I write an academic paper?
Unfortunately, the style of the academic paper really puts me off. They typically describe films in dry, overly wordy terms and then go on to "mansplain" the obvious and to overly complicate the obscure. I needed a different approach.
Ultimately, I chose the graphic novel format. This allows me to uniquely render an image from the film in a simple way while emphasizing the main point that I want to highlight. I've tried my best to keep my artwork simple, such that it stays out of the way. Ideally, the reader will recall the moment in the film without one word on the page. I want them to dream the scene, not to think about it.
For each frame, I then add the line from the literary text. I don't explain it. I leave it to the reader to find the connections and to feel any resonance. The reader decides whether I've found the Rosetta Stone or if I'm just spinning conspiracies.
From there, I introduce the links to the second text and explain how I interpret the film, based on my understanding of these prime sources.
I don't think that The Key to Eraserhead invalidates other interpretations. The archetypes and symbols and the impact of Lynch's experiences still stand. It doesn't invalidate Lynch's creativity either. Some might say, "So Lynch ripped off the older text. He didn't create anything." To that, I respond, "bull!" Countless people have read the original text. Only one saw Eraserhead's unique images and spent five years putting them on film. To me, the relationship to the older text only makes Eraserhead more brilliant.
I hope that people read The Key to Eraserhead, enjoy it, and gain a deeper understanding of the film. I also hope that they question my ideas and continue to expand their understanding of Lynch's work.
In addition, I hope that this graphic novel approach gains traction in film analysis circles. Unlike the left-brain-only encounter offered by academic papers, this presentation style offers a more integrated experience. It's easy to read and understand and I believe that it evokes the film and communicates at a deeper, more involving level. Understanding film shouldn't be frustrating or feel like untangling the Gordian knot. It should be educational, stimulating, and enjoyable.
May you see and appreciate more and more great films. And may you find inspiration in all that you see, hear, read, and touch.- J A Fairhurst
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