Film: Double Bill
STAR WARS DIR. GEORGE LUCAS (1977) ERASERHEAD DIR. DAVID LYNCH (1977); Vincenzo Natali, Director of `Cube', on his Ideal Cinematic Pairing
Thursday 24 September 1998
These are completely original milestones for their time, made by visionary directors. Each creates fully realised fantasy worlds, begin in space and end with the destruction of a planet. They are also based on mythical or archetypal structures and characters.
Star Wars uses the essays of Joseph Campbell, one of the great chroniclers of world mythology, and uses myths such as Homer and the Bible. George Lucas has said he read Campbell as research for Star Wars. And Eraserhead, with its archetypes from dreams, owes a lot to Freud.
Both films are harking back to traditional cinematic styles, each photographed in a way which is reminiscent of how films were made in the Forties. This is surprising, as the Seventies was a time when there was a lot of experimental editing, hand-held camerawork and pushing the form to new areas. These two films are a throwback to the golden days of Hollywood, with a camera on a tripod and no flash tricks such as jump cuts. It is one reason I consider the directors were visionaries of their time, because it was going against the grain. At a time when people were pushing boundaries, they were being nostalgic.
Though they may have been conservative on one level, on another Lucas and Lynch were quite innovative and daring. They also pioneered amazing special effects, both sound and visual. They were inventing a soundscape from the ground up and using them to evoke another world.
You couldn't think of two more different films in terms of content; one is a dystopian view of the future (Eraserhead), the other Utopian (Star Wars); one is colour and one is in black and white; one a huge hit and one a massive underground hit; Eraserhead was made on a low, low budget and Star Wars was huge; Star Wars is basically a completely non-sexual film, whereas Eraserhead is totally about sex. However, they do both share a love of fantasy.
I was eight when I first saw Star Wars and to me it was the first film to ever put comic-book images on the screen successfully. With Star Wars, the scene that most impresses me from a director's stance is the trench sequence at the end of the film. The planes flying through, and the interaction between the flyers, is pretty extraordinary directing.
Eraserhead is not all that dissimilar; it created an incredible dream world that fully absorbs you for an hour and a half. It is David Lynch's best film, in a way, although not his most technically polished. People either love it or hate it.
There is this scene where a strange woman is tap-dancing on a human foetus. It's probably one of the most bizarre and yet brilliantly executed scenes in cinematic history.
Both are the kind of movie I generally like to see because they take me to a world that I haven't seen before. Frankly, this is what I am trying to accomplish with Cube.
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