Pierre Menard's Eraserhead

Folks who know me know I’ve got a bit of an obsession with different people doing the same thing different ways, particularly when it comes to pieces of art. I love collaborative art projects where people are given the same base idea/constraint/whatever and see what people come up with.

An idea I’d had for a very long time involved re-writing a film without having actually seen it, just secondary materials — essays, reviews, etc. Since I’m a huge David Lynch fan, and for a very long time had not seen Eraserhead, but had, oddly, read a LOT about the film (mainly due to being a huge Lynch fan and having books about him and browsing for essays about his work). Sometimes I would joke that I knew more about the film than most people who’d actually SEEN it. So given that and my aforementioned interest in same-ideas-different-ways, I figured that I would ideally MAKE Eraserhead before I saw it. For a long time, I merely thought about this, but one day I decided I would actually sit down and start WRITING Eraserhead.

It turned out I got about four pages in. It turned out that two things were working against me:

  • I actually wanted to SEE Eraserhead sooner rather than later, and
  • I figured that if I was going to write another feature-length screenplay (though I know the real screenplay was only like 21 pages or so), I’d rather it be one of the billions of screenplay ideas I’ve got rolling around my head that haven’t already been made — most likely better — by someone else.

So I stopped. But I still like the idea, and if anyone wants to take up the mantle, I hearby pass on this idea to anyone who wants it. I promise I will not sue or step in to stop it.


On the other hand, I can make no guarantees for David Lynch.


In the meantime, here’s all four pages of MY Eraserhead.

TITLE SEQUENCE


On black, the titles crawl across the bottom of the screen. During the crawl, we hear various industrial noises; machines whirring, clanging, etc. As the titles end, and the screen continues as black, as a particularly percussive industrial sound happens we


CUT TO THE INSIDE OF THE PLANET


THE MAN IN THE PLANET is a strong, muscular man covered in soot, sweat and injuries. His area is a small, cramped space full of gears, levers and screens. The screens are showing random images — the aesthetic of the images is a cross between surveillance video and stock footage. THE MAN looks up at one of the screens and wipes the sweat and blood from his brow. He pulls a lever and images start appearing relating to conception. Things going into tunnels, houses being erected, time-lapse images of plants growing, animals giving birth, things along that nature, ending with the classic sperm going into the egg. As the images begin, they’re on a random screen — not the centermost, nor one the screens on the farthest edges. As the images continue, however, we slowly zoom into the screen until they fill the screen.


INT. APARTMENT BUILDING HALLWAY


We see HENRY SPENCER slowly walking to his doorway. He has a look of combined resigned exasperation, naivety and curiosity. He is interested in details, but not particularly enough to do much more than stare at them, studying the shapes and silently pondering their presence there, even if their presence is obvious (i.e. a doorknob on a door allows you to open the door, which allows you privacy in your own apartment which provides you a place to live, etc.). As he finally reaches the doorway, inserts the key and slowly swings it open, he hears an opening door across the hallway. HENRY slowly turns to look with a blank expression on his face. Out steps THE BEAUTIFUL GIRL ACROSS THE HALL.


THE BEAUTIFUL GIRL ACROSS THE HALL
(sweetly, and semi-seductively)
Henry, your girlfriend was by earlier while you were out. She asked me to tell you that she wanted to have dinner with you at her parents’ house. (Cooing) Apparently, she’s got something to tell you?.


HENRY
(Pauses for an awkwardly long time.) Thank you.



THE BEAUTIFUL GIRL ACROSS THE HALL stands to look at HENRY briefly, and then goes back inside her place. HENRY doesn’t notice. Instead of going inside his apartment, HENRY swings the door closed in the same manner, locks it, and in the same manner walks down the hallway. As he leaves, the shot looks precisely the same as it did at the beginning of the scene.


INT. MARY’S PARENTS DINING ROOM


Seated around a table in a dingy dining room are MARY X, BILL X, MRS. X, MARY’S GRANDMOTHER and MARY’S SMALL BROTHER. MARY X is sitting uncomfortably, with a sense of nervousness. BILL X seems relatively well at ease. MRS. X is dour, but just by nature rather than of any impending situation. MARY’S GRANDMOTHER sits motionless and MARY’S SMALL BROTHER is acting out, getting into the vaguely dirty looking salad and rolls that sit on the table, unserved, waiting for HENRY’s arrival. MRS. X glares at BROTHER but doesn’t say anything. BROTHER doesn’t care, and continues to play — not eating anything, but just making it more and more unpleasant to eat. Dirty fingerprints from BROTHER are on the rolls. Off screen, we hear a doorknob turn, a door open and close and finally HENRY walks in the shot. MARY X remains seated.


HENRY
(blankly)
Hi, honey.


HENRY goes over to hug MARY X, expecting her to rise to hug him back. She doesn’t. Awkwardly, he bends over and hugs the forward-facing, long-faced MARY in her seat. She doesn’t react at all. HENRY doesn’t seem particularly perturbed by this, however, and walks back over.


HENRY
Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me over.


BILL X
(smiling)
Thanks for coming.



MRS. X just continues to glare and BROTHER pays HENRY no mind. MARY X continues to look vaguely downward at the table. Suddenly, MRS. X gets up and exits the shot, only to return with the main course — a platter of small chickens, about half the size of Cornish game hens, one for each of them. She sets the chickens in front of HENRY.


BILL X
(warmly)
Would you like to carve?


HENRY
(pauses) All right. What are these? They’re tiny.


BILL X
They’re man-made miniature chickens — just new on the market. They’re delicious!


HENRY
How do I carve them? Just? like a regular chicken?


BILL X
Yes, just like a regular chicken.


HENRY
(pauses) OK.


HENRY picks up a knife and carving fork from the table and starts in on the platter. HENRY tries to stab one of the chickens with the carving fork, but it is so small it rolls around on the platter a bit bumping into the other. After several attempts, he finally skewers one. At the punctures, blood starts to swell up around the fork, but the fork itself stops the blood flow. HENRY then takes the knife and cuts into the chicken, which ruptures in a burst of blood, getting all over. Flustered, HENRY decides the best thing to do is to keep going, and continues cutting the first chicken, gestures for BILL X’s plate, and puts the bloody meat on, and passes it back down. He starts work on another chicken, which does the same thing. This one is for MARY, and he serves up the rest of the family that way, with MRS. X providing the immobile GRANDMOTHER’s plate to be passed down the line. As Henry is about to serve the last carved chicken to himself, MARY finally speaks.


MARY X
(still not looking at HENRY)
I had a baby.


HENRY
You had a baby?


BILL X
That’s why we asked you here.


HENRY
I see. How is? is it a boy or a girl.


MARY X
It’s premature. It’s at the hospital.


HENRY
I see. (pauses)



P.S.: The real Eraserhead — fanTASTIC.

2 comments

  1. Placenta Ovaries

    I’ve also always been fascinated by the idea of remaking something without being familiar with the source. I once found a typewriter in a thrift store with a sheet of paper in it that had lyrics typed on it. Not even knowing it was a real song, I put music to it and recorded it, and it wasn’t until way later that I heard the original. It was kind of awesome to compare them. The song was Giving You the Benefit by Pebbles, by the way.

  2. Rev. Syung Myung Me

    It’s practically been an obsession with me, too. You should put both versions of the Pebbles song online, too (if you still have yours, anyway). I’d love to hear/compare.

    A long time ago, and I’d still love to do this, or get someone to do this, is to write and record an album that’d be released in either 2 or 3 CDs. The first CD would be written/produced/performed by the band. For the second CD: the lyrics would all be sent off to song-poem types who would write music to them, and the second CD would be either:
    a) The band covering the song-poem versions
    or
    b) the actual recordings themselves.

    If it were a 3 disc set — which’d be the preferable option, IMHO, it’d be the full Band, Band/Song Poem, Song Poem Recordings.

    I don’t know if Kittysneezes will ever do this (I am terribly slow at writing songs and also, I think song poems are typically like $100-200 a pop, so I would need probably more money to do THAT than actually record the damn thing, considering the band does it all in my dad’s studio), so if anyone out there wants to do this idea, that’s cool. Just send me a copy when it’s all done.

    (or at least tell me about it so I can buy it. but I like free things best.)

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