Sunday, 15 January 2012

Blue Velvet (1986)

Fig. 1
David Lynch's Blue Velvet is an American mystery, that contains elements of film noir and many surreal, uncanny concepts. Its scenes are as if from a Gregory Crewdson photograph. The uncanny comes from what can be seen as 'perfect' suburban life, but in reality underneath the surface of fake smiles and a pleasantries festers evil, unimaginable wrongs. The film isn't for everyone granted, but the underlying uneasiness is a powerful energy. The plot follows Jeffrey's investigation into a human ear he found in a field near his house. It is through this investigation that he soon learns the frightening truth about the goings on in his town concerning a night club singer, Dorothy, and her psychotic husband, Frank. With many weirdly confusing scenes we uncover this underlying sexual evil that Frank inflicts on Dorothy - the camera watches uncomfortably the abuse she suffers, much like Jeffrey when piering through the wardrobe.

Fig. 2
The character of Frank is definitely one of the most disturbing to watch, his comfort with being bizarre and physically, sexually abusive is chilling. Empire Magazine observes, "In a film of extreme characters and daring performances, no-one is wilder than Frank, no characterisation more "out there" than that delivered by Dennis Hopper. Nearly two decades on, and with a string of self-parodic rent-a-nut job gigs from Hopper to taint the viewer's perception, Frank remains an astonishing creation. He is a terrifying individual, perverse and brutal, with the attention span and tantrum capacity of a small child." (Empire Magazine 2006) What is picked up within the review is the astonishing performance delivered by Hopper. Empire Magazine has also observed the elements of Frank's characteristics that make him such an appalling character, even more so then a one-dimensional sexual abuser. The fact he has this strange 'child like' quality at times is sickening.

Blue Velvet explores the themes of sexual abuse and the effect it has upon the victim. The way its filmed and edited only enhances the uneasiness felt by the viewer. Jamie Russell argues, "What makes "Blue Velvet" so special, though, is the way in which Lynch turns this simple set-up into a psychosexual drama that would make even Freud shake his head in disbelief. Jeffrey and Sandy are babes in the woods who stumble into the very adult world of nightclub singer Dorothy (Rossellini) and her torturer-lover Frank (Hopper) - the big bad wolf in this Grimm fairy tale. What they witness is something that their mom and apple pie family life has never prepared them for - S/M, kidnapping, murder, and various sexual perversions." (Russell 2001) Russell states beautifully the uncanny element of false and true reality. The ending of the film can be seen as a let down, as a somewhat perfect, happy ending - yet what Lynch has done is turn this 'happy ending on its head'. As at the start is appears as blissful yet under the surface the audience knows what is festering, hence this ending is as ambiguous as it was at the start.

Fig. 3
Roger Ebert states, "The sexual material in "Blue Velvet" is so disturbing, and the performance by Rosellini is so convincing and courageous, that it demands a movie that deserves it. American movies have been using satire for years to take the edge off sex and violence. Occasionally, perhaps sex and violence should be treated with the seriousness they deserve. Given the power of the darker scenes in this movie, we're all the more frustrated that the director is unwilling to follow through to the consequences of his insights." (Ebert 1986) Ebert praises Isabella Rosellini for her courage to perform horrific sequences, that would make anyone feel ultimately disturbed. He also praises Lynch for placing a serious note onto evil sexual nature, that is so often 'glossed' over in recent films. The hard hitting scenes brings a darkness to the film that can't be overshadowed and softened. 

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Lynch, David (1986) Blue Velvet Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Figure 2. Lynch, David (1986) Frank's sexual agression towards Dorothy. At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Figure 3. Lynch, David (1986) Dorothy and Jeffory's violent interations. At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)


Empire Magazine (2006) Blue Velet. At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

BBC Jamie Russell (2001) Blue Velvet (1986). At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Roger Ebert (1986) Blue Velvet. At: (Accessed on13/1/12)

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