Thursday, 12 January 2012

Blue Velvet (1986)

 Fig 1: Cover

                                                                                     Fig 2: All's well in suburbia
During the first sequence of Blue Velvet, we see a fireman waving at the camera, a policeman helping a group of children cross the street and we hear the lively chirps of birds in the backghround. This scene is almost like a dream of a perfect subhurban environment. We then see what truely lies beneath this tacky, artificial estate: crawling and scurrying insects in the undergrowth. This is the opening which sets the heart of the film on the audience tells us that beneath things that are beautiful, there can can lie things which horror us. Jaime N. Christley mentions on her review: “Cut and dried, Blue Velvet rolls together Lynch's two diametrically opposed, but indivisible, views of American life: One is the "white picket fences" façade, the other its grimy, badly infected underbelly.” Christley and the film explain that the suburbs, a place often depicted as a utopian place where everything is perfect, are not all they seem. Lynch uses this concept to unnerve the audience and to great effect.

In comes the main character, called Jeffery, who finds a dead, rotten human ear in the undergrowth. Being the good boy that he is, he takes it to the police station and recalls the events with J.D. Williams, a detective. He requests that he isn't to tell his discovery to anyone.
                      Fig 3: Sandy and Jeffery 
Later on in the film, he meets with a girl from college named Sandy who peaks Jeffery's natural curiosity when she mentions a woman who is significant enough to provoke the police to put her under investigation from afar. Jeffery makes the decision to spy on her. Dorothy, the woman under surveilance, works as a singer for the 'Slow Club', an isolated club near the edge of their town.
                                                                                                                 Fig 4: Dorothy
Much like other films of Blue Velvet's nature, the film depicts the metamorphosis to adulthood via rituals not familiar to us. In the film, the transformation to adulthood is participated in by Dorothy and there are no chains to hold her back.

What makes Blue Velvet unique is its use of lighting, visuals and its constant, shifting atmosphere. The year in which the film is set is apparently nonexistant as it continuously merges different time periods into one, visually stimulating soup, mentioned by Kevin Carr when talking about the visuals of David Lnch “Lynch shows us a bizarre mix of culture, fashion and techniques. The viewer is never 100% aware of when this is happening. It could be the 80s. It could be the 50s.” (Carr, <No Date>) Visually, the film is believable, yet so surreal at the same time. It constantly throws dream-like settings at the audience, yet somehow manages to keep them within the realm of reality. Take the scenes where blood is shown in a close-up view. At the same time we hear the strange audio of the very cells squirming and squishing around. The film is reminiscent of a nightmare.
                     Fig5: The abusive lover
Blue Velvet's outlook on the word is like as if it were viewed through the eyes and mind of a child and might be intentional since the main character is in his innocent adolescence years. Jaime Russell mentions in his own review that “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.” (Russell, 2001) He compares them to babies in this big, adult world which is quite accurate indeed. Jeffery doesn't quite know what to make of the display of sexual brutality from Frank against Dorothy as he hides in her closet; his virgin mind cannot cope with it.
As if in opposition, the apparency of Sandy's adolescence is much greater. Despite being younger than the main character, Sandy is still in view of the world being either good or evil. The film creates her to be the embodiment of childlike naivety.
Like many types of films like Blue Velvet before it, the film doesn't make it clear what the moral is. Crime and drugs lord over the town, yet authority in the police is apparent, too, but are corrupt through the Detective. Even at the end of the film, the viewers are not given any closure as to whether the crime and corruption are resolved.



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