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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Film Review - Blue Velvet 1986

Fig. 1 Blue Velvet Film Poster

Director David Lynch 1986 film “Blue Velvet” is a bizarre complex thriller. It could also said that Blue Velvet was Lynch’s iconic Eighties movie and established the Lynchian style, introducing themes he would explore obsessively throughout much of his future career.” (Fraser, 2007)

Fig. 2 Blue Velvet Film Still

“Blue Velvet” is an original look at sex, violence, crime and power that lies underneath the exterior of an American town in the 80’s. And right from the beginning the film dissolves into an unnaturally brilliant, visually lush, boldly colourful opening with patriotic hues (bright red, white and blue) and a nostalgic, dream-like view of a clean, conforming, pastoral America a la “Norman Rockwell” (French,2001) With clear blue skies and the song “Blue Velvet” playing, the camera tilts and slowly pans down to a white picket fence, with several idyllic American small town images being presented to us on the screen. Then the camera focuses on one of the houses, where a man stands watering the grass effortlessly, while his wife sits indoors on the sofa, intently watching a film on the television. We watch as the man discovers that the hose is caught on the bush, causing the hose to leak and whistle loudly under the increased pressure. Then the scene of what is the ideal American dream suddenly takes a turn for the worst when the man falls to the ground in pain but still holding on to that hose. The camera moves from above ground to the grassy floor for a closer view to find a swarm of hungry, black bugs. This opening scene of “Blue Velvet” can be seen as a metaphor for the horrible and the evil that lurks beneath the idyllic surface of a picture perfect life.

Fig. 3 Blue Velvet Film Still

The rest of the film follows Jeffrey Beaumont, a college student, back to his home because of his father's heart seizure and stroke, There he gets involved in a local mystery, that exposes him to the horrors that lurk underneath the picture perfect life that is portrayed in the opening scene. One thing that it is impossible to tell is whether the film is set in the 1950s, the 1960s or even the 1980s of Lumberton, U.S.A.

Jeffrey first suspects something is amiss when walking to the house where he grew up after visiting his incapacitated father in hospital, he discovers a severed human ear in a vacant lot. After putting the ear in a paper bag, he promptly delivers it to. to his dad's friend, Detective Williams, in the Lumberton Police Department. Filled with boyish adventure, Jeffrey and Detective Williams' daughter Sandy are fascinated about the mystery which revolves around Dorothy Vallens, a suspect of Detective Williams that he has been watching for a while. Jeff concocts a daring plan with Sandy to spy on the woman, who is a nightclub singer known as The Blue Lady. It turns out Dorothy is being blackmailed by a shockingly malevolent and vicious criminal called Frank, who is forcing Dorothy to have animalistic sex with him in trade for him not hurt her husband or child. Frank Booth is a terrorising gangster who inhales gas through an insect-like mask, speaks only in the most basic terms and gets high on his most gruesome acts.

Fig. 4  Blue Velvet Film Still

The strangest scene in the film occurs earlier and sets the tone for the rest of the story, when we see Frank Booth shows us his brutal and sexual behaviour, when he abuses Dorothy on her living room floor. Jeffrey does nothing to help Dorothy but looks on at the brutal attack. With the tone of the film being dark, disturbing and perhaps the most interesting thing about Blue Velvet is how it becomes a journey into darkness itself. “There is a dark oppressiveness to Blue Velvet – one that lingers long after the details of the film’s mundane drug and kidnapping plot fade away” (Scheib,2010) We see the setting change from an Ideal American neighbourhood to dark bleak city life adding to the tone of the film.

Fig. 5 Blue Velvet Film Still

Blue Velvet is a beautiful shot film its morbid tones that constantly unnerves viewers and will have you thinking about it even when the film is finished. Lynch believes that his film is a metaphor for life. There is horror and evil that lurks beneath the idyllic surface of what could seem to be a perfect life.

 List of Illustrations

Figue 2 - Blue Velvet (1986) Blue Velvet Film Still. (Accessed on 20/01/2010)
Figure 3 - Blue Velvet (1986) Blue Velvet Film Still. (Accessed on 20/01/2010)
Figure 4 - Blue Velvet (1986) Blue Velvet Film Still. (Accessed on 20/01/2010)
Figure 5 - Blue Velvet (1986) Blue Vevet Film Still. (Accessed on 20/01/2010)


Fraser, Rob (2007) Blue Velvet. (Accessed on 19/01/2011)
Quote 2 - French, Blake (2001) Blue Velvet Review. (Accessed on 10/01/2010)
Quote 1 - Quote 3 - Scheib, Richard (2010) BLUE VELVET. (Accessed on 19/01/2011)

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