Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In this deeply dark and bizarre film, Jeffrey Beaumont, played by Kyle MacLachlan, returns to his hometown after his father has a heart attack; while crossing a field he discovers a human ear and takes it to the police. His curiosity piqued, he begins investigating the matter himself. In the process, he discovers that within his quaint suburban town exists a steamy underworld of kinky sex and brutal violence.
The film operates on a number of levels, coming on as both a detective mystery and a kitchen-sink drama. The tangled relationship which transpires between Jeffrey, sweetheart Sandy Williams (played by Laura Dern), the daughter of a detective, and Isabella Rossellini's femme fatale Dorothy Vallens, is twisted into even sharp relief by Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), a maniacal gangster who gets off by physically abusing others, breathing Amyl Nitrite (suggested by Dennis Hopper, was Helium in Lynch's original script), and playing Roy Orbison's song, "In Dreams", preferably all at the same time.
The most consistent symbolism in Blue Velvet is an insect motif introduced at the end of the first scene, when the camera zooms in on a well-kept suburban lawn until it discovers, underground, a swarming nest of disgusting bugs. This is generally recognized as a metaphor for the seedy underworld that Jeffrey will soon discover under the surface of his own suburban, Reaganesque paradise. The bug motif is recurrent throughout the film, most notably in the horrific bug-like oxygen mask that Frank wears, but also in the excuse that Jeffrey offers when he first gains access to Dorothy's apartment: he claims he is an insect exterminator. One of Frank's sinister accomplices is also consistently identified through the yellow blazer he wears, and is referred to as "Mr. Yellow Jacket".
The severed ear that Jeffrey discovers is also a key symbolic element; the ear is what leads Jeffrey into danger. Indeed, just as Jeffrey's troubles begin, the audience is treated to a nightmarish sequence in which the camera zooms into the ear canal of the severed, decomposing ear. Notably, the camera does not reemerge from the ear canal until the end of the film. When Jeffrey finally comes through his hellish ordeal unscathed, the ear canal shot is replayed, only in reverse, zooming out from the ear. In this second shot, the ear is no longer severed and decomposing, but is whole and clean.
Many elements of Blue Velvet are reminiscent of Charles Laughton's 1955 one-shot-wonder, The Night of the Hunter. The story of a child or na´ve young man thrust into an unexpected adult world of crime, sex, and murder is common to both films, and the development of this subject as something of a journey towards the redemption of innocence also seems similar. Both films feature a helpless woman held under the power of a sometimes disarming but ultimately terrifying madman. Both madmen are tied symbolically to a primal, animal or insect world. And in both films the child character loses his father in the first scene, and later seeks the help of a surrogate father figure but is disappointed in this appeal to adult, masculine authority.
If Lynch was indeed influenced by Laughton, the ending of Blue Velvet deserves special attention. In both Blue Velvet and Night of the Hunter, the trial of the adult world is ultimately followed by a return to innocence and childhood. However, whereas Laughton's treatment of this ending seems heartfelt and has in fact been criticized as too saccharine or simplistic, Lynch's ending seems tongue in cheek, or even sarcastic. Just as Lynch's opening shots of perfect suburban America quickly prove too good to be true, his ending leaves doubt as to whether normalcy has really been recovered. The appearance of a blatantly fake (to the audience) robin singing merrily to Jeffrey cements the impression of cynicism.
Additionally, Kenneth Anger's 1949 dialogue-free short Puce Moment , which features a dark-haired woman slightly past her prime modelling an array of bright clothing for the camera, may be counted as an influence.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details