Enter The Abyss: Blue Velvet (1986)

For the longest time I’ve had an affection for the kind of films most people would consider, weird, odd and downright freaky. There is something wonderfully intriguing and just inexplicably exciting about the world off kilter film. Whether it’s high concepts, quirky dialogue, macabre metaphors or just out there imagery. If it’s done right, bizarro cinema can indeed be some of the best out there. So I decided to set about an unravelling journey through some of celluloids most captivating oddities. Some of which will be firm favourites, other films such as our opening gambit will be virgin territory for me. But whatever their status I aim to dig deep beneath their underbelly and see what lies beneath.

The first attraction we’re presented with as we enter the abyss is David Lynch’s acclaimed feature from 1986, Blue Velvet. The story centres around a young college student by the name of Jeffery Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) who has returned home to the small town of Lumberton after his father falls ill. Not long after his return Jeffery discovers a severed human ear laying dormant in a field. After handing the ear into the neighbourhood policeman Detective Williams. Jeffery soon finds curiosity pushing him deeper into a murky world of kidnap, sadomasochism and drug fuelled violence.

On the surface Blue Velvet is a scathing and brutal look at the undergrowth of suburbia.  Opening with a collection of dreamy shots that frame colourful flowers, white picket fences and friendly firemen waving to their neighbours. Lynch sets up an idiyllic sense of safety and comfort. But as the camera furrows beneath the grass and the dirt that levels out the base of lumberton, we get to see the primal, repugnancy hidden from view. But the immediate contrast between good and bad is not the be and end all as far as this film is concerned. Although many believe Blue Velvet to be a mirror of opposites regarding moral decency, much like life itself not everything is black or white. If anything the film to me at least, is more about the various shades of grey that exist and how they blend together.

Take Frank (Dennis Hopper) for example, an abuse psychotic who does and takes whatever he wants regardless of the consequences. Quite clearly he is a monster but Lynch dosent paint him simply with the blackest of blacks, there are glimmers of light to be found within his character  He clearly has mommy issues as the dialogue in his first scene with Dorothy (Isabella Rossalini) shows and in an unorthodox manner he is looking to be loved. Yet the seemingly deep rooted disgust and dispair he has for himself dosent allow that love in. So if he’s going to revolt against love, he’s going to do it to the extreme. The rare moments we see Franks eek out some kind of sentiment are quickly remedied by his mystical gas mask and the extremities it brings. I am by no means excusing the behaviour of Frank, not whatsoever all I’m saying is that although it’s easier to see him as nothing more than a depraved animal. The truth is Frank Booth is still human, admittedly his humanity is hanging by the thinnest of strings but underneath the depraved madness and disgusting demeanour. There is a damaged boy within the dark recesses of his hollow shell.

Speaking of damaged boys, Jeffery who could easily be seen as the good in the equation of good vs evil, isn’t exactly pure as the driven snow. Although he struggles with the bad decisions he makes, Jeffery’s moral compass isn’t perfectly aligned. Take in consideration his decision to break into Dorothys apartment. Sure naive curiosity may have motivated his actions but when he see’s the abuse Frank inflicts upon Dorothy why dosent he interveen. Yes he might be scared, but he might also enjoy the sight of Frank and Dorothy. It might have sparked an excitement he didn’t know existed, perhaps this isn’t the case but take into consideration Jeffery abusing Dorothy himself. When she requests he hit her, which again is another strain of moral ambiguity within the film. He dosent comply at first, but eventually he breaks down his guard and strikes her significantly. Im not saying that Jeffery is another Frank Booth in the making, but rather than being a clear cut figure of innocence. Jeffery is tainted by the power of darkness, his page is blotted and could potentially find itself marked further as his idyllic existence with Sandy continues. Although she is kept on an even keel throughout the film, as Lynch repeats the harmonious scenery of Lumberton, creating a fractured symmetry of sorts. We see that although the nightmare of Frank is over, the jarring juxtaposition is still in effect. The cycle continues and the picture postcard ending Sandy gets, might eventually become the long green grass covering up the dirt beneath.

With its striking performances, harrowing scenes of nervous tension and lip synced pop performances. Blue Velvet shows how easily and willingly a lullaby can be twisted into a tortured threat. It’s a scary experience that is by no means easy to take in, but if your willing to embrace the darkness, your more than likely to experience something rather remarkable.


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The Author

Mal Foster

Mal Foster

Writer by day, ski mask wearing vigilante by night. I like bears, sarcasm and magic, not necessarily in that order. Rather fond of summer fruits mixed into some kind of refreshing juice, movies, music and videogames. Also I may not be entirely human. Visit my site - http://www.thespeakerboxbelow.com