Blue Velvet explained: David Lynch’s vision of evil

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This article reveals the plot and detailed explanation of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, exploring the meanings and  the events in the movie. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.

It’s very normal to have questions and perplexities after the first vision of Blue Velvet, the film directed by David Lynch in 1986. It’s common, but in a different way compared to the other Lynch movies, because Blue Velvet can be considered an unicum in the filmography of the Californian director: it is a modern noir, different from other noir movies of the past, because of those perverse atmospheres depicted in the reality close to us, for that surreal imaginary so dear to David Lynch; but it’s also different from his other visionary movies, exactly because there is always a kind of brake that prevents the events from moving permanently in the sphere of non-reality, a sort of code of conduct that obliges the story to remain anchored to reality.

The famous initial scene of the film can already be an excellent guide for what we will seen in the rest of the film: the context is the middle-bourgeois America with perfect appearances, blue sky, white fences and firefighters who greet people. In the background you can hear Bobby Vilton’s Blue Velvet, a song where Lynch always identified a clear dark aftertaste. Indeed, the spectator is brought closer in that perfect reality, discovering the evil behind: the old man who gives water to the meadow can have a heart attack at any moment, and that green grass hides an aggressive world made of insects fighting against each other.

The series of events in the film contains several symbolisms that will capture the attention of the spectator. There are obviously the good boys, Jeffrey/Kyle MacLachlan and Sandy/Laura Dern, but they are represented as young people with few experiences, intrigued by a world they don’t know, a world that in some respects they fear, but that can teach them something. Dorothy/Isabella Rossellini represents a character with different nuances: in the dark moments is the image of the maternal figure in a perverse scenario led by the maniac Frank/Dennis Hopper, while in the rest of the movie she’s a victim of evil, weak and in need of protection, but at the same time convinced that evil is a necessary part of life (hence her request to be hit by Jeffrey).

Evil, in Blue Velvet, has no explanation, doesn’t offer the depth of meaning. It’s incarnated by Frank, center of several Freudian concepts, from the Oedipus complex to the need to reduce everything into “baby wants to fuck”. Around him you can see different elements pushing into the dreamlike, unconscious sphere: Dorothy is the mommy who wants to sleep with him, he doesn’t want to be looked into the deep and he is surrounded by weird characters, with the peak coinciding with Ben, a partner with an androgynous aspect, able to perform an absurd musical performance in a house with typical Lynchian atmospheres.

[ Blue Velvet ] In Dreams by Roy Orbison - Extended Version. (HD)

Lynchian is the term that will begin to spread just after Blue velvet, to represent those surreal atmospheres that carry a non-explicit symbolism, which offer a disturbing fascination mixed with a certain difficulty in understanding the meanings. Although it is less complex than his other films (it still remains a noir with a possible story), Blue Velvet already has one of the fundamental traits of the Lynchian aesthetics: everything hides a meaning that often resides in the unconscious dimension, and David Lynch doesn’t care about explaining that content. The object is represented through a dedicated, symbolic language, conceived to mark the message behind the conscious perception. That’s why when you try to explain a Lynch movie, inevitably you ruin its beauty, in some way revealing the trick. The Lynchian symbols work with the unconscious mind, and raising them in a rational level means jus touching the surface. But the real message behind those symbols can be caought only on an irrational level.

So wondering why in Blue Velvet Evil is represented exactly like that, why it grows in that way, why Lynch wanted to tell us just s´that story, or going further and asking if all the thngs we saw were just a Jeffrey’s Dream (what he sees from inside the closet is so distinctly Freudian that the theory has some sense), wondering all this is perfectly normal. The mistake is to demand the answer. If the director wanted to make the answers available to our rationality, we would have simply watched them in the movie. The fact that, so often, the characters of Blue Velvet stop at a superficial dimension, like they are just symbols of something and not characters with a history and a range of experiences that made them like that, is exactly something intentional. Like allegorical representations of human characteristics interacting with each other. Like a tango of dreamlike images from unconscious contents. The peculiarity of Blue Velvet is precisely this: while it’s still a thriller story with real characters, it looks like a concert of symbolisms that try to interact with each other. Causing often disarmonic reactions.


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