September 6, 2020 7:00:40 am
From start to finish, there was no point at which I looked at the screen and said, ‘okay, this is ordinary, normal.’ In David Lynch’s 1986 psychological thriller Blue Velvet, nothing is ever ‘right.’ Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern feature prominently in this strange, mind-boggling ride of a lifetime. Named after the 1963 Bobby Vinton song, Blue Velvet takes a hard, deep look into the suburbs of North Carolina.
A young man called Jeff (Kyle MacLachlan) returns to his home after learning of his father’s stroke. However, drama begins to unfold when he one day discovers a severed ear in a field. He brings the ear to the police station only to realise they are not interested in pursuing the case, which in turn, fuels his interest. The movie, at large, deals with sexual and criminal violence. However, the way it has been handled by the filmmaker, especially considering the era he was making this in, would make the bolder directors of today blush a deep red. Lynch was unfettered, unashamed in showing what he wanted to show on the big screen. The human mind and how much insanity it is capable of thinking and manifesting is the truth Lynch was after, and he successfully showcased the same on screen.
Blue Velvet, at the time of its release, divided critics. The nudity and the sexual content overall was deemed a bit too much and unnecessary. However, despite the hullabaloo, Lynch earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director the next year. The film is also said to have marked the beginning of the second innings of Dennis Hopper who played the psychotic Frank Booth in the movie. While all the actors were phenomenal, Hopper was operating on another level altogether. He seemed to have unleashed some dark side of his psyche for the part. Or at least, that is what it felt like. Whenever Frank Booth appeared on screen, you detested him, feared him and wanted to physically hurt him for his evil deeds. The fact that these were the emotions that Hopper managed to arouse in me with regard to his character, speaks volumes of his capability as a performer.
The use of colours (especially Lynch’s trademark red), lighting and the distorted frames make the film appear something out of a horror genre. But that is the idea. To show through these little but effective techniques what is actually happening in this small, sleepy town of North Carolina. Horrific acts of violence continually take place in Lumberton, but no one seems to care. Everything remains hidden, like some sort of secret symbol unless you take the pain to uncover the mystery. Which our hero ultimately does. And it is interesting to note that the hero too is not a righteous man. He only gets involved because of his curiosity and not because he has some notion of great justice. And he is not always right. Jeff of Blue Velvet is a morally ambiguous man who cannot help but meddle. These and many more interpretations of the movie have been made since its release, so much so that it has now achieved a cult status among the audience. And rightly so.
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You can stream Blue Velvet on YouTube.
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