Review: Blue Velvet

The great shock of Blue Velvet doesn't lie in any of it's notorious violence and sex, but rather in its earnestness.

From the very first shots of the movie there seems like there could be no doubt this movie will be a satire. How else could one interpret this montage of sickeningly sweet suburban images, ending in the zoom into the dark, writhing world of insects that lies underneath the perfect suburban lawns. So perfectly satirical do these images seem that even the great Roger Ebert couldn't help but conclude that this was the intended effect of the film, and for these he gave it one star believing that the films scenes of raw emotion were cheapened by being in service of little more than mocking suburbia. But it seems to me that Ebert missed the parting message of the film. It's not a mockery at all, rather it's saying that the heart of the small town dream, a life spent in peace and love, is something beautiful. How else can we interpret the denouement of the film where the protagonists watch from their comfortable home a robin, used in the film as a symbol for love, eating the bugs that crawled through the opening sequence? 

There is a wrinkle in that final image though, coming in the form of the old woman (Grandmother? Her role, like many in the film, is left vague) who expresses revulsion that the a bird so lovely could eat something as gross as a bug. Here lies the puzzle at the heart of the film, the relationship between good and evil, between love and hate. Because while Lynch is not actually satirizing small town life, he is saying that evil will still be there, as it will always be everywhere because it is part of ourselves. When Frank recites his menacing, spoken word rendition of Roy Orbison's In Dreams it's not just a showcase of Dennis Hoppers fantastic powers of intimidation, it's also the character acting as a voice for evil itself, telling us that it will always be with us in our unconscious. One is reminded of McCarthy's Blood Meridian, when the protagonist finally escapes from that other incarnation of evil, the judge, only to find that in his dreams "The judge did visit. Who would come other?"

But goodness, true goodness as opposed to the brittle kind seemingly embodied by the grandmother, comes in confronting the darkness in the world and in ourselves and still finding the power to overcome it. This is the victory earned by Kyle Maclachlan's character, symbolized in the robin eating the bug.