Short definition: an erotically charged, hallucinogenic mystery-thriller.
Blue Velvet tackles the dark, twisted goings-on in small idyllic suburban areas – a running theme in David Lynch’s work, such as his later work Twin Peaks (1990-91), a series concerning murder and corruption in a small town – whilst also delving into sexual perversions and how relationships can allow people to find out more about themselves. The film is like a Lynchian take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), with the voyeurism being foregrounded and much more intrusive, as the protagonist Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) tries to deduce a murder/kidnapping case in small-town Lumberton.
The film begins with Jeffrey returning home from college after his father suffers a stroke so he can fill for him in his job as well as look after him etc. However, on his way home from work one evening, he discovers a severed human ear, which results in him being drawn into a world of sadomasochistic sex and violence. He soon finds himself enamored with two women – the town police chief’s daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) and mysterious club singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), both of whom offer him different form of satisfaction (virginal purity vs overt sexuality) – which awakens the wrath of the psychotic Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who has kidnapped Dorothy’s child and forces her into having sex with him on multiple occasions.
In typical Lynch style, linear logic patterns do not apply within Blue Velvet; with the nonsensical gradually making sense over the course of the film’s two hour run time. However, the dreamy quality of the film allows any gaps in logic to be glossed over, and they don’t take too much away from the narrative. This is especially true when considering the stunning visuals within the film, with its meticulous set design and the quaint aesthetics that emphasise the dark, nightmarish nature of the events that unfold within the plot. Lynch’s typical absurdist humour also punctuates the film; from Hopper’s outlandish performance as a psychotic ether addict, to his pal “Suave Ben” (Dean Stockwell) and his rendition of Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams,’ fueling the hallucinogenic atmosphere even more. It’s a great film, a really great film.