Exploring the Dark Side: Contrasting Themes in "Blue Velvet"
The subconscious psyche is one of the most fascinating and almost completely inexplicable aspects of human behavior. Even more intriguing than merely the subconscious is the notion of a darker, more repressed side that many individuals refuse to acknowledge exists within them. In David Lynch's film "Blue Velvet," the director attempts to explore the psyche of a young man named Jeffrey Beaumont, most notably the clash between his darker side and "good" side for the first time in his life. Using themes that sharply contrast one another, Lynch provides insight into the character of Jeffrey and the struggle that he is faced with. Jeffrey is in a transitional period of his life, not very old, and is on a journey of both sexual and emotional growth. Lynch uses different forms of symbolism to comment on the character of Jeffrey, and each is contrasted with something else within the film, conveying the conflict within Jeffrey's mind. Jeffrey's hometown, Lumberton, is depicted as a normal town yet it contains an unseen, largely ignored criminal underworld full of sexual deviants and murderous drug dealers. Lumberton is used as a metaphor for Jeffrey throughout the entire film, as it represents two sides of one object, much like Jeffrey's mind. The idea of love versus lust is also explored and contrasted in this film as it pertains to Jeffrey and his sexual choices, with a staircase often utilized as a symbolic representation of this battle. Finally, there is the issue of Jeffrey and Frank Booth, the man who represents all that is dark within Jeffrey's mind, and is an indication of what Jeffrey could eventually become.
The opening sequence of "Blue Velvet" immediately establishes the various contractions throughout the film. As the film opens, the song "Blue Velvet" is heard distinctly on the non-digetic soundtrack and there is a shot of a pristine, clear blue sky. Tilt down from the sky to reveal blood red roses, immediately establishing a contrast in regards to colors. Dissolve to a slow motion long shot of a firetruck driving on the street with a smiling, waving fireman holding onto the side of the truck. Another dissolve takes place to a long shot of a crossing guard and children crossing the street, and then dissolve again to an establishing shot of Jeffrey's house. Next, there is a long shot of Jeffrey's father watering the lawn, then cut to a medium shot of Jeffrey's mother inside the house watching television, followed by an eyeline match to reveal a gun on the television. The gun on the television is in direct contrast to what has been taking place visually up to this point. The mise-en-scene has been depicting an idealized American town, and yet the image of a gun is used as an allusion to something more sinister lurking within the town, with the interior of Jeffrey's house perhaps representing the inner sanctum of Jeffrey's subconscious. From here, Lynch cuts back to the long shot of Jeffrey's father watering the lawn, followed by a close-up of the faucet where the hose is connected. Suddenly, the cuts are very rapid and the camera cuts between close ups of the hose, the faucet, and Jeffrey's father, who eventually keels over in an apparent stroke. This is followed by a long shot of a dog attempting to bite the water spraying out of the hose, with a cut to a close up of the dog doing this behavior in slow motion. Slowly, the non-digetic sound of "Blue Velvet" fades out, giving way to an unintelligible and faint sound which appears to be non-digetic as well. However, the camera zooms into an extreme close up of the grass and tracks through the grass as well, with the unintelligible noise increasing in volume. The shot then dissolves to reveal an entire population of cockroaches infesting the soil, and what had previously been non-digetic sound has now become the loud, digetic sound of the insects' movement. Immediately, there is a...
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