Blue Velvet (1986)


General Information:

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18  120 min  –  Crime | Mystery | Thriller   –  19 September 1986 (USA)


David Lynch


David Lynch


Isabella Rossellini; Kyle MacLachlan; Dennis Hopper


Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed human ear on a field, this leads him into a dark sexual underworld which is seemingly hidden from the ‘normality’ of surburban life.


Blue Velvet has the potential to be a masterpiece but never quite gets there. It’s well-directed, well-acted (especially by Hopper and Rossellini), and behind each and every scene is a sense of there being something not quite right, we get a sense that there is something hidden behind the so-called ‘normality’ of suburban life, which of course there is.

In terms of it being well-directed, there are scenes in Blue Velvet of such raw, sparse emotional power, that you cannot help but be disturbed by it. The severed human ear that Jeffrey finds leads him on a trail to the house of a singer, Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini). Jeffrey becomes obsessed by the idea of mystery. The police have furthered nowhere in terms of catching the criminals behind the severed ear he found at the beginning of the film, so throughout the movie, Jeffrey enters Dorothy’s room to act as a sort of ‘detective’ (or pervert…who knows?). Yet, when he tries to explore what’s going on in this secret underworld, he must be exposed to it. The door suddenly opens and Jeffrey runs into the closet; Jeffrey watches – as we do – the harshest and most brutal moments of the movie itself: a drug-induced man, named Frank (Dennis Hopper) enters the room and treats Dorothy with physical and sexual abuse (not just with some fists, but also with a handy pair of scissors which he just by chance has in his pocket…as you do). We later discover that Frank treats Dorothy as a sexual slave and has also kidnapped her son and husband; yet we also find out that she is a masochist and likes being hit, and no doubt, likes the trusty pair of scissors as well.

This – and other scenes in the film – are perhaps one of the most well-directed scenes in Blue Velvet (perhaps even in cinema history), they are so strong, so intense, so powerful; yet beyond these scenes the film goes nowhere in terms of exploring the dark, sexual underworld that it so loves to expose us (and Jeffrey) to. As I have already stated, the movie has the potential to be a masterpiece, but doesn’t quite get there. It attempts to say something about the secrecy of suburban life and how secrets are kept quiet and hidden, yet doesn’t; it attempts to say something about the whether it is good or bad to get involved in something that isn’t your business, yet doesn’t; it attempts to explore the human condition, exploring the themes of pleasure, sex, and violence; yet doesn’t expand on these as such. The main reason why Blue Velvet fails to explore all of these is because it’s almost as if it’s wrapped up in its own (strange) world, this world where it just seeks out to disturb the viewer. It disturbed me well, and indeed it’ll disturb you well. Another scene which demonstrates this well, is when Jeffrey and Dorothy are taken for a ‘joy ride’, why are they taken for a joy-ride? To disturb us of course! They are then taken to a night club and Jeffrey is punched repeatedly. Why is he being punched? To disturb us of course! There is no reason for this joy ride (and for Jeffrey’s poor stomach to have been wacked with a gangster’s fist) at all. You could take out the joy-ride scenes and the film’s plot would still make sense.

After viewing we feel like we’ve been short-changed with our emotions, as if the film’s toyed with our feelings for no good reason, it disturbs us, yet it tries to say something, but doesn’t quite make it. Or in other words, it disturbs us for no apparent reason at all.


Half marks here. 2.5 stars for its well-directed scenes, they work, they disturb, they will stay with you forever, and will probably make you look at a pair of scissors in a completely different light. Yet those scenes – and indeed the film – doesn’t say much at all.


4 thoughts on “Blue Velvet (1986)

  1. You have more than completely missed the point…
    This review is a jumbled mess of subjective viewpoints and you’re yet to realize the meaning the movie really displays, I did not enjoy Blue Velvet but I realized I was not meant to.
    It was meant to be pleasure through displeasure and you miss the point completely and it’s a little painful to this review as it really shows just a simple lack of thought and understanding of objectivity.
    the message of the movie is far deeper than you really looked at, did you note about the fairytale perfectness in the world during every daytime scene and how that is designed to contrast greatly with the brutal, raw real world equivalent at night which actually starts to make you feel fearful every time that you see that darkness closing in. Lynch completely destroyed the cliché’s of mainstream cinema in this movie by showing both what we expect half the movie and then turning it on it’s head to show us that the real world is not perfect, that every character had something wrong with them. That even with the ending and the fairytale robin comes down to complete the film, you see how it has the beetle in its break to symbolize that no matter what the ending is aperture and it shows how one little insignificant victory is nothing in the grander scheme of things,
    What I just read from you is not a movie review.
    It is a subjective opinion of someone that simply did not look at the movie objectively enough.

  2. Hey Natalie,

    Completely understand where your coming from. I don’t think any David Lynch film is supposed to be enjoyable in the same way that no Kubrick film is either…you only have to watch Mulholland Drive to see that he’s really into the dark and dreamlike content matter, I knew before I watched Blue Velvet that I wasn’t going to enjoy it as such, in the same way that before you watch horror film you know that you’re not going to experience something ‘nice’. As my review states, I understand the Lynch is attempting to point out the secrecy of surburban life and what goes on behind closed doors…yet I feel that he didn’t show this in a clear enough way. He uses symbolism: the moment where the camera zooms in on the beauty of the grass and nature to reveal something dark as an insect shows us that something dark is going on. However, even though, such as then, there were moments of symbolism, I don’t think he portrayed it clear enough. In fact, I almost felt, as my review states, that Blue Velvet disturbs for no affect, as I felt that he was trying to disturb us at points rather than make a point about the secrecy of surburban life.

    Obviously, this is a David Lynch film, meaning that it will provoke a range of controversy on opinions; film reviews are only opinions at the end of the day (read Roger Ebert’s review of ‘North’, where he stated that he ‘hated hated hated hated hated’ the movie’).

    David Lynch films are like marmite…you either love them or hate them. I loved Mulholland Drive, yet unfortunately, hated Blue Velvet…whereas, you clearly found something in Blue Velvet that spoke to you as a viewer.

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