Blue Velvet (1986)
“In dreams, I walk with you. In dreams, I talk to you. In dreams, you’re mine, all the time. Forever.” Quite sinister when crooned to you by a psychopath.
This was the first movie I ever saw where I noticed the cinematography. It seemed every shot was beautiful, composed like a photograph.
According to an interview with VH1, Stephen King is quoted as saying, “A lot of times, filmmakers don’t really seem to understand ordinary people. I think there’s a reason that David Lynch has never made a Stephen King film, or John Waters, because they don’t really get ordinary people.” I could not disagree more. They both load lots of love on ordinary people — with all their ridiculousness, eccentricites, and secret horrors. King does this too, though most of that happens internally in his characters, which is, in fact, part of why adaptations of his books so often seem a bit flat.
Lumberton, U.S.A. is the quintessential normal town. In many ways it resembles Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life. And like any normal town, it has its deaths, its accidents — and its murders. Within the first few minutes, a man has a stroke and the terribly innocent and buttoned-up Boy Scout Kyle Maclachlan finds a severed ear in a vacant lot. Lynch then spends the rest of the two hours exposing the seamy underbelly of Anytown, USA, through the eyes of a newcomer to that parallel world, much as any science fiction or historical romance introduces its world to the reader by introducing it to a character unfamiliar with its ways and nuances.
Like Roman Polanski, Lynch is in love with duality; it comes through in most everything he does. The duality of the pleasant vs the dark in the same town. The duality of the innocent and the corrupt in the same person. The duality of the vicious killer crying like a baby.
Hitchock’s heroes are often ordinary people caught up in extraordinary, terrible circumstances, often spurred on by their own curiosity. When Jeffrey (Maclachlan) says, “No one will suspect us because no one would suspect two people like us to be crazy enough to do something like this,” that just reeks of Hitchcock, very Strangers on a Train. Rear Window is another example: when Jimmy Stewart (2nd Stewart movie I’ve mentioned) decides to be a peeping Tom, he never expects to witness a murder. Lynch also explores this concept in Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive.
The two teenagers’ fairly innocent curiosity is all the door the underworld needs to slurp them up like Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, another simple, ordinary town with a decidedly dark shadow self.
Silent Hill explores the same themes, taken to horrifying and literal extremes (not that Blue Velvet doesn’t get downright nightmarish at times).
The face of innocence, whether it be a town or a teenager, often hides something darker, and curiosity is all it takes for the facade to begin to unravel.