David Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet is, in one word, disturbing. Jeffrey Beaumont returns to his hometown of Lumberton to care for his father who is in the hospital on life support. While walking around a field, Jeffrey comes across a severed ear buried in the grass. He brings it to the police station, but upon receiving a lackluster response, he decides to take matters into his own hands to solve the mystery. After recruiting the detective’s daughter, Sandy, to help with his amateur investigation, Jeffrey finds out that Dorothy Vallens, a singer at The Slow Club, is somehow involved. With Sandy’s help, Jeffrey breaks into Dorothy’s apartment to snoop around for clues. Jeffrey gets more than he bargained for as he gets caught by Dorothy and then forced hide in her closet and from behind closed doors watches her get raped by some guy named Frank. For reasons unknown to the viewer, Frank has kidnapped Dorothy’s husband and son and forces her to have abusive sex with him in exchange for their lives. Now compelled by not only curiosity, but moral obligation and perhaps a twisted attraction to Dorothy, Jeffrey will stop at nothing to make sure that Frank is stopped.
The movie starts off with a view of red roses in front of a white picket fence with a clear blue sky in the background, firefighters waving as they drive by in their shiny red fire truck, and an older gentleman watering his neatly trimmed, green lawn. All is beautiful and perfect in the town of Lumberton. Or, so it seems. The color saturation in the opening scene of the roses skews the colors to an unnatural state, and the poor man suffers from a stroke/ heart attack. The camera travels slowly into the blades of grass, revealing a scene of beetles crawling over one another. The scene is dark and hidden and the sounds are amplified to show the disturbing truth that lies beneath the seemingly perfect surface.
Lynch uses Sandy throughout his film to portray the oblivious nature of the residents of Lumberton. To help portray this, Sandy is constantly wearing either pink or white which is a sharp contrast of what Jeffery is wearing. Although she is the one who enables Jeffrey to stalk Dorothy, she never fully realizes what is going on. She remains this oblivious innocent girl to what Jeffrey is going through, similar to the residents of Lumberton who are unaware of the horrendous injustice that is Frank.
Another theme that is very strong throughout the film is the fight between red and blue velvet. Yes, the movie is called Blue Velvet, Frank has the fetish with Dorothy’s blue, velvet robe, and the song Blue Velvet is sung 5 times throughout the film, but red velvet also has a prominent showing. Whenever the camera focuses on Dorothy singing at The Slow Club, she is singing in front of a red velvet curtain. Also, the curtains in her home are made of red velvet. Now, of course, curtains are made to hide something, such as the back of the stage, but it’s interesting that the windows in Dorothy’s apartment are open yet always covered by her curtains. Lynch gives the viewer three blatant close ups of the red velvet curtains: once after a kiss shared between Jeffrey and Dorothy, and then before and after they have sex. After the viewer sees Jeffrey and Dorothy kiss for the first time, the camera focuses in on the curtains, hiding what the characters are now doing. Jeffrey and Dorothy’s sexual activity is more hidden than Frank and Dorothy’s sexual activity because Frank’s gang knows the torture that he puts Dorothy through. The relationship that Jeffrey and Dorothy share with each other is completely secret, hidden from Sandy, Frank, and the outside world as emphasized through the showing of the red velvet curtains.