Director: David Lynch
Analysis by: Maya Zaleoum
“We all have at least two sides. The world we live in is a world of opposites. And the trick is to reconcile those opposing things. I’ve always liked both sides. In order to appreciate one you have to know the other. The more darkness you can gather up, the more light you can see too.” – David Lynch
The first frame of the film is closed blue curtains that dissolve into a clear blue sky, the closed curtains along with the use of the color blue represent secrets and by opening the curtains it let us know that we will enter into a world/town filled with mysteries and enigma and personal details.
The color red represents danger and is very visible in the first moments of the film for instant, the red roses (with high key lighting that gave the shot a dreamlike feeling) , the red fire truck , the red stop sign , although not only colors gave us the feeling of danger but also the appearance of the “film noir” that Jeffery’s mother was watching in the living room and as well as the presence of the dog when Jeffery’s father had a stroke and fell down; the presence of dogs in films depict a major turning point and here in this film it meant that this event and what happened to his father will be life changing , noting that the previous close ups on the leaking water already made us feel anxious and uncomfortable. Right after this shot we see insects and cockroaches crawling beneath the grass and this was a very bold metaphor that highlights very well the atmosphere and meaning of the movie for on the surface of this town we saw a series of images that gave us the impression of a happy peaceful town but if we go in the depth of it there’s a really dark side as well as corrupted characters that will feature in the film.
Blue velvet follows the “dream logic” , the story is filled with influences of what’s around the town but along with distorted and strange images just like we see in dreams, especially that the film was firstly inspired by a dream that David Lynch had. The film is packed with symbolism and follows the modern-noir, mystery drama genre.
Everything in the film has an opposite, the streets, the characters, locations, we feel like the town is split in half during the day and night. In the day time we see the town full of trees and children and most of the shots are in a restaurant where families eat and where Sandy and Jeffery went on their date. On the other hand, at night time the streets are filled with criminals and mafias and most of the shots are in a dark bar where Dorothy sings and men watches her and drink. As for the opposition in characters, Jeffery find himself attracted to both women for different causes; Sandy the blonde innocent teenager who is always seen wearing pink or white and dreams of robin birds and love and Dorothy the messed up adult woman who is always seen wearing blue or black and is held hostage by Frank who kidnapped her son and husband and abuses her and forces her to perform sadistic sexual acts. That’s where the theory of Freud can be used as an explanation to why Jeffery is attracted to both women; according to Freud, there’s the ID (Innate drive), the ego and the super ego. The ID in the animal part in the personality and the unconscious drive to have lots of sex (and other pleasures) , the ego is the conscious mind its job is to satisfy the ID’s wild desires in a sociable expectable way , the super ego is the part where you punish yourself with feelings of guilt and shame. Jeffery got attracted to Dorothy because he followed his ID and Dorothy signifies the sexual desirable woman, on the other hand Jeffery got attracted to Sandy because he followed his ego and Sandy signifies the socially desirable woman.
The contrast between light and dark, surface and depth is treated quite literally in the film, everything has an opposite except for one thing which at first, seemed to be different but throughout the film its similarity was noticed and that thing is Jeffery and Frank. Jeffery turned out to be disturbingly close to Frank’s character, and this thing can be explained with another Freud theory: “the Oedipus complex”, which is when a child desires sexual intercourse with the parent of the opposite sex. At the beginning of the movie, we see Jeffery’s father in the hospital due to a stroke that he had while watering the garden, he is now on the hospital bed unable to speak or have any authority on Jeffery’s life; on the other hand, Jeffery’s mother seemed to be careless, she watches television all day and doesn’t seem to be interested in Jeffery’s relationships and life. The relationship between Jeffery and his parents leave a void to be filled and this void was filled with Dorothy his “new mother” and Frank his “new father”, noting again that Dorothy is an adult woman and Jeffery is a high school student; so Dorothy his “new mother” became the sexual interest for Jeffery and as a result Jeffery’s ID wants to kill his father (Frank) to have sex with his mother (Dorothy).
So the first similarity between Frank and Jeffery is that they both have mother issues, the reason why Frank has mother issues as well is because he represents the “oral stage” which is the first stage of development, his mouth is the primary part, all of his pleasure experiences are mouth related whether it’s inhaling the oxygen/drug from the mask with his mouth or shoving the blue velvet robe in his mouth , as well as his choice of words during his sexual act “Mommy, baby wants to fuck”. We see in the car scene Frank applying lipstick on his mouth and kissing Jeffery which also indicates that they are both similar and to make the point of revealing Jeffery’s true nature.
As for the second similarity between Jeffery and Frank, Jeffery needs to embrace the sexuality and violence that comes with being a man, when he was having sexual intercourse with Dorothy she begged him to hit her, Jeffery’s first reaction was to back away and refuse because he was thought that violence is something bad and immoral but after she kept begging, Jeffery’s ID finally wins over, he gives in and starts hitting her repeatedly.
Jeffery’s relationship with Dorothy is based on overcoming his super ego and acting on his ID, his desires, and most importantly his masochism which is the second character trait that is similar to Frank. Sadly, Jeffery and Frank began using Dorothy the same way, Frank uses her to feel power and control and Jeffery uses her to focus on the mystery and thrill.
There are some famous common things in Lynch’s work such as the use of electricity or the electricity sound to link it with murder or the finding of a dead body for example when Frank was killed, the light bulb broke. The use of fire, fire means force and in this movie fire was used in a form of candles in both Frank and Jeffery’s scenes; in the scene where Frank was preforming a sexual act with Dorothy we can see candles in the background and in the scene where Jeffery was performing a sexual act with Dorothy a candle appears and that was to link Frank with Jeffery’s characters.
The message at the end of the film was so pure as a fade to white appears right after Frank dies and Jeffery and Sandy kiss in the hallway signifying peace. And in the final moments of the film we see the Robin (the bird) that sandy dreamt about that symbolizes love eating an insect that symbolizes darkness which we saw at the beginning of the film, to finally conclude that despite the terrible things love can always overcome evil.
Today’s review, is much more than a movie review, it’s an appreciation and a “thank you” to one of Lebanon’s very own; Nadine Labaki. I’m sure all of you cinephiles heard, Capharnaum’s recent Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, not to mention the golden globes nomination, “Le prix du jury” Cannes (2018) and many other festivals. It’s like Capharnaum is winning over the hearts of the jury wherever it goes! The deal with this movie, is that it’s not just an ordinary story to kill time with, it is a story written from the heart and inspired by our everyday reality, and by “our everyday life” I mean the lives of the children we ignore on the street on a daily basis.
After watching Nadine Labaki’s masterpiece, I would like to think that we all have privileged lives; here I am now typing on my laptop about children, who can never read this, you might be reading it on your phones, sitting in your house, meanwhile, a lot of children like Zain and Maysoun are on the street trying to make it to the next day. What the Lebanese filmmaker did, shook me to my very core, she literally showed us what it would be like to have a life like Zain’s, to lose hope at such a young age, an age where we used to play pretend while our parents took care of the rest.
Nadine Labaki’s films remind me so much of the Italian Neorealism movies – for example the 1948 film Bicycle Thieves – in which the Italians were frequently using non-professional actors, the scenes were filmed on location and the stories set amongst the poor. Caramel, w halla’ lawen and now Capharnaum. She always shed the light on a real-life situation in her movies because, to her, cinema is not only for entertainment but also a way to affect change on society, and I couldn’t agree more! However, the talented filmmaker didn’t only change some of society’s perspectives, she also changed her casts’ lives: Zain and his family are off to a new start, Maysoun and Sahar are now in school! It is so fulfilling that a movie, didn’t just talk about an issue and walk away. I gladly say that my faith in Cinema has been reassured!
If we want to get technical now, I’m only going to write about two things that interest me the most: script and acting.
Zain is constantly searching for a new hope, trying to save everyone around him while he needed saving! The script is so genuine and so real that you dive into the story effortlessly, you are hooked from minute one. It handles this disturbing real-life situation in an honest and delicate way. The script will literally, take over you, not only in the theatre but in your daily life too! Now, every time you see a child on the street, you can not but notice a Zain in them!
Since it’s a real-life situation movie, it is very important that the actors execute it in the realest way possible! As for the acting, hats off to the performances of all actors, no exception! It is the cherry on top of the excellently written script! And let’s keep in mind that they aren’t professional actors, but maybe it was the best decision for this kind of movie, because who would portray such misery better than the people who are actually living it!