David moral. The camera then pans from this

David Lynch’s 1986 film ‘Blue Velvet’ is an American neo-noir mystery
film, which was both written and directed by him. When it first came out it received
many praises as J. Hoberman, an influential film critic, proclaimed it ‘a fil
of ecstatic creepiness and the Chicago tribune, Dave Ker said There
isn’t anything else quite like it, and it’s pretty wonderful”. (Lim, 2016). In his film, Blue Velvet, Lynch uses various
Freudian notions of oedipal conflict, personality and concepts of repression
and internal conflict to display the connection between his characters. The
characters in the film reinforce these archetypes and this essay will demonstrate these psychoanalytic theories to a character
analysis in Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

The
opening scene of Blue velvet the audience is bombarded with imagery of the
‘ideal’ perfect suburban American neighbourhood as the scenery is dominated by
a picturesque blue sky, clean white picket fences and children are lead across
the road by a uniformed crossing guard. This introductory scene displays
somewhat of a benevolent authority and demonstrations of a superego; people in
town appear to be responsible, friendly and moral. The camera then pans from
this idyllic scene to one that is complete opposite; to a grotesque scene deep
into the ground revealing a crowd of black angry insects. They are the evil
that lurks beneath the surface of our lives. In a Freudian analysis it is a
signifier of the struggle between the Id and the superego. The insects are also
a metaphor for the corrupt characters, so not everything is as perfect as the
first minute would suggest. This clip basically sums up the whole film and this
contrast seems particularly ironic.

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As
the protagonist, Jeffery Beaumont gets more involved with the manipulative and
haunted Dorothy, the line between good and evil is minimised. After a few
sexual encounters between the two where she is predominately in control and
exerts violence to gain a fraction of power that was taken away from her by the
villain Frank, she asks Jeffery to hurt her. Initially he refuses but that all
changes as he hits her in a fit of rage as retaliation for doing the same to
him. This scene changes the morality of the film significantly as Jeffery gives
in full to his Id, the animal sounds in the background incorporated show the
animalistic side of him being unleashed. The day after he feels remorseful due
to his facts towards Dorothy which is contrasted by the darkness of night
versus the sunny, there is a clear struggle between his superego and Id: we see
short flash backs of Jeffery hitting Dorothy interspersed with image of him
crying in the present.

One
of Freuds most controversial theories is the Oedipus complex which Blue velvet
can be conceived through. Frank and Dorothy’s play contains elements of a
dysfunctional mother-son Oedipus fantasy. However, the more gripping Oedipus
theme is Jeffery himself.  One way in
which this can be considered in retrospect to Jefferies character is his
Oedipal experience begins when his father was incapacitated which draws him
back to his hometown to take his father’s role, in both his father’s business
and at home. He then later finds a severed human ear, which becomes an
unresolved issue for Jeffery and causes him distress. The castrated ear is
symbolic of his castration anxiety. There are many interpretations that can be
made about the Freud’s Oedipus complex, another construal is when Jeffery’s
father has a stroke in the opening scene, he ceases to have any authority or
sway in his son’s life as he is out of the picture after that. His mother is
not a powerful character. So, when Jeffery leads himself into this criminal
surreal world, he encounters Dorothy and Frank who are damaged, and they become his twisted parents, removing his
innocence.

 

According
to Sigmund Freud, during the phallic stage of the psychosexual stages, boy
experiences sexual feelings for his mother, he then realises that his mother
doesn’t belong entirely to him, this makes him want to kill his father as he
views him as a rival for the mother’s affection. (Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 2018). Jacques Lacan, a French
psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, called it the symbolic relation, as this
relation does not represent the truth; Jeffery’s symbolic father isn’t an enemy
but is a symbol of a rival subject, as of Frank’s sexual
indulgencing and possession of Dorothy. (Loos, 2002). The father
is a symbol for losing the mother, the true situation is called by Lacan ‘The
real relation’. During this stage boy’s experience castration anxiety, which
Dorothy threatens Jeffery with in the film. From
a Freudian perspective, Dorothy is presented as Jeffery’s mother, we see this
when Mike asks Jeffery “is this your mother?”, which makes the sexual
relationship between the two hypothetically incestuous. The film ends with
Jeffery killing Frank his symbolic father which completes the Oedipus. Their
symbolic relationship is presented to us when Frank tells Jeffery that he is
‘like’ him, also both Frank and Jeffery’s real father inhale gas (for different
reasons).

Freud theory of the Oedipus complex ends when the child
identities with the same sex parent and represses its sexual instincts, if the relationship
with the parents is loving and traumatic then the child transitions through the
stage with no problems. However, in the presence of trauma, an ‘infantile
neurosis’ occurs that is a sign of similar reactions during the child’s adult
life. (Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 2018).  Dorothy
and Frank engage in behaviours which Freud describes as sadism and masochism.
Sadism is a form of sexual perversion in which sexual arousal is achieved with affliction
of pain on others. (Burton, 2014).  Masochism is a
form of sexual behaviour in which individuals derives satisfaction from the
receiving of pain infliction. Freud believed that such aggression was an innate
part of male sexuality.  (Burton,
2014).  According to Freud, the tendency to inflict
and receive pain during intercourse is due to an incomplete or abnormal
psychological development in early childhood.

In Blue velvet,
the character of Frank booth is first introduced when Dorothy speaks to him on
the phone, during this phone call the audience can feel the tension between the
two.  When he arrives, Dorothy puts on
her blue velvet dressing-gown, which we soon learn is apart of a sadistic
love-making ritual which has obviously been staged before.  (Creed, 1988). When he first
arrives at her apartment you instantly get an insight into his menacing,
controlling and sadist character. His first monologue to Dorothy was telling
her to “shut up!” and to call him “daddy”, the ambiance in the scene was
highlighted by lowered lights, a lit candle and a chair placed in front of the
sofa. Frank goes on to say, “now it’s dark” and continued by a sigh of relief
it seems.  Dorothy then proceeds to sit
on the chair and spread open her legs, followed by his orders to for her “show
it” to him. After instructing her not to look at him, he takes out his oxygen
mask and breaths into it. During an interview with David Letterman, Dennis
Hopper (actors who plays  Frank Booth)
claimed that the drug that his character Frank kept inhaling was amyl nitrite,
which is an angina medication used recreationally as
an inhalant in the disco/club scene, that which
is often used to induce a euphoric state of mind and even enhance sexual
experiences. (Talktofrank.com,
2018). 

Franks
insistence on Dorothy calling him ‘daddy’ is measure of his superiority over
her, which is later contradicted when he refers to himself as ‘baby’ which
suggests his vulnerability and inferiority. This is a clear utilisation of
Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex. The child, in this case Frank, exhibits
a sexual desire towards Dorothy (of the opposite sex) who he refers to as
‘mommy’ several times. As children get older and mature the Oedipus complex
dissipates as they’re taught that it is shameful and wrong to crave sexual
relations with their parents, which according to Freud is replaced with
something called “wish fulfilment”. Wish fulfilment is to be big,
powerful, or simply in someone else’s shoes.
(Parham,
2008). Frank has not transcended the psychosexual
stages of development, as even in his adult life he still desires his mother.
One could presume that, perhaps in early childhood, Frank experienced a form of
dissatisfaction where his mother did not meet his childhood needs on some
level. As a result, Frank seeks substitution in others: “I’ll fuck anything
that moves”, but the “wish-fulfilment” never seems to be attained. The violence
that he portrays could suggest that his real mother could have physically or
psychologically abused him, as his frustrations towards females and his mother
is apparent. During the sex scene, the camera angle focuses only on Dorothy’s
face after Frank shouts at her not to “look” at him.  This suggests shame from wanting a sexual
relationship with his ‘mother’. The entire scene between the two leaves the
audience feeling that Frank is trying to re-enact a scene from the dark corners
of his mind, which suggest he might be suffering from psychoneurosis.  

Freuds
postulated existence of the unconscious mind suggests that it holds all our
repressed thoughts, memories and feelings which are deemed unacceptable to the
conscious part of the mind. (Jay, 2018).  These
repressed contents are typically sexual or aggressive desires or even painful
repressed memories of a childhood emotional trauma, which can be applied to
Frank’s case.

The
film blue velvet, is an exploration of the unconscious as Lynch focuses on
manifestations of characters fantasies and fears. During the opening scene the
camera goes there is a close of a severed ear, which symbolises the key into
the unconscious mind. The camera then goes into the (left) ear in the field and
emerges from Jeffery’s ear (right) at the end as he lounges in the sun. This
suggests that majority of the movie takes place in his unconscious mind.  Additionally, the conscious mind which is our
reality is presented as the day and the unconscious is presented as the night.
During the day time, the film follows a normal day in life compared to the
evening/night were the strange characters start to emerge and eerie events take
place. For example, Frank booth find comfort in the absence of light, as he
repeats several times throughout the film “now it’s dark”, as if to communicate
his psychological comfort and familiarity with the unconscious.

In Lynch’s Blue velvet, Jeffery asks
Sandy Williams (daughter of local police detective) if she likes Heineken, she
answers no, but tells him that her dad likes Bud. Frank, later adds that the
only drink that he will drink is Pabst Blue ribbon. If these three different
brands o beer were taken as personality cues, in relation to Freuds theory of
personality, then we can get an idea of what each character is liker and how
they represented in the film. In this fil, the Pabst represents the Id, the
Heineken represents the ego and the Budweiser represents the super ego.  According to Freud, the ego is the
psychological executive of personality and tends to act like a trail judge
between the Id and the superego. (Furnham, 2017). In blue velvet, once Jeffery finds the
severed ear, he set out on the path to unsolved the mystery. During his journey
he begins to struggle between two forces, he responds to the Id (Frank) by
following through with the mystery but also kneels to the demands of the
superego (Sandy) as he tries to shield her from the dangers of the underworld. Heineken is a mainstream European beer that
is popularly commercialised in North America. So, its not completely foreign
but also isn’t too familiar, its lies somewhere in between – like the ego. (Zunenshine, 2016).

The superego, is the social and moral of
personality. Sandys father, detective Williams (George Dickerson) acts out the
role of an authority figure in the film. He represents the morality standards
that are present in us, such as concepts of good and bad. Firstly, he is a good
father to sandy as he allows her to date Jeffery who is older than her, however
he also has a dark side as he knows that his partner is a bad cop but doesn’t do
anything about it, he only tells Jeffery that police work can be ‘horrible’. Lie
the Id he, also has ways of manipulating the ego to win him over.  Frank Booth personifies the unconscious Id,
which is the biological basis of personality, which contains the instincts
Thanatos (the aggressive/death instinct) and Libido (the sex drive). Frank’s personality
is violent and instinctual which as a result enslaves him. Pabst is also seen
as a working man’s beer and for misfits such as Frank. (Zunenshine, 2016).

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