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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #12

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Second #564, 9:24

Jeffrey comes down the stairs of his home. It’s night, and his mother (played by Priscilla Pointer, the real-life mother of Amy Irving) and Aunt Barbara (Frances Bay) sit on the sofa watching a black-and-white crime drama on the television. Positioned on opposite ends, the space between them opens up like some sort of haunted void where someone (or something) else should be. In Lynch’s films, sofas—which seem like the most harmless piece of furniture possible—become uncanny objects, spooky places that are so familiar that they become unfamiliar.

There is one more point of general application which I should like to add, though, strictly speaking, it has been included in what has already been said about animism and modes of working of the mental apparatus that have been surmounted; for I think it deserves special emphasis. This is that an uncanny effect is often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes, and so on. (Sigmund Freud, from “The Uncanny”)

From Eraserhead to Inland Empire sofas appear as haunted objects, practically characters in themselves.

Jeffrey’s alienation from his mother and aunt seems natural and even necessary; there is no parody here. In fact, the movie’s tension depends on Jeffrey being fully and sincerely part of their world, which makes his gradual separation from it all the more terrifying. The show they’re watching on TV—picturing a man (legs only) creeping up the stairs (Jeffrey has just descended stairs) carrying a gun—is a mystery within a mystery, for who knows what the man will find at the top of the stairs, or what he is planning to do, or whether he is a protector or a predator. There is actually a third pair of eyes watching Jeffrey: the small doll figure in red on the table beside Jeffrey’s mother. (In deleted scenes from the film, this appears to be a Lynch-crafted, bald, thin-necked creature.) It’s a small detail, and yet it is out of such details that the dark visual spell of the story is cast.

Over the period of one full year — three days per week — The Blue Velvet Project will seize a frame every 47 seconds of David Lynch’s classic to explore. These posts will run until second 7,200 in August 2012. For a complete archive of the project, click here. And here is the introduction to the project.

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