David Lynch's BLUE VELVET: Beaumont v.s. Booth
Lynch’s BLUE VELVET is a film that I’ve come back to countless times, either out of the onset of a mood for strange, dark stories or out of sheer necessity (I’ve been taught this film/ have had to teach this film several times over the past few years). And each time, at each viewing, I always stop at the scene where Jeffrey Beaumont (MacLachlan) — such a child his character was — trapped in a car-ful of thugs telling Frank Booth (Hopper) to leave Dorothy Vallens (Rossellini) alone, to stop hitting her. And then Booth swells with such indignant rage, not believing that this kid sandwiched between his muscle (and an unnamed female escort of sorts) would dare to point out that he shouldn’t be doing what he was doing.
Of course, Beaumont prevails at the end. Vallens is freed from Booth’s clutches and reunited with her son, while Booth himself is shot by Beaumont in a symbolic emergence from the closet (an emergence that is literally explosive, a gun discharged through the blinds of Vallens cupboard). The demon of disorder, excess, and chaos has been slain, and all that’s left to do is to return to our normal lives where love (and all we need is love) prevails. But in typical Lynchian fashion, the film ends with a sense of unease: the symbol of love and the triumphant good is a robin perched on the ledge as Beaumont &co. watch it eat a writhing bug; and as the film closes, we are presented with a scene that marks not an ending insofar as a circular movement, a recalling of the initial entrance into the fever-dream that begins with Beaumont snr. collapsing for no apparent or explained reason.
It is this unease by the end of the film that confuses most of Lynch’s viewers; they don’t understand how a happy ending could be so, well, under-happy. They don’t understand that this Lynchian tale of a struggle between order or chaos is Beaumont’s internal struggle manifest. The chaotic subconscious and the rule of law struggle for dominance within his psyche, manifest as Booth v.s. Beaumont. And when Beaumont triumphs over Booth, it is not a simple defeat of chaos, but (in psychoanalytic terms, for one cannot not talk about Lynch without invoking the Oedipal), but a successful suppression of the chaotic subconscious —- an ingestion of it, just as bird eats bug. And it does not disappear, but bubbles up from time to time in the glint of Beaumont’s eye, or in the bugs that he chooses to consume. Consumes in the name of order.
The thing is, when you ingest something, it goes inside you. It fuels you, courses through your blood, and becomes you, becomes what you do. And the more you seeks to ingest and consume the disorder around it, the more will become bloated and fat and greedy. You will, in your own name, attempt to consume anything that is not you, you need to prevail. So you set about ordering things, eating that which is out-of-order, without realizing the Beaumont is Booth and Booth is also Beaumont. By the end of the film everybody forgets that Beaumont straddles and beats Vallens, is the only person who actually fires a gun and kills someone on-screen. But of course, it’s a minor plot-point, mere facet of the monster that is Lynchian surrealism. In films, only the good guys should win, right?