The Final Sequence of David Lynch's Blue Velvet
In Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch), the viewer is witness
to an epic battle between good and evil. The seemingly serene
setting of the town of Lumberton is almost torn apart by the
uncovering of a dark and frightening sub-culture, or perhaps
sub-world, that has been operating in hiding the entire time.
Almost immediately after Jeffrey kills Frank, hence slaying the
dragon, the viewer is transported by means of a fade-to-white,
a technique that suggests ascension, to the final scene before
the closing montage. This scene shows the viewer that the dark
half of the Lumberton equation, Frank, et al, has been destroyed,
or at the very least cowed and forced into hiding. This second
possibility is quite dark in and of itself, and I will return
The scene begins with a fade from white to an extreme close-up
of the inside of an ear. We have seen shots like this previously
in the film, although before they were of a rotting, disembodied
ear (Dorothy's husband's) and before we were moving into the
ear. In this shot, we start off practically inside the ear and
pull out. In those previous ear-shots, the inside of the ear
was shown as a dark, forbidding and animalistic place. What is,
literally speaking, inside of an ear? One could say that the
human brain is, suggesting that all of the external darkness
in the world of Blue Velvet is a measure of the personal
and emotional darkness of the characters.
As this extreme close-up pulls out, the plot thickens as it
is revealed that the ear in question belongs to one Jeffrey Beaumont.
This suggests that Jeffrey, like Frank, has this darkness hammering
around inside of his skull, and the pull back from the ear is
not meant to be reassuring. Instead it is just that: a pull back.
A moving out of the dark half of Lumberton/Jeffrey, almost like
theatrical curtains being drawn. This dark side of Jeffrey is
not just suggested here. We see it in the rest of the film as
well. It wasn't innocent curiosity that drove Jeff to sneak into
Dorothy's apartment, and it certainly wasn't what drove him to
return a second and third time. At one point, Frank tells Jeffrey
that the two of them are the same, and Jeffrey seems more worried
than offended, suggesting that he has become aware of it.
As the pull back concludes, we cross-cut between Jeffrey's
face and his point-of-view: a robin in the tree above his head.
This, of course, is a reference to Sandy's dream about robins,
representing love, ridding the world of all the bad things; all
the Franks. What is interesting about this robin, however, is
that it is clearly a puppet. It would have been the easiest thing
in the world to simply go out and shoot an actual robin. It would
be easier and less expensive. So why build a bird puppet that
doesn't cut the mustard? To imply that this idea of a "robin
of love" is not realistic. Yes, Frank is dead, as is the
Yellow Man and just about everyone in Frank's operation. But
what about Ben? The audience is never shown what, if anything,
happens to Ben. If anything, Ben is more evil than Frank. More
calculating, more cool and inhuman. More "fuckin' suave";
as Frank would put it. If there's a Ben out there, that implies
that there is a larger social frame-work that Ben exists in.
Jeffrey and company uncover a tiny piece of this "seamy
underbelly." Despite what Jeffrey may think, it's not all's
well that ends well in Lumberton.
At this point, Sandy comes out of the house proclaiming that
lunch is ready, looking every bit a perfect Suzy-Homemaker. Jeffrey
responds, then gets up from his "relaxing-while-the-womenfolk-do-the-cooking";
position on a lawn chair.
In another part of the yard, Jeffrey and Sandy's fathers are
talking. Jeffrey's father proclaims that he's feeling much better
now. This, of course, refers to the medical problem that he had
at the beginning of the film, probably a stroke. Here he's working
in the lawn, just as he was when he succumbed at the beginning.
The viewer has no idea what prompted this amazing recovery, but
can only assume that the ailment itself was tied in with the
creeping into the daylight of the dark side of the town. When
that side was forced back into the shadows, Jeff's father recovered.
When Jeff heads inside, he sees his and Sandy's mothers talking
on a couch, chatting away, completing the "perfect,"
pseudo-1950s, gender dichotomy established with the two fathers.
He is then called over to the kitchen by Sandy and his Aunt
Barbara to see, yet again, the (puppet) robin. The robin is now
sitting on the kitchen window-sill, holding an insect in its
beak. This insect heralds back to the very beginning of the film.
When Jeff's father collapses onto his lawn during the stroke,
the camera penetrates the extremely green grass of said lawn,
revealing an entire landscape of beetles similar to the one the
robin is eating now. They are fighting and tearing one another
apart. The camera's movement under the lawn mirrors Jeff's movement
in the film. He starts off on the surface of the town, the green
grass of Lumberton, but uncovers a violent and sinister undercurrent.
The insects here represent the hate and violence that he finds.
So, at the end, Sandy's robin of love, as it is essentially referred
to in this scene by Jeff, nabs the bug of hate. But is this a
perfect conclusion? I think not.
Again, the robin is clearly a puppet. The visage of love that
has apparently flown in to save them all is blatantly artificial,
as it should be. Love has not conquered all in Lumberton. Frank's
criminal organization was not destroyed by blowing it away with
the blinding light of peace and harmony. Instead, the cops raid
the joint, apparently killing all the criminals, and quite a
few cops in the process. This climaxes with Jeffrey deceiving
Frank with the police radio, then shooting him in the head. The
robins of love are nowhere to be found in these scenes. Jeff
and the police have merely cut down the most blatant offenders,
the criminals that directly affect them, leaving what is clearly
a much larger underground society virtually untouched. How Jeffrey
can smile and relax knowing that people like Ben are still out
there is strange indeed. Ben is so frightening that even Frank
admires him. Yet Jeffrey seems to be content pretending that
he doesn't exist. This obliviousness is seen again in Aunt Barbara.
Watching the robin, she comments that she could "never eat
a bug." Because of this kind of squeamishness, she is content
to not even think about the unpleasantness of what's going on
in her own town and under her own lawn. This is hinted at earlier,
when she warns Jeff to stay away from Lincoln Street.
The last line of dialogue in this scene, and in Blue Velvet
as a whole, is Sandy commenting to Jeff that, "It's
a strange world, isn't it?" I have seen this line provoke
laughter in audiences, and for good reason. It's an incredibly
trite sentiment, and it's funny to see someone go through what
she's gone through and take away only that. She has not been
changed by what she's experienced. She saw Jeff at his darkest,
with the revelation that he had been lovers with Dorothy, yet
she forgave him immediately. Jeff is no better, and is more than
happy to fall into a domestic environment with his family and
This, of course, leaves only Dorothy to remember. As we can
see from the last shot of the film, of Dorothy with her son,
she is all too aware of what the two of them have gone through,
and what may be ahead.
neil says re Blue Velvet: A hidden feature on the Special Edition DVD tells the story of the robin. It was in fact a real robin. Just dead, that's all.
This essay is also available at my film site at http://lensflare.virtualave.net/bluevelvet.html. Just letting ya'll know so I don't get accused of ripping anybody off.