I’m currently reading the Faber and Faber book: Lynch on Lynch.
As the title might suggest, we’re taken into the mind of the man who is occasionally referred to as Jimmy Stewart from Mars. I love that nickname and it fits perfectly. Jimmy Stewart was, in his early career certainly, the all American boy that any girl could take home to their mom. One only has to think of his persona in YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON or THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. David Lynch also deals with the portrayal of middle America in many of his films but this is a world where there is a constant underlying darkness barely suppressing an unsettling vibration that threatens to manifest itself at any given moment. . . . It’s the unspoken fear we all have when interacting with this world gone mad.
I’ve had the 1990 film WILD AT HEART knocking about in my collection for a while and decided last night to give it a spin. This is Lynch at his darkest; I’d go so far to say that this film eclipses BLUE VELVET in the shock stakes, an opinion that was shared by many on the pictures release.
Although the violence, sex and madness is pretty relentless there’s some great stuff going on in this movie. Diane Ladd’s portrayal of Marietta Fortune is something to witness, I wonder if Ellen Burstyn looked at this picture before shooting REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Then you’ve got Willem Defoe popping up as the repulsive Benny Peru “As in the country”. There’s one particular scene with Laura Dern in the motel room that really has you squirming, Lynch literally has the audience in the palm of his hands here. This film also suits Nick Cage’s monotone drawl, he’s not bad in this movie at all.
Visually the picture is as you’d expect from Lynch. We have the recurring visual motif of the striking match, the extreme close ups of cigarettes being smoked, the regular references to the Wizard of Oz with flashback sequences being used to great effect. Despite the horror of the situation, Lynch draws us into the intimate world Sailor and Lulu have created for themselves. In a sea of freaks, Lula seems almost normal, a woman attracted to a man with the capacity to kill, she finds comfort in that misguided strength however.
Have a look at one of the tamer scenes below. It may not have any sex or physical violence but it’s saturated with that Lynch atmosphere. It’s also a good demonstration of the relationship between Sailor and Lulu, there are many moments like this is the picture which reinforces this paradox of tenderness being heightened by horror.
No one, of course, can explain David Lynch films like David Lynch. Here the interviewer quizzes him about the negative press:
Did those bad reactions to the film surprise you?
“A little bit. Everybody has a line that they won’t cross over, but it’s different for each person. I didn’t think I’d pushed it to the point where people would turn on the picture. But, looking back, I think it was pretty close. But that was part of what Wild at Heart was about: really insane and sick and twisted stuff going on. Just like in real life you know?
I don’t want to give the impression that I sit around thinking up horrible things. I get all kinds of different ideas and feelings. If I’m lucky, they start organizing themselves into a story – then maybe some ideas come along that are too eerie, too violent, or too funny, and they don’t fit that story. So you write them down and save them for two or three projects down the road. There’s nowhere you can’t go in a film – if you think of it, you can go there.”
The film is not an easy watch, not by any means but therein lays the fun. You know you’re going somewhere that will lead to strange thoughts or confusion, or gentle dread when you put on a David Lynch film, STRAIGHT STORY aside of course.