Why You Can Never Tell Exactly What Era A David Lynch Film Takes Place In


Lynch’s controversial 1986 film “Blue Velvet” is a mind-bending mystery set in small-town-America. A college student named Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) helps a detective’s daughter (Laura Dern) solve a local murder case. When investigating a seductive lounge singer (Isabella Rossellini), Beaumont gets wrapped up in the town’s sinister and depraved underbelly, where he meets the horrifying maniac Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).

“Everybody said [Blue Velvet] is like the 1950s,” Lynch recalled during his BAFTA lecture, “the optimistic shiny exterior and then a lot of darkness swimming beneath it.” The director conceded that “all those things go on” in the film that went on in the ’50s. But they continue to go on now. “It doesn’t matter what time it is,” he explained. 

When asked if the film was “timeless,” the filmmaker responded, “sure.” Lynch doesn’t like to explain his films, but the cinematic language in his work suggests that the time period is purposefully vague. The hair, makeup, and wardrobe in “Blue Velvet” all reference the ’80s, for example. But Frank Booth drives a ’68 Dodge Charger and is obsessed with the 1963 Roy Orbison song “In Dreams.” The film also takes its name from another ’60s song — Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet.”