“Wild at Heart”: Change the ‘w’ to an ‘m’Posted: July 2, 2012
As one of the very few Lynch films I had yet to indulge in, I was surprisingly disappointed when I finally got round to viewing the off-kilter redemption plot of ‘Wild at Heart’ last night. A road movie concerning a goofily sensual pair of criminal lovers, it follows Lula and Sailor’s journey from North Carolina to Texas and all that occurs in between. It’s a hyper-kinetic experience, but none the better for it.
And, despite Lula’s contention within the film (“this whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top”), the former is all surface-level: the images are like tattoos, arresting yet meaningless; and Lynch goes into over-kill, dousing the film with an unending flood of Wizard of Oz motifs, rather than allowing room for abstraction. The erotic villainy and malevolence also seem a little too diversionary, a florid disguise for a lifeless and languorous story, rather than a crucial meander in the narrative flow as found in ‘Blue Velvet’ (although it is difficult to resist Jack Nance’s cameo, it fails to live up to Dean Stockwell’s impromptu ‘In Dreams’).
I did stumble upon an interesting discovery, however. Approaching the tail-end of the film, Sailor is twice asked whether he’s “had enough,” first by Bobby Peru (through which Sailor gathers his resolve – an entrenched Hollywood convention – but finds himself submitting to a criminal plan) and then by the leader of the urban gang (through which Sailor surrenders himself to them and the world – having been knocked unconscious – thus becoming receptive to the vision of Glinda the Good). In each circumstance our – that is, the viewer’s – will is implicated directly, especially in the latter when the gangleader asks, “Had enough, asshole?” to the camera, a space supposedly occupied by the invisible Sailor. We suddenly realise the tension between our manufactured desire for the transparent reality of a cosy, happy ending and the unreality of the Good Witch’s advice and Sailor’s artificially swollen nose. The spectator’s identification with Sailor, a moment of seeming unity, is asserted through the subconscious, making us confront our ready consumption of cinematic tropes. Looks like Haneke was late to the party.