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  • Daniel Rae

Wild at Heart Review


"Wild at Heart", Propaganda Films, 1990


My first experience with David Lynch's work was certainly that; an experience. The film's abrasive campiness and artful pulpiness achieves this sharp looseness that constructs its story in such a precise way that it stings. His grasp at the poetry of film language enables him to explore the themes of youth and escape through punctually dizzying imagery that gets to the heart of primal obsession and desperate freedom which frames the twisted journey of the two lovers.

Lynch revels in both the minute details and the explicit grotesqueness - a testosterone-fulled lens that never loses sight of the individual nuances when it comes to calving a very specific and highly stylised approach to storytelling. The director's unforgiving creative forcefulness is felt throughout the shadow of the traditional todorovian narrative style that the story hangs on. The narrative structure itself feels like a living entity itself in the way in which the pacing mutates from fluid continuity to sharp abruptness. The soundtrack is warped between contemporary alt-rock and 50s blues. The characters themselves are an unpredictable mix of genre caricatures and tangibly flawed, lived-in individuals. The colour palette ranges from bleak, pale softness to dingy, rugged stylishness. This out-of-place framework of constant juxtaposition, although perhaps attracting the label of 'self-indulgent', constructs this grotesquely murky world that is held together by the hallowing weakness of traditionalism and its desperate attempts of control. This is forwarded by the more moment-to-moment focus of the journey, despite the erratic directions that the multiple storylines overlap and intertwine that is shaped by this hypnotizingly and musically rhythmic sense of flow. Rather than refining the cohesion of the experience, the treatment calls for crude tangents (all the while never breaking momentum) that steadily constructs a viscerally grounded feel amidst the surrealist exercise of flamboyance . This provides the perfect platform for Lynch to highlight how the naivety of Cage's Elvis-inspired Sailor and Dern's hyper-feminised Lula (held together by their brilliant 'star-crossed-lovers' theatrically potent dynamic) is consuming them. This prevalent darkness that is fuelled by the estranged line of identification we have with them is so powerful that it feels as if the cock-eyed motivations of these characters shapes the wayward tonal shifts, poetically encapsulating and underlining the emotional vulnerability of the strive for individuality. This is harnessed by the amount of restrain Lynch has over the almost cartoonishly formalist style of performances, managing to find relatable humanity within the beyond-self-aware extravagance of every single character who each demands attention on screen. Accompanied by beautifully sharp writing, their individual charms mesh together in a potently dynamic (if occasionally strenuous) way.

In conclusion, whilst not necessarily treating his audience in Wild at Heart as sophisticated cinephiles, the amount of open air that is enabled through the director's rigorously particular approach not only gauges appreciation of the stylistic consistency but also highlights the need to reexamine the power struggle between sectors in society that are often portrayed in a derogatorily ornate way in comparison.


4.5/5 Stars







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