Wild at Heart: It’s a Symbol of My Individuality
And my belief in personal freedom.
Okay, right off the bat, just gonna start by saying that this is a David Lynch movie. If you’re familiar with Lynch, you probably know what that entails. If you are unfamiliar with Lynch, you should know that this movie contains graphic scenes of violence, sexual assault, body horror, and extremely uncomfortable tensions. Lynch’s style is intended to make people uncomfortable, and this is movie made me extremely uncomfortable. If you’re following along with this blog to figure out which movies to watch, bear that in mind when considering Wild at Heart. It’s a very intense movie.
Wild at Heart is a movie about a young couple, Sailor and Lula, reunited after Sailor’s release from prison after the murder of a man in self-defence. Lula’s mother, jealous and angry at Sailor for a variety of reasons, hires assassins to track him down and kill him.
As Sailor and Lula travel from North Carolina down to New Orleans, they reminisce on the traumas of their childhoods while encountering entirely new traumas. Lynch is first and foremost a surrealist, so many of the events that unfold in this movie seemingly appear out of nowhere and are intended to represent more abstract concepts than actual occurring events. A lot of things happen in this movie, and they happen very fast. We fly from Sailor grimly recounting the events that occurred before the murder, holding back from telling Lula that her mother had orchestrated it in a fit of jealousy to Lula lying in bed dreamily recalling the traumatic and violent rape she experienced when she was a child. Sailor stoically recounts how he started smoking when he was four years old after his momma died of lung cancer, and Lula remembers her father’s death by immolation through a foggy lens, her mother’s piercing cackle standing out above her father’s flailing and fiery arms.
In and around these moments of intensity, Lynch drags us back to the surreal world that these characters live and operate in. Cage interrupts a thrash metal concert to perform a crooning rendition of Elvis’ ‘Love Me.’ Grinning albinos scuttle silently across the screen, opening and closing their hands like stumpy, fleshy, useless claws. In the midst of some of the most sacred and somber moments, images of erupting fires flash for brief seconds before cutting back to the characters in their peace.
Lynch is a master of juxtaposition and contrast, and he uses them in this movie to effortlessly create a sense of unease and discomfort in the viewer. I felt weak, powerless, disgusting, uneasy, angry, and downright upset watching this movie. Lynch has that power to evoke those emotions, and that might not work for everybody’s sensibilities, but damn if it doesn’t work.
Cage and Dern are absolute powerhouses in this movie, and we also get incredible supporting performances from Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, and Diane Ladd. But the real star of this movie, the overbearing presence and domineering narrator, is Lynch. He immediately captivates you during the opening credits with a hypnotic flame growing wilder and wilder in the background, and then he drags you through the movie kicking and screaming, but also incredibly curious as to what new horror will arrive in the next scene.
The most apparent theme in the movie is the presence of fire. We are subjected to repeated cuts from whatever is occurring on screen to a direct cut of a broken window in a burning house, or a match being lit, or of Lula’s father running about the house ablaze. Symbols and events throughout the movie hammer into our heads that fire is impermanent, that nothing can stay alight forever, but that the inferno rises rapidly and consumes everything in its reach. And we are lead to believe that there is that same passionate fire in the hearts of Sailor and Lula, and that they will be burnt to ashes by their love for each other. And we repeatedly see individuals trying to throw water on them, to douse the flames of their love.
But I think that their love is supposed to be so strong that it burns so intensely as to consume those who seek to douse it, and burns brighter and harder as a result. There is a darkfairy-tale quality to this film, and Lynch reinforces that by repeatedly referencing The Wizard of Oz, either by having Lula tap her heels together, or portraying Lula’s mother as a witch on a broom stick, or by having Cage directly wishing that they could visit the Wizard of Oz and get some advice. The juxtaposition of these whimsical fairy tale qualities with the bleak realities of rape, murder, poverty, and fear serve to make Wild at Heart an absolutely horrifying film that is incredibly difficult not to watch with rapt attention.
Okay, wow, look at me in my little art house over here. CAGEMARKS.
We got a tight eight Cagemarks in this one.
Shirtlessness: Nic Cage fucks SO MUCH in this one. SO MUCH YOU GUYS.
Shaving: No shaving in this one.
Cage Scream: Towards the end of the film we get a solid Cage Scream as Sailor robs a bank in desperation.
Overacting: Cage dances to thrash metal multiple times and holy shit can this guy kick.
Underacting: Nic Cage is basically doing a lazy Elvis impression the entire movie, and I absolutely adore it.
Weird Dialogue: Cage and Lynch is a match made in heaven for weird dialogue. Probably my favourite is “Man, I had a boner with a capital O.”
Describing Violence: Nicolas Cage describes so many things in this. Describing violence is a weak Cagemark, but he does talk briefly about killing a man, so, it happens.
Running: You’re damn right Cage runs in this.
Kissing: NIC. CAGE. FUCKS.
Wild at Heart is a wild movie. It’s upsetting, it’s thrilling, it’s disgusting, and it’s actually kind of sweet in a really weird way. I know that this movie definitely makes a lot of people very uncomfortable, and I completely understand that, but I think there’s something beautiful about two people who’ve experienced such horrible traumas coming together and just loving each other like nobody else ever will. Despite the violence of their lives, there is a complete and total tenderness to their love.
May you always be wild at heart, even if you’re a robber and a manslaughterer and you haven’t had any parental guidance,
P.S. I love Jack Nance so much.