Velvet Buzzsaw - Satire & Symbolism
A satirical thriller that shows what happens when we allow ourselves to be consumed by negative energy.
Velvet Buzzsaw - a suspenseful satirical thriller that takes symbolism and multiplies it times 10.
Hi and welcome to fashion and film TV - in this video, I'll be visiting a world of abstract art, collectors and the ultimate prices that have to be paid when greed surpasses better judgment...and without further ado - let's get into it.
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, The 2019 Netflix film, Velvet Buzzsaw is a film unlike many symbolic movies.
It takes the ideas of symbolism, collective experiences and metaphors to create an atmosphere of mind-bending mystery that can leave you guessing - even after you think you've cracked the esoteric code.
The film opens by following Art Critic Morf Vanderwalt (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) into the gallery as he attends the opening of an exhibit in Miami Beach. Morf is a highly respected and feared critic who has tremendous power to sway the opinions of readers with his reviews.
Morf is wearing a Navy Suit, white shirt, a paisley hander kerchief with pink and purple tones, brown eyeglasses and brown shoes.
Blue can stand for peace, calm and serenity, but Being that Morf is a critic and his suit is a darker shade of blue, navy - it reflects the authority he has in the abstract art field. The white shirt would represent some form of innocence - he either has a pure heart or he's oblivious to what will go on around him.
His brown shoes, could represent stability in his world. He's powerful, respected, feared and essentially has all that he wants in life.
Under certain light, his suit appears purple adding another symbolic layer - purple can mean royalty or authority - but is also associated with spiritual awakening and higher self awareness.
The purple used behind Morf reinforces the concept of the character's authority on a deeper level - along with the lighting we can see this concept reinforced by the extra's in the background.
Next, we meet Josefina (played by Zawe Ashton) as she's bringing coffee into the office but not before stopping to take pictures and receiving a phone call about her current love interest.
Josefina is wearing a glittery blue blazer with black trimming and buttons, a white shirt and blue and white patterned pants with what appears to be hints of black or possibly navy. We can also see that she's wearing a black purse with white or cream accents, all seeing eye earrings and carrying Starbucks coffee.
Unlike the blue worn by Morf, Josefina wears varying shades of the color - ranging from lighter to mid shades. The blue she wears encompasses all the properties of blue except for authority. The wide range of patterns and textures shows clues about her mindset - but we don't start to see the full spectrum of her characteristics until a little later on.
In the background - There's a man wearing dark purple behind her while she's taking the call. Unlike the purple shown around mort - which is on the lighter end of the purple spectrum - this man wears a darker shade - with a heavier blue base - which is tied to sadness and frustration.
Next up is Jon Dondon (played by Tom Sturridge), wearing a royal blue suit and a patterned pink shirt with a blue and green or turquoise print, including small hints of yellow within the floral pattern.
Jon owns an art gallery and plays a smaller role in the film, but his choices along the way yield him the same fate as a majority of the main characters.
As Morf continues to view an art piece, he's greeted by Gretchen (played by Toni Collette) wearing black and white. Gretchen is part owner of the gallery with the power to make things happen in the art world. The mix of black and White on this character encompasses the symbolism of the black and white colors.
She's very truthful with the information she gets from other characters and doesn't mind telling them about themselves or what other characters have said or have done to them - but her motives for sharing what she knows is not for the sake of the truth itself and is usually not done with the best intent.
Mid conversation with Gretchen, Morf spots Josephina and cuts the talk with Gretchen to make a b-line to her. As they walk and talk, they run into the maintenance man Bryson played by Billy Magnussen as he sits at Josephina's desk.
Bryson is wearing an army green hat, a gray/slate blue long sleeve shirt with a gray shirt underneath. He too plays a small role in the film, but his character marks the first casualty in a chain of events that leads the remaining characters into the world of strange happenings before their downfall.
As Morf continues to walk around the gallery, he is greeted by Rhodora, wearing a leopard print dress. On the one hand, leopard print stands for wealth or opulence - on a more esoteric level, the pattern can be associated with sex kitten symbolism - putting an emphasis on carnal or fleshly desires that are devoid of personal or spiritual insight.
During this conversation - we're shown an art piece called "Sphere" that she raves about where you stick you hand in to feel various pleasurable sensations, based on the individual and the hole they choose - she states it's "just like life". Alluding to the fact that this film is about choices and the paths we decide to take during our journey in life.
The fact she's wearing a garment that represents wealth and sexuality, along with her fascination with the piece - gives a tiny glimpse into her personality and her motives.
In the next group of scenes, we're in Jon Dondon's gallery where we meet Piers played by John Malkovich, wearing all blue in varying shades and a blue and white seersucker button up shirt underneath. Piers' character has stopped drinking and he has separated himself from the downtown art scene, which is the heartbeat of this artistic world.
His countenance seems sad or uninspired, and he realizes that his choice to put down the booz has altered his ability to tap into the muse that allowed him to create the type of art that he created in the past.
The Confused Couple
Before meeting the next key player in the movie - we're moved to a scene showing Josephina conversing with Morf. In this scene, Josephina is wearing blue and white again, but this time accompanied by a yellow skirt. Yellow can mean joy or happiness but on the negative side, it represents jealousy or deceit or can be associated with instability or being too critical or demanding of others. As we go further into the film, we can start to clearly see how these characteristics relate to the Josephina character.
Morf on the other hand has a costume that has completely different combinations than what we saw earlier. He's wearing a light colored patterned shirt, possibly off-white, black slacks, blue and black socks and white sneakers.
Mirroring the abstract wardrobe of Josephina, while also being a symbolic opposite of it - her darks correspond with his lights and vice versa. Morf has a strong attraction to Josephina, but in this image of their costumes, we're given clues that what he values and cherishes is the opposite of Josephina's.
Once we leave the conversation with Josephina and Morf, we're taken to the patio where Rhodora is speaking with Damrish (played by Daveed Diggs) in an attempt to convince him to show his art in her gallery.
Damrish is wearing a blue and red large printed plaid shirt with a white shirt underneath. In most cases, when we see red - it's associated with blood or war - especially when the scene is not about a sexual relationship between two people. Here, the red is representing love - but not between the two characters. Damrish is true to his heart, and his love for art trumps his desire for wealth and fame. The blue would represent peace and trustworthiness and the white would represent a level of purity.
He's also wearing black jeans, which would represent power - but on a different level. This power is tied to his ability to see past the bull crap and the ability hold his own regardless of who it is waving the carrot.
The meanings of the costume is re-enforced by the extra's that walk by in the background. The first man wears lavender, which is a lighter shade of purple. Alluding to royalty and spiritual awareness. Next, a man in a white blazer walks by - reinforcing the true hearted nature of the Damrish character.
Rhodora is wearing all black during this conversation - reinforcing her authority, but also tapping into her manipulative intentions with Damrish.
Skipping ahead - we meet Rhodora's new assistant Coco, played by Natalia Dyer wearing a Navy overcoat.
Coco is given Josephina's position after Josephina is demoted due to being late for work on a number of occasions.
That night, after Josephina's demotion, and during a scene in her home - she's wearing yellow pajamas while being in an angry and depressed state.
Fueled by jealousy and deceit - represented by her pajamas, she goes against the wishes of Dee's and commences to steal his art pieces.
The Beginning of the End
The next group of scenes marks the beginning of the end for several characters, as Josephina decides to make a deal with Rhodora and comes up with a plan to sell the artwork without getting caught for dismissing the final wishes of the deceased artist.
Over the course of the film, it's revealed that the artist had a troubled childhood and adulthood. He was abused as a child and ended up in a mental hospital, where he was subjected to torture and experiments that left him mentally and spiritually unstable. His art literally expressed the darkness that dwelled inside of him. Any and everyone that came into contact with the spirit of his art was heavily affected. The impact rippled through relationships and altered entire existences of the main protagonists.
Every character that benefited monetarily from the art pieces came to some demise - and not just any old demise, a terrible one.
The art of the Dees spoke to the characters on a spiritual sense and attracted those that had a heightened awareness. The art interacted with those that had eyes to see - shielding those of pure heart, while destroying those that chose to benefit from someone's pain.
Watch Video Review
The interactions of the characters, the wording and phrasing used when they speak to one another, the constant wardrobe changes and the unexpected events at every turn keeps the viewer on their toes. This movie is jammed packed with symbolism on surface and deeper levels, creating the kind of mental stimulation that any sci-fi theorist would enjoy watching over and over again.
I thoroughly enjoy films that provide mystery and layers to decode - and I wasn't disappointed with this one. Along with the slick styles, architecture and atmosphere, It has a moral that can be interpreted on many levels.
From carnal to spiritual, it touches on how relationships, personalities and intentions can have negative and positive impacts on individuals as well as anyone in their immediate circles.
A Deeper Layer of Understanding
On a more surface layer, this film relates to toxic people and negative energy. If you've experienced any amount of time with a toxic or negative person, you've learned that over time - those negative attributes can rub off on you, you can become desensitized and start to exhibit the same actions or properties of the toxic person. Or you can become overly critical of yourself, or drown yourself in guilt - causing a form of self destruction or self inflicted mental harm.
Opposite the effects of toxic people, the film also shows the benefits of being self-aware and conscious - even if that means being alone. In the case of Damrish, we're shown someone that stayed true to his heart, even while temptations were being thrown at him. When the painting "spoke" to him, we got to see how being in touch with one's spiritual self can steer a person clear of danger - even when they don't realize the mess they are keeping themselves out of.
In the case of Piers, we're shown how a person can overcome this negative energy by separating themselves from the things that are causing chaos - freeing our minds to embrace and create thoughts and ideas that are impactful, meaningful and adds value to our lives and the lives of anyone we come into contact with.
If you're interested in seeing this film - it's currently available on Netflix. And on that note, have an awesome day, be good to yourself and good to others. Peace.