Set in the glam rock decade, Velvet Goldmine is a film that celebrates individuality, music, and the beauty that comes with rock and roll. In an era where everything from the hair to the clothes and shoes stand out, it’s very hard to fit in society as a wallflower in the outskirts of town.
Although the movie supposedly is a breath of fresh air that brings us to the glory days of glam rock, I felt like the film overflowed with so much more sadness than jubilation. Sure there were the outrageous costumes and radical expressions of love, but beneath all that was a thick blanket of sorrow that no one in the film dare touched.
Beginning with the struggles of Bryan Slade to become the next big thing, starting off as a musical flop in one music festival with his attempts in being “different” (wearing the long robe and singing a weirdly written song) miserably failing at the end, shows us how the internal conflicts of the characters affect how they grow throughout the film. In this case for example, the struggle to find his identity was always ever-present – even at the expense of his own wife, and even if his career was already long-established.
Another reason why I feel like the film is a tool for magnifying the gravity of the characters’ unhappy situation is that Curt Wild’s character is primarily portrayed as a strong symbol but is then broken down into someone who is frail and very much dependent. I saw his relationship with Bryan Slade was a one-sided kind of thing. Even though he inspired Bryan, he wasn’t man enough to carry on and instead of being the person idolized, he turned out to be the one seeking for help amidst all the frustrations he is keeping inside (as seen in the scene inside the recording studio).
The most painful emotion conveyed to me in this movie, though, was the immense love of Mandy Slade for her husband to the point of sacrificing her own self for his own happiness. The sad part is that the love was never reciprocated the same way she deserved it, and no matter how hard she tried, there was no way but to get out of the partnership that won’t work. I saw this in the light of reality, in which sometimes we judge relationships and marriages that fall apart – without knowing how sometimes, we’re really just left with a choice between a commitment and a promise to love one’s self.
I felt pity for Arthur Stuart because of the repression he went through as a child. From the hiding of his “outfit” in a coat to his father catching him doing a “shameful act”, the lengths he went through are too much for a boy his age then could handle. It was because of the allusions to his childhood that I began to understand the character of Arthur. It was not clear to me at first why he acted in such way, but after the flashback memories, I was able to put things together.
Velvet Goldmine is a film that allowed me to go beyond what I saw and instill in me important thoughts on relationships and the inevitable sorrow that comes with it. As humans, our number one nature is interacting as social beings – and I can safely say that this movie tackled the complexity of relationships without discouraging us to love more and more.
No matter how radical or seemingly daunting love was portrayed in Velvet Goldmine, we still can’t deny ourselves from the fact that it’s a movie that makes you want to experience more in life – just to validate the emotions brought about watching the film.