Sailor and Lula

Are Wild at Heart

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The images above are spiritual portraits, or Grojas.[1] They depict the personalities of Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune, the main characters in the film Wild at Heart.

David Lynch wrote the screenplay and directed the film, basing it on the novel by Barry Gifford. These images show that both Sailor and Lula are open-minded and passionate.

Opening With a Bang

Released on August 17th, 1991, Wild at Heart opens with a violent bang that sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Admittedly a bit brutal in his defense of himself, Sailor Ripley is nonetheless more of a victim than a perpetrator. He quickly pays his debt to society and the film starts in earnest when Lula picks him up at the Pee Dee Correctional Institution. Without further ado, the couple puts all the ugliness behind them and rides off in Lula's black Thunderbird convertible to see their favorite band, the speed-metal group Powermad — at the Hurricane.

Their happiness at being reunited is palpable, and they seem ready to finally enjoy their life together.

A Sweet Couple

The vast amount of Yellow and Blue in their spiritual portraits shows Sailor and Lula are a very sweet couple. They bear no one any ill will — provided others respect them and their relationship — and are open to just about everyone and anything.

Lula and Sailor truly enjoy life in each others' company, and they spend their time chatting about the past rather than planning for the future. When it comes time to be decisive, their strong feelings for each other dominate the decisions they make.

Their innocence and passion make it easy for anyone who has ever been young and in love to relate to them. Unfortunately, if Marietta Fortune was ever young and in love, it must have been so long ago that she has completely forgotten that blissful feeling.

A Determined Mom

What Sailor and Lula lack in decision-making ability is more than made up for by Lula's mom Marietta.

For reasons revealed as the film progresses, Marietta has become obsessed with keeping Lula away from Sailor. As a young woman who is hopelessly and completely in love, Lula demonstrates time and again she has absolutely no intention of cooperating with her domineering mom, regardless of her mom's feelings.

It's impossible to create Marietta Fortune's spiritual portrait with confidence, because her character is not very well developed in the film. However, it's clear that passion dominates her personality.

If there was a way to get to know Marietta better, an image of her personality would certainly be full of Red. She rarely demonstrates any openness towards anyone, except superficially, such as when it comes time to manipulate a hapless accomplice. Certainly the way Lynch uses Red as a motif throughout the film — particularly in scenes relating to Marietta — is more synchronicity than coincidence.

Blinded by her prejudice, Marietta cannot see that Lula and Sailor just want to be left alone.

Wild Love — In Hell

The relationship between Sailor and Lula is an excellent example of amour fou,  French for insane love.  Precedents for a couple in love fleeing authoritarian figures appear in the 1950 film noir Guncrazy, and the famous gangster film, 1967's Bonnie and Clyde. Despite the similarity on the surface, the amour fou in Wild at Heart is far from being derivative.

For one thing, Lula and Sailor are comparatively innocent: Sailor has fully paid the price for being a manslaughterer, and Lula is guilty only of being passionately in love with a man whom her mom refuses to accept. For another, in their attempt to escape Marietta's intolerance, Lula and Sailor find themselves traveling through Hell.

The Inside Scoop

Anyone looking for more about Wild at Heart than the film itself offers should check out Weirdsville USA: The Obsessive Universe of David Lynch, by Paul A. Woods. Published in 2000, the book has a chapter covering each of Lynch's most popular early films, starting with Eraserhead in 1977 and ending with 1999's Mulholland Drive The chapter Wild at Heart: Lynch Mob Rules appears sandwiched between the two chapters — one for each season — in the book for Twin Peaks.

In Weirdsville USA, Paul A. Woods reveals what the director had to say about the film's big theme:

For those who were looking for the big theme, Wild at Heart was, Lynch assured them, ... about finding love in Hell.
 — David Lynch, quoted in Weirdsville USA by Paul A. Woods, 2000, p.116.

This one bit of insight helps explain some of the seemingly unrelated and otherwise anomalous scenes in the film, such as an apparently random automobile accident and Lula's frustration at not being able to find a suitable radio station. Lynch's big theme also explains the frequent vignettes of fire in the film, including the innumerable close-ups of recently-lit matches which frequently fill the entire screen.

For fans of David Lynch, Weirdsville USA is an enlightening source of inside information like this. One interesting tidbit from the book is the fact that Lynch wrote the screenplay in just a week. Another is that Diane Ladd — who plays Lula's mom Marietta, and Laura Dern — who plays Lula, are mother and daughter in real life.

The Road Trip

If Sailor and Lula were more decisive people — if their spiritual portraits had more Green and Red, like the images of Alexander Hamilton's or Agent Dana Scully's personas, for example — maybe they would have stood up to Marietta. But their personalities are more open and free, so they go on a road trip.

Although they're in a car traveling west in America, Lynch makes their journey less like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and more like The Wizard of Oz. This rather odd touch contributes to the surrealism that pervades the film.

The net result is a wild ride full of unique, interesting characters. This film is not for everyone, but it offers a fun diversion for the more open-minded among us. who will find it easier to relate to the protagonists.

See More at SeeOurMinds.com

To see the full-size images of the personalities of Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune, visit the Wild at Heart gallery at SeeOurMinds.com.

SeeOurMinds.com also contains several galleries with a total of over two dozen images of personalities from Twin Peaks!

Get Wild at Heart!

These spiritual portraits are based on the characters Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune as they appear in the film Wild at Heart by David Lynch.

Lynch was able to complete the film in time to enter it in the Cannes Film Festival. There it won the Palme d'Or  or Golden Palm — the highest award granted at the festival. Unfortunately, when it was released publicly in August of 1990 — as Paul A. Woods puts it in his book — Wild at Heart did poorly at the box office.

Immediately following this, Woods offers the following explanatory quote, once again giving fans insight into Lynch's motivations and how he sees his critics:

Not everybody loves what you've done, Lynch conceeded understatedly, "and negativity can be a powerful thing. And even the positive things are upsetting in a way because then you want to please the next time again. You gotta kinda just think about the work but it's not always easy.
I can't try to second-guess the critics. The world is changing and we are changing within it. As soon as you think you've got something figured out, it's different. That is what I try to do. I don't try to do anything new, or weird, or David Lynch. But I'm real happy with the picture. See, I love 47 different genres in one film. I hate one-thing films. And I love B-movies. But why not have four or five Bs running together? Like a little hive!
 — David Lynch, quoted in Weirdsville USA by Paul A. Woods, 2000, p.128.

Lynch's previous film, Blue Velvet, appeared in 1986 and the first season of Twin Peaks had just aired in April and May of 1990. When Wild at Heart hit the theaters on August 17, 1990, it's possible many Americans were expecting something more like his other work during that time.

Today the film is close to thirty years old, and I for one believe it has withstood the test of time.

I highly recommend the film Wild at Heart  to all David Lynch fans and anyone interested in a unique, violent, and ultimately rather surrealistic love story!

I also highly recommend the book Weirdsville USA: The Obsessive Universe of David Lynch, by Paul A. Woods to all David Lynch fans!

Tom W. Hartung

Notes

  • 1  A spiritual portrait or Groja — for Graphical Representation of Jungian Archetypes — is an image representing the personality of a person. These images are based on the theories of personality originally described by Carl Jung and incorporate ideas appearing in the writings of the painters Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Find essential information about these images on the About page at Groja.com.