Mulholland Drive - 2001
Mulholland Drive is written and directed by David Lynch, the same mind that gave us Blue Velvet, Eraserhead and Twin Peaks, among many other great things. He has often been described as a surrealist filmmaker and this film leans heavy into that identity. The cult following around this movie is, for the most part, surrounded around the idea of deciphering what is truly happening in the movie. This is also pushed even further by the director’s refusal to explain his work, saying it should stand on its own without the need of explanation. In his defense, he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, he already gave us all the material to figure it out on our own.
I’ll be honest with you, I had to watch this movie 3 times before I even felt close to having a grasp on what this movie is about, and I could be 100% wrong. Lynch once said during an interview regarding Mulholland Drive’s meaning; “You do know, you know for yourself. And what you know is valid”. So, here goes my valid interpretation. I’ll first give a few brief words, like a mini review for those who haven’t seen it, and then I’ll jump into explanations and themes that I walked away with.
Mulholland Drive is the story of a young hopeful actress, moving to LA to make it big. Along her journey, she meets Camilla, who is suffering from amnesia after a car accident. She decides to help her regain her memory. That’s pretty much the bare bones explanation I can give without ruining anything from the movie. Let’s just say, like any Lynch creation, things are not what they seem.
Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are absolutely mesmerizing in this movie. Both give their characters a lot of simple yet precise characteristics that inform the audience of their past experiences. During the first two thirds of this movie, they both exhibit dream-like qualities and give the audience a sense that something is missing. From the very first time we meet Watts, you immediately start to notice that something is oddly off about her personality.
Lynch, along with cinematographer Peter Deming, create a visually appealing world that sucks in the audience. There are many shots within this movie that look like they should be hanging up on a wall in an art gallery. The visuals along with the ever-changing score by Angelo Badalamenti, create an atmosphere that you can’t help but to be entranced by.
If you’re here, you watched the movie and if you’re like me after the first two screenings: you have no clue what happened. Let me break down the movie and what is truly happening (for the most part). The movie opens with the Jitterbug dance competition, which we later learn was the driving force behind Diane finally moving to Hollywood. In the next scene, we hear a person taking a deep hit of a drug and the POV shot starts to go blurry and falls into a red pillow. This is Diane going into a drug induced dream state and from here on we get to see the world she fantasizes. If you Google, “Drug induced dreams”, there are many accounts of people having very lucid and vivid dreams due to the use of drugs.
I know what you are thinking: “Everything is a dream? This sucks.”. Well yes and no, While the last third of the movie is reality, the dream events still draw from reality. We get to see the event happen as Diane wished they would, but you still get the full story. So, I will now give you the dream version and the reality version of the events that lead us to the climactic end. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on three major events;
1. The hitmen that try to kill Camilla. When we meet Camilla she is in a limo driving down Mulholland Drive. There is a failed attempt to kill her and this leads to her getting amnesia. In reality, Diane is the one that sets the hit on Camilla’s head. She is seen in a diner giving the hitman Camilla’s headshot and handing the money to him. The reason why in the dream sequence the murder attempt fails is because she wishes she had never put the hit in the first place. During the mysterious phone call sequence, we see that the last phone to ring is Diane’s, confirming that even her subconscious won’t let her forget who put the hit on Camilla.
2. Director forced to cast an unknown woman. We meet Adam, a director in the process of re-casting his lead actress. During a meeting, two mysterious producers try to force him to cast their choice. They don’t provide explanation, they just state that this has to happen. When Adam refuses, he sees his entire world collapse around him, his money and safety vanishes into thin air. He learns that if he wants it all back he must cast the actress the two producers wanted. This is Diane’s way of justifying the reason why she has lost so many roles to different actresses she deems untalented when compared to her. We later learn that Camilla, by sleeping with Adam, was the one that got the role over her and that role is the thing that catapulted her in to fame, furthering the seed of hatred Diane has for her, along with the fact that she broke their romantic affair off. Side note; this theme is also seen during the audition for another movie. She gives an incredible performance that rocks the entire room, except the dumb and confused director. Basically, saying the only reason she didn’t get the part is due to the inability of the director to recognize talent.
3. Sex scenes. Towards the later part of the movie we see Diane and Camilla give in to their carnal desires. Sorry, I had to write it that way because “carnal desires” makes me legit laugh every time I read it. In the dream sequence, we see a raw passion between them and Diane constantly stating that she loves Camilla. The passion is palatable and you can see both women are overtaken by it. When we see the real version of what sex was like between them, Camilla is not interested by the event and rejects Diane. This breaks Diane’s heart as she begs Camilla not to end their relationship. In the dream sequence, we see Diane’s desires to be truly loved by Camilla and that their sex had meaning and passion behind it.
Mulholland Drive is a critic on the culture of Hollywood. How we take young beautiful actresses, raise them up as high as we can, only to drop them when we no longer want them. This theme is highlighted during the “Club Silencio” sequence. We see a woman sing a heartbreaking song to a half empty theater. Diane and Camilla stare at this woman and cry their eyes out. During a high note the woman falls back dead, but the song keeps playing along. She is dragged off stage and the audience just stares at the empty stage still listening to the song. The audience doesn’t care; if you gave your heart and soul to them they only care about the product. This is why the cliché phrase, “the show must go on”, beautifully describes the culture in Hollywood. Side note: This movie also pays tribute to Sunset Blvd. A movie that also plays with the idea of how ugly the culture in Hollywood is. Both Wilder and Lynch studied the “human putrefaction” in our society.
I had to watch this movie 3 times to gain some semblance of an understanding and meaning. That is why I weirdly love movies.
Mulholland Drive is currently streaming on Netflix. Honestly watch it and tell me what you gained from it
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