Dreaming Crazy on Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive is the sort of movie that even as you are watching it for the first time you understand that it is something that has to be viewed more than once. This seems to be especially true at the end of the film where according to the classical interpretation Diane wakes up from “the dream,” and it seems everything comes together so quickly that you can’t possibly process all of it at once. I think that this one of the main things that frustrated me about the movie; I found the majority of the film slow and plodding. While I understand that this is probably half the point and the film is shot beautifully, it was still almost boring at times. It was frustrating realizing that this time nothing in the film was going to really make sense and that I was just going to be confused the majority of the time. All this aside after finishing the movie and wandering around “Lost on Mulholland Drive” I appreciated it a lot more and think that it would be quite enjoyable to watch the second time around. Especially because this time I would know what to look for and have to spend less time simply wondering what in the world was actually going on.

After reading the material on the website including Lynch’s clues to his interpretation/vision of the movie I still do not have a complete interpretation of the film. One thing I am certain of is that I do not agree completely with the classical interpretation of the movie with the Betty/ Rita part as a dream. The dream sequence is simply too complex and too much information is given from different perspectives to justify it as completely the creation of Diane’s imagination. Why would she dream about parts that have nothing to do with her and about people that she appears to only know in passing. It simply doesn’t make sense.

The purse full of money shows up in both the "dream" and Diane's reality as payment to the hitman.

Initially, I thought that the movie was about insanity and therefore sided more with the schizophrenic interpretation. The reoccurring images and events in both the “dream” and “reality” parts of the movie with slight variation create a sense of confusion for the viewer. Maybe this is because Betty/ Diane is also experiencing this confusion, the “dream” part of the movie is less a dream and more Diane’s skewed perception of reality. Images like the purse full of money make sense with this interpretation, Diane knows about the money for the hit but in her delusional state makes its owner Rita in an attempt to deny her involvement in Camila’s death. This switch can also be seen as a metaphor for Diane’s feelings that Camila’s actions ultimately caused her death, because she “forced” Diane to kill her. This interpretation also explains the existence of such things like the monster behind the dumpster and the dancing old people, images which are clearly not based in reality or a sane mind. However, this seems a little too simple to explain the entire movie and still presents the same problem I find with the classical dream interpretation of the movie. However, I still lean toward this interpretation of the events and think the movie is partially a study in the mental breakdown of a person wrecked by a breakup.

Mulholland Drive is definitely an example of a complex narrative. In the essay “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television,” author Jason Mittel identifies numerous qualities that constitute narrative complexity. One of the qualities he highlights is that the piece demands multiple views, which as previously mentioned one of the first things that stood out to me while watching the movie. The movie also has a skewed perception of time, another quality of narrative complexity. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of watching the movie to determine that this is absolutely an example of narrative complexity. Every aspect of the film is murky and unclear with the first watch and even after multiple views people still debate the exact meaning of the movie.

One of the things that makes the movie particularly complex is the lack of parameters in the film. Most movies create a specific reality that the audience comes to understand as the setting and context for the film, it creates rules and history for this version of reality. In science fiction stories, for example, a number of rules and parameters are set to let the audience what constitutes this world’s “reality.” Therefore, the audience is able to accept the fact that aliens live on the moon and people can fly because this has been set up as normal in the story’s context. Mulholland Drive on the other hand refuses to create any sort of distinct reality. Instead it presents a number of scenarios that might be dreams or illusions and is unwilling to let the audience in on what aspects of the narrative fall into what category.

This lack of reality and plot ambiguities create the need for discourse and provide another classic characteristic of narrative complexity, the need for audience interaction. Mittel references this appeal in eliciting audience participation and argues that these kinds of stories, “[encourage] a new mode of viewer engagement.” (Mittel, 38) Since these stories often necessitate a large degree of personal interpretation, they easily lend themselves to fan interpretation.  “Lost on Mulholland Drive,” provides a perfect example of a fan built community centered on the ambiguities and possible interpretations for the film. While I don’t think I would have thought of seeking out this website on my own, I did enjoy the movie more after reading others interpretations. I prefer more one on one interaction and discussion of the movie and its meaning. It is often fun and interesting to watch movie that seem to require discourse in order to fully understand what happens and this is why narrative complexity in movies so often draws people to each other and creates more audience interaction. Overall, I found Mulholland Drive an interesting example of a narrative complexity in film, even though it was sometimes frustrating and often confusing.

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