I often watch movies more than once, usually just because I want to enjoy them again, but there are some movies that have to be watched a second time (possibly more) just to be understood. I think everybody is in agreement that Mulholland Drive is most definitely one of these movies. I still am confused about many of the details, but for the most part, I side with the classical interpretation of the film. I had to read the theory on the Lost on Mulholland Drive website in order to realize that it was Diane’s dream; I don’t think I would have come to that conclusion on my own, especially having only watched it once over the course of five days.
Most of what I think happens is in line with the classical interpretation. I think that Naomi Watts is Diane, a struggling actress in Hollywood who meets and falls in love with Camilla (the love may or may not be reciprocated). Once she is spurned by Camilla, she is so jealous that she orders a hit put on her and then dreams up the series of events that are shown during the first two-thirds of the movie. Her dream includes the same characters that are in her reality, but rearranged and changed to be as she wishes them.
The Betty character was too contrived to be real, and I think it was just Diane’s wishful thinking of how things should have gone for her—the ingénue who impresses Hollywood heavyweights upon her arrival. She also dreams Camilla as Rita, an extremely vulnerable woman who falls in love with her and depends on her (the opposite of what the real Camilla is). Once it is revealed at Club Silencio that “everything is an illusion,” Diane’s dream is shattered and she wakes up. The “real time” events after Diane wakes up include her flashing back to the events that led her to put the hit on Camilla, which in turn lead her to guilt and madness and eventually, suicide.
I think that Mulholland Drive can be considered a complex narrative. Obviously a big part of watching the movie is about trying to figure out what is going on and what will happen, but like Mittel says about narratively complex television shows, there is also a fascination with the “narrative mechanics required to bring together” the different vignettes and scenes into one cohesive story (even if it is not accomplished). There is as much discussion dedicated to the way the story is told as there is to what actually happens. This is a contrast to more conventional films that present a story in a much more straight-forward way and whose main goal is to show what is happening in the most unobtrusive way. Mulholland Drive violates storytelling conventions and because of this, we can appreciate its narrative as well as its construction.
Mittel states that for complex narrative television shows, the internet becomes a “collective intelligence for info, interpretations and discussions” and invites “participatory engagement,” which has obviously happened with this movie as evidenced by the very dedicated aforementioned website. Also, like narratively complex television shows, movies like this one aren’t the norm or the most popular but develop cult followings and have the “rewatchability” factor to them. I think everybody has agreed that this movie requires more than one viewing.
I think where Mulholland Drive differs from most narratively complex television shows is in the idea that there is no real “payoff” in the end. Things aren’t wrapped up neatly and revealed at the end of the movie like at the end of a television show season or series, at least not for most people. I think that is why many people have a problem with the movie. We are used to things having a clear resolution, even if it takes a while to get to it. That is not to say that a film can’t be enjoyed unless it is fully understood the first time around. If that were the case, people wouldn’t bother trying to piece things together. I think a complex movie like this is successful if it induces further investigation, and I think Mulholland Drive does just that.