Mulholland Drive Interpretation
So Mulholland Drive… Well it’s a movie I know that much. At least I think it’s a movie. I read that it was originally a TV pilot so I guess it could be that. Then again it could easily be an acid trip of David Lynch. But maybe that’s not even it- it could just be David Lynch having writers block and really needing to work. The jury is out on all theories. But according to David Lynch, the jury in question is probably composed of a creepy old man, a mime, a homosexual poet, a neo Nazi who may or may not be a vampire, an assassin with a heart of gold, and a tickle-me-Elmo doll. Also the jury doesn’t exist. But they do. Maybe.
But I digress.
What I’m trying to tell you is that David Lynch destroyed my mind.
There are so many directions a person can go with an interpretation of this film. My own interpretation for Mulholland Drive is pretty unclear- even to me. My own theory (at least my current theory, because it keeps changing) is that the first 2/3 of the film are Diane’s (Naomi Watts) dream. Towards the end of the film it’s revealed that Diane is a relatively unsuccessful actress whose primary roles have come from her from Camilla Rhodes (Laura Harring). Diane took these roles but I imagine with a touch of resentment towards Camilla. Diane is both envious of Camilla’s life and successes, but also admiring and in love with her. All these emotions help her create her dream personality- Betty. Betty is bright, optimistic and personable. Everyone likes her when they meet her. It’s interesting to note that the dream features Diane restarting her career.
In Diane’s dream, she meets Camilla under the name Rita as she becomes. In the dream world, Rita has lost both her memory and identity and is completely dependent on Betty. Perhaps that’s why she imagines them making love. But I really do not want to analyze a lesbian sex scene. Please don’t make me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
This also explains why Rita chooses to wear a blonde wig. She does it to look more like Betty/Diane. In Bette’s dream, even Camilla looks like her. Other characters that she has interacted with in her life play roles in the dream. Some intentionally and some random.
That’s my theory currently. It’s not solid and there are still holes in it, but it does offer potential motivations for the characters (at least some of them). How this ties into the monster behind Winkie’s I’ll never know. But it’s what I have so far. More on this later.
There is no doubt that Mulholland Dr. is a complex narrative. I found when reading Mittell, he never definitively defined what “narrative complexity” is- to his credit. Although he provided many examples and explained many of the benefits and effects of this brand of storytelling, he did not take a sentence to label it exactly. I believe this is because it’s a hard genre to pin down. It’s acknowledged that we are in a media era where complex narratives have just become main stream. This is exciting for us as audiences but it means that we have to leave it to posterity to summarize exactly what it is/was. It’s be a shame for future writers to summarize this whole entertainment period in a matter of a few paragraphs- but I guess that’s just nature’s way of keeping us humble.
I believe what makes it complex is the fact that the film expects audiences to try to keep up with its non linear (not to mention non real) storyline. Complex narratives tend to offer just as much information or more to viewers on repeated viewings as on the first. Mulholland Dr. is that kind of a movie (which is why some people hate it). The story is not spoon fed and even upon thinking about it- more questions seem to be created with every answer.
It was interesting to see this video about the making of mulholland drive. it just features a few interesting quotes from David Lynch. It also reproves my theory that all directors are dorks.
So now I guess I can answer the big question- what did I think of the film? Incidentally that previous sentence was not written to arouse interest, I honestly haven’t decided.
On the hand, in the big picture I had a lot of problems with the film. It’s not always coherent, and things that seem logical will often turn out not to be so at all.
But then again, I am a big believer in the idea that what will make a great movie great are the moments that build up to it. And this movie is ripe with great moments and great characters. Even minor characters are endearing. Take the cowboy for instance- that seems like such a terrible casting choice but it somehow works for this film. Although I can criticize the movie for not always being clear, somehow I still found myself invested in the characters (occasionally). I have no clue how Lynch did that.
Also, as a film, it’s very well put together. The cinematography matches the story very well. Most importantly this movie feels like it was made with a real vision in mind. Every shot seems to have a purpose. So many films are run of the mill junk (talking to you twilight). But something about this film just feels… special. Every line, shot and prop feels like it’s there with a purpose. I can’t really put it clearer than that.
But ultimately I have to criticize this film overall. Although I love some moments, it just isn’t clear storytelling. I appreciate the idea that not knowing is part of the fun but I believe that the work should speak for itself. I don’t like the fact that David Lynch has 10 clues about the film. As a filmmaker you have until the credits roll to make a story work. There is no overtime.
I understand that the style with which the story is told is completely in keeping with the subject matter (dreams). But I think clarity is necessary.
What I’m really getting at is I walked away from this film with a series of puzzles to work out. While the “who-dunnit” puzzle was the result of a truly unique movie experience- I think that I personally want a little more from a story. I want a puzzle with a purpose. I appreciate a theme or some sort of “tip” that I can consider. My favorite movies tend to offer a bit more understanding of the world. No matter how odd the premise is, the film will still have something for me to take with me.
But people watch movies for different reasons. And it’s completely possible that I am reading this film all wrong. How’s that for an ending to a rambling blog post? I just declared ignorance.
Can I really do that? Lets just say I pulled a Lynch and know exactly what I mean but it’s up to you to come up with your own theory.
Cut to spanish music and woman with blue hair.