I decided to sit down and watch Mulholland Drive last night for the first time in quite a number of years. On my first viewing, back in 2001 when it was first released, I instantly loved it, despite the fact that I sat back for a significant amount of time after the film had finished, trying to figure out what the fuck just happened. Fortunately, with each subsequent viewing, I have enjoyed the movie just as much, and have also been able to reach a better understanding of the very complex narrative.
Mulholland Drive isn’t exactly the kind of film with an easily explained plot, but for the uninitiated, it basically breaks down like this: an unnamed woman (played by Laura Elena Harring, who looks very, very sexy in the film) survives a car accident on Mulholland Drive in which she was about to be murdered. She stumbles down the hills into Los Angeles and sneaks her way into an apartment there. Betty (played by Naomi Watts), a fresh-faced young woman from Canada arrives in L.A. and goes to the same apartment, which is owned by hear aunt, finding the unnamed woman there. Betty finds that the woman, now calling herself Rita, has lost her memory after the accident, and the pair work together to find out Rita’s true identity. At the same time, Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), a Hollywood film director, is being pressured by mobsters to hire a young woman named Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George) as the lead actress in his latest project. His refusal to cast Camilla leads Adam down a dark path. In the films third act, everything gets turned on its head, and the lines between fantasy and reality become deeply blurred.
Unfortunately, just summing up the plot of this masterpiece from writer/director David Lynch doesn’t really do Mulholland Drive justice. The tagline for the film, “A Love Story In The City Of Dreams” helps to capture the essence of the film, but is still very cagey. Without going into massive amounts of detail, it is virtually impossible to explain whatMulholland Drive is really about, and for those of my Dear Readers who are yet to see the film, I don’t want to go spoiling too much here.
What I can say is that Mulholland Drive is a wonderful film. Like much of David Lynch’s work, it is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. For me, at its heart, the film is a love story, and the chemistry between Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring as they explore their love is fantastic, not to mention, steamy…
As for Naomi Watts, how the fuck she didn’t win an Oscar, or at the very least get a nomination, for her dual performance as Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn (don’t ask, just watch the film) I don’t know. Actually, I do know. The Academy was copping flack at the time due to the fact that black performers were very rarely getting recognised, so they were being accused of a racial bias. Coincidentally, at the 74th Academy Awards, Denzel Washington wins Best Actor for Training Day, and Halle Berry wins Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. To be fair, Denzel I can get behind. His performance in Training Day was nothing short of awesome, and he deserved his Oscar. But Halle Berry? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Did the voters just see her naked tits and think they deserved the Oscar? Her performance certainly didn’t.
She’s not a bad actress by any stretch of the imagination, but she shouldn’t have won that Oscar. Actually, looking at the winners and nominees for that year, the whole fucking thing was a mess, but that’s another story.
As I stated above, the film is also terrifying. While not a horror movie in the traditional sense,Mulholland Drivehas the ability to frighten in ways your typical slasher for example can only dream of. And dreams are the reason whyMulholland Drivefrightens. Because of its blurred lines between dreams and reality, the film can tap into those nightmare states where all our worst fears can and are explored. Our nightmares, because they can show us things and force us to experience things that our normal, waking life cannot provide, can show us all those last things we’d ever want to see. That’s something that David Lynch has frequently explored, and he does it better than anyone else. Sometimes, watching his films is like watching a living, breathing nightmare come to life. That’s what I call horror.
Take this scene for example. One of the themes explored in Mulholland Drive does concern the lines between fantasy and reality, and this scene, set in a diner, sums up the nature of that theme as explored throughout the film. Note that the music used in this clip is different from the music in the film itself for copyright reasons. But you’ll get the idea.
That’s some fucked up shit right there.
One of the greatest things about Mulholland Drive is its non-linear narrative. It leads you down a certain path, and then after a scene roughly two-thirds of the way in set in a place called Club Silencio, which for people watching closely explains the film central theme, the film takes an unexpected turn, and continues on its progressively more insane path until its conclusion. Viewers use to a conventional narrative will likely be confused when they reach this point, and that’s OK, I was too. It’s only after several more viewings that I have begun to piece together all the things going on throughout the film, and for those with the patience, trust me, it’s worth it. The more you unravel, the more you’ll take away on each viewing. Even then, it won’t all make sense, but hey, that’s the nature of dreams, anyway right?
As for all the different interpretations that can be made of the different plot threads of Mulholland Drive, I don’t want to say a great deal here, so as to not spoil the film for you, Dear Reader. But for the curious, there is lots and lots of material out there, so have a read.
I would love what you all have to say about the film, and if you have any theories. So please, don’t forget to drop me a line in the Comments section, so we can let the discussion begin.
5 out of 5. A true masterpiece.