David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is a haunting movie, crafted in great detail. The film opens as a fairytale and ends as a nightmare. It’s one of the most accomplished, most intriguing, and strongest films I have ever seen. I’ve rarely felt the same way watching the movie unfold, which was a mixture of exhilaration and fear.
Mulholland Drive starts off with an unnamed woman (Laura Elena Harring) in a limousine. She is about to be shot by the thugs driving the the car when all the sudden the limousine is hit by some drag racers. The woman wanders out of the busted-up car with only a cut on her head into the streets of Las Angeles. She finds refuge in an empty apartment.
But she does not remain alone for long. Soon, an aspiring actress named Betty (Naomi Watts) enters the apartment, which belongs to her Aunt Ruth. She plans to audition for movies and is surprised to find someone already there. The woman adopts the name Rita after seeing a Gilda poster, and seeks help from Betty as she has lost her memory. Betty agrees, and soon they both search the streets of Las Angeles for answers.
There are other stories as well interwoven into the movie. A movie director (Justin Theroux) is threatened with death unless he casts a certain actress into his movie. A hit man (Mark Pellegrino) tries to clean up the mess of three dead bodies after a failed robbery. A man tells another of a horrible figure he saw before, and when the two go back there to explore, the man collapses with fright.
The story of Mulholland Drive may appear confusing based on my plot description and it is. The film was actually originally made up of parts of a failed TV pilot Lynch made. He later filmed new sequences in order to complete the film. While that may give the image that Mulholland Drive is a sloppily made film, that’s far from the case. It’s an intricate movie to the smallest detail; everything is finely crafted. I understood that Lynch is not try to explain the story but lay it out for the audience. Essentially he makes the audience the detective, trying to uncover the mystery. Everything in the movie matters and appears later in the film in ways unexpected.
As I watched Mulholland Drive, I was reminded of Federico Fellini’s 8 ½. Both films are not just done in a surrealistic style but require the audience to think past the story. Like Fellini, Lynch makes the viewer question what is reality and what isn’t. The ending of Mulholland Drive, which spans to about a half an hour, is essentially an explanation of the film. It’s very difficult to comprehend, and I will freely admit I didn’t fully understand it, but I believe that to be Lynch’s intention. Like what Stanley Kubrick did with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lynch wants the audience to interpret the movie instead of the director. Mulholland Drive has polarized many because of this, who find it a pretentious, confusing, and self-indulgent mess, but I found it captivating and intriguing. As the movie progressed, I was glued to the screen.
As I said before, Mulholland Drive progresses over time, and uncovers the nightmares the are under the surface. The film starts off rather innocently. When Betty first enter Las Angeles, she meets two smiling seniors who were on the plane. She is greeted by a friendly taxi driver. And her land lady is played by, and I’m serious about this, Ann Miller. Yet as the film rolls on this image is destroyed by darkness. Betty loses her innocence and enters a realm of evil. The smiles fade away and turn into wicked laughs. Las Angeles is no longer a place of dreams for her but a landscape of vileness.
Rita serves as the entrances for Betty into this world. The two soon get involved in a world of violence and chaos, finding a dead body inside of an apartment and hiding from suspected villains. Mulholland Drive takes a different approach to film noirs and doesn’t establish the two characters with typical Hollywood cliches. It takes some of the ideas (Betty reminded me of a blonde from an Alfred Hitchcock movie) but never fully embraces them. While Betty acts as a detective, Rita is a confused individual, looking for her own identity or dreams. The ending of the film may turn this around completely.
Whatever the case, Mulholland Drive is one the greatest creations in film history, a picture so intriguing and captivating that it takes the viewer into its own world. Lynch has made a film questioning ourselves and focuses on the difference between reality and deception. The conclusion of the film paints a dark picture of life itself, one that will surely be one of the most haunting images I have seen.