Posted by: ckckred | December 26, 2012

Mulholland Drive

A surrealist film done in the style of a film noir

A surrealist film done in the style of a film noir

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  The film was actually originally made up of parts of a failed TV pilot Lynch made.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.


  1. Glad you liked this one so much, it’s my second favorite movie of all time and Watts’s work is my favorite performance ever. It’s so intricate but what I love about that story is that it can be solved as Lynch dropped so many clever hints and clues.

    • Glad you agree. I don’t have an official top 10 list but I think this would be in my personal 15. I need to see some more films by David Lynch (I’ve started watching Twin Peaks and have been hooked on it). I’m going to try to see Blue Velvet next.

      • Blue Velvet is fantastic, another one worth seeing is Wild at Heart.

  2. Great review, I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while now.

    • I highly recommend it. Try paying attention to the details of the film, which will help explain the ending. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Great review man. I’ve not seen this but I’ve heard it’s pretty weird. SMS I’ve spoken to have said it’s a masterpiece and others have said it’s awful! I do intend on seeing it ASAP though as I’d like to make up my own mind in it.

    • It is pretty weird. It’s certainly not in everyone’s tastes, but I loved it. It’s good to prepare for watching it though and I will warn you the ending may make no sense at all. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Great write up for a great film, glad you found it compelling. 🙂

    • Thanks! I’ve started getting into David Lynch’s work and recently seen the first episode of Twin Peaks. I’ve got Blue Velvet and Eraserhead on my watch list.

  5. I’m there right with you…I don’t get this movie, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. I thought it was a really great movie…but I just wished I could understand it better. I have a hard time selling this film to all my buddies. I’ve always thought maybe pandora’s box was involved somehow, because of those two super creepy miniature elderly people “dancing” out of a box. Then again…I can never figure out who the bad guy is in Scooby Doo…so, I wouldn’t trust my instincts. 🙂

    • Yeah, I never did fully understand the story. I’m pretty sure that the last thirty minutes or so serve as reality and everything beforehand is a dream. I’m not sure what the box serves as, but it’s sure one powerhouse of a movie. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I’ve seen it a few times and am convinced that everything up until the moment Naomi Watts’ character opens the box is a dream. The imagery used by Lynch seems to suggest that’s the case, in my opinion. Everything after that takes place in the real world, which is why we suddenly see a very different Betty. It’s a brilliant film that rewards repeat viewing. Definitely in my personal Top 10.

    • I think I agree that everything before the box is a dream. I feel that the last half an hour serves as an explanation for the story and Lynch drops many hints from beforehand (like the guy from the diner). The more I think about it, the more I like it and I think this would be in my personal top 15 films. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Glad you like it so much. I cannot argue with the praise as it truly is unique and manages to accomplish what it sets out to do. I like that we are to interpret it ourselves, though I can see how that is frustrating for some.

    • Thanks! I feel that Lynch was trying to make the audience interpret the ending and gives hints about it beforehand. This is one I definitely want to see again.

  8. […] I saw Mulholland Drive, a movie that instantly became on of my favorite films.  Eager to watch something else by director […]

  9. Fantastic review man. I really need to see this again. I remember on the inside of the DVD case, Lynch had include a series of clues in order to decipher the whole mystery. It’s a stunning piece of cinema.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I think really the first two hours of the film are clues to decipher the ending. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen.

  10. Great review! I absolutely love this film and think David Lynch is such a genius. I needed a second viewing to figure the whole thing out and when I did it felt as if I’d just witnessed the best film ever made. So smart, subtle, dark, surreal, haunting, exciting and sad at the same time. Naomi Watts’ performance is one of the better ones ever in my opinion and it could very well be that this is my favorite film ever. It’s definitely in my top 10. Give Blue Velvet a watch too, another great Lynch film!


    • Thanks! I think it’ll be in my top 10 as well. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen. I’ve watched over a season of Twin Peaks, and am planning to see Blue Velvet soon. Thanks for commenting.

  11. By chance will you post your own interpretation of the film, like the dream theory you’ve mentioned so far, or will it just be left in the comments?

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m planning on watching it again sometime soon, so I can write a full-on interpretation. I’ve watched it a few times, each time grasping a stronger connection to the story and loving it even more.

  12. […] review from The Best Picture Project 2012 review from Cinematic 2001 review from Roger […]

  13. […] 1. Mulholland Dr. […]

  14. A great film. If you want to see something that you can think about, dissect with others for the rest of your damned life, then this is the one! Who, what, when, where and why are words that immediately spring to mind. In my opinion, do NOT bother! Just sit back and admire the remarkable and gorgeous Naomi Watts, who, in this movie, performs every possible emotion known to humanity. There is the audition scene with the late Chad Everett that is completely mind blowing, not only to the viewer, but to the other people in the actual scene, including Mr Everett. Are they acting here, or are they simply in awe and Lynch just kept the film rolling?
    The greatest film mystery ever made!

    N.B. And Roy Orbison is obviously greatly admired by Mr Lynch and deservedly so!

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