“…the mental gymnastics David Lynch forces you to partake in have physical effects.”
Have you ever been watching a movie and then something, a character’s lines being weird or the editing creating a disorienting effect, will make you uncomfortable? This feeling is where David Lynch lives. I’m not as well-versed in Lynch’s works as I would like to be, but I have a limit for myself: no more than one David Lynch film a year. This allows me to not only dissect every single one of his films and give them the amount of attention and respect that they deserve, but more importantly it keeps his style fresh and keeps me from going insane. The movie for this year is arguably his most notable, Mulholland Drive.
The only other David Lynch film I had seen before last night was Blue Velvet, and while it was easily one of the weirder movies I have ever seen I didn’t dislike it. So going into Mulholland Drive, a movie about a woman trying to rediscover who she is after a car accident, I expected to be confused. And I was confused, but not because the movie was confusing; as a matter of fact it was the complete opposite.
As Mulholland Drive sauntered along its story I was never lost, which is something I didn’t expect. Sure everything that I was seeing was weird and only tangentially related to the rest of the movie at best, but I was surprisingly holding my own. The easiest way to describe Mulholland Drive, and even this is far from easy, is to say that it is like a dream. When you dream, things happen and they make sense but as soon as you wake up and look back on that dream you wonder what the fuck was going on.
I was gripped by the story presented in Mulholland Drive. So much so that I didn’t care that the movie was cutting back to storylines and characters who hadn’t been properly introduced or completely disregarding others that had. I was completely at the mercy of the director and I was enjoying the ride. Mulholland Drive presents a pretty solid noir story, and once again as far as David Lynch films go it was pretty grounded.
One thing that stuck out to me about the film was Lynch’s commentary on Hollywood itself, mainly the juxtaposition of the character of Betty (played by Naomi Watts) who arrives in the city bright-eyed and full of hopes, and the character of Rita (played by Laura Harring), who is our gateway into the darker underbelly of the silver city. Even things as simple as the costumes reflect this apparent commentary on the corruption of innocence in the city of angels. We see more of this in the performances in the film as well, namely with Naomi Watts growing more and more willing to do things that a girl from Deep River Ontario would never want to do.
But then it happened. Mulholland Drive acts as almost a bait-and-switch, not in the sense that I felt cheated but in the sense that David Lynch lulled me into this odd sense of knowing and then all at once pulled back the curtain to reveal that I knew nothing at all. I still have absolutely no idea what happened in this movie after Betty and Rita go on an adventure at two o’clock in the morning. I don’t even know if I’m supposed to know what happened. I have so many questions, and yet at the same time I’m also alright with the film existing as its own thing and me never knowing anything about it.
Mulholland Drive is not a movie for the faint of heart. It sets up a fairly pedestrian story, at lest for a David Lynch film, but then all at once rips it away as you are left alone and grasping for answers. All I can say is if you are going to watch Mulholland Drive make sure to have some aspirin ready for the end of the movie, because the mental gymnastics David Lynch forces you to partake in have physical effects.
I give Mulholland Drive a B