Thursday, 10 December 2009

Reflections on Mulholland Drive, David Lynch, USA/ France 2001

Like everyone else, I suppose, I go back to my favourite films time and again, not - or not exclusively - to see and discover new and different things about the film with each viewing, but precisely because I want to revisit the familiar, so to speak. Why I am particularly attracted to Lynch's film at this time is anybody's guess, however, I am known to watch films over and over again, provided they hit a nerve, strike a chord, which presumably all our favourite films do. This, though, is putting it mildly in the case of Mulholland Drive and me!

If I had to pinpoint a few things about what attracts me to Lynch's film, one would surely be Badalamenti's soundtrack, not simply because it is brilliant - which it is! - but because it really does what a film score, a soundtrack, is supposed to do but more often than doesn't achieve: it underscores the action on screen. In so doing, Badalamenti's haunting score echoes the prevailing sense of doom which dominates Mulholland Drive from start to finish. This prevailing sense of doom, that cloak of darkness and 'stimmung' which permeates the film, and keeping it at the same level throughout the duration of the film, of course, is a considerable achievement in itself, and I take my hat off to Lynch that even after repeated viewings of his masterpiece, I'm still rapt, mesmerised, every time I see it primarily because it does put you under its spell from the very start.

Another reason why Mulholland Drive has lost nothing of its attraction is because it is drenched in mystery, because it is a riddle never to be (fully) solved.
Although the overall plot line has long become clear to me, there are moments in the film which remain inexplicable and that give me pause very time I see them. Yet, due to the rare symbiosis of excellent direction, outstanding set design, perfect soundtrack, brilliant casting, and a first-rate screenplay, these moments never lose any of their power, nor would you ever question their believability.
Somewhere, a blogger has suggested that overanalysing Mulholland Drive threatens to diminish its pull, its fascination, by taking away some of its mystery. The things we can't explain or fathom are always the ones that continue to fascinate us as we are perpetually tempted to probe, to get to the heart of the matter, to find answers for all the open questions. This is of course also the reason why Mulholland Drive has remained as scary and creepy to me as the first time I saw it: because what scares me - us - most are the things we can't explain.

Considering the sheer number of interpretations and analyses regarding the meaning behind Mulholland Drive that are floating on the web, I think it is safe to assume that the mystery will continue for quite some time and that, if anything, this 'overanalysis' has helped to keep the mystery and the fascination of Mulholland Drive alive and well. Also, Lynch, luckily, has resisted to offer any explanations on his part outside these '10 hints', made available when Mulholland Drive was released on DVD:

1. Pay particular attention to the beginning of the film: At least two clues are revealed before the credits

- These clues are: the jitterbug contest, which Diane Selwyn/ Betty wins and whom we see surrounded by the judges (?), her parents (?); the pink duvet the camera zooms in on immediately after, indicating that what we're about to see is a dream.

2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade

- There's a red lampshade in Diane Selwyn's apartment and one, I think in Aunt Ruth's apartment. This may indicate the two, if not more, realities of Mulholland Drive's narrative. As to the meaning of lampshade beyond that - you've got me there!

3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?

- 'The Sylvia North Story', which, I think is mentioned twice, first in Diane's/ Betty's dream and a second time at the film's end, during the dinner. If the title is anything to go by, 'The Sylvia North Story', presumably is a film about a young starlet who wants to strike it big in Hollywood and thus echoes Diane's own life.

4. An accident is a terrible event … Notice the location of the accident

- Mulholland Drive: the film's title, but also home to a host of film stars. Like Sunset Boulevard, it's also a never-ending street and, in my opinion, most importantly, similar to Sunset Boulevard, it has a rough end and a posh one, indicating the two sides of the 'Hollywood Coin' (see: Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard or Diane/ Betty in Lynch's film).
Mulholland Drive follows along the ridge of the Hollywood Hills and affords spectacular views across Los Angeles.

5. Who gives a key, and why?

- The blue key ... is found in Rita's/ Camilla's purse and is later given to Diane in the restaurant by the hitman. The key, I suppose, unlocks (and also locks!) Diane's dream world.

6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup

- I noticed them, but that's as far as I got ...

7. What is felt, realised and gathered at the club Silencio?

- Sadness. The realisation that Diane's/ Betty's relationship with Rita/ Camilla is not to last, that it is an illusion, like everything we just saw. After that scene, once the purse is opened containing the blue box, Diane's dream come to an end.

8. Did talent alone help Camilla?

- No! It is clear that she slept around, and not only that: she slept with her director to get the part and all at Diane's expense.

9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind 'Winkies'

- In my view, the bum with the frightful face represents Diane's dark side, her guilt and her bad conscience.

10. Where is Aunt Ruth?

- That's what I'd like to know, too ... For as we're told by Diane during the dinner, "her aunt died", so her appearance at the very end of the film can only be explained as a product of Diane's imagination.