Thursday, January 4, 2007

By Request ... the Mulholland Drive Post (Part One of One Million)

Well maybe not one million posts about Mulholland Drive, but once I get started on this film, I find it kind of hard to stop. I posted about Lynch's new film, Inland Empire yesterday, and Allison asked if I would post about Mulholland - one of my absolute favorites. I don't have so much of an interpretation about Mulholland Drive - more like a series of experiences, so this may not quite be what you're looking for. Nonetheless, it is one way of looking at it.

I first saw Mulholland Drive in 2002, renting it from my local video store and watching it over a period of two days. I liked it, but it was in the weeks that followed that it would, in fact, become so important. Like any really good piece of art - it haunted me. It haunted me while I was traveling with my family in Europe, away from the comfort of simply being able to rent it once more. I was haunted by a number of things that summer - notably a series of films (Donnie Darko, Open Your Eyes, Lynch's Lost Highway) which all somehow seemed connected. On my trip, I was comforted only by books about postmodernism, and the David Bowie cd, Heathen. As one who likes clues, and is always searching for (and subsequently creating) mysteries, there seemed to be a mystery lying somewhere in the texts of all these works. On one level, it was about America or more specifically post-9/11 America. On another, it was all about me - but that's a bit too personal to discuss now.

Realizing that this could become ridiculously long, without an actual Mulholland Drive pseudo-interpretation, I shall cut right to the chase. I've since watched Mulholland Drive a number of times, and the more I watch it, the less I actually understand - or the less I want(?)/choose(?) to understand. In fact, I don't worry anymore about whether or not it actually makes sense to me. I love the noir-ish backdrop, and I can think of no other film which builds up its mystery in such an intriguing fashion. The conclusion isn't exactly satisfying, but I never viewed it as an explanation. Like Dale Cooper said in Lynch's popular Twin Peaks series, "My dream is a code, Harry. Break the code, solve the crime." Mulholland Drive is a code - a puzzle if you will.

I've heard interpretations - none of which are genuinely satisfying. They for the most part revolve around the belief that what we see in the last half hour is "the truth" and what we have been watching up to that point is a "dream/fantasy" on the part of one Naomi Watts. This would be much like Lost Highway, where Bill Pullman cannot deal with the fact he has just killed his wife and will be sentenced to death, that he creates a fantasy for himself to escape only to find that he cannot even succeed in that. Such may be the case with Mulholland Drive but I will refuse to believe it as such. I don't trust Lynch enough to think at any moment he is revealing "truth."

America the country is built around a series of false ideas. I don't know whether the America described by history, or the institution known as the American dream, ever really existed. I do know now that they pretty much exist as an illusion - a trick. Yet, a number of institutions are in place to see that the belief in such a dream/illusion is kept alive - because believing in the illusion is just a bit safer. So, in this American illusion, we have a series of dreamers - not just Naomi Watts as Betty Roberts (happy-go-lucky aspiring actress), but all of the individuals who populate the dreamland of Los Angeles. It's no coincidence that Lynch chooses LA as a setting. No other American city represents the disconnect between what's real and what's an illusion better. Betty even goes so far as to refer to it as a dreamworld. Of course, in any magic trick, there's a flaw - a single moment when the actual truth can be spotted, beneath what's on the surface. In the illusion of America, there are moments big and small, that pull back the curtain and reveal what's really there; moments that seem as though they should never happen, but are very much real).

Mulholland Drive is kind of futuristic science fiction - just in the present day without the presence of Laurence Fishbourne to give us a choice between which pill to take. Mulholland Drive is about trying to live in that American illusion, yet ultimately finding too many cracks in the pavement. The problem is that cracks in the pavement or glitches in the system don't actually reveal real truth - because the real and the fantasy have become so intertwined that one is in fact not more real than the other. There is no real because that real never existed in the first place. It's kind of about how America lost its way, while asking whether this idealized version of the country that we hear about ever existed to begin with.


Allison said...

You need to do more film posts Will, this was excellent.

I think you're right in that the more you try to analyze the film, the less it starts to make sense. I first saw this film right before I started film school, and during the first screening I wasn't able to discuss the picture with anyone after, which has always been an important factor in my viewing. Now that you mention the ending as not being important, I think that might have be one of the reasons I was so confused in the beginning, an ending being ingrained in my viewing unconsciously. Now, I've grown accustom to watching so many experimental films I could probably appreciate it on a different level.

There is no real because the real never existed in the first place really could caption, tagline with film. Very well put. Its been able 3 years since I've watched it, I think I might have to try it again. Thanks again for posting this.

Will said...

Thanks, Allison ... I may try and do more film posts (I would like to), though I tend to get a bit much with the words. Once a film student, always a film student, I guess.

I like to see the ending as one part of a puzzle, as opposed to a resolution.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You know, I never did see the ending of MD. The dvd crapped out on us and we somehow never got around to renting it again.

However, I am certain I would have been totally flummoxed had I seen it all the way through.

Lovely interpretation, Will.

Jacquie said...

Wonderful assessment. I too love this film and I appreciate it's impressionistic qualities without too much analysis. It's a fully realized David Lynch film.
I read a few things to try and understand it more...about the locks and keys and reality, but I like it fine without trying to solve it, as you say. I thought Naomi Watts was a revelation in this film, also.

It was interesting to read your personal experiences related to this.