A few years back at my Nan’s house, I become engrossed in the film, ‘The Elephant Man’. I have always held an interest for film but I was younger then and didn’t take much notice to directors filmographies. But now as a film student and cinephile I take great pride in viewing, analysing and writing about everything film. I stumbled across the film ‘Mulholland Drive (2001)’ through a quiz show question on the best film of the 21st century and later found it was written and directed by the same person..David Lynch. As one possessing a curious mind, I wished to see it. A few days ago when searching the shelves at CEX (a hobby’s of mine, if you can call it that) I found the dvd of Mulholland Drive starring back at me (inside was 5 art postcards, a very exciting sight for a nerd like me). I purchased it alongside ‘The City of Lost Children’ and proceeded to exit the shop with a skip in my step. If your still reading now, I take it your interested and your here to stay and read my analytical film studies review of the film along with my interpretation of the characters and the films semiotics (the review has extreme spoilers because of its nature, if you haven’t seen the film watch it now).
The film commences in a state of ‘Medias res’ (a literacy and cinema term to describe starting in the middle of something), the viewer is presented with visions of couples dancing through the use of duplication techniques on screen: giving the feel of a typical 1950s musical poster. This sequence foreshadows the unpredictable and bizarre moments of cinema to come while introducing the viewer to two important characters (the elderly couple) that are frequently reintroduced. David Lynch Swiftly transitions into a long holding title sequence accompanied by an enchanting/horrifying soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalamenti, welcoming the viewer along for a mind-twisting 150 minute journey complete with high levels of thrills and suspense.
Initially, Mulholland Drive (2001) introduces the audience into a gripping scenario following the events after a tragic car accident in the early hours of the morning. The viewer soon comes into contact with two protagonist characters, Betty and later an amnesiac Rita (choosing the name after spotting a Rita Hayworth poster in an apartment she is residing in). David Lynch presents an experimental Active Spectatorship style of filmmaking from the outset and forces the viewer to become a Sherlock Holmes like character, deciphering the message.
Now onto my interpretation of the film, I previously thought Mulholland Drive was a dream sequence. However, after watching the film for the third time I believe it to follow three themes: an interpretation of events from Diane selwyn’s point of view, a dream experienced by Diane and aspects of wonder. (This interpretation is my walkthrough discussion of the film from my point of view, please watch the film now if you haven’t seen it already).
Mulholland Drive (2001) for me Is a presentation of two separate stories (a storyline inside of another story) Seen through the creation of two character representations (Betty and Rita in the idealistic world & Diane Selwyn and Camilla Rhodes in reality). Betty and Rita are shown to the audience in the first section of the film and feel to me after watching, as an idealistic creation produced by Diane Selwyn. The audience are aware after finishing the film of Diane’s jealously for her best friend (Camilla) in terms of her fame, sexual attraction and her recent marriage announcement with Adam Kesher (A famous Hollywood director). Diane also has a sexual interest in camilla and acts in a possessive manner towards her relationship, all of these acts infuriate her. despite their close friendship and Diane’s love for Camilla these acts lead Diane Selwyn to place a contract out on Camilla (seen towards the end of the film inside of the Winkies Diner, a prevalent, recurring location in the film).
The final scenes in reality show Diane as a down and out individual showing symptoms of depression and loneliness. I feel Her acts in reality lead to the in dream representation of a tramp who lives behind Winkies, because of the previous event that took place there (The hiring of a hit man), Diane Selwyn feels as if Winkies holds the sinister elements to her personality. She regrets her decision and is afraid of what she has become. My interpretation suggests the tramp or monster is a metaphorical representation of how Diane is isolated in society (reality) and cut off from her friend through death while also representing the fear of herself and the questioning for her actions (what has Diane Selwyn become?). Hence why the tramp is always shown alone in the film with a low quality of life. (Diane is fearful of herself/ the tramp is a representation of Diane). Earlier on in the film we learn of a gentleman who dreamed of the tramp and fainted with the mental vision of the monster, I feel this scenario is a dream that Diane Selwyn experiences before waking up to the sounds of a knocking door.
Other semiotics in the film are the elderly couple, the cowboy, the mafia and the club silencio. My interpretation suggests the elderly couple are manifestations of Diane’s previous life full of hope and excitement returning to her, the audience are aware that the elderly couple are presented in the dance competition where Mulholland Drive (2001) opens. Within Diane’s idealistic interpretation of events the elderly lady, Irene said she would look out for her on the screen. In reality, Diane feels trapped under the shadow of Camilla and is ashamed of her failure, she in fact is a good actress and full of potential but her jealousy for camilla is stopping her achievements. The elderly couple in the dream could also suggest she has failed to achieve what she had set out to do. Moreover, the elderly couple are madly in love with each other: they will smile, laugh and slap each others legs in contentment. This could suggest that the elderly couple have something Diane (reality) doesn’t, true love and affection is hard to come by in Hollywood and Diane Selwyn is jealous of them. The mental vision of the elderly couple are one of the reasons for Diane’s suicide in reality towards the end of the film. Diane wishes she could go back to a time in her previous life to refresh herself both emotionally and physically in terms of drug addiction, here the elderly couple could represent a time of pureness in Diane’s life.
The cowboy and the mafia within the ideal world could suggest a reassurance for why Diane Selwyn isn’t being chosen to act the main roles in films. Both the mafia and the cowboy are intimidating figures in Mulholland Drive (2001) and manipulate the director, Adam Kesher out of creative freedoms (forcing him to choose the blonde Camilla Rhodes). Furthermore, Betty is protected from the concept of Camilla (black hair) getting the parts, this allows Betty and Rita to experience a loving relationship, with Betty having dominance over Rita (which Diane doesn’t have in reality, but wishes she could control Camilla).
The club silencio shows the unpredictable side to the film, the characters and especially Camilla act out of the ordinary in this scene and for me this adds to my understanding that the first section of Mulholland Drive is an idealistic world created by Diane. It is acompanied by themes of wonder and sereialism. When looking back to the events taking place in my own dreams, I often find the scenes are creepy, in a non linear presentation and sometimes even cryptic in its approach. When within my dreams I fully understand the situation, what is happening there, who the characters are and swiftly changing stories seem to fit in and make sense, when looking back at a dream in reality I am often confused by it and don’t see the connection. This is the same in David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’, the club silencio seems out of place from the rest of the film but yet again feels as if it is needed and has a connection (just like in dreams). In addition to this, the club silencio is the climax of the films confusion, the scene takes the audience from having an understanding to being shifted back to the square one. This climax could also represent the confusion experienced by Diane in real life; presenting her mixed emotions for what has happened in the last few days.
Furthermore, David Lynch presents the themes of a daydream in reality alongside multiple flashbacks to events that took place in the real word. The flashbacks are created in a similar idealistic presentation to the first part of the film while showing a negative slant on Diane’s and Camilla’s relationship. These events occur after the blue box is opened, the swift zoom into the box could show the divide between the ideal world and reality while incorporating the idea of the unknown (now in reality, Diane isn’t sure of her future). The daydream sequence is witnessed with Diane Selwyn visualising Camilla reunited after death. Diane regrets her decision of organising a hit on Camilla and here realises the importance of having a close friend in life.
The ending of the film reverses all of the themes the viewer thought was correct and adds a level of mystery to the plot. When the rolling titles of Mulholland Drive appeared, my mind was confused and I didn’t exactly know what I had just watched. After watching, I read online and saw the film is up to interpretation and a high number of theories exist. I didn’t wish to read much about it as I longed to make my own interpretations for what the film meant, so I wanted to take the previously proposed view of Mulholland Drive being a dream sequence or an ideal world and see what I could take from the characters and the film on a second viewing. In reflection, Mulholland Drive is a masterpiece of cinema for the filmmaking techniques, non linear storyline and puzzling nature. A film possessing the rewatch factor: you really do wish to rewatch it over an over again. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts and interpretation of the text. Please comment down below.
Written by Cameron Savage