detract from a fantastic film!”
David Lynch is not an easy director, so I was very happy walking out from Mulholland’s Drive, thinking I had for once understood everything! Reading about the movie afterwards and following the discussion has made me realise that there are multiple interpretations… David Lynch has refused to comment on Mulholland Drive ‘s meaning, though he has presented a list of 10 not so helpful clues. One of the actors, Justin Theroux, said: “I think he’s genuinely happy for it to mean anything you want. He loves it when people come up with really bizarre interpretations. David works from his subconscious.”
The movie starts as a conventional whodunit. During its first 100 minutes, Mulholland Drive lays out a network of interwoven plots revolving around a car crash, several murders and the problems besetting a young director. The film starts with a scene with an attractive young woman (Laura Harring) dressed up for a party in the backseat of a car that pulls to a stop on Mulholland Drive overlooking Los Angeles’ glittering lights. As the sinister driver turns and at gunpoint instructs the woman to step out of the vehicle, it is slammed from behind by a car packed with drunken revelers and bursts into flame. Emerging from the wreckage before the police arrive, the backseat passenger walks away, the sole survivor. Except for a case of amnesia, she appears miraculously unscathed. Descending into the city, she takes refuge in a plush empty apartment.
Hours later, Betty (Naomi Watts) an aspiring actress, who has just arrived in Los Angeles, appears and finds the amnesiac survivor taking a shower. The strange woman, who brought a bag stuffed with money and a strange blue key with her from the car, doesn’t know who she is and takes the name “Rita” (from Rita Hayworth) off a poster in the apartment advertising “Gilda”. Betty befriends Rita and tries to help her to find out her identity. From there they are plunged through the looking glass into a delusory dream world. The story line splinters, doubles back on itself, and begins to forge an entirely new set of connections. Roles change, and identities mutate.
Through a mosaic of cliché and surreal, nightmares and fantasies, nonlinear story lines, Lynch presents a movie that challenges viewers.
One critic wrote: “an offence against narrative order… the film is an intoxicating liberation from sense, with moments of feeling all the more powerful for seeming to emerge from the murky night world of the unconscious.”
Obviously the two main female actresses interpreted the film quite differently:
Watts: “I had therefore come up with my own decisions about what this meant and what this character was going through, what was dream and what was reality. My interpretation could end up being completely different, from both David and the audience. But I did have to reconcile all of that, and people seem to think it works… I thought Diane was the real character and that Betty was the person she wanted to be and had dreamed up. Rita is the damsel in distress and she’s in absolute need of Betty, and Betty controls her as if she were a doll. Rita is Betty’s fantasy of who she wants Camilla to be.”
Harring: “When I saw it the first time I thought it was the story of Hollywood dreams, illusion and obsession. It touches on the idea that nothing is quite as it seems, especially the idea of being a Hollywood movie star. The second and third times I saw it, I thought it dealt with identity. Do we know who we are? And then I kept seeing different things in it. There is no right or wrong to what someone takes away from it or what they think the film is really about. It’s a movie that makes you continuously ponder, makes you ask questions. It intrigues you. You want to get it, but I don’t think it’s a movie to be gotten. It’s achieved its goal if it makes you ask questions.”
Mulholland Drive premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival in May to major critical acclaim. Lynch was awarded the Best Director prize at the festival.