Mulholland Drive (2001)

Theatrical release poster showing the film's title against a dark blue image of the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles atop another still shot of Laura Elena Harring in a blonde wig staring at something off camera toward the lower right corner

Mulholland Drive is a film by David Lynch that was intentionally envisioned as the pilot to a television show, much like Twin Peaks, however, executives deemed that a Mulholland Drive TV series would be ‘too expensive’ to make, and thus, Mulholland Drive was re-purposed as a feature film; a feature film that would gain notoriety as David Lynch’s greatest cinematic achievement that was loved by his fans and critics alike. Thematically, Mulholland Drive is a haunting drama that satirizes the lives of those work in the Hollywood film industry, but like any good David Lynch work of art, there’s definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to Mulholland Drive.

Mulholland Drive is a very complex, esoteric film which follows the emotional journey of an amnesiac – Rita –  and a young actress – Betty – as they try to discover what happened to Rita and why she is in possession of a lot of money and small, blue key. However, despite having a relatively simple premise, Mulholland Drive is a film that is full of haunting symbolism, powerfully emotional sequences and confusingly surreal plot points. Mulholland Drive is definitely one of David Lynch’s more strange and surreal films due to the incorporation of very abstract storytelling and vivid imagery that borders on the horrific. At face value, it’s quite hard to understand what Mulholland Drive is actually about, because David Lynch purposely made the film like a very complex puzzle, where a viewer has to put the pieces together themselves. David Lynch himself has confirmed that Mulholland Drive contains a deeper meaning underneath the surface, and that by reading into subtle clues throughout the film, one is able to understand that meaning. However, I have to admit that I am neither smart enough, nor eclectic enough, to uncover the meanings behind David Lynch’s clues and understand the film for myself. However, despite not knowing what the film is actually about, it’s quite evident that Mulholland Drive a very thought-provoking film. David Lynch incorporates the use of artistic abstractness and deep symbolism throughout the entire film, which prompts a viewer think more about what’s happening onscreen instead of just watching the film like it’s something to enjoy and forget.

Aesthetically, Mulholland Drive is quite a beautiful film to watch. David Lynch’s iconic cinematic style of intense camera angles, slow shots and warm, surreal lighting is as incredibly effective as it was in his previous works, however, Mulholland Drive incorporates a lot of slow, almost dream-like scenes full of atmosphere and tension, which are enhanced by David Lynch’s iconic style. At times, Mulholland Drive can be quite an anxiety-inducing watch due to numerous surreal, yet intimidating sequences of violence, sex and bizarre character interactions. However, despite this, I personally feel that Mulholland Drive is one of David Lynch’s more accessible films as the film is actually very varied when it comes to tone. Mulholland Drive does feature some very dark and stressful scenes, like other David Lynch films, but Mulholland Drive is the only David Lynch film I’ve seen so far that incorporates bizarre comedic sequences that offset the dark tone. As a result, Mulholland Drive is much more enjoyable to watch than Blue Velvet, or Lost Highway. I feel that Mulholland Drive is a film that was intended to make an audience think, ponder, and enjoy, instead of being a film that tries to create an uncomfortable, almost unwatchable experience like David Lynch manages to do with Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Eraserhead.

Mulholland Drive is film that was originally released to an uproar by critics. Many praised the film for it’s experimental and emotional story, many condemned it for the exact same reason. I, personally, really enjoyed watching Mulholland Drive. It’s a very bizarre film with a lot of subtext that only the most eclectic of viewers can truly appreciate, but the film’s evolving plot and creatively horrific imagery kept my attention through the 147 minute running time. It’s not my personal favourite film by David Lynch, but I definitely feel that Mulholland Drive deserves its title as David Lynch’s finest film. I believe that Mulholland Drive should be the first port of call for anyone interested in the films of David Lynch, or anyone interested in surreal, thought provoking cinema.

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