After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
‘Mulholland Drive’ is David Lynch’s masterpiece, a film he’d been building up to throughout his career and the film where his undoubted abilities combine to create something truly special. When I first watched this film a couple of years ago, my review opened with,
“I think I’ve watched one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how, as I’m perplexed by the plot, by what the film was really about, and what did everything mean? But I absolutely loved this.”
That opinion holds true on a second watch. The film is still utterly engrossing, and yet entirely open to interpretation and it doesn’t provide easy answers. For the first hour and a half, the film seems to follow a fairly straightforward path, telling a couple of different stories set within Hollywood, but the last act is where things get really intriguing and surreal. Lynch pulls the rug from beneath the audience’s feet and the change in direction causes you to re-evaluate everything that has happened up to that point. ‘Mulholland Drive’ is a challenging watch, and it requires your full attention but I can’t think of many films that have left me sitting upright and trying to digest what I’ve just watched at the end of the film, with several theories and thoughts running through my mind.
The film loosely tells the story of an aspiring actress called Betty (Naomi Watts), who has travelled to LA and stays in her aunt’s house. When she arrives, she finds a femme fatale (in the classic noir sense) in the apartment, with amnesia and just escaped from a car crash. The film then follows their attempts to uncover the mystery that led her to the apartment in the first place. At the same time, different story threads are going on- mainly with a director (Justin Theroux) but also with other characters, who randomly appear and don’t return till much later, if at all. To describe what happens exactly is nigh on possible- I would just urge anyone to take the chance to watch this, and do so with an open mind. There aren’t many films today that challenge the viewer to such an extent, present clues and present you with a mystery to solve. In this film, you are the detective and it is up to you to work out what is going on, and what the film is about.
This is the film that gave Naomi Watts her big break in Hollywood and she is terrific throughout, whilst Laura Harring is equally appealing and the scenes between the two are utterly magnetic, charged with sexual desire. That infatuation from Betty with Rita (Harring) is important later on, and I believe is the key reason for my interpretation of the narrative and meaning behind the film. Lynch’s films are often like a dream or a nightmare, and like either of those experiences, things aren’t always clear and things don’t always make perfect sense.
My thoughts below in italics contain my understanding of the story – they contain major spoilers so I’d urge you not to read if you haven’t yet seen the film.
For the record, after reading several theories, I loosely subscribe to the view that the first 90 minutes or so is a fantasy dreamed up by Naomi Watts character, and the time after that is her waking up from the fantasy and we lapse into real life. Random scenes are scattered about and some real scenes have sneaked into the dream section, and the other way about. Ultimately, I believe Betty was in love with ‘Rita’, they fell out and she hires a hitman to take her out. Wikipedia is interesting to understand alternative interpretations and thoughts on the logic of the narrative.
Overall, ‘Mulholland Drive’ is a stunning piece of cinema and it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. On this journey through David Lynch’s filmography you’ll have seen that my views can vary quite considerably from film to film, but every film has been an experience unlike anything else you’ll see at the cinema. For any fan of cinema, Lynch’s original voice is something that you really ought to check out, and ‘Mulholland Drive’ is his finest trip.
Directed By: David Lynch
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Dan Hedaya, Ann Miller, Robert Forster, Melissa George and Billy Ray Cyrus