By Brad Detchevery
Orginal: May 20, 2002
If you are reading this guide than I will assume that you just finished watching Mullholland Drive, a film by David Lynch. If you’re anything like me, your mind is grasping and anything and everything to try to make some sense of this picture, the storyline, plot, characters, what the whole movie was about. This guide cannot make sense of the madness of this film or its director, but rather gives an overview of the picture, surmises on why the movie maybe why it is, and makes grand assumptions on what the movie is about. These are my faint attempts to make sense of a movie that make a surrealistic painting look like a true work of art.
First things first, the movie doesn’t make sense and it’s not supposed to, Mr Lynch never intended it to. It is very important to understand this simple statement before going any further. The human mind has a need to make sense of everything, and it is this need that MullHolland Drive preys upon. The yearning to make sense of a random sense of events, untied subplots, and changing character names into a nice easy flowing story that we can easily grasp and then move on with our lives.
Mr Lynch is the same director that brought us the TV story Twin Peaks. A careful examination of this director’s style reveals that a common thread in his pictures is to leave open ended subplots and untied up endings to leave the audience wondering what is going on, what does this scene have to do with the movie ?, what happened to this character. Mr Lynch fills our minds with scene after random scene as our mind tries to grasp the meaning and continues to come up with nothing. Mullholland Drive is no exception.
Mullholland Drive was originally intended to be the pilot for an ABC TV series. Rumour has it that ABC/Walt Disney invested close to 7 million dollars into this pilot and got a story that was so twisted and confusing they did not want to take the gamble and release it to TV. It appears that the original screenplay revolved around 2 characters (Betty/Rita) as they start a new life together in Hollywood, after discovering that Rita has lost her memory, and appears to have been involved with some type of murder. Of course, many of the numerous subplots regarding the blue key, the director, the strange guy behind the restaurant (Denny’s) may have advanced further in a mini-series style TV show, but there isn’t time to do this if the picture is being turned into a movie, and since leaving loose ends is Mr Lynch’s style, who would notice any difference.
Okay, so imagine for a moment that you just wrote a pilot for a TV series only to be told that your picture is too confusing for the TV audience and that it would not be aired. Well like any mentally instance storyteller and director, you take your vengeance out on your work, totally mess it up so that it is un-recognizable. This is probably similar to what a writing or painter might to
do respond to criticism, or what a ‘sur-realistic’ artist does. Mr Lynch does this with his movie, he attempts to condense what he thought of as a TV series into a 2.5 hour motion picture and still convey the message of life in Hollywood, while at the same time making a statement about the way he ‘see’s life as a filmmaker, director, and his interaction with the actors, and actresses in his life. Or so I imagine anyway.
I think that the changing of the characters name in the last 30-45 minutes of the movie is to make a statement on the many faces of people in Hollywood. One one hand, there is a distinction between the lives of the actors and the characters they play, the way people think of actors and the attributes the general public have of them, and their actual lives, something which the general public knows nothing about. Another possible statement is the many faces of a person. How one day a person can be open and willing to help with a movie/series and then the next day close everything down and turn against you. I think Mr Lynch felt this way before ABC cancelled his MullHolland Drive series idea, but further enhanced it in his last 30 minutes after this experience.
I think he also tried to portray the many different types of actors in Hollywood from the naive/innocent type (Betty) to the cut-throat do anything to get ahead type (Joe – the guy that botched the fake suicide/murder). I think Lynch probably identifies most with Dan, the guy that has the dream about the monster behind the restaurant. He is afraid of things that he knows can/does happen yet is powerless to do anything about it, and he cannot stand to be directly confronted with it so has to approach it from this unique sur-realistic viewpoint. (the dream)
When Betty first gets of the plane, she says goodbye to an old Woman, and man. I think that these represent the ‘audience’ from Lynch’s point of view. Again with multiple faces here, as interested and excited about a new film, but at the same time a ‘stress’ to live up to, a ‘something’ to satisfy. Perhaps, no matter how hard he tries, he can never quite get there and they are always on his mind.
These are just some ideas of what might have been going through Mr Lynch’s mind as he mangled his twisted TV pilot, into a confusing array of random scene’s sewn together by his hopes and desires. Some would say that you can’t fault Mr Lynch for this because this is the way he makes his movies, so he is simply holding true to his nature. These are probably the same people that look at abstract art and see meaning in it.
I hope that this paper has helped you to put to rest the many thoughts that may flow through your mind after watching the picture, if not I urge you to try. Destroy the movie and forget you ever saw it, because the deeper you look into it, the more confused you become, and in the end only Mr. Lynch knows what his movie was about, what was going on in his head, and I doubt he will ever tell us in plain and simple terms.
© 2002 Brad Detchevery. All thoughts expressed are the opinion of the author and may hold no resemblance to reality.