Last year the BBC conducted a poll where David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive was voted the greatest film of the 21st century. Naturally this got the attention of people from different walks of life, all with different levels of interest in cinema. What people have to understand is that film critics (who like films in funny languages with weird writing down the bottom) will not select an ordinary film as the greatest. That’s the attitude you will have to take when watching Mulholland Drive, it is not an ordinary film.
It’s best to go into Mulholland Drive totally blind. All I knew was it was voted the greatest film of the 21st century and it was a film that challenged the audience. The common theory for the film, the theory I most buy into, is that the mystery-romance thriller that makes up the first half of the film is an entirely fictional creation (perhaps motivated by the Hollywood inspired reflections of a perfect life that Hollywood regularly depicts). It’s what Betty/Diane wanted her relationship (and her life in general) with Camila/Rita to be like. The amnesia Rita suffers suggests starting from a clean slate, and the quest the two embark upon does create a touching romance meaning that the first half of the film does effectively work as a mystery film even if it has familiar tropes.
The second half of the film is perhaps closer to reality, or what she perceives to be reality. In reality, Camila is almost unattainable and is currently in a lover affair with Justin Theroux’s Adam Kesher. Little in this film is real or as we literally see it whether it’s the first half or the second half of the film. Diane watches as the love of her life and Adam Kesher seemingly rub their sexuality in her face. This is imagined as its highly unlikely that the two would be doing this, but it explains why jealously, hatred and envy easily reared its ugly head as a result of her uncontrollable paranoia.
The dream theory does kind of fall apart when Diane’s suicide comes into play. This brings up the idea that either Betty and Rita and Diane and Camilla live in parallel universes or that the moment Diane’s head hits the pillow is the kick-start of a ‘mechanism by which the soul works through the meaning of a life just ended’. To me the latter theory doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t take into account the clearly different storylines in which Diane is less fortunate with her ailing love life and acting career (though it is possible that Diane’s life took a distinct turn for the worse explaining her suicide).
Mulholland Drive is a film that is seemingly disjointed, the abstruse story appears to have plot points that seem to go nowhere, the film interspersed with moments of humour (the clumsy assassin and Mafia member who doesn’t like his coffee) and the film’s plot gets more and more arcane that each interpretation is a valid as the next. What is clear, however, is that Mulholland Drive is an indictment of Hollywood. Hollywood drove Diane to jealously and envy and then murder. Mulholland Drive certainly makes an interesting companion piece to films like Starry Eyes and Maps to the Stars for its negative portrayal of Hollywood as corruptible and poisonous.
On a technical level the film is impressive also, the camera gives an impression as though it is floating through the rooms of the apartment in an almost dream like or maybe even spirit like way. It’s atmospheric and tense, gloriously detailed and at times its thrilling, intriguing and endlessly compelling. It even features one the best timed jump scares in a scene that seems out of place to the narrative but fits in perfectly with the main themes of the film. It’s an incredible film.