David Lynch’s profoundly weird Mulholland Dr. is a time commitment. Though the movie itself is just two-and-a-half hours, if you’re like me, at the end of it, you’re left scratching your head and wondering, “What the fuck did I just see?” After my first viewing, I was more than confused — I was irritated. It seemed like nothing more than a needlessly weird series of scenes incoherently strung together. There’s some powerfully emotive stuff in there, but for tiny-brained folks like myself, it’s hard to make anything of what’s actually going on. Spend another hour online reading theories and explanations, and suddenly, a lot of those pieces begin to come together, and an appreciating for Mulholland Dr. begins to take shape. Watch it a second time, and you’ll still likely come away thinking, “What the fuck?” but you might do it with a sense of respect and admiration, although it’d take far more viewings than I have the capacity for to truly understand what’s going on, and even then, I doubt everything will come together.
Mulholland Dr. is one of the few films that truly is up to the viewer’s interpretation, and those interpretations are many and varied. It helps to try to piece together the actual chronology of events — there appears to be little narrative order in Lynch’s film. And once you nail down the essential elements of the film, you can start to theorize about the symbolism, and perhaps even crack the code on a lot of the gibberish scenes. I haven’t gotten that far yet in my exploration, which is what makes Mulholland Dr. the perfect film for the Pajiba Movie Club (thanks, Yosarrian). If you take other people’s interpretations into your next viewing, you can get even more out of it.
As before, I’ll open with a few discussion questions and — once you get the lesbian love scene out of your system — allow you to take it from there.
1) First, what are your general impressions of Mulholland Dr.? Love it? Hate it? Or you have no idea? Is it a thought-provoking challenging film, or just needlessly weird?
2) Mulholland Dr. was originally conceived as a television series, but no network picked it up, so Lynch slapped an ending on it and called it a movie. There are, at least in my opinion, several nonsense sequences in Mulholland Dr. (the men in the diner, the creepy old people, the dwarf on the phone) — do you think they were open-ended sequences to be picked up in a potential television series, or just emotive Lynchian gibberish? Does it even matter?
3) Back in college, creative writing instructors often suggest that you should never end a story with either a suicide or a dream. Lynch managed to do both. Is it a brilliant way to end the movie, or a complete cop-out? Do you think that’s what he had in mind from the outset, or did he corner himself into it?
4) The diner scene with the nightmare monster. What the hell?
5) I’m still not entirely sure what Lynch was trying to do, say, or accomplish with the cowboy. Anyone care to take a stab at the cowboy’s significance to the story?
6) There are a lot of layers, it seems, to peel back to see what’s underneath. One of the major themes, however, is Lynch’s view of the emptiness of Hollywood, and how the gloss and beauty of it (Betty) obscures the ugliness beneath (Diane). Did you get that? Would you care to expand? And what is Lynch trying to say about those of us who consume Hollywood products?
7) How would you place Mulholland Dr. among other Lynch films?
8) The blue key and the blue box — I understand their use in the movie (the key signifies the death of Rita, and inside the blue box, so to speak, is the alternative reality flashback — the idealized version of Diane’s life and her relationship with Rita). But why a blue key and a blue box? Is there any significance attached to that?
9) Billy Ray Cyrus? Really?
10) Finally, what is Lynch trying to say with that extended lesbian scene?
Happy discussing, folks. I’m really interested in where this conversation leads.