Mulholland Drive. A true cinematic classic by one of the greatest directors on the planet, David Lynch. I think it’s criminal that David Lynch hasn’t won an oscar yet, least of all for his magnum-opus, Mulholland Drive. He’s a director I admire so much that I’m going through his works slowly to build anticipation. Eraserhead, Dune, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway are the only films of his I have left to see. I think that he’s an absolute genius and Mulholland Drive is easily in my top 5 films ever made.
It’s strange dream-like atmosphere is captivating. David Lynch is the only director who can truly capture a dream on film (aside from the dream sequences in Ab Fab maybe). Anyone who’s seen and embraced Inland Empire will assure you that after seeing it, it felt like you dream it. Mulholland Drive also has a brilliantly immersive twisting narrative which grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. You’ll never understand what’s happening the first time you watch it, yet it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen. It’s also a wonderfully layered film which has provoked multiple interpretations, although the dream theory does seem to make the most sense. Naomi Watts also gives a sensational performance which tragically wasn’t even oscar nominated. It’s a film full of memorably trippy scenes with hidden meanings, making it a rich experience to watch and re-watch. Here is my top 10 moments from this masterpiece (I should warn you here that spoilers will follow):
The opening to Mulholland Drive is a perfect visual metaphor for watching the film itself. Have a deep inhale as you plonk your head onto your proverbial pillow (a bit of Clayfield there) and immerse yourself into the madness. David Lynch suggests that there are two clues to the mystery before the titles even appear, and one of them is believed to be the POV shot hitting the pillow and fading to black as this is the start of Diane’s tragic dream. We then get a stroboscopic set of colour and people dancing to some fantastically catchy music. This is the turning point for the viewer. You can either totally reject it thinking, “What’s this unconventional shite!” and turn it off, or you can say “Hey, let’s go with it” and embrace it (preferred option). I think it’s a great way to open the film as it’s completely barmy yet strangely hypnotic. Which is probably how I’d describe the entire film.
9) Botched hit
Here’s a scene that no one seems to understand! Many people have hazard a guess at what other scenes symbolise, but this one seems very out of place indeed. Never the less it happens to be one of the most entertaining scenes in the film. It could easily work as an excellent short film called: “How Not to Murder Someone”. It follows a man callously shooting his brother, for reasons unknown, and trying to make it look like a suicide. However, he ends up nearly killing the whole floor! It’s a really funny scene (“Something bit me real bad!”) and also oddly gripping to watch. I still don’t really know what it all means though…
Mulholland Drive hits the viewer with tragedy after Diane awakes and here’s one of the most crushing. Diane clearly loves Camilla, but Camilla doesn’t seem to be returning the favour. It’s entrancing to watch them walk up the secret path and be introduced to all the colourful characters from Diane’s dream whom all seem to be slightly twisted versions. The most jarring realisation is that Camilla and Adam are an item. The dinner scene is quite difficult to watch as we see Camilla completely humiliate Diane by unashamedly crawling all over Adam like a rash and having a cheeky snog with Melissa George. The pain in Diane’s face is unforgettable. Lynch also directs this scene to perfection by using long drawn out shots and mesmerising music to create a strong dreamy atmosphere.
7) Winkie’s Diner
This scene is often commended as one of the scariest scenes from a non-horror film, and rightly so! I jumped out of my seat the first time I saw it. I think the reason that it’s so grating is because of the magnificent build-up. Just like the hit man scene, this one jumps out of nowhere and seamlessly transports the viewer to a new narrative. A man tells us about a frightening dream and then decides to take us on it too. A hideous monster jumps out the corner, causing the man to pass out. David Lynch turns a simple jump scare into a terrifying piece of cinema, thanks to his innovative directing. The scene is supposedly meant to symbolise Diane’s fear of reality. She’s escaped into this dream world and is scared to confront her actual life, as the man is scared to confront a “monster” who is later revealed to be a tramp. Perhaps someone who he’s scared of becoming?
6) Camilla Rhodes’ Audition
I find it extraordinarily difficult to explain why I like this scene so much. I just find it oddly spellbinding to watch. The song Melissa George sings is hypnotic and the film spends a lot of time building up to this audition as a strange mafia gang have bullied Adam into auditioning this unknown young woman. When we hear Adam hauntingly say, “This is the girl” we can’t help but feel a sense of danger. But of what?
I know what you’re all thinking, but I didn’t put this scene on my list because I’m some twisted pervert! In fact, I struggle to find this scene erotic at all because of the underlying tragedy behind it. I could almost cry for Betty when she says “I’m in love” because it reveals Diane’s monumental guilt of murdering her lover, Camilla. She was truly in love with her and dreamt of a passionate love like this, which is later shown to be far from the truth in a flashback which reveals a far less romanticized and passionate love life. This is also the key moment when Diane begins to lose control of her dream by indulging in her fantasy.
Of course my cowboy had to feature in the list! Again, I don’t really know what it is about this scene that has me so mesmerised, but I just find it very absorbing. We don’t know who this cowboy is or what he wants, which is beautifully mysterious, but we know that he’s extremely powerful. Some people say that he symbolises Hollywood’s golden age of Western movies, perhaps a time where Hollywood was more forgiving to actors than it is now. The dialogue in this scene is also impeccably written and very memorable. “If you’ve done good, you’ll see me one more time. If you’ve done bad, you’ll see me two more times.” A wonderfully atmospheric scene.
Here’s one of Mulholland Drive’s most frightening moments. For me, the most frightening and eerie moment is the one shot of the old couple smiling maniacally in the back of a cab. So when they come back in the wacky finale it makes the scene all the more chilling. Diane breaks down completely, the old couple crawl out of the iconic blue box (what does it mean?) in miniature form, burst through Diane’s door and attack her with grins on their faces. This leads to Diane grabbing a nearby revolver and tragically shooting herself. This scene is magnificently directed and feels extremely theatrical. I especially love the blinding smoke and the chilling realisation that the decomposed Diane Selwyn in Diane’s dream is a shocking and blatant foreshadowing of Diane’s actual fate. This scene just goes to show how deep the film is, if you care to dig a little.
Here’s another extremely clever, deep scene. I think Naomi Watts should’ve won an Oscar for this scene alone. It’s one of the most hypnotic scenes in the film (bar my number one spot, patience please) and one of the best acted too. Diane is dreaming who she longs to be, perhaps who she thought she was, a sensational actress. She completely lets herself go and even startles the tanned granddad at how extraordinary she is at acting. It’s also clever how Lynch juxtaposes this audition with Betty and Rita’s earlier playful reading, which showed just how contrived and pathetic the dialogue for the film is. However, when Betty acts it out, the scene takes a whole new intensity and even makes the stiff dialogue sound like the work of Shakespeare. It’s also clever how Diane dreams about seducing Hollywood, when in reality Hollywood cruelly spat her out. It’s a masterful scene directed with a hypnotic seduction that will have you completely immersed in the scene. This is the girl.
1) Club Silencio
Some find this scene overlong and self-indulgent, however I’m a little biased here as there’s nothing I enjoy more than indulging in Lynch. The Club Silencio scene has such a strange power behind it and I still can’t work out why. It’s where Diane loses control of her dream, as Rita holds the reigns with a hauntingly mysterious, “Silencio… Silencio…” which leads to Rita taking Betty to a strange old theatre with a man (who has been speculated to be representing the devil) talking about how everything in the room is recorded. This leads Betty to have a violent attack as she realises that she’s dreaming. Nothing is real. A strange woman then comes out singing a hypnotic and powerful version of the song, “Crying” in Spanish. It moves Betty and Rita to tears, before she songstress faints, to reveal that the song was in fact a recording. This is perhaps a metaphor for the entertainment industry, as it works their performers to death. The scene is open to a lot of interpretation, but if you allow yourself to become immersed in it, you will find pure movie magic. When someone mentions Mulholland Drive, this is the scene that immediately comes into my head. I think everything about it is just sensational. The lighting, the directing, the music, the acting, the chilling ambiguity. Also, Laura Palmer is in the audience! Perhaps the Club Silencio is part of the red room?
Mulholland Drive really is a magical masterpiece to me. It’s a comment on the cruel dream factory of Hollywood and can be interpreted differently on so many different levels. If there was any justice in the world, Mulholland Drive would’ve won best picture, best director and best actress at the Oscars. Nevertheless it will always remain one of my all time favourite films. What are your favourite scenes from this phenomenal film?