A few comments on the Comprehension – Interpretation – Experience thread and Mulholland Drive

I think our discussion about how a lot of the effect of the film is lost if a viewer attempts to decipher the “meaning” of Mulholland Drive as if it were a puzzle film with one solution was right on target. After viewing, I read the dream interpretation of the film and was satisfied enough with that. There are lots of clues that point towards that, and you could interpret the non sequiter scenes as dream-logic depictions of Betty’s internal psychology. But even with subsequent viewings (and this was probably time 5 or 6), I don’t really think about comprehension or interpretation nearly as much as I like to enjoy the visceral experience Lynch affords his viewers. Scenes like the subliminally terrifying diner scene, the coffee/producer scene, or Betty’s audition with the dirtbag actor work on such a gut level that they remind me of the Quatsi-films in terms how they make me feel…I can watch them time and time again (I put on at least one of these three scenes several times a semester on my projector without watching the rest of the film). For Lynch, especially in Mulholland Drive, content takes a back seat to feelings, empathy, and experience. Audiences exhibit nervous laughter and inexplicable emotion, unsure of how to digest a particular scene or performance. The film is successful in that Lynch can make you feel very uncomfortable, happy, terrified, etc. without any backstory. Many of the scenes stand alone.

Mulholland Drive reminds me a lot of Perfect Blue, a really good Satoshi Kon (director of Paprika and Toyko Godfathers) anime and similar puzzle film. Its plot revolves around a Japanese female pop icon who abandons her group and music career to pursue a future in film. However, she can only land a sleazy role in a trashy sitcom and feels violated by her role in the show. Soon, her grip on reality begins to slip as she loses herself in her character and its unclear what scenes happen in the show versus in her real life. Furthermore, a stalker is posting intimate details of her life on a blog, which she then obsesses over and reads – taking everything she reads as fact about her life. The veil between reality and fantasy is utterly confused as her coworkers begin to show up dead, often brutally murdered.

Both these films are definitely a step in the right direction in terms of representing dream worlds with their style and narration. If you were to think of dreams as film, an individual has an unusual role as both narrator and audience. My favorite part of the diner scene is how the action imitates the nervous guy’s dialogue moments earlier – often in dreams, you are explaining events as they happen because your brain already knows where they’re going. Audiences leave these films confused about their feelings, and that’s the desired effect – dreams often don’t have a causal relation between events, there exists non sequiter motivations for “scene changes” or action, and tone is implied on the most base, visceral level.


Name (required)

Email (required)

Speak your mind

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.