The Mystery Of Mulholland Drive

Following Its Re-Release In Cinemas, 500 Days Of Film Reviews David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive has been delighting and frustrating audiences since its release in 2001. While some viewers reject its mysteries as nonsensical, others call this film a masterpiece. Indeed, Mulholland Drive recently topped a BBC poll (comprising 177 film critics from 36 countries) of the greatest films of the 21st Century. 


Even the briefest of plot summaries proves challenging as David Lynch's hypnotic movie lends itself to many interpretations and touches on several movie genres (including film noir, romance, horror, comedy, satire, thriller).


However, at its simplest (and least spoilery), Mulholland Drive is the story of an aspiring actress (played by Naomi Watts) who, via her relationship with another actress (Laura Harring), discovers the cruel difference between fantasy and reality in Hollywood.


Development Hell

Mulholland Drive did not start out as a feature film. Lynch originally envisioned it as a Twin Peaks spin-off - Audrey Horne goes to Hollywood. When this idea failed to

gain traction, the director moved forward with other projects. 


It was Tony Krantz, Lynch’s agent and production partner, who persuaded him to revisit Mulholland Drive. Keeping little more than the title, Lynch approached ABC (which had originally aired Twin Peaks) and was given the green light to make a television series pilot. However, ABC did not like Mulholland Drive's pilot episode. According to reports, they thought it was too slow, odd and sinister. 


So, Mulholland Drive died again... until Studio Canal’s Pierre Edelman offered to buy the rights from ABC and, with some extra investment, turn the pilot into a feature film. Lynch agreed, repackaging his original footage and adding an extra 18 pages of script. 


The result is a masterpiece of cinema, featuring a superb soundtrack from Angelo Badalamenti and an incredibly powerful performance from Naomi Watts. It seems criminal, all these years later, that David Lynch did not win an Oscar for his film (the award went to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind). Staggering too that Naomi Watts was not even nominated. 

What Does It All Mean?

To analyse or not to analyse - that is the question with Mulholland Drive. On the one hand, this is a film that demands repeat viewings and inspires many late into the night conversations. For example, what is the significance of the blue box? What is the relevance of that terrifying scene in Winkie’s? Why does everything feel artificial, trance-like? Are large sections of Mulholland Drive a dream?  


On the other hand, by attempting to piece the puzzle back together, do we kill the magic of Mulholland Drive? Death by over-simplification? Shouldn’t we just accept the scenes that defy narrative logic and enjoy a film that dares to make its own rules?


In addition, knowing the movie’s rocky inception, can we even trust that David Lynch knows all the answers? As Roger Ebert wrote in his review: “There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery.”


Whatever your preference (and I actually have a foot in each camp), one thing is for certain. Few films will get you thinking like Mulholland Drive. 


Down The Rabbit Hole?

If you are interested in plunging down the Mulholland Drive rabbit hole, brace yourself. There are hundreds of fascinating articles about Lynch’s iconic film. Here are some of my favourites if you fancy some further reading...   

Over To You...

Have you watched Mulholland Drive? If you haven’t, may I recommend watching it now during the film’s cinema re-release? This is a movie that needs to be seen on a big screen.


If you have watched Mulholland Drive, what did you think of Lynch’s film? Let me know by leaving your thoughts and theories in the comments section below!

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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