The horrors of the Club SilencioYouTube - Studio Canal

Mulholland Drive was never meant to be a film. Rather, the movie was salvaged from a failed TV pilot, and with the help of additional reshoots, was fashioned into a feature-length film. These origins inform the rest of the picture, amounting to one of the best mind-bending mystery-dramas to date.

Mulholland Drive opens with a classic film noir sequence showing dark-haired beauty Rita (Laura Harring) in the back seat of a limousine, being driven along the eponymous drive. The drivers pull a gun on her, but thankfully, she is saved when a group of drag racers in antique hot rods crash into the back of the limousine and kill the drivers. Rita survives, but the accident renders her an amnesiac.

Who is this woman? Where was she going? Why do people want her killed? These questions will be at the centre of the film, but they quickly get lost in further mysteries. Who drag races on Mulholland Drive? And who, in the 21st century, drag races in such priceless cars? There are early inklings that part of the mystery will revolve around how much of the story is set in our world, and how much is set in the idealised, fictitious Hollywood of drag racing in the Hollywood hills.

Following the accident, Rita stumbles down the hills and hides in some bushes; she watches a woman leave an apartment to get into a taxi. She promptly enters the apartment where she soon meets Betty (Naomi Watts), an aspiring actress from a small-town, who assumes Rita is a new roommate. One of the film's many twisting storylines involve Betty confronting the evils of Hollywood while trying to make it as an actress, and working with Rita to discover who she truly is.

Trailer for Mulholland DriveYouTube - Studio Canal

I feel a bit silly trying to discuss the plot of the film. Namely, because there are about four different ongoing storylines with different characters which rarely interact. It foregrounds an interlocking series of complex episodes, which one film simply doesn't have the space to resolve. Here, we can see the direct effects of the failed TV pilot, and how the failure rendered the film more successful as a result.

Everyone who watches this film has a theory of what happened

David Lynch had previously had a successful TV show, Twin Peaks, which centred around the question ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?'. The show is brilliant, and earned a cult of its own, but it ended prematurely. Lynch was pressured into revealing the killer midway through the second season by TV executives - resulting in a sharp drop in viewers after the reveal, and leading to the show’s cancellation. Forcing Lynch to tie up loose ends caused the series to lose its appeal -  namely the mystery, not the solution.

In Mulholland Drive, Lynch learns from this and jumps straight into the mystery. The film is filled with more questions than could ever be answered. There are endless websites dedicated to speculating about the meaning of various scenes, characters and objects. Everyone who watches this film has a theory of what happened, or what the film represents, and they often get very passionate about their views. This epitomises a fundamental sub-class of cult films: the cult mystery


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I must admit, David Lynch can be insufferable. He encapsulates many of the damaging ideas around ‘genius’, and he consequently gets the benefit of the doubt that I’m not sure he deserves.. Much of his work is full of so many layers of pretension that lend themselves to being over-analysed; I highly doubt there is a meaning behind some of his choices. Lynch does insist there is a solution to all of his work, but I find that unconvincing.

But then Mulholland Drive doesn’t need a solution. Part of the genius lies precisely in the mystery. How does Lynch manage to make a film that leaves me so full of questions, yet so satisfied? It is this intrigue that nicely lends the film to rewatchability and theorising with other Lynch fans. The community that spawned from the film solidifies its cult status. Everyone has a theory.

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