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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Mulholland Drive (2001)



Reviews and Comments

"That's not my voice."

With Mulholland Drive, David Lynch has created one of the most realistically dreamlike movies ever made. As in dreams, individual scenes can make internal sense and feel important but are later forgotten. As in dreams, perfectly ordinary things can be deeply frightening.

But the great accomplishment of the film is that in spite of this dreamlike quality, there is real if unconventional narrative structure to it. There are answers and explanations, not to everything but to the most important questions. For those things that do not have answers, even most of them make internal sense, and all of them have great psychological impact. When the credits roll -- or more realistically a while later, after we have had a chance to think and digest -- we can apply sense and closure to the main plot threads. We can discern, for the most part, what is real and what is imagined, and, if imagined, by whom. Even the "real" scenes are filmed through a psychological filter, such that what we see is perhaps not objective reality but one character's passionate but paranoid perceptions.

In exploring through these riddles, we realize that the film has painted a shockingly realistic and insightful psychological portrait of one of the characters, a tragic one with obsessions that are simultaneously horrific and sympathetic connotations. Here's a psychological loop that movies rarely throw: we can flesh out this character profile by speculating on why the imagined parts are imagined. People are imaginative creatures. We daydream constantly, conjuring up fantasies in which we are both heroes and tragic figures and the center of everyone's sympathies.. The imaginings in Mulholland Drive make a weird kind of sense if we take into consideration the nature of the intense feelings behind them.

I won't give away the movie's secrets, but one of the strengths of Mulholland Drive is that I could give a lot away without spoiling the movie, or making it any less unpredictable. In fact, what I have already told you tells you very little about the experience of watching it. Along those lines, suffice it to say that the film is a gorgeous looking noir thriller with a profoundly creepy atmosphere and a few scenes of humor that are all the funnier because of how unexpected humor is to find in a movie like this, where everything, mundane or not, is laden with tension and the appearance of grave significance.

This movie is not for everyone. It may frustrate those who demand narrative relevance at all times. Indeed, if there is a fault in the movie, it's that there are a couple scenes and symbols that should make external sense but do not. Nonetheless, despite appearances, so much of it does make sense, and unwinding what I could of this devious noir tale is so much fun that I'm perfectly contend to chalk the rest up to the way of dreams. All of it is effective and entertaining, and that's what's important.