The presence of dreams on one’s life course can fluctuate but it is ever-present. The precise meaning of the word “dream” varies as well. Firstly, our ambitions/dreams create purpose and drive, focusing our attention towards actualizing achievement and hopeful fulfillment. In viewing and experiencing struggles and successes, we experience the unfolding reality of these aspirations. Furthermore, we think of the word in terms of neuronal firings and subsequent image displays of random events that have occurred in our reality while asleep. This combined with yearning daydreams can alter our own perception of the truth, dismissing actualities of our surrounding environment. “Mulholland Drive” is a 2001 psychological thriller directed by David Lynch delving into these fascinating concepts with the ultimate appropriate backdrop – Hollywood.
The tale begins with an impending kidnapping turned car accident on Mulholland Drive. Laura Elena Harring is the sole survivor, fearful for her safety and eventually hiding in a wealthy woman’s townhouse who is coincidentally and thankfully going on a vacation. Meanwhile, Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) is a starstruck, wide-eyed, and aspiring actress who comes to Los Angeles from Deep River, Ontario. The very fashionable landlord Coco (the legendary Ann Miller) guides Betty to her Aunt Ruth’s luxurious townhouse. Betty discovers a female unknown to her in the apartment, who happens to be the lady who escaped the automobile accident. She calls herself “Rita” after seeing a movie poster of Gilda in the bathroom, diving into an episode of amnesia. Betty initiates and becomes entangled in a quest to rediscover Rita’s true identity. Further interrelated subplots occur during the story as well. They include a quest to find the dark-haired lady, revelation of a frightening dream in a diner, and threats to control a well-known director’s vision for his upcoming film. These stories culminate in a mind-blowing finale, introducing many more questions than answers.
David Lynch is a master of detailed ambiguity. The majority of his films and TV series are filled with hidden gems and facets that are imperative in untangling non-linear screenplays. The beauty of his narratives are that these items and other plot devices are often unclear, as well as the presence of an obscure division between reality and fantasy. We therefore bring our own experiences, values, and beliefs in interpreting his films and creating meaning unique to our lives.
I must also highlight the collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti. His musical contribution to the brilliant Twin Peaks invites us to speculate impending doom yet appreciate beautiful simplicity. In this film, he accomplishes the same feat via minor chords and synthesized sounds. Silence is also key in appreciating moments of intensity and characters’ emotions, and the lack of music in those scenes is essential in accurately conveying those expressions.
Crucial events in this film begin and end on Mulholland Drive. It is in this location whereby false hopes, shattered dreams, and lost identities unfold. The film industry certainly has its glamour, but it is not without its struggles especially related to control. Many other industries can create a facade of prestige, attracting naive, hopeful youth into their dream factory. This milieu can lead an individual to be swallowed whole by figurative piranhas. Large portions of their individuality, belief system, and personal lives may be sacrificed to mould their new and more amenable selves to the profession which now presides over their every move. Some may unfortunately not have the option to voice their opinions due to potential volatile oppression in these settings. While sometimes extremely difficult, the importance of maintaining our truths and being vocal can help to ensure that our principles are upheld in the face of major power imbalances.
I do not own the above photos in this post.