Ash’s review published on Letterboxd:
Dreams, mysteries and alternate realities.
David Lynch is quite known for his peculiar and rather ambiguous works, but a film that always rises to conversation with the writer-director’s offbeat filmography is MULHOLLAND DRIVE - the film many argue to be his best work.
What I loved about this one, and what this film much more truer to his filmography, was just how open-ended it was; quite frankly the entire film’s meaning is open for interpretation and the discussions that have arose from the film’s ambiguity are just incredibly fun to dig into.
What was originally intended to be a television pilot, the film was turned into a feature after television executives rejected Lynch’s cut, and as such, what resulted was the gift that is this rather unordinary work that’s half-pilot, half-feature, which has opened the work up to much interpretation due to its ambiguous nature.
I read that Andrew Oliver Scott of The New York Times called it an "offense against narrative order ... the film is an intoxicating liberation from sense, with moments of feeling all the more powerful for seeming to emerge from the murky night world of the unconscious,” and I couldn’t agree more. Its unconventional in its approach to storytelling - far from the more traditionally narrative form of storytelling. It simply feels like delirious - a bizarre daydream.
It took me awhile to collect my thoughts after watching it but there’s four angles I’d look at the film from. One is the widespread theory that the first four-fifths of the film are Diane’s dream, as she casts herself as Betty; it’s a more hopeful and innocent projection for herself, and one that excuses her of her current failures as Betty is on-her-way to fame and stardom. In this, she projects Camilla as a dependant and docile character, in the personality of Rita, as she feels a guilt over ordering her to be killed.
The second perspective is much less grounded than the others I’ll mention, but it involves the existence of alternate realities, and in particular ties in the blue box and the blue key in the film, that appear in both parts of the film - the part with Betty and Rita, and the last fifth of the film with Diane and Camilla. I think the blue box and key stands as a symbolism for opening us up to the possibility of alternate realities, as it quite physically does so in the film, and opens Betty and Rita up to an alternate reality where their fates end up differently, as new people, Diane and Camilla, unbeknownst to their former selves from the first reality. This is a much more ambitious take on the film’s meaning but I love the audacity and peculiarity of how insane it is.
My third take fixates around the idea that this entire work is an anti-thesis to the Hollywood narrative and possibly even a deeper critique of the allure of Hollywood. J. Hoberman of The Village Voice describes it as a “poisonous valentine to Hollywood.” I think that is a truly fantastic way of putting it. It goes against the narrative of most Hollywood films, as it barely has much to do with its characters’ love lives or their ambitions, and rather focuses on simply reflecting Hollywood. The shift of the film does seem like it could be a symbolic representation of the duality and self-invention of Hollywood, as stars are able to be role-play as different, multiple individuals, and so is the audience, as part of the movie-going experience. You could even say it seems to also critique the duality of the luxury of Hollywood and how mundane the appearance of luxury is, when it’s only used a facade, masking anything else that may yet be manifested or displayed. In that sense, it acts as a critique of the two-faced nature of Hollywood and movies, whilst also talking on how the film itself is a betrayal of Hollywood’s conventions.
My fourth and final insight on this discussable film is probably the simplest and easiest to comprehend out of the four, and it might even seem to be pretentious to a point, but it’s that none of it matters. The mystery is there for a reason - it’s meant to be mysterious and we shouldn’t need to question that ambiguity. It’s Lynch’s intent to make us interpret the film for our own, but there’s also no particular need to truly comprehend and understand all of what is going on. There are plot lines that literally lead nowhere and characters that we don’t even see again, but do we really need to analyse why they don’t lead anywhere or does it just fit in with the unconventional half-feature, half-pilot nature of this David Lynch work. I understand how lazy that sounds but perhaps there’s really no need to over-analyse. Perhaps the mystery is not really a mystery and it doesn’t have nor does it really need an explanation to work. You could even say the stories that lead nowhere act as a non-sequitur here, and linking it back to my first theory about dreams, that they are in fact just the subconscious of dreams. Perhaps these were just leftover stories Lynch intended to continue in his series but failed to do so due to rejection from TV executives. We may never know, and perhaps there’s no need to know.
I mean well with my “theories”, and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a film this ambiguous, so I really wanted to just get into what I thought of it and what I interpreted from it all. I really enjoyed this. I was a bit dazzled by the dialogue and Lynch’s style at times, but I thought it was a really fascinating work on behalf of Lynch and I’m glad I’m finally delving into his filmography.