Monday, November 29
CinemaniaIn reply to a comment that someone left earlier this week, I feel that it's time to write a little about Mulholland Drive, and possibly a few other films that I've seen recently. As you know, I love watching films, and with the ultra-fast internet connection in my room, it's been possible to
A truly, truly stunning film. I'd heard a hell of a lot about it, and about how David Lynch is one of the most talented but also fucked up directors around at the moment, but for some reason I'd managed to miss it every time it's been on TV. And yes, I could have rented it, but I'm also lazy.
I'd heard that the storyline was fairly mad, that it was a film that truly made you think, and that it was beautiful to look at. All three are completely and utterly true. Especially the storyline being mad.
I've just realised that to explore fully what I think about the film, I'm going to be giving away a hell of a lot of the plot. If you haven't seen this film yet, then please read no further. Go rent the DVD, watch it, have your head explode, piece it back together and then come back here to read my thoughts on it.
So, without further ado: CAUTION - CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
The first 3/4 of the film isn't overly difficult to follow. It only becomes so when you get to the end and realise that none of it made any sense, and was actually not real. I did warn you that there were big spoilers here. Now you've gone and ruined it for yourself, haven't you?!
My struggle was determining who the guy in the sealed room with the odd-shaped head was. He seemed to be running the whole show, but never moved from his chair, and certainly had no contact with the outside world. You find yourself asking why he was so desperate to have that particular actress in that particular film, and it is only at the end when you find out the real names of Rita and Betty that it falls into place.
In my understanding, he represents the demons within Naomi Watts' character, Diane, in the 'real' version of events. She desperately wants to be the star of a film, but the role she was after was given to the 'real' Rita, Camilla. She would have done almost anything to be given that role, but it simply wasn't enough. The evil man in the chair is a visual representation of her torment over the decision of the director, a decision which to her now seems conspiratorial in nature, because the director and the actress are now together as a couple.
This also leads to her being rejected as Camilla's lover, something which she takes very badly. She needs to feel that love, to feel wanted, as she is alone in a big city, with no friends and no family. The sight of Camilla kissing not only Adam at the party, but also another woman, makes Diane realise that she was simply used. She was not loved as she wanted to be loved, but was just another notch on the bedpost for Camilla.
This is in complete juxtaposition to the love that was evident in the irreal sequence. There, Betty repeatedly says "I love you" to Rita in the scene where they kiss. It must happen at least 5 times, but what is conspicuous by its absence is any reply from Rita. Even in Diane's dream reality, she is still unloved, still unwanted, but not quite rejected. It is the rejection in the real world that causes her to finally arrange to have Camilla killled.
The other minor characters I am a bit more confused about. For instance, I don't really get what relevance the psychiatrist and the dreamer in the diner have to anything, except for possibly foreshadowing some sort of dreams-become-reality device. A few commentators on IMDB have made a big thing about the "He controls everything" line, but I have to say I disagree. I'm not sure why, it's merely my interpretation of events.
One thing to be said for the use of that tramp though: he sure made a couple of latter scenes where the two women are about to go round that corner fucking scary. Lynch got the tempo of those latter scenes absolutely perfectly correct. It's slow enough to build the tension up to high levels, but not so slow as to bore you. Lynch manages this not just in this scene, but throughout the film.
It's a very slow-burning film, but you can't take your eyes off of it for a second. The visuals are simply stunning, with Lynch lingering on small details just because they are there, because they can grab your attention, if only you'd let them. Lynch doesn't just let you see these things, but forces you to look at them. There is a very big difference, and it's highlighted well here.
It's also not just your eyes that will love you for watching this film: your ears will appreciate the quality of the score and incidental music. Most of the score is by Angelo Badalamenti, who I believe also did the music for The Beach, as well as many other films, but according to the credits there are a number of pieces by David Lynch himself. I confess to not knowing which belong to whom, but the overall impact of the music is something special.
It's as slow as the camera movements throughout, and is often just a few notes here and there, rather than a full orchestral backing to every scene. It fits with the entire look and feel of the film perfectly, and doesn't go so far as to overwhelm the events on screen. It's there, but you don't notice it too much.
This is echoed in the film itself in during the scene in Silencio, one of my favourite parts of the film. The whole concept of the theatre is that nothing is real (yet more foreshadowing), but what I want to draw attention to now is the music, or lack of it. When the Spanish woman is singing, it's hauntingly beautiful, so much so that it moves both Betty and Rita to tears. She is singing with such intensity and emotion that when she collapses, but the music continues, there is a great feeling of shock.
It is because the camera is so close to her face, causing her to dominate the frame, that the music becomes so emotional and intense. When she then falls, the music fades into the background immediately. You almost forget it is there, since your attention is drawn to her prone body being carried offstage. The incidental music throughout the film is the same, but a little different. You can hear it throughout, but you don't really listen. You notice it when it isn't there, especially in the slower scenes, but when it comes back, it dominates your attention. The prime example of this is the driving scenes along Mulholland Drive itself, both the opening scene and the end scene with Diane in the back of the car, with their sweeping, haunting aural
Having mentioned all of the aesthetics of the film, perhaps now it's time to give my thoughts on the plot and structure of it, since it is this aspect that is the most difficult for most people. I don't claim to have understood everything, and nor do I dictate that my interpretation is the correct one. Only David Lynch himself will be able to tell you what each scene, each individual frame means.
As I said right back at the beginning of this little essay, the initial 3/4 of the film is not all that difficult to understand and follow. For a start, it's linear, which always makes things much easier. Compare and contrast to the latter stages, where the timeline jumps all over the place. There isn't too much to note in this part of the film regarding the overall plot, since it is almost (dare I say it?) a thriller-by-numbers, except for little touches of Lynch brilliance and weirdness.
Of course, once you've seen the end, much more of the first part of the film makes sense. Once the ending is revealed, you're able to think back to various scenes that didn't seem to fit in properly at first glance, but in fact are part of the overall structure, rather than the structure of that part of the film.
Such as the scenes involving Alex and his initial refusal to cast Diane in the lead role of his film. Why is this cowboy so involved with everything? Come to think of it, who the hell is this cowboy? Is he in some way connected with the strange man in the sealed room? Why is it so important to all of them that Diane is cast in the role?
These questions are all (OK, some of them) answered when we get back to Diane's reality at the end of the film. For me, they are all parts of her personality, a somewhat schizophrenic and disturbed person who has a vivid imagination. They are her motivation, her conscience, her guilt and everything in between. They are her, as is everything in that part of the film.
She imagines everything, and is able to put a spin on real-life people by giving them different personalities, or different motivations. All of this is to compensate for the way in which her life has been destroyed by Camilla in the real world. She wants to be loved, she wants the starring roles, she wants to be with Camilla. In her reality, she has all of these things, even if Camilla is now Rita, and she is not competing with her for a role in Alex's film.
In the latter stages of the film, with the timeline jumping all over the place, it can become a little difficult to keep track of things. This is deliberate, as is everything Lynch does. He wants you to struggle, he wants you to think a great deal about his film, he wants people like me to care so much about his film that we feel the need to discuss it in even more depth. Mulholland Drive isn't a popcorn film, it's not a braindead blockbuster; it's a film that involves the viewer, visually, aurally and mentally. You can't watch it whilst doing something else. It commands your entire attention.
I hope that it will also stand up to repeat viewings. The second time round, I hope that I will be able to spot many, many events in the irreal sequence that foreshadow or point towards the eventual outcome in Diane's actual life. Who knows, I may even change my opinion and interpretation of the film as a whole by seeing it again.
Whatever the result, I know that I will not be disappointed. It's simply impossible to be so with this film. It truly is glorious.
For anybody that has their own perspective on the film, leave a comment. I really want to discuss this film further, it's had that much of an impact on me. Much more than Jackass did, at any rate.