Rejoicing in the madness of Mulholland Drive

This week we tackle David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, another reader recommendation (we’ve given up on calling you all ‘listeners’, there’s just such an alliterative appeal about ‘reader recommendation’). Importantly, this gives us a chance to wheel out our ‘news’ jingle, which we always look forward to, so please do write in so we can use it every week.

Our knowledge of David Lynch is fairly limited – we’ve never seen Twin Peaks or Blue Velvet and we spent most of last week thinking that he’d directed eXistenZ  (turns out that was David Cronenberg, so we were right on half of the name at least) – therefore we weren’t quite sure what to expect of Mulholland Drive. Turns out it’s completely madballs, but in a good way.

It’s one of those films that really shouldn’t work if you look at it on paper. Characters are introduced and then quickly forgotten about, whole strands of plot seem to go absolutely nowhere, it cuts between apparently random scenes that seemingly have no connection, and towards the beginning the acting is uncomfortably forced and wooden (although as you watch more of the film, it becomes clear that this is intentional). The final resolution, when it eventually arrives after two and a half hours, offers no resolution at all, and if anything simply creates more questions.

But despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, it’s utterly compelling.

For a start it’s beautifully shot, and Lynch regularly chucks in scenes and images that stay with you long after the credits roll: the mysterious man in a wheelchair with a tiny head, the terrifying monster thing that lives behind the bins at Winkie’s, the insane cabaret acts at Club Silencio, Billy Ray Cyrus being punched in the face – all of these things will be lodged in my memory for years to come I’m sure. Then there’s the amazing sound effects and music that are so intertwined with the imagery that it’s impossible to separate the two. I will never see a laughing elderly couple again without involuntarily imagining an evil rumble that could well have reverberated out of the very pits of hell itself. This could make family reunions difficult.

And then there’s the central mystery itself. What’s the blue key for? What’s the relationship between the end of the film and the beginning? Is it a dream? If so, who’s dreaming? It’s a mystery that only Lynch knows the answer to – if there is an answer – but as we mention in the podcast, the joy of the film is in making up your own theories about what happened.

So thanks again to Claire for the recommendation, and without further ado, here’s our feature presentation:

Click here to download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

101 Films Podcast 027 – Mulholland Drive

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We’d love to hear your own film recommendations – please get in touch at or leave a comment on the blog. Oh, and by the way, we checked: Billy Ray Cyrus isn’t dead, turns out he had quite a famous daughter. Who knew?

Director: David Lynch Year of release: 2001 Studio/Distributor: StudioCanal/Universal Pictures Country: France/USA

Published by Lewis Packwood

The first game that Lewis ever played was "Horace Goes Skiing" on the ZX Spectrum. Yes, he's that old.

13 thoughts on “Rejoicing in the madness of Mulholland Drive

  1. What were your theories on what happened???

    I think Mulholland Drive is my favourite movie.

    It displays how art is art is art. It doesn’t need to meet a Hollywood agenda; while it isn’t ENTIRELY fussed about abusing it.

    It’s interesting, fun, artistic and as you said wonderfully shot.

    As I say I would love to hear your theories on what was actually happening (without googling it:))

    1. Well mrbsure Lew and I are probably going to do mini ‘spoiler’ podcast about Mulholland Drive where we discuss what we think is actually going on. Hopefully will do it sometime next week. Keep an eye out on twitter!

    2. My own personal theory is that Diane dreamed the entire thing and that only a very few scenes at the end of the movie are set in the ‘real’ world. I think that Diane actually had an affair with her next door neighbour (I forget her name, the one who comes to collect the ashtray at the end), but in her mind she substitutes her for the more beautiful and glamourous Laura Harring. It’s only a theory, but the great thing about the film is that you can keep on guessing and there’s never a ‘right’ answer.

      What do you think happened?

      1. I think something quite similar, but the one thing that sticks out for me is the twisted ideals of Hollywood. I think that it could very strangely be an imagination while she’s masterbating – so ONE LONG SESH:) or a stream of consciousness of a wannabe actress, what could happen to her.

        I love the characters that people think ‘go nowhere’ because they are the salt that seasons the pot of the movie, they’re kind of the bits and bobs that juxtapose the rest.

        I do entirely agree that we’ll both be a mile away from the real answer, but I must say, although Lynch always seems to comment even he doesn’t know, I don’t believe that whatsoever:) He’s a very clever man.

  2. The end of the movie is the beginning. Diane and Betty are the same people. Diane loved Camilla, but she was also fiercely jealous of Camilla’s Hollywood successes and her happiness. Diane paid to kill Camilla and while that failed, her own psychotic episodes began after she paid to kill her, and while assuming Camilla was dead.

    Camilla had the role she dreamt herself to have, the mobster funded movie, and she dreamt that she was the girl the mobsters wanted, when in actuality it was Camilla’s part. Seeing herself dead as Betty, who was her better person self, with Camilla had to do with some sort of redemption or retribution before she killed herself.

    The whole film, in my opinion, is a Freudian psychic apparatus, and I scoured to find some reference of this on the web, but came up short.

    Betty was Diane’s Super-ego, the critical moralizing part of her personality.

    Diane was her organized, realistic part, or her ego–when she saw herself as Diane, she was completely herself in real-time.

    Her constant, dreamlike state was her id, unresponsive to reality, the id only responds to pleasure, thus the frequent sexual manifestations throughout the film and the buddy/buddy relationship that existed between Betty and Rita, and is the unrealistic part of her personality. Here she seeks to avoid pain or discord.

    The Cowboy, mobsters, man with the dream, the director and his unbalances at home, were all products of her id, which eventually led to her demise.

    Just my two cents, but these are my theories.

    1. Interesting take on things! It certainly fits with the movie – and you’ve made me want to go and watch it all over again. We may have to have a special ‘Mulholland Drive Discussion Hour’ podcast – there’s certainly enough to talk about in this film!

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