The surrealistic film by one of the most mystical directors of our time, Mulholland Drive, topped the critics’ lists as the best film of the 21st century and is still one of David Lynch’s favorite works with audiences. The movie has a lot of fans, who incredibly realized their ideas, including music, themed slot machines at Avalon78, and cool video games. We decided to remember the difficulties of its creation and the peculiarities of its cinematic language.
Where Did It All Begin?
An unknown dark-haired girl has an accident and loses her memory. She goes to town and sneaks into an untidy house. Later, the homeowner’s niece Betty moves there, who meets the stranger and tries to help her remember what happened.
Thus begins the dark and romantic “Mulholland Drive,” which turns 20 this year. Initially, the film failed to recoup its production costs in the U.S., grossing only $7 million on a $15 million budget. However, it subsequently became one of the most important films in cinematic history.
From Failure to Success
The funny thing is that the history of the film began with its complete failure. Mulholland Drive was originally conceived by Lynch as a series. Even during the shooting of “Twin Peaks” the director’s head was stuck in the name of a popular street in Los Angeles. Lynch planned to do a joint project with Mark Frost again, but nothing came out then. In the 90s he returned to the idea, briefly outlined the plot on a couple of sheets of paper, and went to present it to ABC producers. The story of a girl who came to conquer Hollywood and was suddenly drawn into a dangerous world, – the original idea of the tape looked like that – attracted the company. With a budget of $ 8 million, David began the long-awaited shooting of the pilot release.
The main actresses the director chose from photographs. After learning that the author of “Twin Peaks” wants to interview her, Naomi Watts ran to a meeting straight from the plane and in casual jeans. The next time Lynch asked her to dress “more glamorous”, after which the role finally secured the girl.
A few years before that, Watts admitted that she wanted to kill herself on Mulholland Drive – the reason for this, perhaps, were unsuccessful attempts to play in the movie. Later, however, the actress recanted. After the movie, Naomi woke up famous. Such an irony of fate.
As for Laura Herring, who played the enigmatic Rita or Camilla, she also had a remarkable episode before the interview. On her way to a meeting with the director, the girl was in a car accident. After the actress arrived at the agreed place and learned that her character would survive the car crash, she considered what happened to her a good sign.
Filming began in 1999 and lasted about seven weeks, after which Lynch showed the footage to producers. It was deemed too long, the characters too old, and the portrayal of dog feces too unacceptable. In an interview with Chris Rodley, Lynch recalled:
“I enjoyed working on Mulholland Drive terribly, but ABC hated it. And I do not like the version they saw. I agree with ABC that it was too long, but I had to show it because I was on a tight deadline and I didn’t have time to get it right. The picture lost its canvass, long scenes, and whole storylines, and 300 copies of this bad version leaked out. Many people have seen it, which embarrasses me because the quality of those tapes is disgusting.”
Work then halted until a producer from the French company StudioCanal evaluated the work done by Lynch and offered him an additional sum to film the missing material and create a full-length film. The director agreed. About how “Mulholland Drive” evolved from a TV series into a full-length film, David told the following:
“I sat down one night and ideas started coming to me. It was something delightful! The whole story presented itself from a completely different angle. Now, looking back, I see that this is what the film always wanted to be. It just took a strange beginning for itself to eventually become what it is.”
The actors didn’t fully understand what the movie would be about. Justin Theroux, who played director Adam Kesher, said Lynch listened to their questions but refused to answer them. Naomi Watts even tried to trick the director by assuring her that she had figured out the point, but the director only smiled enigmatically. In the end, David took pity on the fans and left some clues that will help if not to unravel, then at least come close to what the author wanted to say: pay attention to the red lampshade, bathrobe, ashtray, coffee cup, know who gives the key, remember where Aunt Ruth is, and be careful in the Silencio Club.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2001. Lynch gave the film to be shown in cinemas along with a letter of request to the mechanics: the tape must be shown shifted upwards and two decibels louder. These were requirements since initially the film was still created as a television series. Each message was signed by the director: “Your friend, David Lynch”.
Los Angeles – City of Dreams and Shattered Dreams
As Woody Allen revels in the rainy “New York”, so David Lynch sings dithyrambs to the deceptive beauty of Los Angeles. He told how he first came here at night in 1970, and when he woke up in the morning he realized he had never seen such bright light – with it came a sense of total creative freedom. The catch is that it’s often what the studio system deprives you of.
He said he first came here at night in 1970, and when he woke up in the morning, he realized he had never seen such bright light – with it came a sense of total creative freedom. The catch is that it is often what the studio system deprives him of.
Unlike his earlier works, in which the director turned to the landscapes of “industrial” and “one-story” America, in “Mulholland Drive” he creates his world within Los Angeles. “Dream City” is represented by the grotesque world of Hollywood with its characteristic characters: producers who limit creative impulses, anxious elderly actors, and naive actresses.
Through the examples of Betty (Diane) and Adam, the director demonstrates how the movie industry affects those who come here in hopes of gaining a “star” on the Walk of Fame and making their name immortal. They end up flying a hundred and forty feet down, dropping off the giant “H” at the beginning of the inscription “HOLLYWOOD.” The director is not without a reference to Billy Wilder’s beloved Sunset Boulevard, a tragedy of “forgotten” Hollywood stars that tells, bitterly and with psychological precision, the fates of those who have been thrown overboard by the industry.
Guessing the music from David Lynch’s films is easy. The bizarre combination of notes born of the director’s imagination, coupled with popular compositions create the very “Lynchian” cinema when the mystique unobtrusively envelops your everyday life. By the way, the term has even made it into the Oxford Dictionary.
In “Mulholland Drive,” the music can be divided into three types. The first is compositions by David Lynch’s regular colleague Angelo Badalamenti. The director gave the assignment to write something slow, dark, and inevitably hypnotizing for the viewer – that’s how the title theme of the film came about.
To reinforce the idyllic world Betty Lynch uses pop songs from the 60s, in particular, Sixteen Reasons by Connie Stevens and I’ve Told Every Little Star by Linda Scott, and Lynch marks the transition from one reality to another in the blue haze of the mysterious Silencio Club with the a cappella singing of Roy Orbison’s hit Crying.
In addition, David traditionally resorts to sound design, where various noises and low-frequency hums create an unsettling atmosphere and make the audience fidget in their seats.
David Lynch’s American Dream, Where a Dream Is Both a Dream and a Parallel Reality
In Lynch’s universe, real and imaginary worlds collide. Like most of his work, for Mulholland Drive, the director drew inspiration from the subconscious-the images one dreams in dreams and the waking dreams that are fantasies. Being in a dream or the mind of Diane (Betty) is emphasized by the director with a subjective camera, which in the prologue and the last part of the film is combined with a blurring of the focus – it reflects the depressed state of the heroine.
The surreal atmosphere is also given by light and color: sharp contrasts, dark spaces, silhouettes, and selective lighting refer to the visual features of film noir, and the palette of blue and red marks the key moments of the film and serves as a marker of transition to another reality.
Is the vividly idyllic first part just a fantasy? Or does the feverish nightmare dream come after Diana’s “awakening”? This question is still debatable, and David himself prefers to show rather than explain. When the camera works, it is impossible to understand whether art imitates life or life imitates art. When asked what is more in cinematography – reality or illusion – the director answers simply: both.