Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive
David Lynch, 2001, 117’

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.


“Mystery is good, confusion is bad. And there’s a big difference between the two.”

David Lynch


“The scene in the nightclub in Mulholland Drive works as a synedoche for Lynch’s entire filmic project. It shows that accumulation fails because the object is lost and that our enjoyment of the object depends on its absence. In this scene, an emcee comes onto the nightclub stage to introduce the singer Rebekah Del Rio (playing herself). Rather than describing the upcoming act, the emcee ennounces that, in a sense, it will not take place. He says, ‘No hay banda - and yet we hear a band’. He adds, « Il n’y pas d’orchestre » and ‘It is all on tape.’ After these pronouncements of the object’s absence, Rebekah Del Rio comes on stage and begins to sing Roy Orbison’s song ‘Crying’ in Spanish. The object’s absence becomes apparent right away. Not only is Del Rio covering the song of another artist, but she is doing so in another language. Orbison’s song is an absent object, and yet it provokes demonstrable enjoyment in both Betty and Rita. We see them moved to tears, and Lynch creates a scene full of passion for the spectator as well. In Club Silencio, enjoyment corresponds with absence rather than with accumulation.”

Todd McGowan1


“When presented with texts that consistently resist our attempts to fix their final meaning, what becomes apparent is our desire to make sense of them. That these three films [Lost HighwayMulholland Drive and Inland Empire] have a long history of ‘explanatory’ critical commentaries of the psychoanalytical and ‘sense making’ sort clearly attests to this. It seems that we resort to these sense-making strategies to assuage our uneasiness at being confronted by discontinuous, indeterminate texts. We do not like contradictory readings to co-exist, but logic cannot be forced to prevail here. It does not all fit together neatly. [...] However, what is most interesting is the desire of both spectator and critic to cling to this binary fantasy/reality reading of the film in an attempt to make sense of it, long after it has become logically untenable and signalled as such by the film. We want epistemic mastery at any price.”

Simon Lovat2


“As we know, Lynch had the bizarre habit of dissecting animals in order to piece them back together again afterwards, to put them in bottles, to stretch the skin and organs on planks and then name them ‘mouse kit’ or ‘cat kit’. This suggests that, for him, a dismantled cat no longer has the Platonic form of that animal, but none the less remains a cat kit. At the same time, it is what he discovers in the parts that impassions him: details and, as he says, textures which are normally invisible unless one plays at erasing their names.

It was in an entirely different context, in the living hell of Philadelphia (hut this also applies to his animal kits), that Lynch exclaimed: ‘Very often, when you only see a part, it’s even worse than seeing the whole. The whole may have a logic, hut out of its context, the fragment takes on a tremendous value of abstraction. It can become an obsession.’ Whether willingly or not, an artist is always trying to create a unity. Even slightly ambitious creations speak to us of the One, if only by its opposite, disparity. Lynch’s works invite us to do this in their own way, by actively and boldly reflecting on the relationship between the part and the whole, especially when the parts question the unity of a work at different levels, in the action, the dramatic line and even in the technique [...] and in their special attention to disproportion. Even as he seeks to recreate a unity, Lynch seems to aim for the part as such to subsist, the part which is incommensurable with the whole (that is, which operates on another level), the part which stands out from the whole and thereby completes it. [...]

Creation, for Lynch, thus consists of building kits which do not exist in nature but which derive their parts from it, and which, ideally, would obey the law of the incommensurability of the part and the whole, whereby the part confers a specific, authentic weight to the whole and at the same time runs the risk of breaking free from it. ‘I like to have one little thing in a scene which on its own would be nothing, but in the context and the balance of things around it, pops out and just gleams, and it makes everything else work.’”

Michel Chion3

  • 1Todd McGowan, “Enjoyment and Accumulation on Mulholland Drive”, The Comparatist 39, 2015.
  • 2Simon Lovat, “Asking the Wrong Questions: Reiteration and Doubling in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire”, Bright Lights, February 2018.
  • 3Michel Chion, David Lynch (London: BFI Publishing, 1995).


“De goochelaar presenteert een ontmaskeringsact, maar paradoxaal genoeg gebruikt hij daarvoor de maskerademachine van het theater, en wel op een zeer overtuigende manier. Op zijn commando klinken instrumenten als trombone en klarinet; even later dondert en bliksemt het in het theater. Hij stelt de goddelijke macht van een regisseur voor, terwijl hij echter wel deel uitmaakt van een enscenering, en de geijkte gebaren van een goochelaar maakt: de voor de borst samengevouwen handen en een lichte hoofdbuiging. Hij haalt een trombonespeler te voorschijn die plots ophoudt met spelen en de handen in de lucht steekt, terwijl het instrument verder schalt. Net als we overtuigd zijn door deze doeltreffende ontmaskering van een playbackact, geeft de muzikant totaal onverwacht nog een laatste, perfect gesynchroniseerde ademstoot op zijn trompet. De playback is hier zo intensief en precies georkestreerd dat de toeschouwer niet langer weet of hij nu een geënsceneerde illusie van ‘liveness’, van authenticiteit te zien krijgt, of een opgevoerde illusie van ‘playbacking’, van een machinale spektakelvorm. Wat is echt en wat is schijn in het theater: de ontmaskering of de maskerade?

Vervolgens toont Lynch hoe de wetenschappelijke nuchterheid van een ontmaskering en de gepassioneerde beleving van de maskerade hand in hand gaan – alsof hij wil zeggen dat theatraliteit bestaat uit een onontwarbaar kluwen van tonen en verbergen, even mysterieus en banaal als het podium zelf. [...]

Niet alleen maakt de regisseur om zo te zeggen geen onderscheid tussen origineel en dubbel, tussen expressie en playback, tussen bewust en onbewust; hij rekent ook af met het verschil tussen realiteit en fictie. Dat betekent dat in Mulholland Drive ‘hoe een film gemaakt wordt’ verweven is met ‘wat een film vertelt’.”

Christoph De Boeck1

  • 1Christoph De Boeck, “Het oor van David Lynch”, De Witte Raaf, Februari 2003.
UPDATED ON 30.03.2023