A Walk Down (up) mulholland drive
As time progresses and my life molds, shapes, and forms in ways I’ll never quite be able to explain (maybe at death?), human psychology has begun to fascinate each of my days on earth. These passions into the human psyche are part of a confusing journey, intertwined and tangled into the complexities of my manipulative and often shape-shifting cerebral thoughts. In other words, my brain is all over the place, and I’m beginning to realize that I am not alone in these realizations. Specifically, I have taken notice of the ways our brains work, re-work, image and re-image themselves through the medium of film. Why are films able to take us to realms we deemed near impossible? Yet, simultaneously, and as a direct parallel, another working part of our brain has already deemed certain situations as possible.
Let me give you an example. If you have not seen David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, I suggest that you read no further. The crazy aspect of this film is that as I was about to type something along the lines of “spoilers ahead,” I understand that it is hard to even use the word ‘spoiler’ within the context of 2001’s Mulholland Drive. Truthfully, I’m not sure what the fuck happened throughout the entire film. However, as I sit back and sift through the inner workings of my biological system and confused brain (and the amazing thing called the Internet), I can see different aspects of the film that I did not catch last evening. Hell, I am not sure ‘catch’ is even the appropriate word – more so, I missed these elements completely. But, how? Why? How does someone take that script and filming style and shape it to fit their vision, while simultaneously mind-fucking the audience who watches for entertainment?
Take for instance this scene below. Like I said, I hope you’re still not reading if you haven’t seen this flick. Just wait until you do and come back (I appreciate you even reading my stuff!).
I ask my fellow viewers out there, can one ever really forget this scene?
First, it comes out of nowhere. After some breakdown and obsessive YouTube scouring and reading on http://www.mulholland-drive.net/home.htm, I think it’s safe to say that I have turned into ‘that guy’ – watching, dissecting and analyzing every film that is deserving of such.
But, really, this scene directly relates to what I mentioned in my opening statements. Think about the human psychological aspects of the scene for a second. We are thrown into an L.A. diner with a goofy man who seems uneasy from the very start. He has a way of showing fear from the very onset of his interaction (great acting, writing and directing here), and even the way he says “It’s kind of embarrassing” sends chills down my spine. Think back to some of the scariest nightmares you’ve ever had. Or, don’t. I know it can be difficult to go back to that space. But, for the context of this breakdown, please just give it a try (thanks for being brave).
That said, can you ever really forget that feeling? The dread. The terror. And, are you ever able to explain your dream? When a dream is a nightmare, a black cloud hangs in the abyss. Yet, it’s not really a black cloud at all. Usually, things are ‘normal’ but in the deep context and psyche of your subconscious, your gut tells you to get the hell out of there. As a parallel, another chamber of your brain tells you to dig deeper. Just like the entirety of Mulholland Drive, we are juxtaposed between dreams and realities, desires and sins, expectations and unexpectedness (yet, somehow, it’s still expected). Also very hard to explain.
So, when the man starts explaining his nightmare, we travel back in time with him. I couldn’t help but imagine my scariest nightmare. The genius of Lynch lies in the fact that the story is told during the day, yet his dream was neither day or night. Somehow, the film starts to feel that way as well. Are they eating at the Diner after a long night out? An early morning wake-up? Or, a late afternoon that is transitioning into the evening hours? When the diner setting ends, the camera pans to an uneaten plate containing hash browns, bacon and an over easy, fried egg. Initially, the viewer understands the two are sitting down over some breakfast, but once the dialogue begins, I began to forget the two are even sitting in a diner at all.
More so, I’m in my own head at this point and in my own nightmares. What makes this scene for me is just how well it works. I think back to all the horror movies I’ve seen in my life and the tension, terror and build-up. Often, these scenes leads to a flat climax lacking real elements of horror and terror. The ‘scary’ music ends, the monster is never seen and onto the next scene we roll. Or, the ‘scary’ music ends, you don’t expect the scare and BOO! out pops the monster. In Mulholland Drive, however, the elements of horror are hidden, yet simultaneously seen in broad daylight, just like our brains during nightmares. The horror can be felt, although we can’t ‘see’ it just yet, but we can see, or rather feel, it coming.
Think about it. We learn of the man’s dream, the uneasiness, the tension. Then, the unnerving music is juxtaposed with the uneaten breakfast (fear), the man’s face (terror) and the slow walk outside.
He’s been here before.
But has he really? Is he just dreaming again? When he looks at the Entrance sign, this is the icing on the cake. He is walking straight into his doom but is unready to face it. I remember nightmares filled with ‘people’ and doors and mazes that I’ve wandered into, yet, was unable to escape. The quicksand got to me as the next second I find myself awake, screaming and sweating in terror and fear. So, what happens next? We pan down the steps (the stairs to reality and a living hell) with a brilliant shot of the dumpster.
It’s just a dumpster, yes. But, somehow, someway, it looks like something much darker. Piles of trash and boxes overflow the site, and the first dumpster is in complete disarray. The wall is just high enough to cover and I know that something is behind there. I just know it. It’s almost like a gate. Yet, I’m still not sure who, what, or why – and that is terrifying. It is also crazy to note that because I did not go into this movie expecting horror, I had this eerie feeling I was about to get hit with a harsh dose of it unexpectedly, and that is the scariest aspect of all. When the camera pans and the two men get closer, I can almost feel my heart beat out of my chest. The sidepan camera angle acts as such a tease here. We can almost see around the corner, but not quite, just like the man walking to his eventual demise.
Instead of a jump scare, the monster almost glides out from behind the wall. It’s been waiting!
Just like the man knew there was a face back there and he could see through the wall and knew what to expect, he still could not handle it. Pure genius. And, it’s exactly what the viewer is going through as well. I thought back to all the scary faces I’ve seen or that my subconscious has created throughout the years, and I had almost created a collage of them in my mind.
The Exorcist, Conjuring, serial killers, you name it, my damn brain had some type of ghastly image in my head. So, when we are finally hit with the face behind the dumpster, I believe that all my neurons fired simultaneously. What in the fuck was that? And just as soon as it’s there, the man drops, and the face is gone as it glides back behind the wall and dares anyone to come back and confront it. Whoa.
That’s a lot to digest, I know. But, if you’ve seen the film and enjoyed it, I’d love to know what you thought of this scene as well.
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to discuss your thoughts on it and the entirety of Mulholland Drive: A movie that has now entered my Top 10 favorite movies of all-time list after only one viewing.