David Lynch’s 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Drive has only grown in acclaim over the years, now often taking its place among the truly great films released since the turn of the millennium. (In ’09, we ranked it as number 18.) A new video essay from Fandor goes a step further, claiming that it’s also director David Lynch’s “most essential” work, and the reasoning is compelling.
The lynchpin (sorry) of the argument is that the film contains all of the hallmarks of a Lynch film—portals to haunted, dream-like spaces, subversive plunges beneath wholesome exteriors, and shadowy creatures that appear to move omnisciently between these realms. But it’s Lynch’s career-long obsession with “doubles” that gets its most potent application in Mulholland Drive, because the revelation of the overlapping characters here isn’t just terrifying, as it is in Lost Highway or Twin Peaks, but also heartbreaking. The film tells Lynch’s most tender romantic story, but structurally uses the doubling of Betty’s character to illustrate that relationship’s painful disintegration. And while many of his films feature characters solving mysteries, Mulholland Drive is itself a mystery, one that viewers themselves participate in. While he played with this before and certainly did in the endlessly enigmatic Inland Empire, Mulholland Drive marks his most refined application of the technique.
If you’re still hungry for more Mulholland Drive analysis, this Nerdwriter essay explores Betty’s pivotal tryout scene:
Fair warning, though: Both videos feature the Winkie’s garbage monster, so you may be seeing that in your darkened closet for a month afterwards.