The classical narrative structure. It’s a goodie. Like my grand-pop always said (if I had anybody who I actually called grand-pop), “If you’ve got a good thing going…” And then he would trail of wisely, never finishing what exactly to do ‘if you had a good thing going’. So I guess David Lynch came along and thought that the end to that clique was, “… screw around with it to the point where people don’t know which way is up or down. If there is one? Or maybe up and down is simultaneous?” Because by the end of ‘Mulholland Drive’, up and down do indeed feel like they could be the same thing. One thing is clear; Lynch is seriously going up against the old-school, grand-pop style of narrative structure.

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Thankfully for David Lynch it works in his favour, not in everybody’s opinion, but definitely in mine. No. I can’t say I fully understand the film. Can anybody? But I sure as hell had a great time (obsessively) thinking about it.

The thing is, is that it starts off like an ordinary film. Sure there’s some whack stuff happening, but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary, and you keep thinking that the pieces will tie up at the end. Letting your mind do the usual detective work and jump around from proposition to proposition.

I may have even started to get a little cocky, thinking, ‘man, people go on about how mind-f#cking this movie is… and I’m finding it pretty easy. Score!’ It’s a bit of an esteem boost. Until about two hours into the movie. I kid you not. We’ve been watching this thing for nearly two hours or so, following the story line. It’s all good, albeit getting a bit weirder and wilder as it goes on. But surely that’s just leading to the climax and resolution, right?

Now lets stop and compare. Take the movie ‘Toy Story’ for example. The filmmaker Andrew Stanton recently did a talk on TED Talks about what makes a great story.

(On a sidenote, I don’t think there is anyone, for one second, who wasn’t convinced that Nemo would find his father. You’re fooling yourself Stanton!)

In ‘Toy Story’ we start with Woody being the favourite toy, top dog, so to speak. Then along comes Buzz Lightyear to usurp him. Woody now has the goal to regain status as the top toy. This goal is extended when Woody and Buzz Lightyear get left behind and have to work together to get back home. The deadline comes in the form of the horrible, toy-abusing boy next door. Once home everyone is friends and all is resolved as Woody and Buzz Lightyear now share the position of top toy.

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Apply this to ‘Mulholland Drive’. We’ve got our goal; figure out whom ‘Rita’ is. It’s somewhat hard and extended because they can only figure things out through random moments of inspiration from Rita. There’s a deadline too; sinister forces, possibly the cruel Hollywood executives, are out to get Rita. And for extra kicks a love side story develops. So far all of the criteria are checked off.

Well there is a climax!

But where is the resolution? Where are you? Somewhere in the dark, twisted brain of David Lynch, where mere mortals like myself can only try to reach in to grasp some kind of answer.

The last half hour of the film is spent completely unraveling everything that the entire movie up until now has been about.

Now the ‘whole’, ‘coherent’ characters are not at all whole; they are in fact other people. Likewise the film finishes with a jumble of events distinguished by slight, conventionally unrecognisible time-lapse signals.

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Events are not resolved, things are left answered and there’s a lot of weird stuff going on. Not very conventional, Lynch breaks possibly every rule to classical narrative structure. The most impressive of the lot probably being an unsatisfying resolution.

It is understandable why many get fed up with the film. In his talk Stanton says that all good films make a promise that they’ll lead you somewhere worth your time. For some people, ‘Mulholland Drive’ isn’t worth their time. For me, part of the film’s appeal is it’s bold rejection of the norm, it’s what makes ‘Mulholland Drive’ so exciting and fascinating.

 

 

 

And for bonus points!

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