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“A Far-Off Island in a Dark World” An article about Mulholland Drive movie by David Lynch

Written by Arya Bakhsheshi

Foreword It was almost five years ago when I saw David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” movie for the first time. After I finished watching, I felt I cannot understand much of it except pure pleasure that I had got from a series of enigmatic scenes, strange situations. At the same time, by reading some critiques on the internet, an imperfect initial understanding came to my mind and to some extent, I informed of director’s thoughts but I never went deep in it. These very low interpretations encouraged me to watch other Lynch works and think about them. Even though I could not understand and interpret a perfect and holistic philosophy of the movie, the newly discovered atmosphere was exotic and inspiring for me; from the black and white Film Noir-like scenes such as those in The Elephant Man1 to the believable but mysterious atmospheres in The Straight Story2, which was more than a mere realistic movie because of its total form. As I read The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime3 book by Slavoj Zizek about Lost Highway in 2010 and regardless of its distance to when I saw Lynch’s films for the first time, a genuine understandings begun to incept in my mind. It seemed like I was getting acquainted with his worldview as well-perceived and comprehended critiques are about his works. Consequently, my thoughts about Lynch’s worldview and his manner of sharing it with us, which is presented as “form” in cinema, changed during this period; the panegyric look that I had to his works in this period did not remain steady but it is always clear that he is one of the few directors that are able to show concepts of unconscious and dream in a personal way.

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The Lynch, D. (Director). (1980). [Motion Picture] Lynch, D. (Director). (1999). [Motion Picture] Zizek, S. (2000). The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch's Lost Highway. University of Washington Press

A far-off island in a dark world Two men in Winkie’s restaurant (twelfth to seventeenth minutes of the film); this is a very short and completely irrelevant scene to the film’s main plot and surprising when it is against the intention of following the occurrences in the film. The scene can be read as a drop that contains the essence of the entire movie. By placing such a miniature model of a larger one which consists of mainstream and main characters of movie, the director figures a vague outline of the world that his movie is in. In overall the movie is a world of twisted realities; it is about dream and reality and the transitions between these two. However, illustrating that in cinema as its medium is in a higher level of importance. (Mulholland Drive has two main parts: first part is Dian Selvyn’s Dream, which is from the start to approximately three fourth of the movie’s time, and then the second part begins when we see Dian in a desperate situation her little home) Dan, a nervous young man who has no direct connection to the main story and the characters, is having an appointment in Winkies restaurant – the place that the film refers to several times - with his friend, Herb. He tells Herb about a dreadful dream and wishes not to see the events occurred in that dream in real world (“I never want to see that face in reality”). His dream also occurred in Winkie’s. Now he has come back to the place while being sure this time is not a dream, nevertheless he wants to be in the same circumstance as those in his dream to feel it in reality and relieve his irritating memories. Oddly, the events occur exactly the same as in his dream while he is explaining what he had seen in the dream. Dan gradually becomes nervous and confused. Nonetheless he tries not to be frustrated until the last minutes. At last, when he thinks he is awake falls and dies of tremendous fear and the scene ends. The first key point that becomes clear by the end of this scene is the story happens in a world not logically compatible with the real world. Nevertheless, it makes confusion; is this scene – together with the other scenes of the first part of the movie with no prelude – an explanation of the coming surrealistic events? Or can it be seen and assessed separately, completely irrelevant to the main plot? In second or final part of the movie, (Diane in real world), the perception that we were seeing Diane’s dream so far, shapes in our mind and thus, remembering this apparently pale and small scene (Winkie’s), is helpful to comprehend the full structure of the story: this scene could be a cue that the first part is nothing but a dream. Considering cinematographic and stage arrangements, it helps invigorating the unfamiliar sense of the scenes and acting. However Diane’s dream scene is a small section, exaggeration of the mentioned technical aspects highlights it in the movie; camera moves up and down slowly, constantly and in an unnatural way is opposed to the hand-held camera movement in realistic movies. The light that has extraordinary brightness (figure 1) long and unordinary pauses between phrases in dialogues, unusual reactions of Dan and Herb to each other’s

speeches and their irregular facial gestures while speaking (exaggerations in their facial expressions) are weird. (figure 2) In this five minutes long scene, Lynch explicitly leads audience’s mind toward the concepts of the dream rather than implying this concept just like the other scenes of film. From this point, he makes minds busy to consistently think about and follow up the relations between reality and dream in the entire movie as they follow the main events; which makes the memory of this short temporary scene stay till the last parts of the movie in minds, like a small far-off Island in the dark and confusing world4 of the movie.


“life in darkness and confusion�: a phrase that Lynch used about his works in an interview with Chris Rodley (Rodley, C. (March 24, 2005). Lynch on Lynch, Revised Edition. Faber & Faber; Revised edition)

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"A far off island in a dark world"  

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