David Lynch talks about “Mulholland Dr.” and refuses to interpret it

Here David Lynch answers questions about his film “Mulholland Dr.” You’ll notice that he avoids interpreting it — or “translating” it — for his viewers because he wants them to experience his film in the way that people experience music. We don’t try to reduce music to one explanation, because we recognize that the emotional and intuitive responses matter and we often lack a proper language to describe these reactions.

Lynch describes creating a film as “falling in love with ideas,” which can be made manifest in the medium of film. Once these ideas are embodied in film, however, Lynch does not like to translate them back into words and explanations of what his film “means.” Instead, Lynch encourages us to think of his film as:  “an experience in a brand new world. If there’s problems in understanding, it’s the intuition that saves us.”

This point is what I was trying to make at the end of class today, which I did not render sufficiently clear: the experience of the film is important to understanding it. This aspect is what makes a film artful — the experiential element — which Susanne Langer and F.E. Sparshott emphasized in the reading for today. This experience can be explained not in one way, or under one theme or idea, but has many possible interpretations. Remember how art is described in the documentary “Being in the World”? Great works of art, like life, are inexhaustible and have a plurality of meanings. A great work of art will never have just one interpretation or explanation. Also, there is an aspect of experiencing the work of art that cannot simply be summed up in an explanation.

You all offered really insightful interpretations and did a great job working with a difficult film. Thank you for your hard work this week.

Related Links:

Sundance Channel’s Top Ten Films about Dreaming
- Names “Mulholland Dr.” as #1 and praises it because “it leaves room to dream”

Steve Rose (The Guardian) ranks “Mulholland Dr.” as #2 on his list, The Best Art House Films of All Time
Rose also praises the film for defying simple explanations: “Piecing Mulholland Drive together is half the film’s appeal – and there’s still no guarantee it all makes sense. Lynch even issued a set of clues shortly after the release to guide people through the mystery – ‘notice appearances of the red lampshade’ – which only made the story more cryptic. But even after we think we’ve deciphered it, the film somehow loses none of its power. That sense of being taken in, only to realise we understood nothing, gives us some emotional connection to Watts’s character. And even as he’s tying our brains in knots, Lynch is showing us behind the curtain in Mulholland Drive – showing us this is all really just his dream. But the illusions remain intact even after they’ve been dismantled. Lynch can still create charged scenes out of nothing but a few skilled actors and our own subconscious. He knows how to push our buttons, and he shows us that he knows how to push our buttons. And we love it.”

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