Dreams, Film, and David Lynch

15 May

Dreaming on Mulholland Drive

Watching films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive is like entering into someone else’s dream.

Just like a dream, every scene carries an intangible sense of meaning to it while it is happening. Yet once it’s over there’s a disconnect to what was before and what is next; how this leads to that, how this scene connects to the one before it, and the one after.

And in this way David Lynch pieces together his films like a dream.

Dreams sequences often do not logically follow any order or consistency. Yet while they are happening, everything makes perfect sense.

No one questions the illogical consistencies of the dream while they are happening (unless this is a lucid dreamer making a conscious intent to become awake within the dream.)

Just like characters in a dream, the people in Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway don’t react when their surroundings inexplicably change, when other characters suddenly switch personalities or identities, nor even when their own sense of identity, personality, or physical body become wholly different! The story simply moves right along, just like a dream, with everyone along for the ride, and no one noticing anything out of the ordinary.

Yet there’s still an underlying, abstract thread running through the plot of films like Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, tying things together just enough so they don’t fall apart.

Betty and Rita: who's who?

This mirrors how bizarre elements in a dream that seemingly have no relationship actually do fit together in an abstract sense, especially (or only) in respect to the dreamers mind and life experiences.

Once I started viewing the movie as if it were a dream, pieced together scene by scene, it started to make a lot more sense.

It was the scene where Betty auditions for a movie role that led me to think of each scene as the scene of a dream, containing an inexplicable sense of meaning and emotion at the time that doesn’t add up when taken in linearly. There were also the obvious references to dreams such as the camera fading into the bed leading to a new scene and the movie ending with a character dead on the bed.

All that being said, I think David Lynch purposely puts together his films with enough loose ends, abstraction, and genuine weirdness that multiple interpretations are required to make sense of the film, none of them wholly correct or complete, including the idea that his films are made like dreams.

7 Responses to “Dreams, Film, and David Lynch”

  1. Jose P. May 20, 2007 at 8:48 pm #

    Very good post. Check out William S. Burroughs’ works, especially Naked Lunch. I believe that Lynch might have been influenced by Burrough’s manner of writing (and of art too). Burroughs created something called cut-ups in which he would write stories and even film short films in the same manner, as if they were dreams. I think he believed that they had so much truth in them because of the fact that they were so pell-mell. If you’re gonna read some of his stuff, read Naked Lunch (it’s a VERY good representation of cut-ups and is sexually explicit and gorey at the same time). If you would like some videos, let me know on the ol’ myspace and I can send you all the ones I’ve got.

  2. Jose P. May 20, 2007 at 8:53 pm #

    Oh crap, almost forgot. Burroughs himself is even a very very minor character in Lost Highway. Check it out on imdb.com.

  3. Ben May 20, 2007 at 9:28 pm #

    I’ve never read any Burroughs but it’s something on my to-do list, somewhere, way in the back. 🙂 Can’t believe he had a cameo in Lost Highway, I gotta know now which person he was…I’m guessing he was at the party as that was the only scene with a lot of people.

  4. Zach June 22, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    Great post – I’m a huge fan of Lynch myself. As soon as you can, see INLAND EMPIRE (I think it’s out on DVD August 14th).

    Also – when you get a chance, find some Buñuel, and you’ll be richly rewarded. Start with either “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” or “The Exterminating Angel”.

  5. Ben June 22, 2007 at 9:24 pm #

    Zach – I am dying to see INLAND EMPIRE. It kills me that I missed it when it was in the theatres! (Still not certain if it was even shown in my city.)
    Thanks for the tip on Buñuel! I’ll have to queu it up on NetFlix. If it’s mindblowing like Lynch, then…that would be awesome. 🙂

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