In its twentieth anniversary year, Mulholland Drive has already been voted the best film of the twenty-first century in a BBC critics poll. Named after a road in the Hollywood hills, famous for its celebrities, the film is set in Los Angeles where, as director David Lynch once noted, there are jokes about how everyone is writing a script. Yet for Lynch, the people are yearning not necessarily for fame, but for self-expression.
In a 2020 interview, Naomi Watts, one of the film’s stars, said that after 10 years unsuccessfully auditioning in LA she ‘didn’t know who she was any more’ until she was offered the role in Mulholland Drive. The line is echoed in the movie itself: ‘I don’t know who I am’. In the movie, though, this loss of self is reclaimed as a creative act, the opposite of the exhaustion of the fixed, self‑expressing subject.
That loss or unknowing sounds ‘Lynchian’ – a word that has come to indicate surrealist techniques imposed on everyday American life to reveal the corruption behind the façade. Dance in his films has been perceived as part of this nightmarish reality or as an expression of the inner world of characters. But that’s not all that it does.