News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Lynch & Mulholland

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lynch & Mulholland

[w/ apolgies to Adam Kotsko for using his website to try out these rather toilsome remarks. Needless to say they are collected from there and would serve as rough rough drafts for a review, were I ever to find time to do one]

Update: These remarks appeared before the NPR interview w/ Lynch and before I had a chance to read the interview w/ Lynch @ Village Voice.

Spoiler Alert: THe following remarks may deaden your first viewing of Mulholland.

Wittgenstein talks about a gestalt switch in language avquistion, and used it to explain the way that people understand language--that is, go from simple commands and context-determined response to being able to apply sentences in a meaningful way. Wittgenstein and the gestalt switch can help explain what some might require in a Lynch filnm by asking: "Okay, so this thing in the 'dream' part corresponds to this thing in the 'real' part -- but why is it shifted in just this way?" What is the shape of the transformation that the "real" events undergo?"

I am still trying to get a handle on what that might mean It is about the "shift" between dream and reality? It is the mechanism that makes this work or doesn't work? Or is it simply a matter of identifying a decoder manual to the movie?

In my own view, it does take several viewings to decode (interpret) Mulholland. I have my own theory about what the film's about, starting with the fact that it's dedicated to Keanu Reeves' wife (?) who was killed in a car accident. Is the scene at the beginning an allusion to that? Is the film about reincarnation in some way; ie,, Diana being the disembodied soul (atman) of Lynch's friend? Is the story an allegory about small-town girl goes to H-wood and loses her soul to H-wood corruption?

Again, these are simply outer wrappings of a mystery within a mystery. The "real" events are refracted through various dream characters and we find doppelgangers all over the place. For me, at least, the film begins show reality at the dinner where Naomi Watts' lover announces her marriage to the director. All the characters in her dream are at that party--even the Cowboy.

Having said this, of course, you have to consider the idea that it seems that Naomi Watts' character has already committed suicide--or so it seems--so the dream/reality could be some form of "loop" that her disembodied soul is condemned to repeat over and over again.

I don't know these fit into your questions about the "shift" from reality to dream, a question that I thought was related to one regarding "meaning." But perhaps I read too much into it.

Unlike other works involving dreams, it seems that Lynch has left clues in this movie that enable the viewer to indeed decode the movie as dream. In this way, it does not call up so much the viewer's deeper desires and unconscious mysteries as it does the goings inside the film. That is, much surrealist work was meant to enable people to tap into their hidden energies and ID, thereby unleashing it for a supposed freer form of life. Lynch doesn't do that in his films--perhaps because he recognizes that these forces or energies are potentially destructive of those small-town values he seems to respect.

That's the great thing about Lynch: he works on numerous levels, exploiting the ambiguities. His aesthetic is basically surrealist, which means he wants to jar us out of one way of seeing things into another way. The problems, as I see it, with the surrealist aesthetic is that it cannot sustain itself over time. It ultimatelt breaks down when confronted by what Kierkegaard would've called "actuality." This is the downfall of all aesthetic views that attempt to undermine conventional ethics with a more radical vision.

Lynch, I think, tries to make up for this weakness by putting much of his work into the context of everyday, hometown stories. At least on the surface, he appears to want to uphold those values while introducing the disruption of those values by various perverse, dare one say corruptive, forces at play under the surface. In some ways, I think you could see Lynch as a spokesman for wholesome values and a vision of America that harkens back to the 50s. Or is he merely dangling these fragments of a lost unified social ethos and putting the fragments into intriguing mesmerizing patterns?

It's that "renewed" vision that I think Lynch in a weird is commenting on in Mulholland. That is, there's a weird sense that you've lost something by seeing the mystery solved in the film. You'll never be able to see the film anew, so to speak, now that you've "solved" it. Instead, you'll spend time (at least I do) putting the pieces together again into a logical (I imagine he might say "serial" or "linear") fashion that ultimately destroys the heart of the vision.

No comments: