That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Mulholland Drive & Inception

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 3:26 pm—Film

Mulholland Drive (France/USA 2001, Drama/Mystery/Thriller), Writer/Director: David Lynch

Inception (USA/UK 2010, Action/Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller), Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan

A friend of mine loves borrowing movies from the library, and she often asks what I think of films I haven’t seen in years. Recently, she wanted to know about Mulholland Drive, and I found myself comparing it to a summer blockbuster that I hadn’t felt compelled to write about. Until now, that is.

When I saw Inception a few months ago, I was disappointed. I expected more from the mind behind 2000’s Memento, particularly when I learned that Inception was 10 years in the making. The film is about a team of professional dream weavers led by Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) that specializes in invading people’s dreams. The crew is hired to steal—and ultimately plant—memories, thoughts and ideas. It’s a fantastic premise, but the story itself wound up being surprisingly banal.

The biggest reason I didn’t write about Inception before now is that I read a review in The New York Times that summed up what I would have said, and then some. It’s a fascinating read, which you can find here if you’re interested. In a nutshell, I completely agree that Inception was engaging enough for the duration, but didn’t leave a lasting impression. And although the story has great potential, the plot—and particularly the content of the dreams themselves—is bland and pedestrian.

Mulholland Drive brought Inception to mind because I think Lynch’s film offers so much of what Inception is missing. Both films delve into the world of dreams and the subconscious, and teeter over the dividing line between fantasy and reality. Mulholland Drive follows Betty/Diane (Naomi Watts) through a mind-bending series of convoluted, often trippy events as she strives to turn some of her fantasies into reality (or is it the other way around) in her quests to become a Hollywood actress, find love and solve a dark mystery. Yes, the film can be confusing. But it takes chances, and has a depth and visceral quality that Inception barely begins to touch on.

Lynch did an incredibly artful job of weaving together a person’s dreams and reality, their conscious and subconscious wishes. It’s rich and layered, and always chooses symbolism over the obvious. One of the film’s most stunning scenes is when Betty and her lover Rita (Laura Harring) take in Rebekah Del Rio’s amazing Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s Crying. The performance is so moving that it leaves the women in tears, as it does me nearly every time. Even if you don’t understand the words literally—or the reason the women are being serenaded—the feeling and heart behind it are undeniable.

Mulholland Drive shows the kind of innovation and creativity that Inception should have had. Lynch took artistic risks with his film, and the end result is complex and profound, and appropriately confusing given its subject matter. Inception plays it safe, and for that reason it falls short in my book. Yes, part of my disappointment in Inception stems from the high expectations Nolan has set for me. But considering that the film explores such fascinating topics as constructing and invading people’s dreams, I see Inception as a missed opportunity.

Mulholland Drive, much more than Inception, leaves you wondering what’s real and what isn’t. And unlike Inception, Mulholland Drive has had a lasting effect on me. It plays like one of those dreams you can’t get out of your head, even years later. Inception, on the other hand, is more like one of those dreams you barely remember you had.

6 Responses

  1. Camille Dubois Croteau

    Mulholland Drive rocks. I was stunned while watching it, even more so walking away, and left in a state that one often feels after waking from an intense, life-like dream. Touché! I still find myself thinking of it in flashes here or there, visually and otherwise. That is a masterpiece.

  2. amanda

    Totally agree. You should be writing film reviews 🙂 Maybe this makes up for my recommending McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which you didn’t like so much? 😉

  3. Shannon

    Plus Naomi Watts’ character in Mulholland Drive says she came from Deep River, Ontario. Any Deep Riverites in Inception? Noooooooooo.

  4. amanda

    Good call, Shannon. So weird that David Lynch knows about Deep River… 😉 What’s that now, Mulholland Drive – 89, Inception – 0? Poor Inception… it has its redeeming traits…

  5. michael

    Have you noticed the scene in wich Diane arrives at L.A airport? it is similar to one from inception in which cobb (Di Caprio) does the same. I think it is a similarity if it weren’t a tribute to Lynch’s movie.

  6. amanda

    Hi Michael! You mean when she first arrives? I’m drawing a blank about the airport scene in Inception… Mulholland Drive is a great film to study if you’re writing about blurring the lines between dreams and reality. But I wouldn’t want to draw comparisons unless I had something pretty awesome on my hands… in my opinion, it’s hard to measure up to Mulholland Drive on that level.

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