Mulholland Drive and Learning About Film Noir

Camden Benesh
14 min readJun 19

How Mulholland Drive Changed my Outlook on Movies and Storytelling

Photo by Krismas on Unsplash

Mulholland Drive was a film among many David Lynch films I watched for my Winter Film Noir class. We dove into the intricacies of the director David Lynch and film noir as a whole. From those tacky Venetian blinds to the devious plotting of the femme-female followed detective narratives, chiaroscuro lighting, and what defines film noir as film noir. Every class started with a brief introduction to the director, a preview and premise of the film, and what to keep in mind. We were told to take notes during the movie which I sometimes did, but I found myself having to remember to breathe while writing down my thoughts and what stood out after the film. Early on, a lot of the films were from the 40s-60s and I was weirdly drawn to slower-paced films, older clothes, and quirky dialogue. I liked Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, and Kiss Me Deadly, they set up the framework for understanding what makes film noir, film noir. But it was when we transitioned to watching David Lynch, my world was turned upside down. I remember watching Eraserhead, one of Lynch’s earlier films, and being so thoroughly lost, and I loved that. I had never seen something quirky, weird, and experimental.

Did it have a point, I don’t think it did. It certainly challenged me and my previous understanding of movies. I loved how lost I was, I scrambled to make sense of the meaning with my fellow disgruntled classmates. After watching Mulholland Drive, being probably even more disturbed, I felt like it was destiny or even fate that I had seen this film. I would have never even known about Lynch prior but his work has had a great impact on how I think about storytelling and plot within movies. I had become a deep movie person seemingly overnight.

In MulhollandDrive, Lynch takes advantage of the edginess of film noir and blends it with messaging about Hollywood with robust symbolism. Made in 2001, the film embodies a more modern American Dream where the main character, Natalie has aspirations of making it big in Hollywood only to learn firsthand about what goes on behind the scenes. Just because she was a beyond-talented actor didn’t determine her success within the industry. It was truly a film unlike anything I had ever seen, it was as if Lynch dove into what looms…