Like so many others, I thought the movie Mulholland Drive was an inspired work. The power of it does not just emanate from its eerie and mysterious atmosphere, its taste for conspiracy and intrigue, and its poignant love story which ends tragically in betrayal, murder and suicide. The force of the movie comes across in the way most scenes are able to communicate on many different levels at the same time. This, in effect, challenges you to tease apart the significance of the multiple layers if you are to really understand the message at the subtext of the story. And just as the metaphorical structure at the subtext of the story is difficult to grasp, the context of the story at the surface level is also a complicated and puzzling challenge. As in other works by Lynch, there are serious plot twists and shuffled timelines that force the viewer to do some work to decide what the chronological sequence of events in the story really was. But this movie doesn’t stop there. Even with a reasonable chronological story line, the logic of the events is still very illusive. The true genius of Mulholland Drive is in the way that it employs an intricate language of symbolism and metaphor that would give even a complex novel a run for its money.
Because of how thick and richly textured this movie is, most reviews of it focus on explaining the plot twists and how the characters are interwoven with one another so that they can make sense of the basic story line. And by doing this, the reviews often de-emphasize the need to understand how to decipher the symbols and metaphors that are major driving forces in the movie. However, that approach can be problematic because without a method for interpreting the symbolism, the basic story line is easy to misread. For instance, two of the major symbols in the movie are the blue key and the blue box. But you cannot totally understand these symbols without understanding why they are blue since symbolic colors are a major device running through the entire movie. Even blonde, brunette and redhead hair colors have special significance. And there are scores of other symbols as well. Names, references to other films, artwork, plot devices, special props, ordinary items like telephones, and certain articles of clothing among other things are also important to deciphering the context and the subtext.