Mulholland Drive (Philosophers on Film)
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Beloved by film and art aficionados and fans of neo-noir cinema, Mulholland Drive is one of the most important and enigmatic films of recent years. It occupies a central and controversial position in the work of its director, David Lynch, who won the best director award at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival for the movie.
in the Routledge Philosophers on Film series is the first full philosophical appraisal of Lynch's film. Beginning with an introduction by the editor, the volume explores the following topics:
- the identity of the self and its persistence through time
- the central, dual roles played by fantasy and reality throughout the film
- whether Mulholland Drive is best understood epistemologically via reason and language, or whether, as Lynch himself argues, by one's 'inner feelings' and emotions
- parallels between Mulholland Drive and Kafka's The Castle, both of which pit their protagonists at the mercy of unseen forces
- Mulholland Drive and romanticism.
Additional key themes are also discussed, such as the interpenetration of ethics, classical tragedy, and the contrasting philosophical arguments of Plato and Nietzsche on tragic drama. These themes make Mulholland Drive essential and engaging reading for students of philosophy, especially aesthetics and ethics, as well as film studies.
Betty, not Diane. So Betty survives in certain respects in Diane. Moreover, even if Betty is only a dream of Diane’s making, it is a dream drawing in part on firstpersonal memories of Diane as once she was (or imagined herself to be) – before she was deformed by the base machinations of Hollywood and the complex emotions of a failed love affair. This much is clear from the events and characters which overlap both narratives, and to the extent that it draws on biographical fact, it is more than
unified trajectory. This is one way in which the film articulates the conflict between agency and necessity, and the implications of that conflict for our understanding of just who and what we are. The evidence of common experience indicates that our practical agency is often disrupted in other ways as well, however. Even when our practical judgements issue from a relatively continuous and coherent internal psychology, they are often frustrated at the point of enactment IDENTITY AND AGENCY IN
mind. Eric G. Wilson (2007), for example, has argued that Lynch’s films articulate a “transcendental irony” in the sense conceptualized by the early German romantics – the way literary works can exploit the gap between appearance and reality, play with form and formlessness, use fragments, mix genres, deploy the creative destruction of irony – in order to express the freedom of selfconsciousness and to evoke “the Absolute.”6 Taking my cue from the early German romantics, I interpret Mulholland
haunts contemporary Hollywood/Los Angeles: the decaying “dream factory” and fantasmatic setting of Betty/Diane’s tragic selfdestruction and the oneiric space of the film’s metacinematic meditation. It is not only Vertigo that serves as a narrative palimpsest or cinematic dream-work, condensing and displacing elements into a new composition; it is also the topological space of Hollywood (Sunset Boulevard displaced into Mulholland Drive), to which is added a further layer of cinematic dreamwork,
analysts warn against conflating the notion of selfhood (das Selbst), which occurs very rarely in Freud’s writing, with das Ich. For a sense of their complex relationship (theoretical and textual), see McIntosh 1986. The Ego and the Id 2 (Gay 1995: 635–37) and 3 (643–45). On Freud’s drives, see The Ego and the Id 4 (especially Gay 1995: 645–50); a short note acknowledges the antecedence of Nietzsche on this point (The Ego and the Id 2 n. 2 [Gay 1995: 635]), tracing the term “Id” to Nietzsche’s