Persona/Mulholland Drive

Lynch has often cited Ingmar Bergman as one of his primary influences, in particular his film Persona (1966). It is not difficult to see the linkage between the two filmmakers, whose distinct styles of filmmaking and narration have been considered strong examples of auteurism. Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) parallels Bergman’s Persona in many ways. Both films are disruptive and at times divorced from plot, trailing off into separate worlds of fantasy. There is also an intimacy in both films that takes place between two female protagonists. The nature of these two filmically separate relationships take similar courses and help to realize the more surreal qualities of their respective narratives.

The link between Mulholland Drive and Persona most likely begins at the very beginning in how Bergman and Lynch establish mood. Both films contain preludes that expose the audience to what lies beneath the surface in both films. Whereas Mulholland Drive begins with a sequence of a jitterbug competition and the main character Betty on stage washed-out by the spotlight, Persona creeps onto the screen in an eerie manner that ends with a sequence of a nail being driven through a hand. These opening sequences only provide the audience with some inkling of the material that will be dealt with in each film, yet they provide a stylistic introduction that can be held onto throughout either film.

The relationship between Lynch’s Betty and Rita and very similar to that of Bergman’s Alma and Elisabeth. For starters take the simple fact that both Rita and Elisabeth are characters that are ailing in some way and require the moral support and help of their counterparts, Alma and Betty, in order to feel comforted and at peace. There is a disturbance present in both films that becomes manifest in these relationships. Betty and Rita find themselves mixed up in a mystery that leads to the chilling discovery of Diane Selwin’s corpse and a general sense of danger, neither of whom can grasp at that point in time. Alma and Elisabeth, on the other hand, seem to quickly develop a fondness for one another, however, it is voiced only by Alma whose need to talk becomes more and more pronounced, eventually admitting things to Elisabeth that she never has to anyone else.

What is most alluring about both involvements is the reflective lens that they ultimately end up as. The entirety of Betty and Rita’s relationship exposes itself as a mere fabrication of Diane Selwin’s mind, in which she plays the part of Betty; confident, altruistic and with a boundless future. The reality beneath this façade is that she is fading out of whatever spotlight she may have had and harbors jealousy towards Camila Rhodes, the parallel of Rita, whose affair with their director has cast the light of hope on her career and cut off the fling she had with Diane. Alma and Elisabeth’s interaction turns out to be one of insularity, where Alma is merely a projection of Elisabeth’s troubled mind. In a way that is similar to Mulholland Drive, we the audience begin to question the actuality of the events that have transpired between the two characters.

The disruptive nature of both films is jarring to an unwitting observer. Both movies take drastic turns into fantasy and abstraction that aims to situate their more concrete narratives inside of a larger scope that is naturally dark and troubled. These are characteristics that are shared by both Lynch and Bergman in relation to their entire cinematic ouveure’s. As Lynch’s predecessor, Bergman’s approach to film must have been particularly attractive to the young artist. Persona’s depiction of a young boy as he caresses two interchangeable, blurred faces seems to insinuate the movie’s pertinence to youth and its naturally curious manner and need for nurturing. Lynch has built his entire artistic voice on notions of childhood curiosity and fear, it is very possible that the cinematic imagination of Bergman influenced this or contributed to it in some way.


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