Film Review

Mulholland Drive and the Benefits of Artistic Failure

todayFebruary 8, 2024 34

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By – Nick Adrian

For fans of David Lynch, surrealism, and art itself

Some artistic projects are destined to fail. Distinctive auteur David Lynch (at the time known for cult hits such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Blue Velvet) had dipped his toe into network television in the early 1990s, with the cultural phenomenon Twin Peaks. It would go on to start a trend where a film director no longer shuddered at the thought of working in TV…but for Lynch, it was still a risk. That’s why the original 1990 pilot had been written and filmed to include an alternate ending – just in case the project wasn’t picked up for television, Lynch could release it as a feature film. As we all know, this wasn’t the case and it could be assumed that another venture into television for Lynch could pull similar success.

Mulholland Drive was originally pitched and even written as a television program (this is evident when you view its character introductions as series introductions) but when it wasn’t picked up, an ending still wasn’t clear. For those that have seen the film, they know of a certain switch in the “plot” (if it can be called that) where things more or less take a 180 degree turn. For most other artists, this would have been a nail in the coffin – they might fret over a more logical way to end their film or simply opt to abandon it . Lynch was never one for the ordinary – or for that matter, the logical – instead looking at his unfinished work and seeing in it an almost black canvas.


The result turned into what many consider Lynch’s greatest artistic achievement as well as one of the finest films ever made. It’s a tour-de-force that all at once seems complete while still fragmented – but not because of its recycled nature. If Mulholland Drive had remained a television program, it might not have gone the lengths that the film did (perhaps it would, judging by Lynch’s return to television in Twin Peak: The Return) – but its outcome would have certainly differed. Mulholland Drive was a project that was destined to fail and thank god it did, or we would have never gotten the final iteration. It’s inspiration for every artist out there – that project you’re unsure about might not need to be abandoned just yet.

Mulholland Drive is playing at the Sidewalk Cinema as a part of their Filmmaker Focus series on David Lynch, February 15 – 18.

Written by: Nick Adrian

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