I saw David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive a couple months ago. The film is rather long at a running time of 147 minutes. I liked it as a whole, but it didn’t stick with me.
Well, this one scene stuck with me. It’s a scene set in a diner, and occurs about 10 minutes into the movie. It’s somewhat of a self-contained short film within the larger film. You don’t really need to know anything about what precedes or follows it. The scene features two characters that don’t figure prominently in the plot (one shows up in a cameo later — if the other one shows up, I missed it).
The movie was available via Netflix Streaming, and I found myself watching the diner scene again and again. Sadly, the film isn’t available to stream any more, though some kind soul has uploaded the scene in its entirety to YouTube
Here, watch it (my apologies for the poor quality – there was a nice clip of this on Vimeo that has since been taken down):
Why does this scene resonate so much with me? There are strange things about it. Dan, the dark-haired man, seems to vacilliate between naturalistic acting and a more stilted line delivery. It’s hypnotic. Also, note how the camera doesn’t stay still during what could be a very static, stereotypical two-person dialogue scene. The camera seems to be handheld, and actually is very slightly raising and lowering, hovering during the scene.
By the time they leave the diner to see if “the man” is back behind the alley, the tension is already ratcheted up to a high level. The scene takes mundane things and somehow makes them terrifying. The pay phone, the taped-up back door spooks Dan because of its familiarity to him, and we are spooked in the process because Dan is spooked.
The use of sound contributes to the scene. Dan says something to his friend as they leave the diner, but you can’t hear him. When “the man” appears, the sound gets incredibly loud, then becomes muffled as Dan collapses.
Hell, I’m describing WHAT happens, but I don’t know HOW it happens. I don’t know why this scene is so riveting to me.
Thoughts? Does it affect you? If so, why?
Here’s a snippet of the script for this scene, taken from LynchNet:
I think the movie improves upon the script (for example, showing Dan didn’t eat his breakfast right before they leave the diner, rather than have Herb announce that Dan is not hungry).
INT. DENNY'S RESTAURANT , HOLLYWOOD - MORNING Two well-dressed men HERB and DAN (mid 30's) are sitting at a table drinking coffee. Herb has finished eating his breakfast, but Dan hasn't touched his bacon and eggs - he appears too nervous to eat. A blonde waitress with a nameplate saying "DIANE" lays the check on their table smiles, then walks off. HERB Why did you want to go to breakfast if you're not hungry? DAN I just wanted to come here. HERB To Denny's? I wasn't going to say anything, but why Denny's? DAN This Denny's. HERB Okay. Why this Denny's? DAN It's kind of embarrassing but, HERB Go ahead. DAN I had a dream about this place. HERB Oh boy. DAN You see what I mean... HERB Okay, so you had a dream about this place. Tell me. DAN Well ... it's the second one I've had, but they were both the same......they start out that I'm in here but it's not day or night. It's kinda half night, but it looks just like this except for the light, but I'm scared like I can't tell ya. Of all people you're standing right over there by that counter. You're in both dreams and you're scared. I get even more frightened when I see how afraid you are and then I realize what it is - there's a man...in back of this place. He's the one ... he's the one that's doing it. I can see him through the wall. I can see his face and I hope I never see that face ever outside a dream. Herb stares at Dan to see if he will continue. Dan looks around nervously, then stares at his uneaten food. DAN (cont'd) That's it. HERB So, you came to see if he's out there? DAN To get rid of this god-awful feeling. HERB Right then. Herb gets up, picks up the bill and goes to the cashier to pay. Dan just sits. As Herb is paying the bill he looks over at Dan just as Dan is turning to look at him. From Dan's point of view Herb is standing in exactly the same spot as he stood in the dream. Herb gets a strange feeling, turns back and finishes up with the cashier. He motions for Dan to follow him. Dan rises reluctantly and he and Herb make their way outside. CUT TO: EXT. DENNY'S Now Herb waits for Dan to lead the way. DAN Around here. Dan takes Herb across the front of Denny's to a narrow sidewalk that leads down the side toward the back. They begin walking down the narrow sidewalk - past a payphone. Dan begins to sweat the nearer he gets to the rear corner of the building. Red bricks glide by slowly. CLOSER ON DAN Beads of sweat cover his face. He finds it difficult to breathe. Herb is just behind him unable to see the fear overtaking his friend, but Herb can feel something himself. The red bricks moving by now are coming to an end - the corner is coming closer - the corner is now very close. Suddenly a man - a face ... a face dark and bum-like- moves quickly out from behind the corner and stops - freezes - staring into Dan's eyes. Dan lurches back. All his breath is suddenly gone. He falls back into Herb who tries to catch him as he's falling. Dan hits the ground unable to breathe - his eyes wide with horror. Herb looks up - the man is gone. He looks down to Dan. HERB Dan! ... Dan! You all right? ... Dan! He kneels down and studies his friend. He feels for a pulse in the neck. He listens for breathing. His friend is dead. HERB (cont'd) My God!