By Evan Klinger
The Way We Were Told: From The Gold Rush to Mulholland Drive
The use of narration in a film is how we consume the images put forth. Two diametrically opposing narrations can be seen in Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush” from 1925 and David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” from 2001.
In “The Gold Rush” we are presented with the linear telling of a man who goes to the mountains in search of gold. We follow his exploits in a matter of consequence fashion. All loose ends are tied off with The Tramp getting the money, the girl, and everyone is happy. This is told as a parable or as a long book would present it in a consequential fashion.
Conversely, the film “Mulholland Dr” tells a story that is mixed with temporal leaps and simple fantasies. The opening shot alone of the film is a POV shot from the audience’s point of view and they literally put their head down on a pillow and sleep. Lynch lets the audience know that some of this will be a dream, a fantasy, a reality, and a desire.
The narration choice Lynch makes is to have a center of characters but repeat their actions. He recreates the opening scene of a limousine drive up Mulholland Dr. in the opening and closing scenes of the movie, but each time with different characters with different names and different realities.
This evolution of narration is only palatable because modern audience’s have accumulated cinematic knowledge since “The Gold Rush” and now have an ability to process confusion for 90% of the film with an denouement that provides a concrete explanation for everything. In Lynch’s case, his presence as the narrator is their to poke the audience awake with confusion.
Time, space, characters, names, plot, settings, fantasy time, and disavowing of everything previous is now acceptable 100 years after were told simple cinematic stories like Andy Hardy Mows his lawn.