In David Lynch’s 2001 film, Mulholland Drive, meta cinema and postmodernism combine to create a non-linear, abstract and highly artistic piece of visual media, unlike traditional narrative films. The characters are never clearly defined, the plot jumps back and forth in time as well as from dreams to reality, and it acknowledges the filmmaking process itself.

With the setting of Hollywood, California, Mulholland Drive is a “self-referencing” meta film that discusses the harsh reality of attempting to become a Hollywood movie star and all the behind-the-scenes aspects of film production from casting to filming and beyond. The editing of the film also shows how it is a meta film with a few strange transitions scattered throughout aside from traditional cuts and clean crossfading, reminding the audience that they are watching a movie, or perhaps that reality is distorted. Ultimately, the film is a reflection of the industry that has created it using non-traditional elements to explain the story’s content and present subliminal, artistic messages.

People all across the world move out to Hollywood to pursue their dreams of “making it big” in the highly glorified film industry, much like the main character in the film, Betty/Diane, who moves to Hollywood from Ontario in search for stardom. The majority of the postmodern film exists in Diane’s dreams, where she takes on the identity of Betty, a name she took from a waitress at Winkie’s Diner. In this dream state, Diane twists her own reality to cope with the pain of how harsh Hollywood life is and goes on a journey with a amnesiac woman identifying herself as Rita. In reality, Rita is actually Camilla, another actress that Diane falls in love with who winds up being more successful than she is. It isn’t revealed until the end of the film, however, that this dream sequence is revealed to actually be a dream. To the audience, Betty is real. Once Diane’s identity is revealed, the audience is shown the reality of her problematic life that has destroyed her mental and physical state.

In addition to these elements of postmodernism and meta film, Mulholland Drive uses pastiche, referencing different aspects of Hollywood culture and its history, making it even more of a meta film. Rita, also known as Camilla, references the actress Rita Hayworth who was seen in a poster in the apartment. Not only was Rita Hayworth a successful movie star in the 1940s, she embodies the ideal actress that Diane would likely aim to be, making both Rita’s character and the actual actress highly symbolic of idealism. Another use of pastiche is the reference to Sunset Boulevard, another famous Hollywood street, as well as the title of another meta film about filmmaking and the life of an actress. With so many artistic elements and references to the film industry, Mulholland Drive is the ultimate postmodern meta film.

rita hayworth
Rita, who in reality is Camilla, sees the poster of Rita Hayworth and takes her name in place of her forgotten identity


[Digital Image]. Retrieved from

Edelstein, N. (Producer), Krantz, T. (Producer), Polaire, M. (Producer), Sarde, A. (Producer), Sweeney, M. (Producer) & Lynch, D. (Director). (2001). Mulholland Drive [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.

Mulholland Drive (2001) [Digital Image]. Retrieved from