Let me tell you a story. You know how I like to tell stories. In college, my roommate and I rented Mulholland Drive, the David Lynch film, which had recently been released to DVD. We had seen trailers, but we didn't really know much about the movie. We sat down and watched it straight through, and when it finished we found ourselves completely befuddled. We had no idea what on earth we had just seen. We could not make heads or tails of it.
Somehow the issue was not, did we like it? Instead the question became, what was it doing? What was it trying to say?
We got up and shook ourselves off and went and sat in my bedroom, where we did probably two hours' worth of internet research about the film. We read a bunch of input from other viewers, and, from the conversations we read, we were suddenly aware of a huge plot subtext we had missed. We sat in an excited, baffled chatter on my bed, talking over some of the scenes. I read aloud from critical reviews and online forums. We sat down the next night and watched the film again. We puzzled over it. It haunted us a little. In the end, we watched it three times. I'm still not sure we liked it, but we were fascinated by it, and captivated by the process of figuring it out. Even though we'd just wanted a simple diversion on a Saturday night, we weren't angry when instead we ended up with what amounted to a casual academic project.