Kyrie Iesou Christé, Yie tou Theou, eleison me ton armatolon
K'shoshana bein ha-chochim
Druga bješe prozračna ideja
izvajana na kristalni šator -
svemoguća poezija tvorca,
okrunjena krunom tvorenija;
sve krasote koje biće ima
i um tvorca sjajni, bespredjelni
koje vidi u carstvo svjetlosti
pod tom krunom bjehu okrunjene,
na tom licu bjehu izražene
u sjajnosti svetog sovršenstva.
Plan nebesah pred sobom gledaše
i prelesti pravilnoga vkusa.
Since 2008 Vaseljena je blogoslovljena!
Da ponosni, Care, nepodnošljivo svjesni tvog iluminantnog prisustva, ne manje.
HEC FONS NEMPE SUMIT INFIRMOS, UT REDDAT ILLUMINATOS.
O voi che avete gl’intelleti sani,
Mirate la dottrina che s’asconde
Sotto il velame delli versi strani!
Rebekah Del Rio's performance is an indication that, according to Diane, there is a large game, a large reality, and she is merely a pawn in it. Like an actor she can mouth the words - she might be able to perform the brilliantly, in fact - but they've already been written by someone else, and if she drops out, the larger story will continue."
Wrapped in Plastic #57
"Del Rio has a tear painted on her right cheek as part of her make-up, indication that she is aware of the illusion - this is all fake. Yet she pours herself into her performance completely."
Rebekah Del Rio incidentally mirrors Betty, who is also 'of the river' - Deep River, Ontario - and who is also 'crying over' unrequited love. - (Scott Loren)
"Seńoras y seńores, el Club Silencio les presenta - la llorona de Los Angeles, Rebekah del Rio."
The female singer is introduced as "La Llorona de Los Angeles". "La Llorona" (The Crying Lady) is a traditional ghost of Mexico City. Legend has it that circa 1550 a mestiza, Luisa de Oliveros, in despair drowns her children in a river, after being despised by her lover, Dom Nuno de Montesclaros, who loved her by preferred to marry a Spanish lady of noble blood. After nights of weeping in remorse she drowns herself. It is said that her voice is still heard in Mexico City, by night, lamenting her children: "Mis hijos, mis hijos, donde estan mis hijos" or something to that effect. - (Braulio Tavares)
In a certain sense, this is a hint that Diane's grief of her breakup with Camilla, a woman who jilted her, has made her homicidal as well as suicidal. And later we find out that Diane is in fact responsible for a homicide. So, even before her song is done, Rebekah del Rio collapses, probably in death, as if to emphasize to Diane that death is all around, and all hope is lost. - (Alan Shaw)
Related: La Llorona on Wikipedia
Geno Silva (Cookie/EmCee) on the "Llorona" reference
You know that intro I do for Rebekah? I made that up: "La Llorona de Los Angeles." La Llorona in Southwestern legend, is a mythic, spooky character of your childhood. It is a wailing woman you hear at night. She's crying because she lost her two children in the Rio Grande. It is a story you hear all over the Southwest. When she was singing "Crying" I said, "David, how about we call her La Llorona - the crying woman - of Los Angeles, because that's what she's doing." Some people will get it and some people won't.
Wrapped in Plastic #57
I thought that perhaps Camilla (the real Camilla) used to work as the singer in Club Silencio (hence her knowing the song) and that when the singer fell down it was part of Betty's illusion falling apart. It also reminded her of what she had done (hired the killer) which is why she had such an intense reaction. The reason the music plays on is probably because although Camilla is now dead, they just replace her and the show goes on. - (lokegotcrucified)
Related: Rita Hayworth Connection
John Neff (MD Sound designer) on Rebekah's performance
"She came into the studio with her agent in November or December of '98. And she walked in, and the guy was telling us what a great voice she had… she's real nice, she's very personable, and very friendly, and Dave just… she's in there 5 minutes and he says 'Well, sing us something.' Meanwhile, I had a beautiful old tube mic heated up in an isolation room, and a Protools system up and running. So she walked in the booth, put on headphones, I had some reverb on it, and she blasts out “Llorando” right there. And except for one tiny edit, just to shorten a note just a hair, what you hear in the film is exactly what she walked in the room and did. No EQ. No compression. No nothing. Just reverb added. She walked in and knocked this out acappella, and knocked us out right off the bat.
David wrote her into the TV Pilot based on that. Now she's in the movie, and it's sort of a pivotal scene. And we're also producing some other stuff with her. We've got one song finished, and a couple of other songs started with her. We'll also have some showcase shows slightly after the film is released."
Richard Green (The Magician) on Rebekah's performance
When we shot my scene, Rebekah Del Rio was there as well. We shot most of my wide shots first, and then we brought her in. Listening to that recording (of "Llorando") in this big theater was astounding. I mean, it is an astounding vocal rendition. I came back to my studio afterwards and thought, "I can't believe what I just heard. This woman is amazing.That was an amazing recording." I figured they recorded it with a track, and then they pulled the track and decided to use the a cappella version. So when I was at the Cannes Film Festival, John Neff and I were talking, and I said, "What a great performance. Did you record that?" And he laughed and told me the true story.
• Lynch is said to be a fan of Roy Orbison. As in Mulholland Dr. there's also a scene in "Blue Velvet" where Dean Stockwell is lip-synching to Orbison's "In Dreams".
I realize that it's unusual for The Modern Word to be reviewing a movie; but for David Lynch's Mulholland Drive I'll make a happy exception. A film noir "open work," Mulholland Drive is rich in textural density, invites multiple readings, rewards repeated viewings, and contains frequent allusions to itself, previous Lynch films, and countless other classics of cinema. Indeed, Mulholland Drive shares such a natural kinship with the works featured on this site that I feel obligated to feature it. Oh yes, it is my duty.
Of course, this may be my flimsy rationale for publicly airing my latest obsession -- from the moment I first saw Mulholland Drive in the theaters, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Like most people, my first reaction was a stunned sense of bafflement. While I loved certain parts of the film, and thought it was stylistically brilliant, I was afraid that maybe this time Lynch had finally missed the last exit ramp on the Lost Highway and would never be seen again. But still, I just couldn't get Mulholland Drive out of my head. Its images remained fixed in my imagination, Badalamenti's music haunted me at random moments, and its characters dropped by to visit my dreams. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that anything this compelling couldn't be random or pointlessly surreal; only a puzzle awaiting a solution can engage one's attention for so long. So taking that as a challenge, I set about trying to figure out whether Mulholland Drive made sense, or whether Lynch was just nutty. I began discussing it incessantly (some would say neurotically) with my friends, trading theories across the Internet, and matching my theories against a second viewing, this time in the proper sobriety of a Sunday afternoon. As soon as the DVD was released, I bought a copy and watched it again, and the next day I was back on the Internet. (Just think, we cranks used to be confined to writing letters to newspapers!) I was surprised by Ebert's admission that even after going through it frame-by-frame at the University of Colorado, he was still perplexed. I was also unhappy with Salon.com's explication, which did a lot of good work, but was still incomplete. So, rapidly approaching the limits of geek obsession, I went through the film frame-by-frame myself, scribbling down notes and finally pulling together my various ideas into a unified interpretation. Of course, being abnormally immersed in postmodern literature has given me a somewhat biased perspective, and I couldn't prevent comparisons to Finnegans Wake, Pynchon, etc. from creeping in, even if I tried. (And, well, I didn't try. Lynch is one of my favorite filmmakers, and if I had the time, I would add him to the Libyrinth in a heartbeat.) So the following essay is bit of a pop-academic hybrid, a combination of film review, detailed explication, thematic analysis, and fanboy rant. I nevertheless offer it in the hope that it may assist some people who remain baffled, reinforce the theories of other obsessed devotees, and hopefully introduce a few ideas of my own into the general conversation. While I make no claim to having the single correct interpretation of the film, I do believe that I offer a model that works; and that's reason enough to throw my hat into the ring.
Of course, if you have yet to see the film, stop right here: it is impossible to discuss Mulholland Drive without spoiling the plot. And even more importantly, the film should be seen the first time with little or no expectations.
Mulholland Drive is a puzzle-box of a movie, one that presents hallucination and reality as equal and indistinguishable partners. Set in an overly-ripe Los Angeles, saturated with erotic colors and dark with oblique menace, the film glides through a dreamy landscape where the hyper-real is in constant collision with the fantastic. Identities shift and merge, false trails are projected and abandoned, and the viewer's perception is always hostage to the illusions of the characters. Like the contents of the enigmatic blue box at the center of the film, Lynch allows the logical core of Mulholland Drive to remain locked away behind a changing façade of smooth, cool surfaces. Submerged beneath the emotional reality of the characters, we perceive some sort of coherent sense; but reason alone is not enough to understand exactly what's going on. The film is a dream, an illusion, but not in the usual, cheap sense of the term -- it's a Möbius strip, an Escher painting, a page from Finnegans Wake; it defies waking logic, and yet appears remarkably complete and seamless.
In fact, I think that Finnegans Wake is a very useful point of comparison. Joyce's intentions in writing the Wake were to capture a dream-like sense of the reality beneath wake-a-day logic, where every person and object are invested with multiple layers of meaning. Identities shift, merge and replicate, and the "story" is revealed in successive spirals of allusive and elusive stratification. While it would be groundless to suggest that Lynch was inspired by Joyce, they certainly share a similar aesthetic, and Mulholland Drive contains many cinematic analogs to the literary techniques pioneered in the Wake. The two works even share a similar conceit -- both take place in the dreaming subconscious of a single protagonist. Moreover, both protagonists have populated their world with archetypes drawn from people they know, and both dreams are haunted by a sense of primordial guilt and a longing for a prelapsarian state of blissful unity.
Also like Finnegans Wake, its layers and convolutions make Mulholland Drive a bit tricky to explain. In order to illuminate the film, a critic must first untangle it into several strands. Hopefully the reader will follow each until the end, where an intuitive leap may be required to recombine them back into a whole. To help, I've broken this essay down into five sections. In the first, I detail the basic story that serves as the foundation for the film's successive iterations. While this "plot" is revealed in the final third of the movie, it's never set forth in a linear fashion, and so I'll begin with its untwisted chronology. This is followed by the "illusory" Betty/Rita narrative, which may be seen as a fantastic elaboration of the base story. Next comes the "real" Diane/Camilla narrative, in which the base story will be revisited in the non-linear form as presented by Lynch. Following this, I include a section exploring some of the central mysteries of the film, such as the blue box and Club Silencio. And finally, as a postscript I list a few "dangling threads," or parts of the movie that still leave me perplexed.
The Base Story (Linear chronology)
Diane Selwyn is a somewhat confused but ostensibly nice girl from Deep Rivers, Ontario, who may possibly have some serious psychological problems. After winning a jitterbug competition, she becomes interested in acting. The death of her Aunt Ruth leaves her with enough money to travel to Los Angeles, where she takes up residence in a seedy bungalow complex called Sierra Bonita.
She auditions for the starring role in "The Silvia North Story," directed by Bob Brooker. Unfortunately she loses the part to a woman named Camilla Rhodes. Though she's filled with jealousy (tinged by more than a bit of denial), she is very attracted to Camilla, and the two begin a lesbian affair. As Camilla's star rises, she secures occasional small roles for Diane in her films. By now, Diane has fallen utterly in love with Camilla, although her emotions are complicated by envy and perhaps some darker feelings -- there is a part of Diane that wants to consume the object of her desire. (Their names play upon several literary allusions as well, with the virginal huntress of the moon staking the lesbian vampire Camilla as her prey.) Camilla is no angel either, and Diane is not the only lover she's taken in her rise to fame. It's obvious she uses her sex appeal to get ahead.
Events take a dramatic shift when Camilla falls in love with a recently divorced director named Adam Kesher, who's making a film featuring both Camilla and Diane. Camilla makes an attempt to break off her affair with Diane, who throws her out of her apartment in a rage. Still, things are not as simple as a change in affections. For one thing, Adam and Camilla's relationship is not without its kinky side, and they seem to enjoy taunting Diane. While they might be trying to lure her into a lopsided ménage-ŕ-trois, Diane remains obsessed with Camilla, who still retains some affection and tenderness for her old lover. Returning to Sierra Bonita, she tries to explain herself to Diane, but she's rebuffed, and Diane masturbates desperately as the room grows blurry. Still, Camilla tries to reach out, and she begs Diane to come to a glamorous party at Adam's house. She then surprises Diane by intercepting her limo on Mulholland Drive, leading her to the party through a romantic shortcut in the woods. Here, Diane encounters several intriguing people, including a mysterious Italian (played by Angelo Badalamenti), a man in a cowboy hat (who may have been sent to check up on her earlier in the evening), and a blonde starlet who obviously has a "thing" with Camilla as well. She also meets Adam's mother Coco, who immediately grasps Diane's emotional situation, and offers her a condescending sort of pity. After Diane nervously explains her experiences in Hollywood and her "professional" relationship with Camilla, Coco's knowing "I see" and consoling hand-pat are devastating. It's obvious that Diane's seen as a nobody, a pathetic loser suffering from unrequited love and worthy only of pity. When Adam and Camilla have a laughing fit trying to announce their engagement, Diane's humiliation is complete.
Consumed by rage and jealousy, the increasingly unstable Diane decides to have Camilla killed. She meets Joe, a scruffy-looking hit man at Winkie's Diner, where a waitress named Betty serves her coffee and a strange young man glances at her from the cash register. Sitting in the harsh glare under the window, Diane seals the deal and orders her lover's execution, handing the hit man Camilla's headshot photo ("This is the girl," she says, in a phrase that will reoccur throught the film) and a wrinkled stack of hundreds. He informs her that he'll leave behind a sign when he's completed his task -- a blue key. She naďvely asks what the key opens, and receives only harsh, mocking laughter in return.
Soon after, the hit takes place, and the blue key is left behind on Diane's coffee table. Plunged into a spiral of guilt and fear, Diane sinks further into depression, and learns from a neighbor that a pair of detectives are seeking her for questioning. Suffering from hallucinations of her murdered lover, she sits on the couch and stares at the blue key, red-eyed and trembling. Suddenly a knock on the door triggers her repressed guilt and despair, and she has a psychotic break. Overcome by a vision of her grandparents (or parents) convulsed in shrill laughter and flailing at her with clawing hands, she runs screaming into the bedroom. Falling to the bed, she pulls a gun from a drawer and shoots herself in the mouth.
The "Fantasy" -- the Betty/Rita Narrative
The above base story forms the palimpsest for an entire secondary narrative, an alternate version of reality created by Diane during her final days of despair. This self-generated world provides Diane with an escape into wish fulfillment, in which all her desires are realized and events beyond her "waking" control are given overwrought explanations. Although presented by Lynch as a fluid and coherent narrative, I don't believe it takes place at any single instant in Diane's life, as would a simple dream or fantasy. It is rather a conglomeration of desires and projections, a parallel interior world fueled by Diane's possible schizophrenia and advanced during moments when she "disconnects" from the real world. (Her grief-stricken masturbation, her nearly-comotose states of depressed sleep, and of course when she confronts the blue key in the moments before her suicide.) Nor does Lynch present it cinematically as a traditional dream sequence. It exists as an entity in itself, and seamlessly penetrates Diane's "real" narrative at several junctions which function on an emotional level outside of logic, merging the two sides of the Möbius strip into one. Having said all that, for the sake of simplicity I will continue to label the Betty/Rita narrative as a "fantasy," which scans somewhat better than "possibly schizophrenic parallel interior world."
Although it takes much of its inspiration from Hollywood movies in terms of tone and plot structure (Diane seems to favor film noir, idealized 50's classics, and crime dramas from The Godfather to Pulp Fiction), the Betty/Rita narrative draws most of its raw material from Diane's "real" life. Important people are invested with magnified significance, casual figures are revealed as shadowy operators, locations resonate at higher energy levels, and props such as espresso cups, address books and headshot photos reappear in an altered state. Perhaps the best cinematic precursor to this is The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy fills Oz with people and objects drawn from her own daily experiences and wishful imaginings. (It may be useful to recall that Lynch's Wild at Heart used The Wizard of Oz as a loose framework.) But Diane is no Dorothy; despite the generally self-rewarding nature of her fantasy, she can never escape the twin horrors of what she has done and what she has lost. This sense of evaded reality lurks at the very core of her delusion, exerting its dark gravity as a force of disintegration, always pushing the illusion towards a revelatory unmasking. At two related points this force acquires physical manifestation -- the Club Silencio, and the mysterious blue box. Both forms fluoresce with multiple layers of meaning, and will be discussed later in greater detail.
The movie opens with a surreal jitterbug sequence in which we see a glowing young Diane flanked by a smiling old couple, presumably her grandparents. (Some critics and viewers have postulated that they may be her parents, or possibly the judges of the Jitterbug contest. The script of the pilot suggests they are her grandparents.) She is surely a model teen, and obviously much loved. After a slow pan across what will later be revealed as Diane's death-bed, we sink into her pillow (perhaps symbolic of beginning a dream?) and the movie proper begins.
We enter her fantasy on a cloud of brooding music, gliding over Mulholland Drive -- the location where Camilla secretly met Diane before forever crushing her hopes. There a black limo pulls to a stop, and two assassins are about to shoot their passenger, a lovely brunette in a slinky black dress. (That this woman is Camilla is hidden from us until later in the movie, when we enter the "real" world.) Although we are now in the fantasy narrative, we have no way of knowing so -- Lynch offers none of the standard cinematic tropes to suggest we are in a dream sequence. Our perceptions are entirely hostage to the dictates of the fantasy itself, and by initially focusing on Camilla/Rita instead of Diane/Betty, Lynch allows us to falsely assume the brunette has the starring role, one of the film's many clever sleight-of-hand tricks used to divert our attention. And of course, the very fact that Lynch begins the movie with Diane's fantasy is disorienting; until the blue box is opened two-thirds into the movie, we can only assume that what we are seeing is "real." Our expectations are used against us, and we fall into the traps of perception and logical thinking. It is a lesson that will be brought home later at Club Silencio.
In order to begin her fantasy, Diane must "rescue" Camilla from the fate that Diane herself has set in motion. Though we never really know where (or if?) the hit took place, if we assume that Diane felt as though her life had ended the night of the party, it's understandable that she'd convert the black limousine into a vehicle of death. After all, didn't it ferry her to her own "fate?" But Camilla is allowed to escape her doom through the intervention of joy-riding teens, who crash into the limo, killing her film noir executioners. Camilla stumbles away, dazed but alive.
This catastrophe also serves another purpose. While the auto accident in Wild at Heart was merely a diversion, designed to disorient Sherilyn Fenn for the sake of a haunting image (and to provide a sharp reminder of reality for the film's lovestruck couple), here the crash carries its sexy bruntte past disorientation and into total amnesia. In Diane's dream, she'll get the Camilla she wants: a blank screen upon which she can project her fantasies. (Which also works well in setting up the film's exploration of perceived reality, and its implied critique of Hollywood. See the Salon.com article for more on this second theme.) Scared and numb, the now-nameless woman wanders all the way past Sunset Boulevard. Finding a bungalow being temporarily vacated by its tenant ("Aunt Ruth" on the way to Canada), she slips inside and falls immediately asleep.
After this, Lynch complicates the matter further by inserting several parallel narratives before we return to our brunette tabula rasa. The first is the most problematic, and it involves a young man who's been plagued by a dream. The location is Winkie's Diner, which a first-time viewer does not yet know as the location where Diane arranges the death of Camilla. Here we see a young man with wide, staring eyes (and an uncanny resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft), talking anxiously to an older man who could be his psychiatrist. His problem is a recurring nightmare, in which he walks from the diner to an adjacent alley and sees a monster with a horrible face. Prompted by the psychiatrist, the man walks around the corner and, in a chilling scene, sees the creature and faints. (Later in the film, we will see this monster again, packing a blue box into a bag and releasing the tiny, animated figures of Diane's grandparents.)
First of all, what is this monster? And second of all, why is this thread problematic?
Although the monster will be discussed in greater detail below, for now it should suffice to say that it represents a force of evil and entropy called into being when Diane orders the death of her lover. While the presence of the monster may be directly ascribed to Diane, the scene itself poses a deeper question because it contains a narrative ambiguity allowing for two readings -- it can be seen as part of Diane's fantasy, or it can stand alone as an independent but related narrative. We know that the disturbed man was present at Winkie's the day Diane ordered the hit. Is she merely incorporating him into her dream as a possible "guide," meant to lead her to the monster of her own creation? Or does this sequence actually exist in the "real" world? Could the young man be a psychic who sensed the rupture in Diane's moral reality on that day, and has since become haunted by the apparition it called into being? I for one prefer this explanation. Not only does it add an extra vertical dimension to the story, it makes a Lynchian sort of sense, and resonates with the world of Twin Peaks. In the Lynchian universe, acts of evil can manifest as spirits on the material plane, which in turn may be interact with those sensitive enough to perceive them.
Soon after this sequence, Diane herself finally enters the fantasy narrative in the form of "Betty," a name she appropriated from her waitress at Winkie's. Betty is Diane's idealized self-image, and appears as an unbelievably perky blonde, filled with a down-home sense of kindness and a chipper go get 'em attitude. The scenes of her arrival have a deliberately forced aspect -- everything is just too too; Betty is too perky, LA is too bright, the cabbie is too kind, and so on. This hyper-reality reflects not only Diane's first impressions of LA, but acts as a protective veneer covering the sordid reality to which she later succumbs. Before leaving the airport, we see Betty bid farewell to an old couple she met on the plane. An astute observer will note that this is the second time they've appeared in the film -- they are the jitterbug champion's beaming grandparents. (Of course, at this point a viewer has no idea what the hell that whole jitterbug thing was anyway.) Although re-cast as an anonymous but kindly couple in the fantasy narrative, they become increasingly more invested with powers over Diane, and will return at the end, when they drive her to suicide. A hint of this darker purpose may be seen as they leave the airport and stray from Betty's point-of-view. Sitting together in the back of a cab, they nod at each other crazily, their faces locked in rictus-like grins like dolls preparing to shatter under some terrible pressure. It's an uncomfortable scene, as if Lynch is giving us a peek behind the curtain, where we see the characters as enslaved automatons devoid of free will once their role has been discharged upon Diane's stage.
Before Camilla and Betty meet, Lynch introduces the final main thread of this convoluted fantasy -- the story of the director Adam Kesher. Unlike the monster-haunted man at Winkie's, this thread can only be understood as Diane's creation, and represents the most free-form of all her baroque inventions. Essentially, Adam is a stand-in for all directors, and he's imbued with an almost parodistic sense of egoism and brilliance. His purpose in the illusory narrative is simple -- to become the victim of a cabal that keeps Diane/Betty from landing major parts. Unable to accept that she lost her first starring role to Camilla, Diane's fantasy insulates her from failure by fabricating a Byzantine conspiracy. While of course "Betty Elms" would be a natural for the starring role in Adam's movie, he is coerced by these nearly supernatural powers into casting an unknown actress named Camilla Rhodes. This fantasy version of Camilla, however, is actually a blonde; and she's "played" by the blonde starlet Diane met at Adam's party, an actress who gave Camilla a more-than-friendly kiss. This clever substitution permits Diane to demonize her rival while maintaining the purity of her idealized Camilla. It's also telling that Diane's imaginary conspiracy is aligned for Camilla and not against Betty. This preserves Betty's wholesome lovability (who could possibly conspire against Betty?), while simultaneously implying that Camilla lacks the talent required to earn the role on her own.
Unsurprisingly, Diane incorporates many more of the party guests into the conspiracy, reassigning Adam's associates as malign forces preventing her success. This hallucinatory re-casting happily gives Lynch license to engage in all-out Lynchian weirdness. The Cowboy is transformed into a cryptic enforcer with the aloof gravity of a fallen angel; the severe Italian is now a mafioso mogul who demands an impossibly perfect cup of espresso; and even Michael Anderson makes an appearance as "Mr. Roque," a mastermind bound to a wheelchair and locked in a vault of glass and red velvet. (Oddly, though, only Michael Anderson's head is used, inserted over the body of a realistic, man-sized dummy. If one did not know him as the famous backwards-talking "Man from Another Place" in Twin Peaks, one might not realize that the actor is a dwarf! Lynch draws further attention to this by placing "Mr. Roque" in a room remarkably like the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. Yet another example of both Mulholland Drive's nested illusions and Lynch's cinematic self-referentiality.) The appearances of these conspirators strike a jarring balance between the sinister and the comical, pushing the fantasy to the edge of surrealism as they exert their pressure on the director. The only "normal" event in Adam's day is taken from a comment Diane overheard him make about catching his wife sleeping with the pool-cleaner. But even the fact that Mrs. Kesher's lover is played by Billy Ray Cyrus adds an element of makeshift appropriation, as if Diane was inserting an image of blue-collar maleness plucked from the background noise of American pop culture.
Despite the fascinating characters surrounding Adam, the real story naturally revolves around the two women. Betty arrives at her "aunt's" bungalow, which is a glorified version Diane's real apartment at Sierra Bonita. (Of course, this could be the real Aunt Ruth's bungalow; we later know she lived in Hollywood when she was alive.) There she meets Coco, Adam's mother, now playing the role of kind but nosy landlady. Upon entering the apartment, Betty is startled to discover the amnesiac brunette in the shower. When asked for her name, she blanks -- she does not remember. Spying an old Rita Heyworth Gilda poster, she selects "Rita." (The fact that the poster is Diane's fabrication, too, may indicate something about her own movie-star fixations, as well as giving her an embedded hint that something is amiss. The poster's telling tag-line reads, "There never was a woman like Gilda!") The transformations are now complete -- Camilla has become the mysterious but wonderfully dependent Rita, Diane has become the idealistic Betty, and Adam must cast some "other" Camilla Rhodes to please a shadowy cabal.
Needless to say, Rita and Betty hit it off spectacularly. But even this potential union contains the seeds of its own dissolution, and their decision to discover Rita's real identity can only lead in one direction. Almost immediately, elements of reality intrude upon the dream, transfigured into symbolic or fantastical shapes. Opening Rita's haute couture purse, they discover $50,000 in stacks of crisp hundreds -- the wad of grimy cash Diane handed to the hit man, now amplified and fetishized into another film noir trope, like finding a mysterious dame in one's apartment. But even more importantly, the blue key has also made the transition, emerging from the depths of the black purse and gleaming with a Sphinx-like aura of intrigue. No longer a cheap chrome blank, it's now a stylized triangular rod from an art-deco vision of the future. (Later in the film we'll discover what the key opens, when the blue box appears in Betty's black handbag. Like the blue box, I find the black purse to be another vaginal symbol, one rich with natal mysteries and resonating with film noir associations. In the movies, the interior of a woman's purse is co-located in some murky, chthonian world where various symbolic objects may suddenly materialize: mirrors, lipstick, stacks of cash, handguns, strange keys, puzzle-boxes....) Another significant irruption occurs at Winkie's Diner, where in a mirrored reflection of cause and effect, the women are served breakfast by a waitress named "Diane." Like the poster, it's another pointed echo from the real world, as if Diane's mind is trying to break free from the delusion. In fact, the name is their first real clue to solving the mystery -- Rita suddenly remembers the name "Diane Selwyn." Could it be Rita's true name? Consulting the phone book, they make plans to investigate. This sets up one of the film's more obvious-in-retrospect hints. The girls call Diane Selwyn; but it's Betty, not Rita, who remarks "It's strange to be calling yourself." Rita replies, "Maybe it's not me." But all they get is a voice on the answering machine, a voice Rita "knows."
An even stronger hint that all is not as it seems comes later that night, when Betty is visited by Louise Bonner, a spooky old psychic appearing at her door like a chattier version of the monster. Informed by her spiritual sources that something is "terribly wrong" at Ruth's bungalow, she tries to pry her way inside, where she seems to sense Rita is hidden. When Ruth's neice tells Louise that her name is "Betty," the crone shakes her head and moans, "No it's not...." Like the palm reader in Jacob's Ladder ("You're already dead!"), her message penetrates the fantasy with a grim reminder of the truth, but Coco leads this Cassandra away before her warnings can be deciphered.
Besides the quest for Rita's identity and the story of Adam, the fantasy narrative occasionally spins off into eddies. All these incorporate material from the "real" Diane narrative, and like a dream, identities change, events are conflated, and some clues lead nowhere. An early scene introduces a pair of TV detectives; but Diane imagines them to be after Rita, when in the real world it is she who is under investigation. One dementedly violent sequence features Joe the hit man, who visits an associate named Ed in his shady office. We catch Ed in the tail end of telling a story about an "unbelievable" car crash, and though it's not explained, they both share a laugh as if something terribly clever had transpired. (Could it be Ed was remarking on his own fantasy "assignment," which was figuring out a way stop the hit on Camilla? Or perhaps, as one viewer suggested, a car crash really did botch up the hit and kill Camilla? In any event, Joe guns him down and takes his black address book, an item Diane saw in the possession of the hit man.) And in one of the more remarkable scenes in the film, the ditzy Betty turns out to be a spectacular actress -- which, I suppose, only surprises us because we are not Diane! A following scene allows Adam and Betty to trade a few highly charged glances, perhaps revealing that Diane's jealousy is more complicated that it will later seem. They never talk, however, as the sudden appearance of "Camilla Rhodes" causes Betty to unexpectedly run home. (Perhaps even in her fantasy, seeing Adam meet and/or cast Camilla is too painful, so she retreats back to the security of Rita, her delusionary Camilla.) Adam watches Camilla's audition and obeys the dictates of the conspiracy: "This is the girl."
Soon after, Rita and Betty decide to visit Diane Selwyn's residence, which turns out to be an apartment at -- Sierra Bonita. A neighbor confirms their suspicion that Rita is not Diane, and she points them to the correct bungalow. It is, of course, the real Diane Selwyn's abode; and so the two girl detectives open the door from the dream world into a partial version/vision of reality. Inside, they find the corpse of an "unknown" blonde woman decomposing on the bed. Horrified, Rita runs outside screaming.
As the corpse is almost certainly that of Diane after she shoots herself, we may mark another point where the dream reality slips away from waking logic: how could Diane be hallucinating her own dead body, in exactly the same position as it will actually be? And how could her own death be so critical a part of the fantasy narrative? And so on. Again, the Möbius strip twists out of our grasp; but we will only realize this at the very end of the movie, when the identity of the corpse is finally revealed. And yet, even this is thrown into doubt. Although we see Diane commit commit suicide on the bed, in the illusionary world, the corpse is dressed differently -- it has Diane's hair, but Camilla's black dress! Still the Möbius strip slithers away, its two-in-one side(s) suggesting the unity of Betty/Rita, both creatures of Diane's hallucination. This would also explain why seeing the body filled Rita with panic: if the corpse is a conflation of both their real-world deaths, Diane's "Rita" senses both Camilla's past and Diane's future.
Realizing that she might be in mortal danger, Rita allows Betty to cut her hair and replace it with a blonde wig. This blurs their identities even further, reinforcing Diane's jealousy of Camilla, in that her vampiric obsession demands for the two to merge into one. Yet one senses an even deeper reason than the inertial pull to re-unify -- why does Rita now wish to resemble the corpse? And why does Betty help this along? Could this be Diane's mind trying to exorcize her own blondeness, trying to shift her death onto Rita/Camilla? Wouldn't it be just lovely if Camilla would give her life for Diane?
No matter what subterranean reasons are behind the makeover, Betty and Rita now look more alike. Hardly surprisingly, their traumatic day drives the women closer together, and that night they make love. It's quite a tender moment, and when Betty asks Rita if she's ever "done this" before, her lover replies, "I don't know." Betty confess to being in love with Rita, and the two consummate their relationship.
More than just an amazingly erotic scene, it's the turning point of the fantasy narrative. Betty has exactly what she -- or Diane -- wants: a Camilla free of past experiences, receptive to her love, and ready to be sacrificed, absorbed, and devoured. And yet the fact that this narrative is an illusion calls even that into question, for both Betty and Rita are fantasies, complementary projections of Diane's dissociated self. Their consummation isn't even transgressive; its masturbatory, delusional. It's quite possible that their orgasm (tastefully assumed, and certainly mutual) coexists with the masturbatory release reached by Diane back in the real world -- after this climactic "little death," everything starts to come apart at the seams in both worlds, and the dream falls under the increasing power of reality's unravelling hand.
Shortly after making love, Rita slowly emerges from sleep, the word "silencio" coming unbidden to her lips as if broadcast from a million miles away. More Spanish follows: "No hay banda," or "There is no band." (Rita speaks Spanish because Camilla spoke Spanish, a fact established later during the party scene.) Upon waking, Rita insists that Betty take her somewhere, a place she seems to have remembered in her sleep: Club Silencio.
Although theories about Club Silencio will be discussed later, for now a few words about its role in the film are necessary. Club Silencio is a surreal cabaret, located in the depths of a long alley and advertised in blue neon. Seated in the theater, Betty and Rita watch a disquieting performance in which death and loneliness are principle themes, illusion is touted over reality, and the audience is constantly fooled into believing the fake is genuine. After a thunderclap causes Betty to tremble uncontrollably, the stage is flooded with flickering blue light. The light fades, and a singer delivers a heart-rending version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" sung in Spanish ("Llorando"). But before the song ends, the singer slumps to the ground, and we realize she's been lip-syncing to a recording. Slowly but knowingly, Betty reaches into her purse. There, as if precipitated from the shimmering blue light, is a new object: a smooth blue box with a triangular keyhole.
The two women rush home, but as Rita retrieves her key from the bedroom closet, she turns around to find that Betty has disappeared. (Lynch is careful to have included Betty's footsteps upon entering the room; we hear none to mark a possible retreat.) Alone, Rita inserts her blue key into the lock, and the box opens, revealing only a dark and empty interior. The camera rushes inside and passes through, but Rita is gone. The box falls to the floor, tumbling through the void where she was just standing. The bedroom is empty.
Several odd things happen here as the fantasy decays into the "real" narrative. First, we see Aunt Ruth, who is supposed to be dead in Diane's world, and visiting Canada in Betty's. She enters the bedroom and looks puzzled -- and we see there is no box. We then watch as the room dissolves into the darkened walls of Diane's Sierra Bonita bungalow, then wavers back: the hallucination is fading. This happens again, and we see a healthy Diane sleeping on her bed, in the exact same position as her corpse. The Cowboy opens her door and says, "Hey pretty girl, time to wake up." We look again -- her body is now in corpse form, and the Cowboy leaves. We observe Diane's corpse change into her sleeping body, and she reluctantly wakes up to answer the doorbell. It's her neighbor, come to claim an ashtray. We are now in the "reality" narrative, dropped into the morning that Diane commits suicide.
The "Reality" -- the Diane/Camilla Narrative
The rest of the movie plays out in the real world, essentially following the plot outlined in the "Base Story" section above. This isn't to say that the film tracks only Diane and remains entirely grounded in objective reality; at several points Lynch allows the dream world to intrude, reminding us that we're still connected to Diane's unstable universe. Even if Diane may not see the blue box and the monster, we as observers are awarded a privileged view. Lynch tells this part of the tale using numerous flashbacks inserted within the basic linear sequence of Diane waking up, returning an ashtray to her neighbor, seeing a vision of Camilla, brewing coffee, staring at the key, and shooting herself. These intercuts are often confusing, as Lynch makes sly use of repeated elements to suggest a false sense of continuity: ringing telephones, drinks in hand, and passages from one room to another all seem to "connect" non-contiguous scenes. The best way to keep track of this is by observing what Diane's wearing in each scene (in the "present," she's always in a grungy robe) and by keeping an eye on various objects in her room. (Or as Lynch himself suggests in the DVD's "10 Clues," "Notice the robe, the ashtray, and the coffee cup.")
The final third of the film begins with Diane waking up to greet her neighbor. We see the hit man's blue key on her coffee table -- Camilla is dead. Weary and distraught, Diane sees a sudden vision of Rita/Camilla standing in her apartment. Bursting into tears she cries, "Camilla, you've come back." She spaces out momentarily, "coming to" in the spot where she's just hallucinated her lover. (This is all very baffling to first-time viewers. Not only are we unaware that Diane and Betty are the same person, we've been lead to believe that Rita and Camilla Rhodes are two completely different women! So why is this "Diane" woman calling our Rita by the name of that blonde floozy who stole Betty's role? And is "Diane" really the same actress who played Betty? And what's with that "normal" blue key? Uh-oh, Lynch is up to something....)
Recovering her senses, Diane begins brewing a pot of coffee; but a sudden flashback catches the viewer off-guard, and we are now in the past, the coffee cup transposed to a whiskey glass. Camilla is sprawled naked on Diane's couch, and setting the glass down next to her neighbor's ashtray, Diane playfully begins foreplay. Although Camilla seems to enjoy it, after a few seconds she pushes her lover away. Much to Diane's resentment, Camilla insists that they "shouldn't do this anymore."
We are about to learn why Camilla's had a change of heart. After the couch scene, we move ahead to the set of Adam's movie, which stars Camilla and features Diane in a minor role. Clearing the set of all extras, Diane is practically invited to watch Adam and Camilla "practice" a make-out scene. Needless to say, she is mortified. Soon afterwards, Camilla comes over to Diane's to try to explain, but she is thrown out, and a miserable Diane returns to the couch to masturbate joylessly. She stops when the phone rings.
This is followed by another flashback, fluidly spliced to the previous scene by a ringing phone. (We must again note that Diane is dressed differently.) It is now after the confrontation/masturbation scene; perhaps that same day, but possibly weeks later. This is the critical flashback, the biggie, the key to the whole movie: Diane's limo trip up Mulholland Drive and subsequent humiliation at Adam's party. In this crucial sequence, we learn Diane's real history, meet most of the people she casts in her fantasy, and witness the emotional destruction that results in her decision to have Camilla murdered. After watching Diane break down at the party, we quickly move to Winkie's Diner, where Diane hires the hit man, meets a waitress named Betty, and trades glances with the psychic man. It is here that Diane crosses the line, making decisions that will force her to repress overwhelming feelings of guilt and loss. It is here that Diane creates the monster, the blue box, and her own tormenting agents of conscience. To underscore this, Lynch breaks from the realistic narrative at this point to take us outside Winkie's Diner. We see the monster, now shorn of dream-glamor and looking like a filthy beggar. It packs the blue box into a bag and sets it down. We then see Diane's grandparents, shrunken and maniacal, issue from the bag and set off on their mission.
Finally we are back in the present. Wrapped in her robe, Diane sits staring at the blue key, trembling slightly, as she trembled in Club Silencio during the thunderclap. Startled by a fierce pounding on the door (The detectives? The Cowboy? Fate, ŕ la Beethoven's Fifth? Perhaps even Camilla?) Diane watches in horror as her grandparents slip under the door and expand in size, a pair of terrorizing harpies hounding her to the bedroom. Flinging herself on the bed, she opens her drawer, where she pulls out a gun and shoots herself in the mouth. However, we also see a glimpse of something in the drawer -- the blue box?
By now we are familiar with the position of her dead body, and we watch as smoke fills the room and it's flooded with blue light. We briefly see the cryptic face of the monster, then an image of a happy Diane and Camilla swirling in a dreamlike vision of LA. The scene fades into the flickering stage at Club Silencio, where a matronly woman with nightmarishly blue hair whispers, "Silencio."
Questions in a world of blue: The Box, the Monster, the Old Couple, and Club Silencio
Of course, the blue box is one of the biggest mysteries of the film, and there are numerous theories concerning its nature. First of all, I think the box has many interconnected meanings, and it's unnecessarily limiting to settle on just one. I also think that the box, the monster, Diane's shrunken grandparents, and Club Silencio are all related, and form a system not unlike the id, the ego, the superego, and the collective unconscious respectively.
One its most basic level, the blue box represents the repressed memories and awareness of reality that Diane must seal away in order to construct her fantasy world. Inscribed with Camilla's death, it's called into being when Diane orders the hit, a self-generated answer to her own question, "what does the key open?" Incarnated also at this moment are both the monster and her grandparents. The monster represents her disfigured self (her ruined ego?), and seems to change appearance each time it's seen. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, when Diane becomes more pure and beautiful as Betty in the dream narrative, the monster grows from a homeless wretch into a terrible hag. (Although the pilot-script labels the monster as male, it is played by a female actress. Roger Ebert also suggests that it may be a projection of Diane's decomposing body.) But the monster is not an exclusively evil figure. It also functions as a corrosive force of entropy (or justice?) within Diane herself, working to dissolve her fantasy and bring about self-realization. It is the monster that packs the blue box (the buried desires of the id, acted upon and then repressed again?) into a brown paper bag, the sleek black purse now in a fallen state. From this bag also emerge her grandparent-tormentors (the judgmental superego?), transformed from benevolent protectors of innocence into furies armed with talons of guilt. Tiny and nagging at first, they will grow in stature like the voice of conscience, eventually overwhelming Diane and driving her to suicide.
On a mythopoetic level, the blue box naturally calls to mind Pandora's Box, with the dangers of opening restricted to the destruction of Diane's personal universe. And of course, a sexual involution is folded into the box as well -- after all, one of the main sources of Diane's anger is erotic and romantic unfulfillment, and part of her fantasy may be unleashed while masturbating.
So why does the box appear in her purse at Club Silencio?
To answer this question, one has to first understand the nature of Club Silencio, and like the box, it also contains several metaphorical dimensions. To start with, its very existence as a nocturnal cabaret evokes a host of mundane associations: it is a theater, a place where performance and voyeurism exchange energy, a somewhat seamy nexus of desire and illusion. No one there seems particularly happy; Silencio is a home for broken hearts, insomniac castaways, and 2 am refugees from sleep's tranquility. Club Silencio does not need to advertise -- its patrons wake up in the middle of the night and know where to go. (Pynchon fans might easily imagine its regulars to be quite familiar with the underground postal system from The Crying of Lot 49. I'm sure Sliencio's bathroom contains W.A.S.T.E. graffiti!) But where an ordinary cabaret thrives on bankable illusion, Club Silencio wishes to highlight the confusion between reality and perception and to expose theatrical pretense. At one point, its Magician-emcee pronounces, "It is . . . an illusion. Listen!" and calls forth a rolling thunderclap. Diane trembles uncontrollably, as if all her illusions were toppled by the 100-letter thunderword of the demiurge. (Could this thunderclap also be the knock on the door back in the pre-suicide real world? Or, as one viewer has suggested, the gunshots that ended the lives of Camilla and Diane?) The Magician vanishes and the stage glows with a watery blue light, its square shape offering a more-than-passing resemblance to a shimmering blue box. Indeed, it is at this point that the box most likely manifests in Diane's purse, but she has yet to realize it: she has been exposed, the gig is up, and from this point she can no longer find refuge in illusion. Rebekah Del Rio takes the stage, and transfixed, Betty holds onto Rita for one last time as they open themselves to the heartbreak of "Crying," its entirely appropriate and painful lyrics masked in Spanish. But of course, even that's a sham. When the singer collapses and the recording runs out, Betty knows just what to do, and reaches into her purse. There, in its dark, uterine depths, she finds the blue box that will be her undoing. Now that she has achieved her desire of union with Rita/Camilla, her fantasy can no longer sustain itself, and its essential hollowness is exposed: no hay banda. Taking it home, Diane allows "Rita" to insert the key, and she is negated from existence -- after all, the box has always contained Camilla's death. The fantasy is over, and all that's left is the realization of horror and the mocking pursuit of the furies.
In one way, Silencio may be seen as the blue box writ large. Where the box represents Diane's fragile illusions and suppressed awareness, Club Silencio encompasses the whole world -- or at the very least, the film itself. Lynch the artist is playing with his audience, reminding us that what we are watching, too, is a mirage of sound and vision. Even though the Magician has informed us that the band does not exist and everything we hear is recorded, like Betty and Rita, we are taken in by the singer's passion and intensity, all too easily forgetting that she's only lip-syncing. When she falls to the stage (all part of the act, ladies and gentlemen!), we are as startled as her audience -- startled, and quite foolishly so, because we have allowed ourselves to be duped, we were willing participants in our own self-deception. It also drives home the deeper illusion of film itself: no hay banda. And so Lynch takes this epiphany, this rupture in our suspension of disbelief, and bends it to his art: we watch Betty take possession of the box with our consciousness altered and chills tingling our flesh.
Club Silencio has another riddle to pose -- the Blue Haired Lady. Aloof in her "box" above the stage, she sits quietly but imperiously, garishly made-up and crowned with a bizarre head of electric blue hair. While neither her presence nor purpose are ever explained, her single line of dialogue brings the film to a close. She may be the mistress of Club Silencio, she may be a favored patron, or she may be an idealized form of the monster -- especially if we see the monster as a minister of secrets, functioning as a merciless agent of self-realization. If Club Silencio is the universal image of Diane's personal blue box, its Blue Haired Lady could be the Queen of Monsters. After all, both Lady and monster reappear in the last few minutes of the film. First we see the monster, its face hovering over Diane's fuming bed. The upright bedpost visible in the glowing blue fog gives the whole scene a resemblance to the stage of Club Silencio, where the vertical microphone was seen gleaming in the shimmering blue light. When this similarity is reinforced by the appearance of the actual stage, we again see the Blue Haired Lady, positioned above the tableau to whisper her parting incantation: "Silencio."
A provocative word to end with, as the audience of Mulholland Drive will be inclined to anything but silence as they leave the theater! Perhaps, as some viewers have suggested, it is not a closure, but a beginning, a command: Silence -- the curtain is about to lift on the real play. But even so, it is still the last word we, as the audience, hear; and is therefore inextricably linked to what has gone before. Like many "difficult" artists, Lynch is very reluctant to discuss his own work. Perhaps "Silencio" is not only an artistic statement, but a Zen-like instruction as well, echoing the many mystical beliefs relating silence with wisdom and understanding. Lynch could be suggesting that Mulholland Drive should be first allowed to settle in the subconscious world of dreams, where much of the film seems to operate, and where it finds a sublime kind of harmony. After all, even if the core of the film resists logical penetration, it can still have meaning. It's very enigma holds a truth elusive to the rational mind, and yet still meaningful within the realm of emotional and spiritual experience. To return to earlier examples, think of the frisson experienced when making a Möbius strip, the wonder of being absorbed in an Escher print, or the playful joy felt when reading aloud from Finnegans Wake. While repeated viewing and careful analysis reveal a surprising amount of structure and cohesiveness to Mulholland Drive, parts of it remain paradoxical, and I'm content to let it remain so. As another many-layered and famously elusive work once concluded, "The rest is silence."
--Allen B. Ruch
23 April 2002
Last modified: 6 February 2003
Postscript: Dangling Threads
"The rest is silence," eh? OK, so that was a tidy and clever way to end my essay, but let's face it, silencio only takes you so far. There are some things about Mulholland Drive that I admit I just can't figure out, and I don't mean the paradoxes. There are a few elements that I think should make sense, but don't. This is complicated by the fact that the first two-thirds of Mulholland Drive was intended to be the pilot for an ABC TV series; so it's possible that the film contains a few vestigial threads, meant to be woven into the whole later, but left behind as inexplicable loose ends.
Joe the Hit Man
I have no idea why the hit man had to kill his friend Ed, and can only offer the brief conjecture I outlined above regarding the "car crash" conversation. But still, why was Ed's black book of phone numbers so important? Just because Diane saw it in the diner? Could it just be Diane's fantasy supplying a backstory for the hit man? If so, why go to such lengths? Also, why the scene where the hit man and his older associate question a prostitute regarding the missing girl, Rita? I can see that Diane's fantasy had to conjure up a reason for Rita to be assassinated, but there still seems to be a missing link or two -- who was the "guy" the hit man was working for, and why would anyone want to kill Rita in the first place? Could it just be a film noir trope, or were these plot lines intended to be developed in the TV series?
Aunt Ruth's Final Appearance
In the real world, Diane's Aunt Ruth, who lived in Hollywood, is dead. Yet, she is the last person we see in the "fantasy" narrative, where she is supposed to be filming in Canada. Surely Diane wouldn't hallucinate her aunt returning from Canada? (Though one viewer notes that "acting in Canada" is an old Hollywood metaphor for being dead.) The fact she was dressed the same as when she left adds to the confusion. Did the whole Betty fantasy happen within the space of time needed for Ruth head back into the house before taking her taxi? If so, why add this extra mind-bender -- the fantasy was over, no? Who cares about Ruth at this point? And where did Aunt Ruth live, exactly? Did she really have that delicious apartment? Was she a ghost, somehow interacting with Diane's fantasy in the same way that Louise Bonner and the psychic man at Winkie's could? Or was that final scene a flashback, with a flesh-and-blood Aunt Ruth hearing a ghostly disturbance of her own? In the "10 Clues" provided by Lynch in the DVD packaging, Clue #10 is "Where is Aunt Ruth?" Well, let's see . . . dead? In Canada? In the bedroom? With the Log Lady?
The Cowboy's Final Appearance
Why does the Cowboy visit Diane to wake her up? Was that a genuine flashback, in which Adam's friend stops by before the party but is unable to rouse Diane from her depressed sleep? If so, why is she in her "death" position, and why does he suddenly then see her dead and depart? Perhaps the knock on the door that precipitates Diane's suicide is actually the Cowboy, who was sent to bring her somewhere -- to Adam, to the film set, or even to Camilla's funeral? Remember, we really don't know how long Camilla's been dead, nor do we know who else realizes she's dead. Come to think of it, for all we know, the hit man botched the job and left the key anyway, and the final knock on the door was a very pissed-off Camilla! Anyway, if the Cowboy does walk in on Diane's suicide, this might explain why she morphs from living to dead -- but still, if she just shot herself, she wouldn't be already decomposed. Hm...
The Final Appearance of the Blue Box
As Diane opens her drawer to get her gun, we see a very brief glimpse of what could be the blue box. If so, why is it there in "reality," and clearly within her point-of-view? Is Diane's suicide a dream within a dream? Or does the box really track her down into the real world? Or -- most likely -- does Diane Selwyn have some kind of mundane blue box of her own, perhaps a jewelry box, music box, or a stash box; something that she just incorporated into her fantasy like the address book and blue key? (Perhaps it contains mementos of her affair with Camillia?) And finally, does anyone wonder just what the hell this crazy woman is doing with a gun in the first place? Eek.
Postscript II -- More on Mulholland Drive: Vistor's Comments
Since this review/essay went online, a few visitors have emailed in some ideas of their own, including alternative interpretations, additional allusions, and intriguing artistic precursors. I have collected them here, on the Visitor's Comment Pages. I have also used some of these ideas in my revision of No hay banda. In such cases, I have noted, "As a viewer has suggested...." Repeat readers may also notice that I have revised my opinion of the old couple, now assigning them the role of Diane's grandpartents. I did this after reading the script for the pilot, and I do not believe that it alters their symbolic value as expressed in my essay.
Thanks to Andrew Duncan and Judie Ryer for discussing this movie at length with me, for pointing out a few clues I missed, and for offering some very insightful suggestions. Thanks also to Bun Zopf, whom I first used as a sounding board for my theory. And a big thank you to Roger Ebert, another fan of this film who pointed out a few of Lynch's more subtle tricks.
Mulholland Drive: A Philosophical Treatise
By Vanessa Long
Mulholland Drive combines elements of suspense, temporal trickery and insight into the human condition to create what is arguably one of the most accomplished works of David Lynch's directorial career. Human fallibility and the nature of subjective reality are Mulholland Drive's shifting points of interest, and the character of Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts) is our entry point into them. While David Lynch's first stand-alone female antagonist is a decidedly troubled character, a philosophical study of her actions can reveal just where her character went so wrong.
The progression from beginning to end in Mulholland Drive leads us through two parallel lines of action, divided into how Diane Selwyn wishes her life could have been, and how it actually was. Diane Selwyn's story is suspensefully delivered via time release, leading its audience into a state of false belief about her throughout almost the entire duration of the film.This is effected through the movement of a block of scenes from the beginning of Diane Selwyn's story to the end of Mulholland Drive's plot, so that its narrative ultimately exists of a two hour long flashforward and a 25 minute flashback. It's only once Mulholland Drive comes to a screeching halt that its audience has received all the pieces with which to actively put Diane Selwyn's story together for themselves.
From the point of the great spatial and narrative shift in Mulholland Drive which has become known as 'the last 25 minutes', we view the high point of Diane Selwyn's arrival in Hollywood to pursue what looks to be a promising career as an actress. However, in a relatively short period of time, Diane falls prey to a succession of serious set backs in life. Unable to attain either steady or satisfying employment in her chosen field, nor able to enjoy the support and respect of either her family or her peers, Diane seeks vicarious success through becoming romantically entangled with successful actress, Camilla (Laura Harring), only to wind up being painfully and publicly jilted by her.
In the wake of these set of events, Diane quickly becomes caught within a miasma of depression, paranoia and perceived hurts from which there is no easy exit. Diane begins to view her ex-lover as a living reminder of her failures in life and resolves that she must be rid of her and all that she represents. But there is no final redemption on the other side of such an act for Diane, whose rising guilt, coupled with everything else that's recently gone so bad in her life, finally sends her into the arms of suicide.
Poised within the hallucinatory portal between life and death, Diane is presented with the opportunity to play her life over. Within the all too beautiful world of Diane's imagination, to which the first 2 hours of Mulholland Drive is devoted, Diane rearranges the aspects of her life into a perfect form. Much like Shadow of a Doubt, Diane's world is a charmed one, featuring a hint of mystery around every corner. In this world, Diane, who is now known in the film as Betty, is a beautiful, talented young actress and well loved daughter who will clearly have Hollywood at her feet in no time.
Into this world, Diane also manages to bring her dead lover back to life. Rewriting history to have her escape the attempt on her life that Diane herself staged, Camilla emerges in Diane's life again as a helpless, mysterious stranger with no memory of the past. The note of danger with which Diane re-enlivens the memory of her lover allows Diane to have her all to herself, in secret. This act finally allows the power balance shift in Diane's favour, and the girls are able to fall in love all over again. But this fantasy world can not last forever, as even in her wildest, dying dream, Diane is unable to imagine anyone but herself profess their love first in that relationship. And ultimately, it is her lover who shakes Diane out of her dream world to tell her that her fantasy world is a facade, and that she must now let her dying mind be silent.
On the topic of the perception of reality, philosopher, John Searle asserted that:
... The thesis that there is a reality independent of our representations identifies not how things are in fact, but rather identifies a space of possibilities... External realism articulates a space of possibilities for a very large number of statements.
Into just such a space, a dual scenario film like Mulholland Drive can emerge. Both parts of Mulholland Drive make use of key aspects of fundamental ontology - people, places, events, and reinterprets their external reality through the lens of Diane's subjective reality. While you're watching Mulholland Drive, both of its parallel narratives seem equally plausible, but its only after stepping back from them at the completion of the film that you realise that they are in fact two subjective statements on external reality - paradoxically related, and indicative of the ability that we all have to place broad interpretations on real life events. Mulholland Drive effectively provides both a commentary on the nature of subjective reality as it's depicted on film, and as we experience it in real life.
The idealised first portion of Mulholland Drive's plot reveals just how high Diane Selwyn's hopes for her future in Hollywood were. She clearly believed herself to be an actress of extreme talent, and one for whom a single audition would be enough to launch her career. This leads in a manner of moments onto not only further casting opportunities for Diane, but also the kind of self-confidence that would allow her to turn down auditions at will.
The first portion of Mulholland Drive also reveals the kind of idealised personal relationships that Diane sought in life. It becomes clear very early into the film that Diane didn't just want her parents to support the choices that she made in her life, but actually imagined that they existed to support her. At the start of Mulholland Drive, Diane's parents accompany her at the airport on her big trip to Hollywood, giving her constant encouragement. We don't hear them exchange any conversations between themselves. Diane's parents smile all the time. And when they are finally alone in the cab together, they just laugh, like two great barrels of hot air. We can not imagine Diane's parents having an interior life, because Diane does not envisage it.
In much the same way, Diane also remolds her spirited girlfriend Camilla into the frightened form of amnesiac, Rita. This act reveals Diane's desire to have a partner in life with neither friends, family or a history to distract her. Diane imagines Camilla without either a will to defy her or a memory, and thus the new Camilla emerges, a blank canvas upon which Diane can paint her deepest desires.
Philosopher, Seneca believed that people could avoid the pain of bitter disappointment in their lives by never allowing their expectations to rise above the level of reason, by expecting the unexpected (both good, and more importantly, bad) and by not seeking to find judgments on their character in sets of external events.
The first portion of Muholland Drive clearly reveals to us that Diane Selwyn's expectations in life were highly unattainable, frequently self-centered, and in the latter part of the film, mostly unvoiced. Diane clearly never factored bad fortune into her plans in life, and thus, was wholly defenceless when faced by it.
In the second portion of the film, Diane clearly took the series of disappointments which befell her to heart. When failure on the career and home fronts became entrenched in Diane's life, she interiorised it, and saw it as an inescapably cruel judgment on herself. The best example of this is at the point in the film when Camilla and Adam laugh nervously before the public announcement of their engagement, while Diane stands crying in the shadows, imagining their laughter cruel and derisively directed at her. Diane instantly interpreted those events as a slight against her.
Seneca might say that Diane's interpretation of and reaction to Camilla's engagement was perhaps born of "a certain abjectness of spirit", a deep-seated belief on Diane's behalf that she was not only a public subject of ridicule, but deservingly so. Diane consequently reacted to Camilla's engagement with a frustrated, unfettered rage. Whether Diane's character would have been capable of the destruction that she brought upon Camilla if not for her own suffering is an academic point, but perhaps it didn't have to be that way.
As throughout the history of philosophy and drama, the topic of suffering is not an alien one to the character's in David Lynch's films. John Merrick suffered greatly in The Elephant Man (1980), so too did Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosellini) in Blue Velvet (1986), Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in Fire Walk With Me (1992) and Fred Madison (Bill Paxton) in Lost Highway (1997), to name but a few. Some of these characters managed to learn from their suffering, others did not. In can be argued that Mulholland Drive's Diane Selwyn belongs to the latter variety.
Writer, Hubert Selby Jr once mused on the topic that:
... The function of suffering is to let me know that my perception is skewed. What I'm doing is judging natural events in such a way that I'm creating suffering within myself... (in life) you have pain over certain conditions, certain situations that occur, and if you just say, 'Here I am, I'm going to experience the pain', you don't suffer. (But it is) the resistance, and the degree of resistance, to the natural phenomenon of life that causes tremendous suffering ...
It can be argued that Diane's downfall was caused by her unrealistically high expectations in life, and her inability to adapt to or reassess them amongst a set of changing circumstances. For this, Diane suffered greatly, but even suffering didn't have to be her end.
Philosophers throughout history have emphasised the redemptive qualities of suffering. Friedrich Nietzsche even went so far as to say:
To those human beings who are of any concern to me, I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill treatment, indignities, profound self contempt, the torture of self mistrust and the wretchedness of the vanquished.
These words were inspired by Nietzsche's firm philosophy that great happiness could only be attained by those who had also endured great suffering in their lives.
It can be argued that the character of Diane Selwyn in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is the very antithesis of such a worldview; a picture of unresolved suffering, perhaps born out of what Hubert Selby Jr describes as 'the great American dream of pain avoidance', and the product of a comfort seeking society.
That's not to say that there isn't a hint of redemption in Mulholland Drive for Diane Selwyn, as her dream world exhibits a certain lucid cyncism in relation to the business of acting. It is clear in this world that Diane has realised that the playing field is not even for actors and that actors are not always cast on the basis of their artistic skills; as something as arbitrary as 'a name' can be enough to secure an acting role. The realisation that artistic decisions can very easily be held to ransom by producers and film financiers is also present in the surreal events of the first part of the film. This portion of Diane's dream proves that life experience has taught Diane something about her chosen field- something that perhaps she always knew, but was unwilling to admit to herself, having deferred to the judgments of producers and directors throughout much of her life.
In Diane Selwyn's death and rebirth into a new understanding about her chosen field, she exhibits an ability to find what Friedrich Nietzsche describes in his theories on the experimental subject as "new defences against the fact of pain". The reassessment of her life that Diane undergoes holds out redemptive possibilities for her character.
Schopenhauer once wrote that in the most compelling works of art:
The poet takes from life that which is quite particular and individual, and describes it accurately in its individuality; but in this way it reveals the whole of human existence... though he appears to be concerned with the particular, he is actually concerned with that which is everywhere and at all times.
In a certain light, Diane Selwyn's story can be seen to be both particular to her and representative at the same time of many young actors who have struggled to make themselves known against the somewhat misleading backdrop of money, fame and easy fortune that Hollywood projects.
It can be argued that a broader and more subtle kind of social commentary is also at work in Mulholland Drive. In this day and age, where technological determinism dictates the rhythms of global culture and public sphere debate barely exists outside of television, it serves as little surprise that many of us, much like Diane Selwyn, have grown up with an expectation of instant gratification in our lives. And much like Diane Selwyn, few of us can predict with any certainty what effect our dreams will have on our perceptions, nor can we fully gauge what our reactions will be in times of difficulty. As Schopenhauer also wrote,
We should always be mindful of the fact that no man is ever very far from the state in which he would readily want to seize a sword or poison in order to bring his existence to an end; and those who are far from believing this could easily be convinced of the opposite by an accident, an illness, a violent change of fortune - or of the weather.
Through the character of Diane Selwyn, Mulholland Drive brings to the fore the fragility and the fallibility on which the human condition is based. Lynch's use of two parallel narratives in conveying Diane Selwyn's story well exhibits the effect that perception has on our comprehension of, and reactions to, sets of external events. David Lynch's latest film exploration of the darker side of human existence is well wrought, emotionally charged, and most of all, timely. Mulholland Drive is clearly a film with designs on the philosophical zeitgeist of the new millennium.
David Bardwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction, McGraw Hill, International Edition, 1997.
Alain De Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy, Penguin Books, London, 2000.
David Lynch, Mulholland Drive, 2000.
Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. R.J. Hollingsdale, Human, All Too Human, Cambridge University Press, London, 1996.
Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. W. Kauffman, The Will To Power, Cambridge University Press, London, 1968.
Arthur Schopenhauer, trans. D. Large, World as Will and Representation, Dover Publications, 1988.
John R. Searle, The Constructions of Social Reality, Penguin Books, London, 1995.
Hubert Selby Jr., "Memories, Dreams and Addictions", Requiem for a Dream DVD, Artisan Entertainment, 2000.
Seneca, trans. C. Costa, Dialogues and Letters, Penguin Books, 1997.
Here's an interpretation from a guy over at twinpeaksgazette. I've read it several times and this totally work for me.
It's very long - and very good I think.
Here it comes:
"MULHOLLAND DR. In My Mind - An Interpretation - **SPOILERS**"
What Phil, in an earlier post, didn't mention is that the afterlife idea is mine.
This is my sole interpretation of the most thought-provoking film of 2001, and one of the most complex ever released, MULHOLLAND DR. For years I've felt I can identify with David Lynch's work. I try to study his films, analyze them, and put them together in some way, shape or form that satisfies me.
MULHOLLAND DR. is also my selection for Best Picture of 2001.
Essentially, here's what I think about the whole thing... this is always open to discussion! =)
If MULHOLLAND DR. were a conventional film, we'd see the following scenes in this order:
1) The CAR REHEARSAL SCENE, where Diane watches Camilla and Adam in action, on set, as he directs Camilla and a male lead. "When you kiss her, it's just a continuation of that move...there's no break..." -And they kiss as Diane watches, thin-lipped.
2) Then, we'd have the scene where Diane hops over the sofa onto Camilla's lap. They are both shirtless and kiss lightly. Camilla insists they break it off and Diane is upset. "It's him, isn't it?" - This lets us know she's frustrated with Adam and Camilla's relationship.
3) Next would be Diane shoving Camilla out the apartment, "You want me to make this easy for you! No ****in' way! It's not gonna be! It isn't for me!" and slams the door in her face.
4) Camilla calls Diane and invites her to a party. "Diane, the car is waiting." Diane attends, greets Adam (Justin Theroux) and his mother, Coco, (Ann Miller). As the night goes on, she spills her guts to Koko, speaks volumes in expressions of her relationship with Camilla. She mentions meeting Camilla on the set of The Sylvia North Story and mentions the director not "...thinking much of..." her. "She helped me getting some parts in some of her films." Coco nods, knowingly, patting Diane's hand. "I see". Diane also sees Camilla kissing another actress. Then, comes the engagement announcement. These are all solidifying means to break it off with Diane for good - and Diane is obviously upset.
5) THE DINER. Diane hires a hit man to off Camilla. She mentioned lots of money her aunt left her, here it shows. The black bag. We are also introduced to the line "This is the girl." -referring to Camilla. The hit man is anxious of someone overhearing, as Diane is upset and loudmouth. Waitress BETTY is noted. The Hit man insists Diane be sure of her intentions. Once money is exchanged, the job is as good as done. Paid, he tells her of the blue key. "When it's finished, you'll find this where I told you.” Diane notices Dan, the Man With A Dream.
6) In THE ACCIDENT, Camilla is killed.
7) The next sequence would be Diane's neighbor knocking at her door to collect her things. Diane wakes, opens the door, the neighbor gets her stuff, and we see the Blue Key and Diane's neighbor warns her of snooping detectives. "Oh, by the way, those two detectives came looking for ya." Diane, then, hallucinates (surreally or otherwise) Camilla's bright, always-make-up'd self. "Camilla... you've come back." -At this point, Camilla is already dead.
8) The final scene of the traditional storyline of MULHOLLAND DR. places Diane in a compromising position. The cops are on her tail. Switching bungalows with a neighbor didn't throw them off. She's head-over-heels guilty for having the object of her obsession (Camilla) killed. From desperation, hopelessness & guilt, Diane kills herself.
NOW... the trip begins.
The entire first and second acts of MULHOLLAND DR. are death trips. That's what makes this film so unique. This is a film about the things we see when we die. In life, Diane was overwrought with failure. She said so much to Coco in the DINNER PARTY scene. Her lover abandoned her. In Diane's afterlife, she's recreated an ideal situation for herself, where she:
1) Arrives in Hollywood. Remember how she describes it? "...I just came here from Deep River, Ontario and now I'm in this -- dream place."
2) Meets her lover, transcending Camilla's position in reality (from a cold *****) to someone with NO memory, practically someone who needs to rely on someone. Diane creates a situation in her afterlife where, as Betty the Actress, Camilla (now Rita with no memory), needs her, relies on her, emotionally and physically - much like Diane's obsession with Camilla in real life.
3) Diane, as Betty in her afterlife, creates a situation where her ideal potential is realized. Remember her discussion with Coco and an unnamed man at the DINNER PARTY, where she mentions a director who didn't care much for her? The man next to her calls him, "Bob Booker." This is the director who enjoys Betty's performance in THE AUDITION scene. In real life, Booker hated Diane. In Diane's ideal afterlife, Booker adores her as Betty.
4) Diane (as Betty) means to help Camilla (as Rita) discover herself. In real life, Diane must have had a horrible time identifying herself, always riding the coat tails of her famous, dead aunt. Now, she trails Camilla (to maintain a relationship). In her afterlife, Diane (as Betty), creates a situation where, through discovery, discovers her own death by finding her own corpse.
THIS IS WHERE DIANE'S AFTERLIFE SPINS SOMEWHAT OUT OF CONTROL, into a tailspin of the weird, surreal, truthful & tragic.
5) It is significant to note Diane's understanding of Camilla's death as somewhat detached. After all, at this point she is still an "Earthbound" spirit so drama is sure to envelop much of her afterlife. We see this in the scene where the Hit man kills a giggly, long-haired man with "THE BLACK BOOK," referred to as “The History of the World,” and a couple of other innocent people. Remember when the long-haired guy says "A freakin' car accident. Can you believe that?" -These may be Diane's thoughts surfacing in characters in her afterlife.
6) She is LOVED for her acting. In reality, Diane was no more than a hopeful"...I won this jitterbug contest. That sort of led to acting." -In her afterlife, Diane (as Betty) floors Bob Booker, Wally Brown & the others. In this scene, we here one of the most important lines of the film:
"Don't Play it real until it gets real."-Bob Booker, (Wayne Grace).
This is significant of Diane's situation. At the start of the film, some may consider the dialogue and story progression somewhat plotted and silly. In reality, it is meant to be plotted and straightforward, without the "likes" and "you-knows" of contemporary dialogue. What we consider as and artificial, though, IS and artificial in the sense that all we see and hear of "BETTY" is a fabrication in Diane's afterlife. Booker's words are meant to signify a point in the film where situations for Betty show their layers. Layers, mind you, so well developed in the proceeding scenes, we hardly notice they're there till they kick us in the nuts.
7) "SEEING ADAM" is an important scene, indicating Diane's acknowledgment of Adam as an entity in her life. She walks in on his auditioning various singers, including the ravishing Melissa George as "THE BLONDE GIRL," and eye contact is all the acknowledgement her soul needs, thus she retreats to previous engagements with Camilla. That's when they discover Diane's corpse.
8) Low and behold, Diane and Camilla are lovers again. The passion of withheld emotions erupts in Betty & Rita's sex scene. Here, in the afterlife, it's love. In reality, it began as love. Through rejection (from Camilla), Diane’s love quickly deteriorated into obsession.
9) SILENCIO brings a lot of MULHOLLAND DR. into the light, emotionally. First, we here a description as follows: "NO AYE BANDA" Or, No Band ... "...and yet, we HEAR a band." And, "It is all a tape." -Here, we have a scene of truths surfacing. The theatre is a gathering place of lost souls, where coming to terms with the end, new beginnings, situations & people lost, and hearing LLORANDO (crying), takes place. Diane and Camilla find themselves here. Here, we realize, both Diane and Camilla needed to let go, release their anger, hate, fear, loathing & jealousy. At this point, though, it's too late for sorries. Here, Diane also shakes violently. After the singing, Diane discovers the Blue Box. She and Camilla meddle with it. Betty disappears. When Camilla opens the box, (with the blue key), I think Diane's afterlife trip begins all over again, from the time she arrives in Hollywood to the time she returns home from the concert with Camilla.
VANILLA SKY did this to some extent. The entire film is a man's trip in a cryogenic state. But, we'll get to that later.
That box is a trigger that loops Diane's afterlife experience. You know how people see ghosts trapped in a routine all the time? The beginning and middle of MULHOLLAND DR. are Diane's routine.
Perhaps, she and Camilla haunt Hollywood...? =)
Also, her dislike of Adam in reality embodies itself in his being pursued and threatened in her afterlife. She strips him of his control, something she clearly didn't care for in reality. Besides, as a director, calling the shots is important. Diane denies Adam this in her afterlife where SHE calls the shots.
To me, THE COWBOY represents an extension of Diane that participates in Diane's ruining Adam. "How many drivers does a buggy have?" Adam replies, "One." Like in directing, there is one director (at least, in Adam's ideal professional situation. It's obvious he likes to call the shots). Diane, through The Cowboy, the Castigliani brothers, etc... strips Adam of that ideal control and puts him in a helpless position. Remember, he's also lost a wife, was beat up, his film is toyed with out of his hands. All these things are Diane's invention of Adam in her afterlife experience. Post-mortem revenge.
The Cowboy also says, "Now, you will see me one more time if you do good. You will see me two more times if you do bad." How many times do we see the Cowboy after his introduction? Twice. Once, after Betty & Rita disappear, the Cowboy opens the door to Diane's apartment where she lies in the way she did in death, and says, "Hey pretty girl. Time to wake up." Second, during the dinner party, after Camilla kisses the Blonde Actress. Blonde Actress walks off and the Cowboy passes through the hallway and out the house.
We've seen the Cowboy twice. Someone has done bad. I think this refers back to Diane, as SHE has done bad. I think The Cowboy speaks to a wider audience, illustrating the fact that Diane severely screwed up, let her emotions run away with her, caused some death and hurt a lot of people. Bad, indeed.
I think THE BUM is actually Diane. I think it's Diane's corpse, the rot in her soul. "He's the one that's doing this," says the Man With A Dream in the beginning, but it's not a he it's a SHE. Diane is responsible for her afterlife, regardless of what form her super consciousness takes. The Cowboy may represent the part of her that seeks revenge, much as traditional cowboys of history did. This is HER ride, her buggy. And only one driver.
Also, THE BUM is played by a woman, Bonnie Aarons, which adds water to my suggestion that The Bum is Diane (a woman) and not a “he.”
All in all, the conventional storyline of an affair between two people leading to jealousy and murder is classic Hollywood fare, especially set in the City of Dreams. The lines of reality and fantasy are blurred in a manner only David Lynch can execute.
So... why do I discharge the dream theory? I don’t entirely discharge it, only see a much more interesting avenue to travel when explaining MULHOLLAND DR.
There are several layers to discharging the dream theory. First & foremost, to say the first two acts of MULHOLLAND DR. are "a dream" is just too easy.
In analyzing the film, I tackled each point of the film deciding whether or not explanations were too easy or to complicated. At one point, I figured The Bum was the Hit man (I was thrown off by the line "He's the one that's doing it.") When I tried to fit The Hit man into the role of The Bum, I found myself having to make far too many excuses for that association. Perhaps he was in the limo and was killed trying to kill Camilla. Or, perhaps Diane's impressions of The Hit man embodied in her afterlife as The Bum, still considering the line "He's the one who’s doing this." BUT, he couldn't have been in the limo because we would have seen his dirty blonde head and both hit men in the limo had one-tone hair, not too dark but light brown. He couldn't have been Diane's impression of him as The Bum in her afterlife because he's already himself. No angle I took reached something satisfying. But - low and behold - a light went on upstairs. The Bum IS Diane. It's her rotting corpse. -Makes sense now. It's not too easy, not too complicated. It's a thoughtful explanation that's creepy and just what one can expect from David Lynch.
David Lynch's films are never simple. Each film takes a traditional, simple plot and adds layers of eclectic surrealism with roots in matters of the conscious, subconscious & super conscious. We have to consider the fact that the whole "dream" thing is way overdone and a tired escape for scripts full of holes. Instead of wrapping up scenarios properly, a writer will throw in a character "waking up," immediately vindicating the story progression from setting a finale & tying up loose ends.
Dreams are something audiences are used to. If you don't understand something, make it a dream and it all goes away. That way, nothing has to be explained, nothing has to be patched up, and nothing needs fulfilling. Have a look at the percentage of people who consider MULHOLLAND DR. a dream. My point is proven.
This is something David Lynch does not subscribe to. His daughter, Jennifer Chambers Lynch, made perfectly well what copping out with dreams can do to an otherwise promising project. BOXING HELENA suffered for it, not only at the box office but also from the critics.
The thing about a dream is that dreams are escapable. Watching MULHOLLAND DR. gave me the feeling of being stuck in a blend of reality & idealism. Dreams are reflections of our reality, either hopes or fears, but not tangible nor ideal. They just ARE. Death, on the other hand, is very real and not always ideal but for the best. They say we must pay for our errors in the next life. If that's the case, everything that happens here is for the best and what we take with us are our lessons learned (and mistakes) for further analysis in the next life.
In watching MULHOLLAND DR. from start to finish, we see Diane's mistakes (in the third act) but see how they materialize (in the first and second acts).
I know why the Dream Thesis comes about, though. After Betty & Rita disappear, we see a couple of fade ins & outs, and The Cowboy open Diane's door. "Hey, pretty girl. Time to wake up." And, Diane wakes up. In the film, what I call her afterlife trip directly precedes her waking up. Makes it look like a dream, doesn't it? Also, in understanding that place between wake & sleep, it's very easy to bring with us images from our dreams that only fade away when we fully wake. The Cowboy could be a character she first saw at the Dinner Party (she was looking directly at The Blonde Actress when The Cowboy passes through the hallway, out the house), and he embodied himself not only in her dream but also in her sleep-to-waking state, triggering her wakefulness to meet her neighbor's knocking at her door.
If you look at it analytically, it's very easy to describe MULHOLLAND DR. as a dream.
HOWEVER... it's too easy. To say acts 1 and 2 are a dream is also saying much of what one doesn't understand (like the Adam subplot, the Hit man, Mr. Roque’s Studio & the telephone calls), are entirely irrelevant because it was a dream anyway. In a dream, nothing HAS to make sense. It's too easy to say Diane dreamt it all because all that would remain from a dream are the major incidences and MULHOLLAND DR. is made up mostly of subtleties and details. Dreams have NO attention to detail.
Off-topic, even in song, we hear "Dream A Little Dream of Me."
Dreams, for the most part, are little - or remembered that way. We dream extensively yet remember seconds. To say it was all a dream is giving Diane A LOT of credit. In a dream, explanations are not necessary. After all, they are only dreams. If you piece together MULHOLLAND DR. as I have, you begin to notice an attention to detail uncharacteristic of dreams. One need only look past Lynch to his daughter’s BOXING HELENA. There is absolutely NO attention to detail in that film. It's primarily made up of Julian Sands & Sherilyn Fenn necking against a black background. THAT's a dream. MULHOLLAND DR. seems like more. Neither, does the plot of BOXING HELENA skew far from Julian Sands' character at any point. MULHOLLAND DR., on the other hand, has its sub-plots that escape Diane, even though they are manifestations of her feelings in a reality unlike ours. Why? That reality is death.
Here is my overbearing reason for applying an Afterlife spin to MULHOLLAND DR...
I have studied the afterlife for many, many years. I've had numerous personal experiences with "ghosts," and Near-Death/Out-of-Body-Experiences, not only in my personal research and experience, but on traditional Haunted Tours across the country. I firmly subscribe to the idea that we never die but "step out" of our bodies. The physical self dies, not the spiritual. If I (and those who can speak to people on the other side, like Sylvia Browne, James Van Praag, John Edward & Mary Altea to name a most credible few) are correct, and we DO cross over into another realm, one need only look to the many haunting cases of Hollywood.
At the Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.), Marilyn Monroe is constantly spotted in a full-length mirror, originally located in her poolside Suite 1200, where Marilyn often stayed. The mirror in which her image appears is now located next to the elevator on the lower level.
Harry Houdini roams about the remains of his former home at 2398 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, in the Hollywood Hills.
Clifton Webb is constantly at his old residence, 1005 Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills.
George Reeves still wanders about 1579 Benedict Canyon Drive.
Thomas Ince makes a fuss over at Culver Studios (9336 Washington Blvd, in Culver City), all the time.
Montgomery Clift wanders the Roosevelt Hotel, too (#928, 9th floor). AND he still plays his trumpet, roams the hallways & is usually heard "reciting old lines."
Most notably, there's Thelma Todd... in the early 1930's she made comedies with Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers & Buster Keaton. She also ran a beachside cafe between Malibu & Pacific Palisades (17575 Pacific Coast Highway). Lucky Luciano wanted to run some unsavory numbers in her cafe and she said "Over my dead body." "That can be arranged," he said. Sure enough, Todd was found dead in 1935, bloody & beaten with the car running in her upstairs garage. Now, it's Paulist Productions and EVERYONE there has not only seen but HEARD her, walking about, crying (llorando), traveling up the same stretch of street and steps.
All these ghosts do these things over and over and over. This is common knowledge with those of us who follow Parapsychology. Spirits who cross over with, either unfinished business or before their time or from suicide, instantly become what are known as "Earthbound" spirits. They are neither in our realm nor the proper realm of the afterlife, but between realms where, as entities, they are stuck in situations that left the most impact on them in traditional life.
Take Thelma Todd, for example. She loved life. Rarely was she seen without a smile. She loved her work and was well respected. She was living a dream life, especially with her cafe. That was her world. The Mafia insisted on ruining her perfect world and she wouldn't have it. I think she knew the risks but opted to chance being killed. In the end, I'm sure it came as a surprise. Out of the cold, dead darkness of night came these thugs and they ended her promising, young life violently.
This can safely be called a "tragic passing." Tragic passings make ghosts, there's no question about that. However, let's remove our perceptions of what a ghost is and look at things from the GHOST'S perspective. Todd, as a ghost, is trapped between two realms. One - (life) - she loved with a passion. The other, the reality that life is over and a new existence must begin. However, she's not ready to give up her old life, her old material possessions, her cafe, perhaps even little things she liked to do - like taking walks up & down Pacific Coast Highway.
Where is she today? Roaming the cafe she so loved and roaming up & down Pacific Coast Highway.
She goes through "a routine" that is similar to the life she led here. Monroe always loved that mirror at the Roosevelt, and she's still looking at herself in it today. Clift is heard rehearsing scripts from the early 1950s. These are "loops" the ghosts are in, and most ghosts go through it, from what the pros say.
Reeves, Webb, Houdini all went back home. They return to a familiar place. Most to all ghosts do this, as well. Part of me wants to think Diane returned to the house her aunt (now dead, as we learn in the Dinner Party scene) lived in. Perhaps that's the house the first & second acts took place in. Of course, someone else lives there now but perhaps Diane visited her aunt there, on occasion, and dying in Hollywood shipped her off to the most familiar place in town -her aunt's house.
While watching MULHOLLAND DR. (all the times I have) I noticed details and behaviours characteristic of ghosts. The returning to familiar places, the seeking something, the crying (Llorando), and when it came time to explain The Blue Box - there was only one way to fit it all together. These are the goings & comings of someone who made an adventure for herself on the other side after completely blowing it in this life. Again, she recreated her situation to suit her needs, her wishes, her hopes.
As a dream, MULHOLLAND DR. is full of loose ends, (the phone calls, Mr. Roque’s Studio, , The Cowboy, The Bum, The Blue Box, The Blue Key, The Black Book (History of the World), Dan (The Man With A Dream), Club Silencio. -All these things go unresolved if MULHOLLAND DR. is a dream because they're not important anyway. Balls with it, it's only a dream, right?
I disagree. As an Afterlife experience, MULHOLLAND DR. has NO unresolved issues. The Cowboy, The Castigliani Brothers and Mr. Roque’s Studio are pieces of Diane that topple Adam and his overbearing control. The Black Book known as "The History of the World" is full of the review of Diane's life. Even popular religions indicate a "Book of Life" to be dealt with when we cross over. The phone calls are internal to Diane, alerting various parts of herself to situations that need resolving. Club Silencio is a place where "Earthbound" spirits gather. Llorando, as a song, speaks volumes of the condition of Earthbound spirits. Todd is heard crying. So is Valentino & George Reeves, among GALLONS of reported ghosts across the world. In the real world, ghosts cry - and they cry in MULHOLLAND DR., too.
Even Rebekah Del Rio is called "LA LLORONA DE LOS ANGELES." -The Cryer of the Angels-
People who have crossed are often referred to as "angels" or "guardian angels," depending on who is referring to them. Here, the situation is no different. La Llorona De Los Angeles puts on a never-ending show for the lost angels (angeles/spirits) of Club Silencio.
David Lynch has never dealt directly with dreams. It's not his style. LOST HIGHWAY wasn't a dream, ERASERHEAD wasn't a dream, neither were TWIN PEAKS or BLUE VELVET. These films deal with people who conflict and face, nose to nose, their internal selves, their demons, their fears, their pasts. Only once has David Lynch made dreams integral to a story and no one thought much of DUNE in the same way no one thought much of BOXING HELENA (his daughter's take on dreams). What makes David Lynch's work so pleasing, fulfilling & downright eerie is the fact that his stories have their foundations in reality. Our souls are real, the afterlife is real, our inner-selves are real. His most widely accepted films have a foot in reality. When dreams come into play, the foundation lies in the intangible, not the tangible, (again, see DUNE & BOXING HELENA).
This may be another reason MULHOLLAND DR. wasn't as widely accepted as it should have been. No one got it and that's a CRYING shame. =)
There has been wide speculation over the old people (Irene & Irene’s Companion) who accompany Diane through the end & beginning of the film.
Here’s my take on the old people…
In many cases of near-death experiences, people describe other people - or spirits - who come for them. These people guide the newly deceased into their afterlife. From what people who have died and returned say, it's fairly common to be greeted by people you know and guided towards whatever light people see.
Thing is, many also recognize people they DO NOT know, but these “strangers” know them. I recall the story of a very credible woman who died during surgery. After she came back, she described as much. People familiar, people unfamiliar... of course, death is surely different for everyone, but the general concensus is that there are people waiting on the other side for us, whether we know them or not.
Given that, the old people chasing Diane represents the fact that she went nuts, also representing these "spirits" that come for us, regardless of whether we know that split second we're going to die or not.
Immediately following her death, our first scene would be her arriving with those old people at the airport. See? They've brought her over and are sending her off to her afterlife. One could think of the airport as a lobby for limbo, as I associated with the Red Rooms in MD and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME.
In clarifying the near-death-experience thought, I'd like to first say that MULHOLLAND DR. -IS- a movie, for the most part, and any movie may be granted some liberities in representing reality, fantasy, life, death, making a sandwich... it's all what we make of it. =)
THAT SAID... Yes, Diane is alive (running to the bedroom) but she IS about to die (near-death). In terms of film -where liberties are surely granted- dramatic premise might have these "things" coming for Diane in her final seconds of life, whether she's absolutely sure she's about to die or not. I think she's already decided to kill herself. It's partially metaphoric to the fact that's she's lost her mind, has -most likely- been contemplating suicide and is about to stain her bed with brains.
Remember those creepy black things that came for the "bad people" in GHOST? I think those Old People are a lot like them. In GHOST, they appeared IN death. In granting MULHOLLAND DR. some leeway, consider the idea that, chronologically, the Old People chasing Diane would directly precede her arriving in Hollywood, "amidst an eerie white glow." -And her splattering herself in bed lies comfortably between them.
IMO, MULHOLLAND DR. is a story told through subtleties and symbolism. I try to absorb the grander meaning of things, leaving open for conjecture various details that could represent a wide range of variables. It's the intricate details that are the most fun and everyone will, most likely, get something different out of everything.
In the end, we are all free to make up our own minds.
But, don’t spirits usually greet us…? Well, yes – BUT Keyword - USUALLY. Not everyone has pretty stories to tell of crossing over & coming back. Not everyone speaks of smiling faces & shining family. Some people encounter AWFUL things... I think Diane is one of those people who, while recreating an ideal situation for herself in the afterlife, was not a "good person" and shouldn't expect the afterlife to serve up tea & biscuits. Besides, just as our world here is diverse and full of all sorts of people, the afterlife is full of much the same thing. It takes all kinds. From what people who can speak to the dead say, ghosts roam around as freely as we do. All kinds, nice ones, nasty ones, it's a real melting pot. Some pretty nasty ones showed up at Diane's doorstep, IMO. =)
I don't think those old people actually "caused" Diane to shoot herself. Considering the Old People represent something "coming for" her soul, she was to shoot herself anyway, old people or not. Metaphorically, the Old People could be used to also represent a chaotic transition from life to death.
Regardless, I think those people "came for her." It's a creepy thought and works for me. It's only my opinion. =)
Another thing... when people die -or are about to die- or facing some kind of life/death psuedo-state (be it past or present or future) in Lynch movies, they're washed with that eerie blue light. It quite reminds me of the "light at the end of the tunnel" -but blue.
Pete Dayton as Fred was washed with blue light in LOST HIGHWAY, so was the younger Pete Dayton as Pete Dayton (Balthazaar Getty). This was more a transitional thing, but Pete/Fred is killed in the end.
Laura Palmer ate the blue light in TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME.
It reminds me of the other side showing itself and pointing its finger at the newcomer. In Diane's suicide scene, the blue light starts slowly, mostly a flicker, and grows with the old people’s laughter till it strobes after Diane, into her bedroom. If that blue light is a "portal" into the afterlife, it is gradual and SMALL as the old people were gradual and SMALL coming into her house. When the old people erupt, so does the blue light.
I consider that blue light the “tunnel of light” people describe in death. Thing is, Lynch likes his death light blue – not white. It’s an artistic thing – but a lot of us have our own ideas of the afterlife. Perhaps Lynch sees blue in his afterlife. I see lots of lavender, whites, opal… go figure.
If one wants to opt for the dream theory, that's fine. As long as one enjoyed the movie. As long as the experience of MULHOLLAND DR. got one thinking, that's all that matters. One can easily suggest the pillow and heavy breathing in the beginning signify someone lying down for bed. However, I think that slow pan across the pillows, into the pillow on the right - (facing the bed, on the right (rightside nightstand) is where Diane gets the gun) - is similar to the path she takes across the bed to get the gun in her suicide scene. The pillow scene is slower than the frantic suicide scene (and minus the screaming). However, the intricacies of how Diane ends up in bed can be taken however someone wants. Thing is, both scenes show something definite. Diane ends up in bed.
In the pillow scene, there's some diffused light highlighting the pillow. In the suicide scene, there the same kind of diffused light coming into the window from a street light (or yard light) outside. It's the same place, the same bed -but can be the same scene, only played differently for dramatic purposes within the film.
All in all, it's meant to be confusing. =)
Someone also brought up the idea that Detective Domgaard (when the cops are investigating the accident) held up the blue key in his evidence bag.
Camilla's left pearl earring is in the bag Detective Domgaard is holding, not the blue key. What one may have thought was the blue key is the ziploc on the bag -it's blue.
Here's the scene:
Domgaard produces the plastic bag from his pocket.
Domgaard: "The boys found this on the floor in the back of the caddy."
McKnight: "Yeah. You showed me."
He stuffs the bag in his pocket.
Domgaard: "Could be unrelated."
McKinght: "Could be. Any of those dead kids wearing pearl earrings?"
Domgaard: "No. Could be someone's missing, maybe."
McKnight: "That's what I'm thinking."
After the accident, when Camilla crosses Franklin Ave., a car passes her, washing her in its headlights. We see her left ear bloody. She's missing a pearl earring. The other dangles from her right ear. Before the accident, she's wearing both earrings (in the limo). After, she's missing one.
The bag is hard to see but I noticed the blue ziploc. The lighting makes it difficult to see the earring in the bag but it's there.
Also, before someone notices that Domgaard says "caddy" and not "limo" ... limousines also come in Cadillac brand. =)
In another thought… After the audition scene, Betty's taken to meet Adam. They announce in the scene that the set is "The Sylvia North Story." Adam is directing. In life, Diane said she met Camilla on the set of The Sylvia North Story. In death, only thing was Camilla was that blondie (Melissa George). Adam is the director, not Bob Booker (like the guy sitting next to Diane at the dinner party said, in life). This setup could be Diane's recreation of first meeting Camilla, only faces have shifted. She arrives as an "actress," not just for auditioning.
Adam DID direct Camilla at some point, though. We see this in the scene with Adam & Camilla necking in a car on-set.
I also enjoyed the idea that Diane and her neighbor might have been lovers. Imagine that Diane left her neighbor to philander with Camilla, only to be dumped by Camilla, hence dumped by both. The neighbor looking Camilla (Rita) up & down with a sneer could indicate Diane’s retention of her neighbor’s dislike for Camilla in real life. I’m sure they fought a great deal over something as serious as Diane meddling with a showbiz floozie. Switching apartments to avoid the police was of little help. Diane’s neighbor was gathering things from the bungalow. Diane remembered this from real life and it transcended to her afterlife.
Concerning Naomi Watts... Naomi Watts exherts pure glamour. Did you see her at the Golden Globes? She's absolutely radiant. What got me most of Watts' role was the actual subject matter. Considering MY view of the film (as an afterlife experience, not a dream) I just get this gut wrenching feeling... I feel so bad for her character. Let's just say I enjoy the sentiment. =)
Watts' role covers lots of terrain & a variety of emotions. One of my favourite angles to her character is the fact that the more Camilla pushes her away, the more her love - which I'm sure was some species of love in the beginning - becomes vengeful obsession. Piper Perabo's character did the same thing in LOST & DELERIOUS. Check it out if you haven't, it's a fabulous film. And, since MD is disjointed, we're forced to recall the minute details of Watts' performance long afterwards to piece them together when it's all said & done. The fact that MD is not a linear film adds a lot of weight to Watts' role because it takes more thought & time to understand her character (and the film, in general).
All in all, MULHOLLAND DR. & Naomi Watts insist we spend more time with them than we normally would any other film. (All thanks to The Good Lord Lynch, by the way.) In the time we spend watching and re-watching MD, it's obvious Watts' talent & good looks grow like wild mushrooms on us. Another thing is the fact that she plays a real **** of a person - yet we care about her anyway, (much like everything Thornton did this year.)
One last thing I'd like to point out, concerning dreams vs. the afterlife is, again, of Lynch's accepted films, matters of the spirit chained to reality are the true stars:
TWIN PEAKS = The Red Room, The Arm, The Garmonbozia, all tangible entities within the spiritual world. No dreams here.
LOST HIGHWAY = The Mystery Man AND the illusion of a double identity fades when we learn these are the same people and, in reality, Fred only ran from himself and, in despair, ruined his OWN life. No dreams here.
ERASERHEAD = A man's unwillingness to accept his own death surfaces as the birth of a malformed child. Ever wonder why The Radiator Girl sings "EVERYTHING IS FINE IN HEAVEN."...? Eraserhead is dead, that's why. (Quite like MULHOLLAND DR.)
BLUE VELVET = heh. No dreams there. An ear & Dennis Hopper sucking an oxygen mask screaming MOMMY but no dreams. =)
DUNE = Maudib dreams things before they happen and it bombed. Regardless, this was NOT from Lynch's imagination but based on Frank Herbert's amazing books. See, Lynch doesn't tackle dreams himself, he deals with death, the afterlife and brazen spirituality. My kinda guy. =)
In un-Lynchian related speculation, a fine film called IN DREAMS went straight into the gutter - and guess what the big deal about that film was? ...DREAMS...
I'm hard pressed to think of a movie dealing with dreams that enjoyed widespread acclaim besides THE WIZARD OF OZ and ALICE IN WONDERLAND...
I would also like to draw your attention to THE ARM (Man from another place) & THE RED ROOM from TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Now, think of MR. ROQUE & THE STUDIO in MULHOLLAND DR. Both THE ARM and MR. ROQUE are played by the always-creepy Michael Anderson and both characters are set in these "red rooms."
In TWIN PEAKS, Anderson and The Red Room signified a lobby for limbo, so to speak. Here is the place the dead pass through, on their way to Heaven or Hell. In MULHOLLAND DR., Diane's afterlife has a Red Room of its own, the place where Mr. Roque lives. Diane, in death, has arrived and must overcome an obstacle she brought with herself -Adam, (not entirely him, per se, but the control & heirarchy of Hollywood he represents). The obstacle was overcome by stripping Adam of his power. In death, Diane wins.
As an obstacle in TWIN PEAKS, Laura Palmer brings her father to The Red Room. Through Bob, (the image of her father she experienced when he'd rape her), and The Arm (Anderson), the obstacle is overcome when Bob sucks the "Garmonbozia (pain & sorrow) out of Leland Palmer. In death, Laura Palmer wins.
In looking at both of these films and analyzing their similarities, one can easily see how dreams are not a factor.
Anyway, of David Lynch's more ethereal movies, we come to notice a greater acceptance of his subject matter. People are tired of dreams. But, when matters of the spirit arise, everyone (especially in this day & age), perk their ears & eyes. Why? Work like that SPEAKS to the soul. People GET that, whether they realize it or not. We all have a spirit. Exploring the spiritual world in art (in film) helps us all to explore our own spiritual selves.
David Lynch's films speak to us louder & deeper than our ears alone can hear.
David Lynch's films have spoken to me on an ethereal level for many years. There's this thing called resonance. Lynch's films resonate with me; they possess an unseen quality that needs to be felt to be understood.
People who may not be entirely in tune with the Spiritual (not RELIGIOUS, mind you, SPIRITUAL) side of themselves may interpret MULHOLLAND DR. as a dream.
For people like me, MULHOLLAND DR. rang true at every turn. The soul knows the truth. I really wish more people would have realized it the way I, and others like me, did.
I got it. That's enough for me.
This guy is certainly entitled to his opinion as we all are. I think you will find under closer scrutiny that his interpetation is full of gaping holes. I feel his years of study on the afterlife prejudiced his opinion toward that explanation and is not logical and not supported by the facts. His logic relys on David Lynch being just as studied on the afterlife and dreams as he himself is. This is not reality, it is a film and the only dream logic or afterlife logic that applies is that which Lynch knows and that part of what he knows that he feels work with his story idea. This synopsis does contain many small details that are logical and I believe to be true but they all work with the dream explanation also. All things in the film can be explained to coincide with the dream. Lynch's past history with dreams has nothing to do with this film. In fact the history surrounding this film (an open ended story already filmed that had to be added to and changed) meant that he had to work differently than he has ever worked before.
The largest glaring loopholes in this (afterlife) theme are in the bedroom scenes.
When Diane kills herself she is wearing the tacky robe and laying across the bed with her head at the right edge of the bed and the gun still in her mouth, her face is pointed toward the foot of the bed. There are two pillows on the bed.
When Rita and Betty see the corpse there is just one pillow. The body is lengthwise on the bed with her face pointing to the right. There is no gun, she is wearing a black slip/nightgown.
If this event (suicide) had already happened at this point the details would be exactly as they were when it happened. Or at least very close (would have to include at least the gun). Coincidently (or not) the body is lying in the exact position as Diane is in when she is sleeping. If someone were to dream of a future possible death this would lack specific details.
In the beginning when the camera pans to the bed it is facing down to the floor comes up to the bed, goes back to the floor and eventually goes across the sheet to the pillow and the lens goes into the pillow completely cutting off the light. This is Diane putting her face into the pillow going to sleep. During the suicide Diane is looking back to those tormenting her and looking forward to the bed and across the bed not down. She never puts her head in the pillow.
Diane is not awakened by the Cowboy. This scene is still part of the dream. Diane is awakened by DeRosa knocking at the door.
Some other small holes in his theory;
In the dream (afterlife to him) Rita/Camilla did not love Diane/Betty.
Bob Brooker did not like Betty's performance at the audition.
The direction the Cowboy walked thru the party was into the house not out.
I could go on but I have a short post reputation to keep up.
I am not trying to be overly critical of this theory but I feel his extensive dismissal of the dream needed to be answered