A MULTI-LAYERED ANALYSIS OF MULHOLLAND DRIVE
Like so many others, I thought the movie Mulholland Drive was an inspired work. The power of it does not just emanate from its eerie and mysterious atmosphere, its taste for conspiracy and intrigue, and its poignant love story which ends tragically in betrayal, murder and suicide. The force of the movie comes across in the way most scenes are able to communicate on many different levels at the same time. This, in effect, challenges you to tease apart the significance of the multiple layers if you are to really understand the message at the subtext of the story. And just as the metaphorical structure at the subtext of the story is difficult to grasp, the context of the story at the surface level is also a complicated and puzzling challenge. As in other works by Lynch, there are serious plot twists and shuffled timelines that force the viewer to do some work to decide what the chronological sequence of events in the story really was. But this movie doesn't stop there. Even with a reasonable chronological story line, the logic of the events is still very illusive. The true genius of Mulholland Drive is in the way that it employs an intricate language of symbolism and metaphor that would give even a complex novel a run for its money.
Because of how thick and richly textured this movie is, most reviews of it focus on explaining the plot twists and how the characters are interwoven with one another so that they can make sense of the basic story line. And by doing this, the reviews often de-emphasize the need to understand how to decipher the symbols and metaphors that are major driving forces in the movie. However, that approach can be problematic because without a method for interpreting the symbolism, the basic story line is easy to misread. For instance, two of the major symbols in the movie are the blue key and the blue box. But you cannot totally understand these symbols without understanding why they are blue since symbolic colors are a major device running through the entire movie. Even blonde, brunette and redhead hair colors have special significance. And there are scores of other symbols as well. Names, references to other films, artwork, plot devices, special props, ordinary items like telephones, and certain articles of clothing among other things are also important to deciphering the context and the subtext.
With that said, I think there are many different depths to which you can go in an analysis of this film. In my attempt to be as thorough as possible, I have written an analysis that digs very deep, and in doing so, I have probably gone into more detail than most viewers of the movie would care to attempt. So, like Lynch, I have decided to provide a multi-layered work for those who are interested in better understanding the film. In this review, I will begin by presenting a surface level contextual interpretation of Mulholland Drive which I believe is very approachable for the casual viewer. In it, I will make very little mention of Lynch's abstract symbolism and his extensive referencing of other works, and I will not dig into the philosophical subtext of the film. Next, in a more detailed way, I will describe my method of reasoning through the meaning of the symbols in this movie after I describe what I believe is some of the background and motivation for this work. In my view, looking at the background and motivation give important clues concerning how to unlock the symbolism, and this will require that I touch on some relevant historical details. After doing this, I will present what I believe to be the chronological life story of the protagonist, which is obscured and hidden in the complex narration. I will then go over the scenes in the order that they are presented in the movie with a fuller explanation of how I interpret whatever symbolism I believe is involved. And then, after all that, I will address David Lynch's "10 clues to unlocking this thriller." Finally, my conclusion will attempt to pull together a coherent interpretation of the heart and soul of this masterpiece, explaining why I believe the film can move a viewer so powerfully even if that viewer does not fully understand the logic of the core narrative.
AN INTERPRETATION OF THE BASIC NARRATIVE
Mulholland Drive is a story about a woman named Diane Selwyn who is experiencing an extreme mental and emotional breakdown. For reasons that become progressively clearer, her life has reached a point of desperate crisis that has driven her into a suicidal depression. The most apparent cause of her deteriorating condition is guilt over a horrible incident she recently set in motion. Diane is a Hollywood wannabe who fell in love with another aspiring starlet. However, after the two of them become involved with one another, at some point Diane is jilted and humiliated by this woman, and so she hires a hit man to murder her estranged lover. Once the deed is done, Diane descends into a downward spiral of guilt and despair. The first three-quarters of the movie explore a dream that Diane has soon after she has learned about the death of her lover. The last quarter of the movie occurs after Diane wakes up and then explores her memories of the weeks and days leading up to the killing in the form of flashbacks. Diane's flashbacks reveal to us actual events that occurred in her life, while the fantasy story line takes characters from her real life, gives them new identities in most cases, and weaves them into a fanciful and passionate conceptualization of her internal conflict. Because of the fact that the fantasy occurs before the reality segment, the two may seem distinct, but you need to see the end to understand the beginning. And yet, in many ways, the fantasy explains the reality as well. As we see the fantasy and reality story lines played out, we come to realize that there are many complex issues involved that are quite mysterious and that are profoundly important to understanding the forces that shaped Diane's tragic life.
In Diane's mind there are so many conflicting emotional crosscurrents that she is having trouble sorting everything out. Indeed, if we were to look into her mind and give these different crosscurrents personalities of their own, it would be like entering a society full of strange and enigmatic characters battling over what to do with Diane Selwyn's life. And in fact, that is what we do by entering the fantasy world that Diane dreams up after falling asleep in the beginning of the movie. We enter her mind at a point during which various characters--or more precisely various personas--in her mind are trying to kill off one of the major personas who is patterned after a woman whom Diane loved in the real world. This woman has played a central role in Diane's life, and the woman's persona in Diane's mind is now seen as the source of all of Diane's problems by some of Diane's other personas. To some of these personas, Diane's life is like a movie production, because in the real world becoming a movie star in Hollywood is very important to Diane. The persona that the others hate represents a woman that Diane had loved so deeply that her persona had been the star of this production for some time now, and the personas that attempt to assassinate her are interested in replacing her with someone else. We enter Diane's fantasy world at a point right before the assassination attempt, when the hated persona is traveling up Mulholland Drive, the fabled road that leads up a hill where important personalities in the movie business live. The hill is almost like Mount Olympus to Diane, because the people who live on that hill are like gods in the movie business, and now the hated persona is heading up there to try to become one of them.
This is where the fantasy begins, and from there the plot thickens. The assassination attempt fails because of a car accident, but the hated persona is driven down the hill, injured and unable to remember anything. The other personas are now able to go on with their movie making without her, and as they begin to fight over who to re-cast as the next lead, some nefarious personas are still out looking for the hated one to try and finish the job. And a couple of other personas are curiously drawn to a place called Winkie's where there is some kind of monster living in the alley behind the store. We do not learn about the nature of this beast and why it is behind Winkie's until near the end of the movie.
As the fantasy gets underway, it turns out that the personas in Diane's mind are about to have a visitor. Right before the real Diane Selwyn fell asleep, she was struck by an important memory that is now inserting itself into her troubled fantasy land. Her memory had to do with her younger years when she was the winner of a Jitterbug contest in Deep River, Ontario. At that time in her life, she had an innocent and somewhat naďve personality that is all but gone now in her current disturbed mindset. However, somewhere deep inside Diane's mind there is the desire to bring back this innocent persona, because it is seen as the key to survival for the suicidal Diane. In the real world, Diane has bought a gun and placed it in a drawer next to her bed, and she is considering using it on herself if she does not find a reason to live again. In contrast, the innocent persona of her past was enthusiastic about life because she was filled with a passionate dream about becoming a Hollywood movie star. And perhaps even more importantly to the current day Diane who feels bitter and unloved, this innocent persona of the past who was so full of hope, also felt deeply loved by Diane's dear departed aunt. Therefore, in a last ditch effort to resolve her distress, Diane inserts the innocent persona who feels hopeful and loved, into the mess of a world that her mind has become. But will this innocence be able to survive as it comes into contact with all of the other forces at work within Diane's mind? This is a difficult question for a viewer to ask, because it is not necessarily clear to the viewer that Diane's innocent persona is even in danger until the fantasy is just about over. This is because some of the forces that threaten to destroy that innocence cannot be completely understood until the end of the movie. But the fantasy itself plays out the question for us anyway, showing us what the result ultimately is of bringing the innocence of the past into contact with the jaded world of the present.
The innocent persona of Diane is given the name Betty for reasons that again do not get explained until the end of the movie. It is important to note that the first thing that Betty does when she arrives in the airport, which is her doorway into this fantasy world, is separate herself from two individuals who show up with her. I believe these individuals represent her grandparents who were there with her when she won the important Jitterbug contest of the past, but she acts like she does not know them very well in this fantasy. Although they say many nice things, they seem to show a sinister side to themselves as they leave the airport laughing maniacally. Like the monster behind Winkie's, we don't see them again until the end of the movie.
The next thing Betty does is head straight to the former home of her aunt, which is the place where she felt so deeply loved as a child. It is from there that she wishes to make her mark on the world, and in this case, the world of the current day Diane Selwyn's mind. However, when she gets there she discovers the fugitive persona that other personas have just attempted to kill. This is an unexpected turn of events for her, but it intrigues her. She does not know who this persona is, but she believes the persona has some connection to her beloved aunt, so Betty immediately begins to trust her. It turns out that the persona did see Betty's dear departed aunt as the aunt was leaving on a trip to the north, and by complimenting the aunt's red hair, the persona makes a good impression on Betty. This is a very significant point. There are many clues that later hint at the fact that the aunt’s red hair made a strong impression on Diane as a child. And as we shall see, the fugitive uses an association with the red hair to become associated with the aunt. Betty loved her aunt deeply, and in this dream the fugitive persona has been allowed to enter the aunt’s home, which is like a sanctuary of love in Diane’s mind. Allowing the fugitive into that sanctuary is a way of telling us early on that Diane’s innocent Betty persona is connecting her love of her aunt with her feelings for the fugitive.
However, the fugitive persona actually has no relationship with the aunt. In fact, the persona’s fake association with the aunt is somewhat parallel to the type of fake association that the fugitive makes by taking the name of the glamorous Rita Hayworth. The fugitive pretends to be Rita Hayworth, and Rita Hayworth was a Hispanic starlet who pretended to be a red head. The famous Rita Hayworth dyed her naturally black hair red to create a more glamorous image for herself. I believe that both the fugitive's and Rita Hayworth's pretense of a connection to the red hair is related to the fake image-making Hollywood enterprise that ultimately dupes Diane and her innocent Betty persona. But eventually Betty does find out that this Rita persona is not who she says she is. Betty further discovers that Rita has amnesia caused by an accident she was in and for some reason she feels that her life is in danger. Also, Rita's purse is filled with money and a blue key, which causes a fearful reaction in her.
Although Betty does not know what she is getting in to, she decides to help Rita. We begin to see the dynamic where Betty/Diane is drawn to Rita/Camilla almost like a moth to a flame, with no knowledge of the history involving the Rita persona that has made the other personas in Diane’s mind so upset. And this means that Betty tries to embrace a version of Rita that is as innocent as is Betty herself. Furthermore, Rita's mystery gives Betty a chance to connect with her goal of becoming a star in more ways than one. She says to Rita, "It'll be just like in the movies. We'll pretend to be someone else." This statement is also one of Lynch's many hints about the nature of the events in this portion of the film, because just about all of the personas are pretending to be someone else.
While Betty is protecting Rita, other various characters are engaging in some bizarre activities. I believe all of the activities make sense when you look at the symbolism involved, but that is a discussion I only take up in my more detailed analysis below. Suffice it to say that Diane's mind is filled with many other important personas, such as: certain legitimate and illegitimate Hollywood powerbrokers; two movie directors; a few actresses; a sleazy actor; a maternal apartment manager; a seedy hotel manager and club MC; a hit man; a prostitute; various pimps; a monster; a midnight cowboy; a female mystic and a male magician; among others. Betty does not interact with most of these personas, but she does with some of them, and most of those that she does interact with like her immensely. In fact, Adam, who is one of the two director personas, was quite captivated by her. So much so, that it is clear that he wanted to make her the star of the movie production that many of the personas are so focused on. However, he could not do this because of the intimidation and coercion he was being subjected to by some of the unsavory personas who had not met Betty. So ultimately, Betty's goal of becoming the star persona in the world of Diane's mind gets sidetracked, and instead Betty focuses on trying to protect and redeem the Rita persona. As it turns out, this will not be easy, because she and the Rita persona discover another persona that represents the dead body of Diane Selwyn. Rita instinctively knows this is why so many other personas are against her, and she is terrified by the implications. So Rita decides to change her image. With the help of Betty, Rita is transformed into a doppelganger of Betty. By merging with the innocence of Betty, the Rita persona hopes to escape the fate of being eliminated from Diane's mind.
Betty has always had the desire to embrace the Rita persona. Rita is like a glamorous Hollywood starlet, and Betty has always wanted to become like one of them as well. So after Rita has put on a blonde wig to make herself look like Betty, Betty tells Rita to take it off and come into the bed with her. She wants to connect as deeply as possible to the glamorous Rita persona by making love to her. As they proceed to do just that, Betty professes to actually love Rita for real. Unfortunately, silence is Rita's only response. And it is this silence that triggers a set of realizations that begins to bring an end to both the Rita and the Betty personas in Diane's mind.
The Betty persona had been brought into the world of Diane's mind because she represented a certain time when Diane felt loved by her aunt, and she embodied a zealous hope for a Hollywood career, and she personified a certain type of innocence. But all three of these rationales for Betty's existence are now falling apart. First off, Diane's aunt was never around when Betty was present during the entire fantasy and so Betty never succeeded in reconnecting with her aunt's love. And since Betty was also unable to get Rita to say she loved her just like Diane was probably unable to get Camilla to profess love for her, Diane was still stuck in an unloved state. Secondly, Betty did not succeed in getting the other personas to make Betty the star of the central movie production in her mind. Even though the other personas got rid of the first Camilla, they choose another Camilla-type of persona instead of the Betty persona to be the one that they believed could be a star. Again, this was ultimately just like the real life of Diane who had lost confidence in herself long ago, so she did not believe that a person like her could ever become a star. In fact, that is why she wanted so much to become like Camilla. And thirdly, there is a growing realization that Betty's innocence has been lost as well. There is something about Betty engaging in sexual activity to win Rita's love that brings back a horrible memory. There are hints of the issue throughout the fantasy, but the most obvious one comes up when Betty is doing an audition with the lecherous actor named Woody.
In the script for the audition, Woody, an older man, plays the part of a character named Chuck. Betty is much younger than him, something that becomes clear when he wants her to do some unspoken terrible thing and she threatens to tell her dad about it. However, apparently she has done this thing with him before, because she is disgusted with herself, saying, "I hate you... I hate us both!" And whatever she did with this man named Chuck, the fact that the man was her father's "best friend" just makes it even worse. The clear implication is that she was involved sexually with "Chuck" at a very young age, and this represented clear sexual abuse because the script says "Chuck" would have been arrested if Betty had told anyone. We don't know much about Chuck, other than the fact that he wasn't the father, although he was a man who was very close to the father. Later, when we see the grandmother and grandfather appear as demons who chase Diane into her bedroom tormenting her until she commits suicide, we can deduce that Chuck may well have been the grandfather, with the grandmother siding with him in order to cover it up. Thus, the images in the beginning of the film that show the grandmother and grandfather characters being loving and supportive in the Jitterbug scene and in the airport scene may have been misleading. Since Diane distances herself quickly from these figures and never revisits them after Betty arrives in the fantasy, their relationship to her was ambiguous at best. And their bizarre laughter as they left the airport without Betty hints at a more sinister reality in their relationship with Diane. And this means that the Betty persona's innocence was just an oversimplification of her traumatic history. And Diane's attempt to repress the reality of the past trauma, although understandable, was a complete failure.
Betty and Rita come to realize these awful truths during the Club Silencio scene. A magician who performs at Club Silencio tells them in many different ways that what they experienced during the fantasy wasn't real, it was all an illusion. The chance to reconnect with Aunt Ruth, the chance to become a star, and the idea that Betty had not already lost her innocence, were all false truths. Aunt Ruth's name may even be an indication of this because if you just remove the first letter it becomes "untruth". At the end of the magician's performance, he emphatically tells us to "Listen!" Then, as flashes of lightning and peals of thunder fill the theater, Betty's body gets tense and starts shaking uncontrollably. While she does this, the magician's face looks like he is straining, and he is somewhat tense as well. And then, suddenly there is the sound of a man making a grunting sound, like he is releasing something pent up inside of him. Then the magician relaxes with an evil grin on his face, as Betty also relaxes finally, looking unsure of what just happened. Next, in a cloud of smoke the magician vanishes. I believe that this last revelation from the magician was sexual in nature. The magician was forcing Diane to relive how her Betty-like innocence was lost long ago when she had been raped as a child.
All that is left now is the tears, and so Rebekah del Rio comes out to sing the Spanish version of a song called "Crying," written by Roy Orbison. Before singing the song, Rebekah del Rio is introduced in Spanish as "The Crying Lady of Los Angeles." This title is also the name of a legendary Spanish woman who was jilted by her husband who left her with their two children for another woman. Overwhelmed by the loss of her lover, she kills her two children and herself. In a certain sense, this is a hint that Diane's grief in the real world 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.
With all of this information, Betty and Rita discover that Betty now has a blue box in her purse that they assume the blue key in Rita's purse will open. So the two of them rush back to the aunt's apartment where Rita's purse is located, so that they can get the key and open the box. But when the key and the box are in the same room together, Betty disappears before the two of them can even open the box. It appears that Diane's mind experiences an extreme feeling of guilt when the key and the box are in the same room. The guilt involved forces her to abandon any more pretense of innocence. And since Betty is that pretense, she cannot remain any longer, and so she vanishes. The guilt I am referring to here is the guilt that causes Rebekah del Rio to collapse while being associated with the Crying Lady who killed her two children. It is the guilt that Diane probably had in real life when she found the blue key that signified that the hit man had killed Camilla. Just by finding the key, Diane was forced to confront her guilt. We saw the same kind of collapse that Rebekah del Rio experienced when a character known as Dan faced the beast behind the Winkie's. Dan was a character from Diane's real life who looked at her at the same time that the hit man showed her the key for the first time. Thus, the Dan persona's relationship to Diane involved the key in her mind, and this is the primary reason he is in her fantasy. So, since Dan was afraid of finding something behind the Winkie's, then the key that the hit man left for Diane was most likely found behind the Winkie's. It killed off Dan when he went back there to face it in a way analogous to the way that the Betty persona cannot face the moment that the key and the box are finally present together. Together they represent the knowledge of the horrible act that has condemned Diane to a guilt-ridden existence.
However, the Rita persona did not represent innocence, so Rita does not disappear initially like Betty. But Rita does represent Camilla, the person that Diane paid a hit man to have killed. The blue key was the secret token that would be left for Diane to find, probably behind the Winkie's, when the deed was done. This means that the secret inside the blue box that is opened by the blue key, involves the realization that Camilla is no more. This follows because the box represents the truth that is opened up by the key, and the key revealed Camilla's death to Diane. So, when Rita opens up the box and sees nothingness, she seems to be sucked into it. Then when the box falls to the ground, we see that it is still empty. Thus, Rita follows Camilla's fate as she is finally eliminated. The box has taken her out of the picture of the fantasy world in Diane's open mind.
Needless to say, Diane's fantasy failed to resolve the issues with which she was struggling. She wakes up, interacts irritably with her neighbor, sees the key, and then begins to have flashbacks showing what led up to her current deteriorating state. By in large, these flashbacks involve the cruel break up of her relationship with Camilla, and the fact that she went to a hit man to have Camilla killed in the aftermath of the breakup. Once the flashbacks have ended, she imagines that her grandparents are demons now released from the blue box in her fantasy, and that they have now come to get her. They chase her to the bedroom while she is screaming hysterically. After they have caused her to fall onto the bed, she pulls a gun from the dresser drawer and shoots herself in the head. As she is dying, we see the monster's face again, the one that was behind the Winkie's. It fades into her face because the monster was part of her, representing a twisted persona that drove her to do something for which she could never forgive herself. Next, as she is dying she also sees the Betty and Rita personas, and the Rita persona has on the blonde wig. It is as though the two personas have finally successfully merged and they are truly happy at last. A merger of the past innocent persona that Diane desperately wanted to hold on to with the passionate starlet persona she had always wanted to become. Ending her own life seems to have been a type of retribution for the murder, since she is now free of the guilt and finally able to embrace both the Betty and the Rita personas in her dying moments.
The final scene we see is at Club Silencio, and a blue haired lady is there who we also saw in the earlier Club Silencio scene. She has the final word, "Silencio," which simply means "silence" in Spanish. Whereas before the idea of silence involved the notion that there was only the Hollywood pretense of stardom, love and innocence for Diane when none of it was real, now the idea of silence seems to instead involve the concept that nothing more can be said. Here at the end of the movie I believe that Lynch pays homage to Shakespeare, as we are reminded of Hamlet's dying words to Horatio, "The rest is silence."
BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION
However, as it turns out, there is still much more that can be said about Lynch's movie. In fact, the above interpretation is just scratching the surface of some the movie's thematic content, its enigmatic characterizations, its intricately threaded, multi-layered story line, and its complex symbolism and rich texture. And this is quite remarkable, because in some ways the film Mulholland Drive was really a fortuitous accident. It was originally intended to be a TV series like Lynch's Twin Peaks before it. And in some sense, the accident that produced Mulholland Drive was eerily similar to the accident in the one of the opening sequences of the film, where a beautiful vehicle with a beautiful passenger is in a terrible crash during an assassination attempt. Mulholland Drive is the cinematic vehicle that would not die even after the terrible accident it suffered along with other attempts to kill the project. The majority of the movie was filmed as a pilot for the proposed TV series, and, as such, it was structured to open up story lines that would take an entire season, and perhaps multiple seasons, to resolve. Not many filmmakers would intentionally embed so many subplots and complex thematic devices in a work that they believed viewers would only have the limited amount of time to engage that we get in the movie theaters. Thus, as I said, it was an accident that brought this movie into being, because before Lynch knew what form the final cinematic vehicle would take, he certainly did pile into the film complexities and plot devices galore.
Inevitably, Lynch had to wrestle with the question of how he was going to transform his vision for a TV series into a concept suitable for a movie of only two hours and twenty minutes. How would he resolve all of the many loose ends he created without having the time to develop their individual threads in the manner that he had originally intended? His most uncharitable critics will tell you that he just decided not to resolve everything. But in my opinion, they are wrong. Instead, he decided to trust the artistry of his craft and the power of his medium to allow the resolutions to come from the subtext of the story communicated through a rich language of metaphor and symbolism. Such a decision also required Lynch to have a good deal of trust in his audience as well, since now his work would become more difficult to interpret. And I think this trust was well placed, because I believe that those that give it a chance often find the film to be no less gratifying than an extremely challenging but richly rewarding novel. I was one of Lynch's many viewers who accepted the challenge to sift through his movie carefully.
In many ways, Lynch's film is an expression of issues that have a very long history within his works. Like the works of many other unconventional filmmakers, Lynch's films deal in themes that force us to examine our assumptions about entertainment and our habit of viewing films as just another form of entertainment. Are we in the theater to escape from our problems, or are we there to examine other lives on display so that we may reinterpret our own? Can we say that we are not putting ourselves into the position of the protagonist when we watch a film, especially if that film deeply explores issues from the point of view of the protagonist? And if we admit to some degree that we do in fact see through the protagonist's eyes, then to what extent does this help us to resolve our own conflicts and to what extent does it simply confuse us all the more? It is a question that concerns playing out one's issues within the context of a different persona. This is not just about walking in someone else's shoes, but it is also about living within someone else's head and seeing through her or his eyes. "Persona," the groundbreaking film by Ingmar Bergman, is one the most regarded classic films to seriously address this question using profound symbolism and cinematic techniques that are still innovative almost forty years later. A more contemporary film that approaches this question using instead light-hearted literalism and shrewd humor is "Being John Malkovich," directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. But Lynch takes the issue farther than Bergman, Jonze or Kaufman. Throwing caution to the wind, Lynch asks us what would happen if we were not just in one head at a time? What would happen if our complex motivations and conflicted hearts were represented by a cast of personas in conflict with one another, and all struggling for control over the direction that our life will take? If you are willing to think of the main character in Mulholland Drive in this light, and envision her fantasy as a journey to determine the ultimate fate she will face after the fantasy is over, then you begin to understand the enormous trust Lynch puts in his audience. He wants us to take the journey with her, seeing her life through the eyes of multiple personas. And in so doing, Lynch wants us to learn to love her and to be angry with her, to be impressed and unimpressed, to be filled with hope and to be filled with dread. In essence, he wants us to engage her conflict with her, and to come away without any easy answers. And in the end, he wants us to learn some very heart wrenching lessons. But I am jumping ahead without laying a proper foundation. I think a deeper exploration of the background to the film is in order.
A Lament for Fallen Angels
In my opinion, it is important to view this film as an ode to those young women whose lives are destroyed during their pursuit of a Hollywood career. In fact, the film is explicitly dedicated to one such woman named Jennifer Syme, who had previously worked with David Lynch on some of his films. She was 29 when she was killed in a tragic car accident the same year the movie came out. Interestingly enough, I believe that the film is covertly dedicated to another young woman who also aspired to make it in Hollywood. That young woman died at the age of 22, at about a week from the day one year after David Lynch was born. The woman's name was Elizabeth Short, although she was nicknamed Black Dahlia because of her arresting beauty and her stylish black hair. The real Elizabeth Short was called Betty by some as a shortened version of her name. I believe this is one of the many possible allusions which explains why there is a major character named Betty in Mulholland Drive. Lynch has had a longstanding interest in the life of Elizabeth Short, and it is even rumored that he owns the movie rights to a story about Black Dahlia's murder written by John Gilmore. Betty, who is also Diane in Mulholland Drive, is not the only one with something in common with Black Dahlia. Rita, who is also Camilla in the movie, is also a very beautiful woman with an impressive mane of long black hair. Not only that, but like Black Dahlia, this second character's life will also end with a murder.
But Betty and Rita are only associated with Black Dahlia in the background motivation of Lynch. The connection between them is not very explicit. However, I think it is important to note that both of the female protagonists in the movie were actresses whose lives become associated with a woman who is destined to die following her dream to become a Hollywood actress. Indeed, even though both of the protagonists' circumstances are different from that of Black Dahlia, they will both follow her into her ultimate fate. In fact, if you step back and look at the essential arc of the movie, in the beginning the main character, Betty/Diane, arrives in Hollywood full of zeal and passion, but by the end she is a broken woman whose life energy has been beaten out of her. The opening Jitterbug dance sequence, among other things, offers us a metaphor for her bubbly energetic persona at the beginning, while a group of dirty dishes falling and breaking near the end symbolize her final fallen, broken and unclean state. I believe that Lynch is driving home the message that the Hollywood dream is an extremely dangerous dream. But more subtly Lynch is also dissecting for us the inner dynamics of the fall that the main character experienced. What I think many miss when watching the movie is the nature of the inner conflict that pursuing the Hollywood dream establishes in both the heart and the mind of those who are not especially guarded and careful.
Where many see the movie as a condemnation of the potentially sinister nature of the impersonal and corrupt Hollywood machinery, I believe the movie is more of a poignant expose of internalized forces that work to overcome and destroy those who are attracted to the blue neon glow of Hollywood's glamour. It is not the movie making enterprise that Lynch targets, for he himself is an accomplished devotee who gives honor to those in his craft in spite of his critiques. But Lynch does shine a penetrating light on the flawed human element within that enterprise which is prone to believe too deeply in its own fanciful artifice, and by so doing lose touch with the more meaningful relationships that are disconnected from the business.
One Architect of LA's Conspicuous Consumption
A case in point is William Mulholland, the man who was honored by having a major street in Los Angeles named after him. What did he do to deserve the honor of becoming the namesake for Mulholland Drive? He was an Irish immigrant with minimal formal education who taught himself the craft of engineering and then rose to the top to become superintendent and chief engineer of the Los Angeles water department. In that position he oversaw the construction of the 233-mile Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was finished in 1913 ahead of time and under budget. The aqueduct brought much needed water from the Owens River into Los Angeles. The water was critical to the city's dreams for the exceptional growth and glory that it enjoys today. Yet deceit and corruption were involved to take away water rights from Owens Valley farmers and other residents who had different plans for the River. Mulholland's financial backers became rich off of the water bonanza while members of Owens Valley suffered complete financial ruin. Some called it "The rape of Owens Valley." At the opening ceremony for the aqueduct, Mulholland uttered his most enduring quote, "There it is. Take it." I believe a form of this quote echoes repeatedly throughout Lynch's movie as character after character repeats Diane's infamous words, "This is the girl." Each time those words are uttered, the context is such that the character might as well continue on and say, "Take her," since like William Mulholland they appear to be delivering a type of commodity who is being given over for some type of momentous consumption. However, when the commodities are human beings they do not always survive the consumption.
William Mulholland's commodity trafficking only involved water, but even his star ultimately failed to survive. Tragedy struck as Mulholland sought to bring into the city more and more water. The St. Francis Dam was one of the dams he had built for this purpose, but it collapsed in 1928 killing almost 500 people in the resulting flood. He resigned under criticism that he had filled the reservoir too quickly and that he had not sought after any independent expert opinion during the entire project. In essence, the claim was that he had gotten too cocky and his own hubris brought him down. Whether or not Mulholland was at fault for the collapse is still under dispute, but he took full responsibility saying, "If there is an error of human judgment, I am the human." Like Mulholland, we are all only human, and Lynch makes us take a very intimate look at how human judgment is prone to flaws and errors, and especially when it comes to engaging in the dream and the legend that is Hollywood.
City of Dreams and Nightmares
Lynch's movie is replete with images of the legendary Hollywood. There is the cowboy who looks like he's from the Roy Rogers era. There are the musical numbers that seem like they could have come from the 50's and 60's. Then there is the true veteran starlet from the musicals of the 40's, Ann Miller. And many other symbols of nostalgia stand out, like the poster of Rita Hayworth, the vintage car from the mid 40's, the frequent references to Sunset Boulevard, and the Jitterbug dance sequences that had that 60's psychedelic feel to them. Even the scenes with the mobsters felt retro with their colorful bigscreen atmosphere that is somewhat distinct from the mobster images that are still very contemporary on television.
But perhaps most significant to Lynch in terms of establishing that mythological Hollywood ambiance was the place where the Betty and Rita characters lived during the first three-quarters of the movie. Lynch's screenplay describes this place as "an ancient, gorgeous courtyard apartment building, built during the golden age of cinema." Yet was that age really all that golden in Lynch's view? Not if you take seriously the symbolic importance of the dog excrement left in the middle of the courtyard of this apartment complex from those good old days. And not if you take seriously the name of the street on which this complex is found: Havenhurst. It does not taken any leap to figure out that Lynch wants us to be somewhat balanced in our thinking about legendary Hollywood. It may have been a haven for some like Rita Hayworth, but it was a hearse for others like Elizabeth Short.
THE DIANE SELWYN STORY TOLD CHRONOLOGICALLY
With this as a backdrop, I can begin to outline what I believe to be Diane Selwyn’s chronological story line in Mulholland Drive as revealed with complex plot devices and veiled imagery throughout the movie. Interestingly enough, I believe it begins like the story of the rise of William Mulholland, with someone who lived through a difficult childhood trying to overcome it by creating a pathway leading out of a deep river that will flow triumphantly into Los Angeles. This is what happened with William Mulholland in a literal sense. Yet it happens metaphorically with Diane Selwyn, the protagonist who is the dreamer in Lynch's film. She comes from Deep River, Ontario, and she too tries to rise above a childhood that was tragic by forging a pathway to Los Angeles. In an interesting twist on the parallel between Mulholland and Diane, Mulholland helps to perpetrate a metaphoric rape when he gets older, while Diane suffers from the real thing when she is just a child. However, both are responsible for extreme tragedies at the twilight of their lives.
Both the mother and father of Diane Selwyn died when she was very young, so she went to live with her grandparents. Tragically, at some point during her childhood she was sexually abused by her grandfather. When the abuse happened, he and Diane could have been as much as fifteen or twenty years younger than the age we see them at in the film, so he was not necessarily an elderly man at the time. Diane's grandmother eventually found out about the abuse and she made Diane the scapegoat, and told her never to speak of it again. The damage this did to Diane was enormous. From that point on, Diane always believed there was something wrong with her. However, she had an aunt named Ruth who still believed in her. Her aunt lived in Los Angeles where she had a successful career working in the movie business. Her aunt became an inspiration to her, giving her hope that she could one day escape her circumstances and make it in the same world in which her aunt lived. And because her aunt knew that she had this goal, her aunt set aside money in her will for Diane that would go to help Diane pursue her dream.
Although Diane tried to repress the memory of the abuse, Diane's relationship with her grandparents never recovered, and Diane did not feel loved by them. But when she got older, something happened that helped to produce a new and more pleasant dimension to their difficult relationship. When Diane was a young adult, she won a Jitterbug contest in Canada. Her grandparents were very happy about this and they seemed to suddenly believe in her again. It was as though she could win their love back as long as she was a star. They even encouraged her to pursue her dream to go to Hollywood. And then her aunt died, and Diane flew to Los Angeles with the money she received from the will.
Her aunt had worked as a casting agent, but Diane wanted to be an actress. Her childhood had been so horrible that she fell in love with the idea of being able to become someone else during a film. This led her to decide that in principle her focus was on becoming a great actress, instead of a star. But deep down she also hoped that stardom would follow, because that was what held the secret to making people love her. However, as an unknown all alone in Hollywood she had trouble getting any acting roles, big or small. After a period of time, Diane was becoming very discouraged and her Aunt's money was beginning to run out. So she moved into room #16 at the Park Hotel. It was a cheap hotel in a rundown area of Los Angeles. She also got a job as a waitress at a Winkie's diner. But the money from Winkie's was not enough even though where she was living was not very expensive. When she could no longer pay the rent, Cookie, the manager of the hotel, visited her one night and let her know that she was going to have to pay him somehow.
She became desperate, and someone told her that she could make some fast money by joining a call girl operation. Whenever a wealthy client wanted a call girl, they would phone a middleman at a certain fancy hotel, who would then phone the pimp of the call girls. The pimp would find out what type of girl the John wanted and then he would consult his black book full of phone numbers and other information concerning his call girls. This black book allowed him to send to the John at the fancy hotel whichever call girl would best match his request. This arrangement allowed the customer to deal solely with the fancy hotel and thus never deal directly with anyone who did not appear legitimate. The call girl would simply be waiting in the hotel room at the fancy hotel when the John got there. One thing led to another, and Diane agreed to be placed in the pimp's black book. She gave in because her previous abuse as a child made her feel like there was something inevitable about being treated like a sexual commodity. Her self-esteem was devastated by this turn of events in her life. She began a habit of smoking when she was going out with her Johns. Yet, her bills were finally being paid. Eventually she quit working at Winkie's and moved out of the Park Hotel into a nicer place at 2590 Sierra Bonita, Apartment #12.
Even while she remained in the call girl business, Diane continued to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. And finally it seemed like she might get her wish. Someone named Wally Brown, who was an old friend of her aunt's, agreed to let her tryout for the lead part in a movie he was having made. The movie was called "The Sylvia North Story" and it was not a major production, so lesser known actresses were being given an opportunity to audition for the lead. The film was about a young woman who had suffered through sexual abuse in her childhood. Getting the part meant everything to Diane since it had a connection to her own life story. And, of course, finally becoming an actress would give her some deeply needed validation and it might even free her from her dependence on the call girl business. Sadly, the director of the movie, Bob Brooker, was not impressed with her so she did not get the part. The woman who got the part was named Camilla Rhodes, and she won the audition by playing the role more seductively than Diane. Diane was impressed with Camilla's ability to heat up what she thought was "such a lame scene." With a glow of admiration in her eyes, Diane told this to Camilla, and the two became good friends.
Even though Camilla had gotten the part, it was a low budget movie and Camilla was still struggling financially. So Diane and Camilla decided to become roommates to share their living expenses. At some point, while living together, they went from being friends to becoming lovers. For Diane, who had only had extremely bad relationships with men, Camilla became a fixation. She loved Camilla deeply and to some extent, because of her low self-esteem, she began to want to become like Camilla. Camilla got good reviews for her sexy portrayal in "The Silva North Story," and was eventually offered starring roles in other low budget movies. Unlike Diane's career, Camilla career was actually moving forward. And although she did not love Diane, she thought of Diane as her number one fan and enjoyed living with her. However, Diane's fixation was growing into an obsession.
Because of their relationship, Diane asked Camilla if she could try and get her roles in some of Camilla's movies. Camilla said she was willing to do this, but there was a catch. Diane would have to sleep with some of the movie executives. After all, Camilla reasoned, Diane was a call girl, and even Camilla was willing to do this once in a while. In this way, Camilla revealed that she was an opportunist and she became like a pimp to Diane, arranging for her to sleep with important men in order to promote Diane's career in small ways, while in more serious ways also promoting Camilla's career. Although unhappy about this, Diane would do anything to be in a movie and she would also do anything for Camilla. Diane continued to profess her love for Camilla, but Camilla never reciprocated.
This arrangement went on for more than one movie. Then Camilla finally got a lead role in a more mainstream film being directed by Adam Kesher. Because it was a mainstream movie, Camilla finally had enough money to pay for her own place. So she moves out of Diane's apartment, although Camilla does not officially break up with Diane yet. However, Diane is still devastated, and she begins to get very depressed about being alone in Apartment #12. At some point, Diane begins to see a psychiatrist because of her depression. Since Diane is so depressed in #12, the psychiatrist hoped that maybe moving to another apartment would help. Diane had a friend who was a neighbor named L. J. DeRosa, who is living in Apartment #17. DeRosa had witnessed how depressed Diane had become after Camilla moved out. And so when Diane asked DeRosa if she would be willing to switch apartments with her, DeRosa agreed to do so out of compassion. However, DeRosa was not entirely happy with the apartment switch because she saw that Diane was still in a relationship with Camilla, and she thought that was really the cause of Diane's problems.
Camilla was still actively pimping Diane, and she got Diane yet another small part in the film Adam was directing by having her sleep with an executive named Luigi Castigliane. Adam had recently gone through a difficult divorce and he and Camilla hit it off. Moreover, Camilla and Adam began seeing each other, even while Camilla and Diane were still in a relationship. At times, Adam and Camilla would show affection for each other even on the movie set. Diane could not help but feel jealous about this, but she was hopeful that her relationship with Camilla would survive. After all, Camilla had stayed with her for a long time even though they both had been involved sexually with various men during that time. However this logic did not turn out to be sound. Camilla began giving Diane hints that she was ready to break up with her. And then one day when Camilla was visiting Diane at Apartment #17, while the two of them were making love, Camilla told Diane that they must end their relationship. Diane got upset and then tried to force herself on Camilla. That just made things worse and Camilla became more insistent that it was really over. Diane got hysterical and then threw Camilla out.
Soon after the breakup, Camilla tried to repair the friendship for reasons that were not entirely clear to Diane. Camilla invited Diane to come to a dinner party at Adam's house, and she told her that Luigi was going to be there. Diane wondered if this was just more of Camilla's same old stuff, pimping her to the movie executives. Yet, Diane was still in love with Camilla, and she could not help but want to see her again, even though she was afraid of how she would feel when she saw Camilla with Adam. Diane's fears made her very hesitant, so even though she said she was coming to the party, when a limousine came to take her to the party she could not get herself to go to the car. After a while, Camilla called her and once again convinced her to come. As we learn later, Camilla planned to use the party to announce her engagement to Adam, one of the big shots in Hollywood, and she wanted people like Diane there who were in her circle of devotees, so they could see her latest moment of glory. Camilla probably also wanted her devotees there so they would talk positively about her to the other big shots at the party, since Camilla was always focused on using others to promote herself.
In fact, Camilla was so interested in having someone like Diane there, who she still thought of as her number one fan, that Camilla waited outside to escort Diane to the party herself. She wanted to surprise Diane, so she waited behind a tree a little bit down the hill on the road that leads up to Adam's house. She had arranged for the limousine that was taking Diane to the party to stop there and to let Camilla walk Diane the rest of the way up through a secret pathway. When the limousine stopped on an empty stretch of road on Mulholland Drive, Diane was initially afraid. But when she saw Camilla come to her from behind a tree, she was intrigued. All of the drama only served to make Diane begin to believe that maybe Camilla was interested in reconciling with her after all. Diane did not know about Camilla's surprise announcement for later that night, and so she went in to the party wearing her heart on her sleeve, desperately hoping that she and Camilla would soon be back together.
Camilla and Adam were extremely affectionate toward one another at the party, and Diane became increasingly uncomfortable. Then Diane saw Luigi, w ho noticed her as well. Luigi stared at her, clearly thinking about getting together with her again. And then, unexpectedly, a woman that looked somewhat like Diane, walked over to Camilla and kissed her on the lips. And worse yet, Camilla kissed her back passionately. Up until that moment, Diane had been able to hope that even if Camilla stayed with Adam, it was possible that Camilla and her could still have an intimate relationship with each other. But Camilla's kiss with this other woman showed Diane that Camilla was not coming back to her. Camilla had replaced Diane with this new woman in her life. Diane was stunned. And then, Camilla and Adam announced their engagement, while giggling and laughing. Now Diane was completely devastated. In her heart, Diane feels that she should never have come. She should never have picked up the phone when Camilla called earlier that night. But she did and now she is unable to cope with her feelings for Camilla any longer. At that moment, Diane's love for Camilla turned into hatred.
Soon after the party, Diane contacted a hit man. She arranged to meet him at the nearby Winkie's. She brought a picture of Camilla and thousands of dollars for the payoff. Apparently she was able to save the money while working as a call girl. The hit man told her that when the deed was done he would leave a blue key for her somewhere in an alley behind the diner, since this is where the contract on Camilla's life was arranged. Diane's anger had driven her to this, and her mind was becoming unstable. She kept getting fixated on different things that she saw at the diner. From the hit man, to the money, to the blue key, to the nametag of the waitress who served them. She even gets fixated on the face of a man who appeared to be a customer at the cash register. He just happened to look in her direction after she stares at him as she was shown the blue key.
Some time later, Diane found the blue key behind Winkie's in its appointed place, and she brought the key home and placed it on the coffee table. Camilla was dead. Grief overcame Diane and she went into the deepest depression she had ever experienced. She began sitting or sleeping in her apartment for extended periods without answering the phone or the door. At some point she is told that two detectives wanted to question her, so she became extremely afraid. Overwhelmed by both grief and fear, and becoming suicidal, Diane takes some type of drug while in her bedroom, and then fell into a deep sleep. While asleep, she entered into a remarkable fantasy that revealed how her mind was trying to cope with everything that had happened. Unfortunately, the fantasy ultimately failed to help her deal with her misery and she woke up no better off than when she went to sleep.
As the fantasy came to an end, she was awakened by the sound of someone knocking loudly at her door. This time she opened it and found that it was her neighbor, DeRosa, who had come to pick up the rest of her things that were left there after they had switched apartments. When DeRosa saw her piano ashtray on Diane's coffee table she picked it up, returning Diane's thoughts back to the blue key that was also on the coffee table. When DeRosa leaves, Diane can do nothing but think of Camilla. She begins remembering the passion and excitement that Camilla brought to her life, and she started to experience flashbacks of the events that led up to the those last fateful days. It had only been three weeks since she moved into Apartment #17, and now Camilla was dead, and everything seemed more messed up and tragic than before. Camilla was gone forever and Diane had gone from simply having a poor self-image to now completely despising herself. She felt that she did not have any reason to live anymore.
At some point Diane again hears someone knocking at the door, very forcefully this time. She imagines that it is her grandparents who are the ones who started all of her troubles in the first place, coming now as demons to haunt her. She hears someone screaming in horror. She gets terrified, and the demons begin chasing her. They are chasing her to the bedroom, the place where her childhood abuse took place. Screaming, as she is completely losing her mind, Diane takes a gun out of her dresser drawer and finally kills herself.
DECODING MULHOLLAND DRIVE'S LANGUAGE OF SYMBOLISM AND METAPHOR
If it is difficult to see how I've arrived at the above narrative of Diane Selwyn's life, it should not be surprising. This is a very difficult movie. However, when you understand my approach to interpreting how the movie is organized and how its rich language of symbolism fits together, I believe that my narrative will seem very logical. It's all there, the evidence of the parents being dead, the grandparents being abusive, the aunt being the only positive family relationship Diane remembers, the importance of the Jitterbug contest, the move to Hollywood with the aunt's money, the money running out while the creditors were coming after her, the movement into becoming a call girl prostitute, the last hope of stardom with the audition for The Sylvia North Story, the disappointment after losing the part, the renewed hope that Camilla would help her reclaim her dream, the obsession with Camilla that followed, Camilla's focus on self promotion, Camilla's exploitation of Diane, Diane's pact with the hit man, Diane's inability to cope after the hit has been done, Diane's last hope in a flight to a world of fantasy, Diane's surrendering to the harsh reality of the flashbacks, and finally Diane's last confrontation with the demon's that her grandparents had become to her. The logic is there, and the scenes unveil the logic progressively throughout the film.
I must admit that there is certainly room for different interpretations of the movie, and I acknowledge that I have not discovered or incorporated all of the symbols and metaphors that Lynch has hidden within it. However, be that as it may, I believe that my interpretation respects the artistry and the power of this film even as it puts it into a coherent light. And that is what I believe is most compelling about my interpretation. In my view, most of the interpretations that I have encountered that are not similar to the one that I have laid out above either argue against the movie's artistry or they disavow its fundamental coherence. I believe that my approach does not fall into either of these traps and it can therefore serve as a useful analytic resource to those who are looking for a narrative understanding of how each of the scenes fits together, and a philosophical exposition of the movie as a whole. However, my analysis should not be seen as an indication that I believe that there is only one way to interpret this work. It is first and foremost intended as an artistic expression, and you must keep an "open mind" with any artistry that is flowing from something deep within the artist. But I believe it is also important to trust that the artist sincerely wants to communicate with his audience. So we must look for any hints of this effort at communicating with the viewer and study whichever ones we find. If we do this, I believe that we can find Lynch's hand guiding us to better understand the way that his film is structured and helping us to see how he intertwines imagery that tells very connected story lines at the subtext of the film.
Internal and External Structures
To begin with, I think it is important to note that this film has both an internal structure and an external structure. The internal structure is the most complex, and it involves the way that the movie provides material that refers back to itself, creating overlapping dramatic constructions that can be linked together like puzzle pieces into a coherent whole. Some call this Lynch's Mobius Strip in reference to a strange object that is a strip that loops back on itself with a 180 degree twist in one of the ends. The end of the movie is connected to the beginning of the movie with some type of twist that you must figure out. With this type of structure, you cannot really understand one fundamental part of the movie without the other, however they each follow different logical paths that meet up in more than one strange way. For instance, in Mulholland Drive there are three opening sequences to the fantasy portion of the movie that make very distinct and very dramatic connections to scenes near the end in the reality portion of the movie. These different connections work together to help us understand the movie's internal structure. The scenes that I am referring to are: the accident scene, the scene with the two men at the diner, and the scene with the chain phone call. I will explain their connection to scenes near the end of the movie at a later point below, but it is important to understand that to view the movie this way, you must have a theory about what type of puzzle pieces are involved in this movie. And, as it turns out, I think you must have a particular view of the external structure of the movie to develop a consistent theory about the puzzle pieces that make up its internal structure.
The external structure involves primarily how the movie paces itself and how it references other works. In some cases the parallels with other works provide a type of superstructure within which the internal dynamics can be placed, and then independently developed. Clearly, Lynch references his own past works in this film. Yet, since those references are so deeply integrated into the whole film, I believe that they are best seen as features of the internal structure. However, his references to the works of other artist are more instructive concerning what I am calling the external structure. The work of Stanley Kubrick is involved with his meticulous set designs, and his focus on surrealism, the nature of obsession and non-linear story lines. There are also examples of both Ingmar Bergman's and Federico Fellini's existentialist use of dream sequences and flashbacks, along with their explorations of violence, sexuality and humor. We also see hints of Akira Kurosawa and his intellectual spiritualism and artistry. And we find Krzysztof Kieslowski's use of the doppelganger and color themes to examine the psyche and intellectual moralism. Indeed, there are also many other artists and films to which Lynch pays homage, but I believe Bergman is one who bears mentioning a second time to honor the importance that his focus on the struggle with duality in the psyche has become in Lynch's work. His pivotal film, "Persona," lays the foundation upon which Lynch builds the idea that you can answer questions about your own identity by exploring another individual's projected persona. Moreover, there is the character Elisabeth Vogler in Bergman's "Persona," and she is one more possible source for the name Betty, the protagonist in the fantasy portion of Lynch's film. And yet, even the influence of Bergman is still secondary to that of a particular historic film that has had perhaps the deepest of impacts on Lynch. As far as the broad outline of the superstructure to Lynch's film goes, no other work is more influential to Mulholland Drive than Victor Fleming's movie, "The Wizard of Oz."
The Importance of the Wizard of Oz to the External Structure
Questions about which parts of Mulholland Drive are dream sequences and which parts represent reality can be answered when you take into account Lynch's intentional homage to the Wizard of Oz format in this film. The parallels are dramatic. In Lynch's film, the opening scene reveals to us that there is a conflict. The idealized happy and loving time of the Jitterbug sequence is juxtaposed with the blurred vision and clear tension of someone who appears to be having trouble focusing and breathing as they are passing out onto a bed. Dorothy's story started similarly, with loving relationships in Kansas that are interrupted by an evil that threatened to destroy Dorothy's happiness and that seemed to extend into a storm that literally knocked Dorothy unconscious onto her bed. On the bed, in both cases, a vision begins. In Dorothy's case the vision starts off with a continuation of the terror of the storm. The tornado that Dorothy sees out of her window is no longer real, but it is clearly a representation of the real tornado that was responsible for Dorothy's injury. Out of her window, before her house lands in Oz, she even sees her antagonist transformed into a horrible and ugly witch, and the sight of her scares Dorothy so much that she throws herself down and hides her head in her bed. Similarly, as we shall examine more closely below, the first part of the vision that happens when our subject in Lynch's film passes out on the bed is also a reflection of a terrible trauma that was very real, although the resulting vision is not exactly like the trauma itself. In this opening sequence there are three parts to this trauma: one that involves an accident in a limousine; another that involves a person seeing the face of a horrible beast and then collapsing; and a third that involves a chain of calls being made through a number of phones, although the last one is not answered. All three events are especially traumatic for our subject for reasons that we shall examine later, but the parallel between these traumas and the terrible trip in the tornado that Dorothy experienced should already be clear.
When Dorothy's house lands, she steps out into a wonderful land of beauty and promise. It is the land of Oz. The people she initially meets are sweet and supportive, and although she gets a brief scare from her antagonist again, she finds out that her antagonist is powerless to hurt her in that particular location. So all is well as she sets off down the yellow brick road. Similarly, Diane, our protagonist from Mulholland Drive, also lands in a wonderful land of beauty and promise. It is the land of LA. She flew by plane instead of in a house, but her landing is analogous to Dorothy's nonetheless. The people she meets are very friendly. And even though she gets a scare when she thinks someone has stolen her suitcases, she finds that her suitcases are safe and there is nothing to be afraid of as long as she is in this airport. So all is well, and just like Dorothy, she sets off down the road, although now it is in a yellow cab instead of on yellow bricks. Furthermore, as both Dorothy and Diane move down this road that involves something yellow, they both are driven by the memory of an aunt who they dearly loved and with whom they are trying to reconnect.
These intentional similarities with the story of Oz are there for a reason. Many reviewers note that Mulholland Drive makes use of the Oz-like device of incorporating characters from a person's real life into their fantasy world to work through issues using a surreal duality that this technique allows. But not many reviewers look much closer into other parallels with the Wizard of Oz. Yet there are other parallels that are very telling in helping us understand a larger framework that holds together Lynch's film. Just as Dorothy could only get home after she had discovered the fraudulent nature of the wizard in whom she had put her trust, so too does Diane only leave her dream after she has been to the wizard-like magician at Club Silencio who acknowledges that everything is a fraud as well. If we take this parallel further and note that the scene in Oz with the wizard also identifies the characteristics inside of Dorothy that are genuine, we can argue that the Club Silencio scene should also hold deep truths about Diane's character. As we shall see later, identifying the truth is just as important as finding out what is an illusion in Lynch's film.
Furthermore, one of the most important thematic devices in the Wizard of Oz was the way in which Dorothy's journey allowed her to personify some of her own questions about her character using the exaggerated characterizations of the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Lion. Questions about her intelligence, her emotional priorities and her courage were on her mind as she went into her fantasy world, and her trio of strange companions helped her to resolve those questions. In Lynch's film we have a similar but darker use of this device in the characterizations of the Cowboy, Mr. Roque, and the Castigliane brothers.
Like the Scarecrow, the Cowboy was definitely the one most interested in questions about intelligence. In his opening scene he says, "Well, just stop for a little second and think about it. Will ya do that for me?" And he follows this up by saying, "No. You're too busy being a smart aleck to be thinkin'. Now I want ya to think and quit bein' such a smart aleck. Can ya do that for me?" It is from the mouth of the Cowboy that we get a statement that touches a core philosophic underpinning to Lynch's film, "A man's attitude goes some ways toward how a man's life will be." We shall look at this statement in greater depth at a later point, but it is clear that the Cowboy comes off as the wisest of the bunch, as did Dorothy's Scarecrow. Not only that, but in his own eerie way, he is certainly the most scary of the three as well, inspiring fear in a way that the Scarecrow could never hope to match.
Mr. Roque, on the other hand, is like the Tinman. He has a difficult time moving, physically and otherwise. Sitting in a wheelchair with a paralyzed body, Mr. Roque presents us with the quintessential example of what it means to be frozen and unyielding. He is exactly like the Tinman when Dorothy first meets him. Rusted and rigid, he is capable of only a few words at a time. This physical state has a moral equivalent which we see in Mr. Roque when he would rather "shut everything down" then allow himself to be flexible. This character trait is extremely dangerous and can even be suicidal in certain circumstances of life, which is a point on which Lynch elaborates throughout his film.
And finally the Castigliane brothers are a more somber version of the Lion, with their focus on intimidation and bravado. In their opening scene they enter a conference room with moody attitude and one of them, Vincenzo, quickly gets into a staring down contest with Adam, another central character in the movie. Ultimately, Adam loses this contest when he must divert his eyes. Meanwhile, Luigi, the other brother has the others in the room terrified over whether or not he will approve of the espresso that they have brought to him. Needless to say, he does not and they try to put a good face on the fact that they must cower and grovel in response. Vincenzo then literally roars in front of them all saying something like, "Stop It!" After which, this mean ol' lion sends Adam packing. And what's Luigi doing during Vincenzo's outburst? He's focusing his attention on getting some lint off of his jacket. In other words, he's grooming himself just like any good feline would be doing at that moment.
These three characters have been conceived as ominous versions of Dorothy's lighthearted companions, and as we shall see, they are there to help Diane resolve a dark struggle raging inside of her. The fact that Lynch is able to appropriate benign cinematic characterizations from Oz for his more foreboding purposes in Mulholland Drive, is quite an accomplishment. Another, more obvious appropriation that Lynch has made from the Wizard of Oz, is the name Winkie's. In Oz, the Winkies were the people who lived in the west and were ruled over by the Wicked Witch of the West. In Mulholland Drive, Winkie's is the name of the diner where a wicked creature from behind the diner exerts some terrible power. This wicked creature is in LA, and that makes it from the west, just like the Wicked Witch of the West. And there is even a parallel for Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. It is Aunt Ruth, who has red hair like Glinda, and who left on a trip to the north. Like Glinda, Aunt Ruth has given Diane help in her journey through the Oz-like land of her dreams, which in Diane's case is Hollywood. But unlike Glinda, Aunt Ruth dies before Diane gets there, and this turns out to be tragic, because it means that Diane's story cannot end like Dorothy's.
Since we have parallels in Mulholland Drive for Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion, the Good Witch of the North, Auntie Em, the Wizard, and the Wicked Witch of the West, you might suspect that we should be able to find the Wicked Witch of the East as well. And it is pretty obvious who fits that bill when you consider that Dorothy’s fantasy essentially begins with the death of the Wicked Witch of the East, and Diane’s fantasy begins essentially after Camilla’s death. In fact, in the Wizard of Oz the Wicked Witch of the East had been an oppressive force in the land of the Munchkins until Dorothy accidentally killed her. Similarly, Diane has Camilla killed in part because of the oppressive nature of Camilla’s relationship with her, and that death is ultimately expressed through an accident in the beginning of the fantasy. The Rita persona survives what is both an assassination attempt and an accident, but her Camilla identity is stripped away and in a sense killed off during the accident. Camilla dominated Diane because Diane was obsessed with her, and it is only after Camilla’s death that the old innocence of Diane’s Betty persona is allowed back into Diane’s fantasy world. With the Betty persona’s relationship to the Rita persona, Diane is trying to hold onto the glamour of Camilla without associating it with the malevolent identity of the real Camilla, because the glamour is connected to Diane’s long lost innocent dream to become a movie star. However, unlike Dorothy’s journey to regain her lost sense of hope in her struggle to find the right direction for her life through her dream, Diane’s quest in her fantasy ultimately fails.
On a less consequential note, I believe that Lynch has also been successful at including a more subtle tribute to other well known characters of Oz. In my view, his inclusion of a little person, Michael J. Anderson, in the prosthetic body of Mr. Roque is a nod to the inhabitants of Munchkinland. Because of how comprehensive they are, Lynch's many tributes to Wizard of Oz provide for us certain structural elements and thematic content that we can use to unlock some of the mystery to the meaning of Mulholland Drive.
By understanding where the structure of Lynch's movie parallels that of the Wizard of Oz, we can be sure of where the beginning and ending of Diane's fantasy life occurs. Furthermore, if we compare Diane to Dorothy, we can intuit that the major characters in Diane's fantasy life are struggling through issues with which Diane herself is struggling. And we can assume that each and every scene in the fantasy portion of the film will have characters in them who represent some aspect of Diane's psyche, or some context concerning the crisis in her life that she is facing. Even the Cowboy, Mr. Roque, and the Castigliane brothers represent certain questions about character running through Diane's inner trials. This is an important point to note because most reviewers see the fantasy portions of this movie as chiefly reflecting the struggles Diane is having with others. While this is the surface truth to some degree, I believe that when you dig deep enough you find that the most significant issues she is trying to address are those that involve her struggle to come to terms with herself.
Inside of the cast of characters within Diane's fantasy, most of the main characters are aspects of Diane's personality. This is not to say that she has a multiple personality disorder, but it is to say that she is struggling with discord within her heart and mind and is in need of some type of resolution. And some of this discord can be traced to her troubled past, while other aspects of it can be blamed on the difficult inner conflict associated with the hubris that is often involved and perhaps required to some degree when pursuing the Hollywood dream of stardom. I will be explaining later how I see a connection between the three dark Oz-like characterizations and Diane's tragic history of child abuse, but I also see them as connected to the conceit fostered by the Hollywood enterprise with which Diane is struggling. In this context we can say that the Cowboy, Mr. Roque and the Castigliane brothers represent Diane's pride, stubbornness, and arrogance. Yet because of Diane's poor self-image and because of her obsession with Camilla, these three characterizations have become twisted and they are no longer promoting Diane's career, as they probably originally were when Diane first arrived in Hollywood before she met Camilla.
The Conflict and Color Symbolism at the Core of the Internal Structure
Diane's is a conflicted soul. One part of her loves Camilla. One part of her hates Camilla. One part of her is trying to love herself. One part of her is trying to become a different person because she hates herself. One part of her came to Hollywood to become an actress. One part of her came to Hollywood to become a star. One part of her is an innocent girl. One part of her is a wayward woman. One part of her is full of life, while another part of her is focused on death. With the severity of the inner struggles she is dealing with, Hollywood does not turn out to be a very positive experience. Although her aunt was probably a positive force in her life, the aunt's success became something unattainable to Diane because the aunt was not around to help guide Diane, and because Diane did not leave Deep River with a sufficiently healthy image of herself. Diane's poor self-image led to a desperate and obsessive quality in her relationship to Camilla precisely because Camilla was a part of the Hollywood image-making machinery that Diane believed could recast her into a different, more appealing person. The tragedy in this is that the Hollywood enterprise doesn't deal with reality, and so it could never help Diane with issues that were more than just skin deep. Yet even in Hollywood, real people did exist in Diane's life who were not so explicitly connected to the show-business world and who may have been willing to offer authentic love to Diane, as I will explain in the conclusion. Yet Diane spurned them to her own misfortune.
I believe this becomes clear when you follow the logic of the structure and symbolic language of the film. I have already outlined how the Oz story line provides an outer framework for this story. The inner framework of Lynch's film make's it crystal clear that Hollywood and Oz are very different places, just as Dorothy and Diane have very different outcomes. In Oz there were real allies of Dorothy who really cared about her and loved her. But in Hollywood, most of the people around Diane were more concerned with image and what they could get from her. Hollywood's primary focus on women as sex objects created different types and categories of women. Diane was seen as the pink-type, where the color of pink represents a girlish type of sexuality. Women like Camilla were seen as the red-type, where red is a more hot and womanly form of female sexuality. Yet, the red image has to be tempered with black or white to make women more glamorous, sophisticated and less slutty in their sexuality. The red-light district is a common term for the place where prostitution flourishes, and as such, red by itself can send the wrong message, which is important to remember when we see a red lampshade. And pink is also often tempered with black, white or even blue to take some of the edge off of its girlishness and present a little more maturity. The primary difference between Dorothy and Diane initially is that Dorothy was happy with her girlish and innocent image, while a part of Diane was actively attempting to reject her pinkish qualities.
In this description of the context that Diane found herself in and the tensions that were at work within her, I am making the case that Lynch puts a heavy emphasis on using color to help tell his story. If you interpret the colors correctly, portions of the plot are revealed to you that would otherwise be missed. It becomes clear just how important decoding the color symbolism is when you observe how the distinctions between the use of red and pink are so critical. For example, our initial introduction to Diane is in her Betty persona, where she is wearing a pinkish top that she has on throughout many subsequent scenes. Early in the film there is a continuing contrast being made between this color of hers and the red and black that Rita wears. In a scene that represents the morning after the first day in her fantasy, she is wearing a very ordinary looking bathrobe that has the same pinkish color, while Rita is wearing a fancy red and black bathrobe. Pink is clearly the color of the Betty persona, but we see a different dynamic when Diane is in the room with the red lampshade. As I alluded to before, there is a red-light district connotation to the red lampshade that I believe is meant to indicate a situation involving prostitution, with a telephone being present to further explain that the context is a call girl business. To bolster the evidence for this interpretation, I believe Lynch intentionally chose to make Diane's bed sheets red because she is the one involved in the prostitution. And all throughout the film telephones are conspicuous, whether by site or by their ringing sound, because they are there as symbols of the call girl business.
Yet, due to Diane's pink image it is difficult to believe that she would engage in prostitution, and Lynch understands that we will have this difficulty, so he adds stronger clues to help us see how this follows from the nature of her internal struggle. In an early scene that comes after Lynch has established that Diane has a pink persona, we see a prominent sign for a hotdog establishment called "Pink's." It follows that the name "Pink's" is intended to represent to us Diane's girlish, almost Dorothy-like sexuality. However, the full message on the sign says "Made Special For" and then there is a hotdog and then the word "Pink's." The hotdog, also called a wiener, is a clear phallic symbol, and therefore we are seeing a more ominous message. The message is that Diane's pink personality has been used for something very sexual.
If this sign is not enough to bring that message home, then what immediately follows it should be. We see three people walking away from the general direction of the sign, one of whom is clearly a prostitute who looks like a doppelganger of Diane, especially because of the color and style of her hair. And what is right behind her as she walks away from the Pink's establishment? It is a long red pole or rod that is being carried by a man that has been conspicuously placed into the scene. The way the rod hangs down and the way it is pointing to her behind make it another clear phallic symbol, indicating that some man has engaged in some sexual activity with Diane that has led her away from her pink persona and into prostitution. This is a color narrative that describes an initial state of pink that is then left behind during a movement toward a red state that involves prostitution. There is even another red lampshade in this scene in the store window the prostitute is walking by while coming around the corner. The scene ends with the prostitute getting into a blue van, which confirms that a major change has taken place. This will be clearer below when I explain what the color blue symbolizes. In the absence of the color narrative, only the hit man in that scene appears to have any connection with the rest of the story, yet both the prostitute and the pimp dressed in black next to her are vital clues to Diane's inner battle. We will discuss both of these characters in more depth in the scene by scene analysis below, but it is important to note that without an understanding of the meaning of the color symbolism you cannot completely decode this subtext.
The Importance of the Broken Home as the Source of Diane's Inner Struggle
This becomes even clearer when you follow the logic of the sequence of the scenes, which I shall do more thoroughly below. But in this case let us let us examine what immediately follows the scene at Pink's. The next scene begins with Betty in her pinkish top saying, "That money … you don't know where it came from?" There is more to this dialogue which refers to other plot lines, but it is important that Betty begins with those words. We had just witnessed a scene with a prostitute and now we are being asked if we know where the money has come from. One answer that we find out later is that Diane is the source of the money. Another answer that comes from recognizing the connection between the two scenes is that the money is the result of prostitution. These two answers are not in contradiction to one another if we accept the multiple symbolic references to Diane's involvement in prostitution, references that continue throughout the fantasy potion of the film. But Lynch leads us deeper into understanding the cause of Diane's movement from being pink to being a prostitute by examining Diane's struggle with a broken home in the subsequent scene, a scene that is also rich in color symbolism.
In the next scene we find Diane's Adam person under distress, announcing repeatedly that he is "going home." Adam represents the part of Diane that is supposed to be in control of the direction in which her life is going. We know this because he is the primary director in the fantasy, and since the name Adam means "man," his name could be taken to mean "The Man," as in the head guy. But in Diane's conflicted mind, the part of her that is supposed to be in control gets challenged immediately. The challenges made to Adam's control cause Adam/Diane to wish that he/she could somehow go back home. In playing this idea out, Adam/Diane is forced to examine what life was like for Diane at home, even though the fantasy's story line projects Diane's truth onto the broken home story in Adam's real life.
Before we get to Adam/Diane's home we go back to a scene with Betty and Rita, and Betty asks, "I wonder where you were going?" And Rita answers, "Mulholland Drive." That is in fact where Adam's home was and it is also where a great big accident happened that changed everything. In this context I believe the accident becomes a metaphor for a terrible thing that happened in real life to Diane when she was still a girl. And what was the terrible thing? It is revealed when Adam gets home. He discovers a terrible infidelity. In his real life it was between his wife, Lorraine, and Gene, the pool man. But what does this mean in Diane's life. The first clue is that Lorraine is a blonde, and this means she may have some connection to Diane. But who does the pool man represent who had sex with her. The next clue is that Adam takes the family jewels and pours pink paint all over them. The "family jewels" is a slang term for the testicles of the man of the family, and pink paint represents Diane's innocent sexuality. So, by pouring pink paint over the family jewels Adam is showing us that it was the father figure who had sex with Diane. When you place this idea into the context of the infidelity that Adam has discovered, we can deduce that what Adam is told when he comes into the bedroom may have been what Diane was told when the incest was discovered. Because of that dialogue we can assume that Diane was probably blamed for what happened by her mother figure and told to keep it quiet by the father figure. "Now you've done it," Lorraine says. "Just forget you ever saw it. It's better that way," says Gene. I believe that Adam's subsequent beating and nosebleed is a metaphor for Diane's lost virginity.
Lorraine, the person caught in the infidelity, is also the person indignant about the actions of Adam in the situation. I believe that this is because Lorraine is a very complex symbol, alternating between representing Diane in her guilt and representing Diane's mother figure in her indignation. Her blonde hair is longer than Diane's and so, although I believe that a relationship to Diane is being indicated, Lorraine is not like other blonde doppelgangers in the film who have short blonde hair. The longer hair is probably indicative of greater age, like the mother figure. And I believe that there is more color symbolism involved. Black and blue come up in many contexts, as I will describe more fully in the next section. For this reason, I believe that Lorraine's black underwear indicates that she represents a person with power in Diane's life, again, like the mother figure. But when Lorraine puts on a blue dress Lorraine, the symbolism changes. The blue dress tells us that Diane is experiencing a terrible transition from innocence to a more victimized and traumatic state. Lynch reinforces this interpretation by having the pink paint splatter on both Adam and Lorraine because they both were affected by the trauma suffered by the pinkish Diane in different ways. But the pink paint stays on Adam for quite awhile to indicate that the experience left a mark on Diane that would not go away. This color narrative tells us that Diane was forever scared by a traumatic incident involving incest as a child. However this is not the only evidence of this event in Diane's history. Other clues make reference to it as well, but the fact of the matter is that the color narrative shows us this information once we have learned how to read Lynch's language of symbolism.
Incest between a father figure and a daughter puts the child in a difficult spot of being both the daughter and the alternative to the spouse for the father figure, creating a potential conflict with the mother figure. That's why I believe Lorraine is such a complicated symbolic character. The terrible middle ground between daughter and mother figure after the incest occurs makes the abuse even more devastating because if the trust between the two of them is lost, then the daughter loses both parental figures. A child is supposed to find a source of unconditional love in her parents, but when this is denied to the child she may be led to believe that she must earn love from others by somehow selling herself. There was only one person who could have saved Diane from this mindset, and that was Diane's aunt. Diane's aunt appears to have been her one source of comfort and love during her childhood, but unlike Dorothy during her fantasy, Diane cannot go back to her aunt because she is dead. Diane has only her dubious grandparents in the end. Diane's grandparents have a cheerful pretense in the beginning of her fantasy but they are soon shown as ominous figures whom she quickly separates from before even leaving the airport. The sinister smiles on their faces as they are driven off are not dissimilar to the scowls on their faces at the end of the movie when their connection to the incest theme is more obvious because a bed is involved, although it is still only an implicit connection. And this is not the first of Lynch's films to deal implicitly with the issue of incest. Most notably because of the parallels involved is the film "Blue Velvet." In that film we find a character whose name is Dorothy Vallens. The Dorothy of that film lives in the Deep River apartments, similar to the way our Diane is from Deep River, Ontario. And while living in Deep River, Dorothy Vallens also suffers through sexual abuse, and her abuser wants her to call him "Daddy."
Other Important Color Symbols
Even without references to Lynch's other films, one can read a story within the story of Mulholland Drive. However, reading it requires that we take any potential symbolic device within this film very seriously. The way this is done is by examining multiple instances of whatever we believe may be a symbol, and then trying to determine if there is a connection between those different instances. By doing this I have determined that pure red does not always indicate prostitution. At other times red can indicate danger or death, especially when red lights are flashing in a way similar to police lights or ambulance lights as in the aftermath of the accident scene or the scene with the bum just before the end of the movie. And red can indicate tension or drama when connected to a stage or curtains as in the Club Silencio scene. Moreover, when red is a hair color it is connected to Diane's Aunt Ruth, who is herself associated with being successful in Hollywood. It is an important symbol, because it is involved in some of Diane's deepest pain. The successfulness that Diane's aunt represented was what brought Diane to Hollywood in the first place, yet it was a prize that continued to elude her at every turn. And just as red haired characters are symbolic of the aunt and everything she represented, more than one major brunette character is connected to Camilla, while blondes are often important representations of Diane's life circumstances. However, there are some exceptions to these rules.
Black is not always used simply to temper the color red or the color pink. When characters appear in completely black outfits they are generally powerful people. They exercise excessive influence over others and as such they tend to have questionable motives. The strength of these types of influences suggests that they represent powerful inner forces in Diane's psyche that are trying to sway her in one direction or another. However, they can also represent outer forces in her life that, through temptation or coercion, have persuaded her to submit to them in the past and present.
Pink, red, and black have a powerful thematic import throughout the film, especially when they involve clothing. On the other hand, other colors are more neutral although they cannot be completely discounted. When gray or dingy white is worn by Diane near the end of the movie, it is a sign that she has lost both her girlish and her womanly sexual persona. In essence, she is fading out of the Hollywood scene. Unfortunately, she turns out to be unable to embrace a life without any connection to that glitter and glamour that is personified by Camilla.
The Critical Importance of Blue and the Concept of a Transitional Object
The last color symbol that I think is essential to the subtext of the film is the color blue. It is perhaps the most difficult one to interpret because it isn't connected to a single image or state that Diane is experiencing at any one time. Instead it is involved in the movement from one state to another. Duality is a critical element in Mulholland Drive, and it is important to understand that there is always the possibility of transition between connected twofold expressions throughout the film. From pink to red, from life to death, from truth to fantasy, from rationality to insanity, in each case we see the appearance of some type of vehicle for shifting in the domain between the realms. Movement in that domain is called a "blueshift" in the science of optics when you are going from a lower energy state to a higher state. Perhaps this is why Lynch uses the color blue to symbolize fundamental transitions in Diane's inner and external reality. But another reason may be that the domain between states is one of mystery and the surreal. It is where things like illusion can reign, and so it is where Hollywood finds its center. And from Lynch's point of view, one could argue that the essential color of Hollywood's mystique is blue. Just think about the cinematic technique of the blue screen. Or think about the blue glow of the neon lights that Lynch loves to show with the city as a backdrop. Or consider the blue shimmer in electricity that Lynch alludes to as Hollywood's power source.
To Lynch, I believe that blue is a color that is all around us when we are in that middle ground between day and night. Dan, the man who collapsed in the early scene behind the Winkie's, whose name sounds a lot like Diane, described it thusly, "It's not day or night. It's kinda half night." That's where blue is and that is where the mysterious is found. Near the beginning of the movie, when Betty is leaving the airport, she has blue luggage. I believe that this luggage is there to represent Diane's transition into this surreal fantasy because the luggage is blue and it represents a container just like the blue box that will transition her out of her fantasy much later. The two older people in that scene, who I believe represent memories of Diane's grandparents, enter the fantasy with Betty, but they are quickly transitioned out of the fantasy with a different blue transitional object. The object, which we see in front of the limousine that takes them from the airport, is a blue van that the limousine is following, which again is like a big blue box. That being the case, the next time we see them coming into Diane's world they must transition into it again using another transitional object. And in this last case they come in through the blue box itself. However this time they are anything but sweet and encouraging, as we learn that they are associated with the beast behind the Winkie's and that there is something sinister in their nature.
In the Club Silencio scene near the end of the fantasy, we see a number of different types of blue transitional objects. I believe this is because Diane is being transitioned from the fabrications of her fantasy into the harsh truths of her real life in stages that lead to her ultimate reawakening. But the transitions do not get completed at the club. The magician at the club leads the first transition by revealing the illusive nature of the fantasy, and then initiating a routine where blue light and electricity transmit a truth to Diane about her childhood abuse. This truth that Diane confronts is related to why Betty begins shaking with uncontrollable spasms, and I will discuss how I interpret those spasms in the scene by scene analysis below. Next comes the blue smoke, which serves as a transitional exit for the magician, and so he disappears. The focus then turns to the woman with blue hair.
The woman, who is a special type of transitional guide because of her blue hair, was first visible to us just before the magician began his blue lightning and blue smoke number. Then once the magician is gone and after the smoke has cleared and the blue lights have faded back to the normal lighting, we see her prominently again. I interpret this to mean that the truth she is there to guide Diane through is related to what the magician was doing, but it goes beyond that into a completely new revelation. In fact, this second truth is more of a consequence of the magician's truth and it concerns one of the reasons why a theater scene was necessary to impart this truth. As far as the magician was concerned, the theater is involved in his message because it is a place where entertainment happens that is filled with illusion, but his lesson might also have been pulled off in a movie studio. But the lady with the blue hair needs an old theater with a box seat that overhangs the stage to impart her particular truth. This is because her truth involves death, and in particular death by assassination. It was in a box seat like this, in a theater like this, that Abraham Lincoln, who had a prominent mole in the same place as the woman with the blue hair, was assassinated.
To really understand this connection, we must remember that Diane's fantasy starts off with a scene that involves the attempted assassination of Rita. Rita survives that assassination because of an accident that was lucky for her, but her left ear is wounded and bloodied because her pearl earring was torn off. These details are significant due to the fact that Lincoln was shot right behind his left ear, and the gun was a small Derringer which some reports maintain had a white pearl handle. Moreover, the limousine that Rita was in at the time of the assassination attempt and accident was a Lincoln, even though the detectives who later investigate the scene call it a "Caddy." Other movies of Lynch also make veiled references to Lincoln's assassination as an important symbol of murder and its horrific consequences, like the movie "Blue Velvet" where Lynch's use of the color blue is also sublime. In Blue Velvet, Lincoln Street continuously plays a conspicuous role, and the insane antagonist is Frank Booth who drives a black Ford. This is a clear connection to the fact that Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in D.C. Furthermore, the horror of Frank Booth's murderous ways are revealed to us by the fact that he cuts off the ear of one of his victims, pointing to the symbolic importance of the ear due to its involvement with Lincoln's assassination, as I mentioned above.
Like the magician before her, the woman with the blue hair shows up to uncover a reality that Diane has repressed. Camilla, like Lincoln, did not survive the assassination attempt. So the implication is that Rita's miraculous survival is just yet another misleading illusion. I describe in the scene by scene analysis below how the song that follows explores this even further, and it all ultimately leads to Betty's discovery of the blue box within her purse. Like the other issues that require more space to discuss, I shall also describe the truth of the blue box in more detail below. But clearly it involves the reason that Diane needed to come to the fantasy world, and it also explains why she must leave it as well. Diane's confrontation with the truth is not as rosy as Dorothy's and so the blue haired lady is a grim guide, and since she is a messenger of death, we shall meet her again at the end of the movie.
This leads us to the issue of the symbolic importance of blue as it regards to the mystical key and box within Diane's fantasy. It is important to note that the key and box represent a transitional object, but in this case they are a two-part transitional object. As a two-part object, they must be brought together for any resolution of the transition. I believe the fact that Diane had two blue suitcases when she came out of the airport at the beginning of her fantasy is connected to this issue because that was a two-part transitional object as well. Diane's fundamental tension involves her need to bring together conflicting components of her psyche. This struggle is expressed as the duality of Betty and Rita while she is in the fantasy, so the suitcases stay in the picture until her Betty and Rita personas finally meet. Her attempt to resolve the struggle in her mind and merge the two is an attempt at repairing the insecure self-image inside of her that led to her obsession with Camilla and ultimately to her murderous act of revenge. Again, we will explore this more thoroughly later when I will address why the Betty persona disappears when the two-part transitional object of the box and the key get close to one another, and why Rita disappears when they finally are completely connected together. Yet at this point it is important to note that Diane attempts to use Betty and Rita in the fantasy to recast the truth about her relationship to Camilla, and this attempt fails once the blue transitional objects expose what she is trying to repress. This in turn makes it clear that the rift within her psyche is still in place, and that the essential quest of her fantasy was a failure.
The Importance of the Structure of the Fantasy and Reality Narratives
Before I begin the scene by scene discussion I think it is important to state something explicitly, because some reviewers disagree on the issue, and it is a very important determining factor in how the film is interpreted. I believe that the fantasy portion of the film is filled with fabricated but symbolic details that have illusive connections to real events, while the flashbacks in the reality portion of the film might be emotionally colored at times, but they are filled with very accurate details. The fantasy sequence begins when Diane goes to bed in the opening scene, and it ends when she gets out of the bed after the Cowboy has told her that it is time to wake up. Some reviewers question how reliable Diane's flashbacks are after the fantasy portion of the film is over because it is clear that her mind is unstable at that point. However, I think that it is important to the flow and consistency of the film to few these flashbacks as reality. I believe that Lynch is pointing out to us that there are connections between Diane's truth and fantasy that involve bizarre Mobius style twists as I described above. So even if the truth can seem stranger than Diane's fiction at times, its purpose is to become a guide for us that can help us return to that fiction and examine it in more depth. This means that I believe that Diane did in fact hire a hit man to kill Camilla, a person that she loved like no other. And that event was so traumatic that it inevitably destroyed her mental and emotional stability. Is it any wonder then that she is the one who had that "God-awful feeling?" And is it any wonder that she can no longer think of herself in the way that she used to, or that her mind attempts to reestablish her lost self-image by deconstructing the various aspects of her psyche and then putting everything back together again?
There are four main arguments against the veracity of the reality sequences that I feel can be resolved with reasonable considerations. The first argument claims that Diane could not have hired a hit man as she remembers doing in the reality portion of the film. This is because some reviewers assume that Diane moved from Apartment #12 to Apartment #17 after Camilla's murder to hide from the police. And since she also remembers meeting Camilla in Apartment #17, they assume this proves she could not have done both, so neither probably happened. But at no time is it stated that she moved from #12 to #17 after the murder. In fact, the neighbor who switched from #17 to #12 acts like she knows why the switch was made, yet this neighbor knows nothing about a murder. In the fantasy, when the neighbor says she switched apartments with Diane she seems to be thinking about the reason with some concern, and then she looks at Rita with an unfavorable emotion in her eyes. Later, in the reality portion of the film, the neighbor looks at Diane in a sad and concerned manner when she mentions that it has been three weeks since the switch. What was the reason the neighbor believed the switch was made? We are never told explicitly, but we are given numerous clues about it, which I will discuss in the conclusion.
Does it really make sense that someone on the run from the police would really think she could get away by moving five doors down? No, I believe the police were looking to interview her about the murder because she was one of Camilla's known friends. I don't believe they necessarily thought of her as a suspect, although Diane certainly must have been afraid that they did suspect her. Yet, Diane did not move from #12 to #17 because of her fear, since, as her flashbacks show us, Camilla was still alive after the switch and she even visited Diane in #17. The flashbacks also show us that Camilla broke up with her during a visit to #17 and later called Diane at #17 to invite her to the fateful party at Adam's house.
A different but related argument that some make against the veracity of the flashback scenes is that some say three weeks was not enough time for everything she remembered to have happened. But I believe that this type of argument is missing the point and it is a misreading of the scenes as well. It is precisely because things proceeded so quickly after the breakup that Diane never had a chance to cool down and think things through before turning to the hit man. But the timeline is not unrealistic anyway. The flashback of Diane watching Adam kiss Camilla during a rehearsal could have happened months before the move from #12 to #17, so it does not play a part in this issue. And the different flashbacks about the argument between Diane and Camilla in #17, including when Diane throws Camilla out and when she masturbates afterward, could have all happened on the same day. So the flashbacks that concern what happened after the apartment switch represent just a few important days in the three-week period following the switch. One day, perhaps right after the switch, Camilla visited Diane at #17, and they argued and broke up after making out at first. Later, Diane goes to a party at Adam's house after she gets a call inviting her from Camilla, who then calls a second time when she hesitates. Certainly the party could have been planned long before this period and Camilla's invitation to Diane could have been something of a last minute thought on Camilla's part. Then soon after the disaster of the party, Diane talks to the hit man once, maybe over the phone, before then meeting him while she is still angry at Camilla. This could easily have happened even within one week in my opinion, but for the sake of argument, lets just say that it took two weeks. Then two days later Diane finds the key, and she begins to get emotionally unstable. The next day, detectives who want to interview Camilla's friends stop by DeRosa's apartment looking for Diane, and all she tells them is that Diane doesn't live there anymore. Then DeRosa sees Diane walking by her apartment the next day, and she tells Diane about the detectives. DeRosa might also have told Diane that she wanted to get her stuff from Diane at that point. But Diane was probably a little panicky after being told about the police, and so she could have told DeRosa she would have to get her stuff at another time. Then for three days, Diane goes off the deep end, hiding in her apartment, not answering the phones or the door. During this time she falls into a deep sleep and has the dream. On the third day she awakens and finally opens the door when DeRosa is knocking. That's when they have the following dialogue:
DeRosa: Where have you been?
Diane: What do you want?
DeRosa: My lamp and dishes.
(there is a pause as Diane doesn't answer)
DeRosa: Come on, Diane, it's been three weeks.
Diane: (sighs and lets her in) I put your dishes in that box.
DeRosa's mention about "three weeks" does not mean it has been three weeks since they have talked about the visit of the detectives, it only means it has been three weeks since the apartment switch. In Diane's dream, DeRosa tells Betty and Rita that she has been trying to get her stuff from Diane, and right before that DeRosa says, "But she hasn't been around for a few days." The dream seems accurate here because of the mention about DeRosa wanting to get her stuff from Diane. So it seems reasonable to assume that Diane and her talked just a "few days" before Diane had her dream. And within this scenario it is easy to see how three weeks was plenty of time for all of the sad events to have happened that are referred to in the flashbacks. In fact, it could easily have happened in less time.
When we take these issues seriously, we can understand why Diane's fantasy involves a death occurring in #17, and not #12. She is living in #17 when her fantasy begins, and she already knows that Camilla is dead and she has already begun contemplating suicide. And we can understand why that death seems to have affected Rita in the fantasy more than it affected Betty. Just as at the beginning of the fantasy, the death of the person that the Rita persona is connected to is was what preoccupied Diane's mind. In my view, the body that Betty and Rita discover in the fantasy doesn't look like Diane, but it looks more like a combination of Diane and Camilla, because it has a little longer and a little darker hair than Diane's. And the screenplay says that the holes in the bed around the body are shotgun holes. I discuss this further in the scene by scene analysis, but it clearly requires that a real murder took place for this to make the most sense. And if there was a real murder, then the other events in the flashback to Winkie's really happened.
The second major argument against the accuracy of Diane's flashbacks in the reality portion of the film concerns what happens in the scene right after Diane's neighbor leaves a little bit after Diane has awakened from her fantasy. When she is about to make coffee she clearly hallucinates that Camilla has returned to her. Some feel that this should not be seen as a reliable flashback because clearly Camilla did not return to her. But I don't agree. This hallucination is the first in a series of flashbacks she is just about to have at this point in the film. The first thing these flashbacks deal with is Camilla coming over, making out with Diane, and then the two of them breaking up. Camilla certainly could have been standing right where we see her in the flashback at some point during her real visit to Diane. And this may have logically proceeded the moment the two of them went to the couch. So I see no reason why Diane's initial vision of Camilla cannot be seen as just the entry of Diane into the longer set of flashbacks of real encounters that she had experienced. So because this just represented her first flashback, although it is only a partial flashback, I believe that there is nothing in it that suggests that her memories are inaccurate.
Another contentious flashback is the one where Adam kisses Camilla in a car on a movie set. The scene ends with Adam shouting, "Kill the lights." But some have argued that he would not have said that in reality because it indicates he wants to go on making out with Camilla with the lights off in the presence of other actors and the stage hands who are dealing with the lights. However, I believe that Adam considers his order to be a part of his explanation and demonstration of what is supposed to happen at that moment in the scene. The lights would go off to end the scene, and then they would come back on immediately thereafter.
The last major objection that I have encountered is to the scene where another woman kisses Camilla. Some have argued that Adam would never have put up with another woman kissing Camilla, his fiancé, in the party scene when he had recently broken up with his last wife over her indiscretions. However, the double toast right before that scene makes it clear that Adam has been made aware of Camilla's bisexual past before that kiss, and yet he still allows Camilla to invite her old girlfriend (or girlfriends) to his party. I think that we are supposed to believe that he is not as threatened by her relationship with other women as he would be if she were kissing another man. And he probably sees the kiss the same way that Diane sees the kiss, as just another implicit way for Camilla to say to Diane that their relationship is really over. If he knows of Diane's adoration of Camilla, as it seems logical that he might, then it would seem likely that he would understand the reason that Camilla would feel the need to send Diane that message. And the look Camilla gives Diane after the kiss certainly seems to communicate that message.
In my view, the logic behind the fantasy and reality portions of the movie are completely sound, but you must pay close attention to the dialogue and to certain specific issues in their context to unravel the meaning. By seeing these two portions of the film as distinctive fantasy and reality sequences, we are given the keys necessary to unlock the truth of her past and present life, and to learn how Lynch views the inevitable tragedy.
The Loss of Diane's Aunt and the Loss of The Sylvia North Story
For instance, by understanding Diane's emotional response to her aunt we can understand what moving into 1612 Havenhurst meant to Diane. Diane's dream had always included becoming a success like her aunt had become. We don't really know if Diane was right about the aunt's level of success, but we do know that Diane never achieved whatever she thought was at that level. We see this first represented in Diane's mind by the fact that Camilla got to Aunt Ruth's place first. Then we get plenty of clues that tell us that Camilla's life fits more into Diane's idea of what her aunt's success was like than did her own life. For instance, Camilla is given the name Rita after Rita Hayworth, who had been honored with a picture in the aunt's home. Rita Hayworth was an extremely glamorous and successful actress that had red hair in most of her movies, so Rita Hayworth represents one of those red haired symbols of the aunt's success. Yet, in reality, Rita Hayworth's hair was naturally black and her ethnic identity Hispanic, just like Camilla, so Diane was unlikely to ever measure up to that standard the way Rita/Camilla did. Another clue to which of the two women actually lived up to the mantle of the aunt's glory is expressed in a robe that Diane's aunt left to Diane. It was almost regal and it was clearly meant for Diane/Betty, but only Camilla/Rita wears it. Diane/Betty is never able to put it on. When you look at these clues you begin to see that Diane envied Camilla because she was enjoying the success that Diane had wanted and had been dreaming of since her days in Deep River. But for some period of time Diane had probably ignored the negative feelings associated with this issue because of her love for Camilla. Later, after bringing about Camilla's death, Diane's mind cannot deny any longer that she was jealous of her. It is in teasing apart what this rivalry meant that we begin to understand that there are complex issues involved in what she was describing as her love for Camilla.
The last symbolic construction that I will mention before beginning the scene by scene analysis is the movie within a movie called "The Sylvia North Story." Once you realize that everything in her fantasy is really about Diane in one way or another, it should not be too hard to accept that that is also the case with "The Sylvia North Story." As far as I can tell, there has never been an actual film made called "The Sylvia North Story." But interestingly enough, in 1965, during the possible time period of the songs sung during the audition, there was a movie called "Sylvia." The title character's full name was Sylvia West, and the movie recounts how the title character was raped by her step-father at the age of 14, and how she became a prostitute when she was older. She survived her ordeals while she was a prostitute through her close friendships with other women, and she ultimately leaves prostitution and goes on to become a successful poet. Except for the ending, the story is amazingly like the life story of Diane, who you could say was the Sylvia who came from the north. Thus, we get Sylvia North.
Another connection between Diane and Sylvia North is found through the etymology of Diane's last name, Selwyn, and the name Sylvia. Selwyn comes from a Latin word meaning "of the woods," while Sylvia comes from the Latin for "forest maiden." And not only that, the last name of Betty, Diane's chief persona in the fantasy, is "Elm," another reference that has something to do with the woods. Then, of course, Diane's first name is associated with Diana, the ancient Roman Goddess of the forest and of the moon. And in Roman legends, Camilla was one of Diana's favorite warrior princesses. Furthermore, when we review the scene where Betty auditions for "The Sylvia North Story," we find a character whose name is "Woody," which further emphasizes this connection. From all of this it should be clear that there is a strong connection between Diane Selwyn's name and Sylvia North's name, and that there is some context that connects them involving the woods. When I come to Betty's audition for "The Sylvia North Story" during the scene by scene analysis I will discuss more fully what the references to wood imply.
Other reviewers have found parallels to the name Sylvia from other films, and there may be some truth to that because Sylvia North may be a composite character to Lynch. But I think it is clear from the context of her fantasy that "The Sylvia North Story" is about Diane Selwyn's life. When she was offered a chance to audition for the lead of this movie in real life, I believe she really wanted it because she identified with the character so deeply. Yet the part was given to Camilla, almost as if the image-over-substance Hollywood dream machine was saying that Camilla would make a better Diane than Diane herself. Diane was clearly hurt by losing the part, but she was also intrigued by how Camilla played the role. This mixture of competitiveness and fascination with a woman who literally encourages Diane to recast her life in Camilla's image led to an obsession on Diane's part that was based on an unhealthy self-image and an inaccurate understanding of Camilla's motivations.
To such a difficult situation, Lynch then adds the complicating fact that Diane had feelings for Camilla's boyfriend, Adam. Since he was a director, both Camilla and Diane were probably interested in having him pay attention to them and show interest in their careers. But he only had eyes for Camilla. Yet, deep down it seems that Diane entertained thoughts of him choosing her over Camilla. Perhaps her interest in him was not sexual if Diane was unable to love men as some have argued, unlike Camilla. But whether or not there was a sexual interest, any claims of love between Diane and Camilla could not help but be poisoned by their dual Hollywood aspirations. So the question becomes how much of Diane's obsession with Camilla was love, and how much of it was a fixation on Camilla's rising Hollywood stardom? I believe that the symbolism answers this question by the end of the fantasy, and Diane does not like the answer that she gets. The truth is illusive, but I believe the answer lies within the Mulholland Drive's symbolism, and it provides an important lesson for those who are drawn to the blue glow of Hollywood's beacon.
As we go into the scene by scene analysis, remember that duality plays an important role in this film. So anytime something is done, said or seen twice or more, you should assume that it represents an issue that is especially important. Another important issue to consider is Lynch's emphasis on the point of view of the dreamer. Rather than thinking of the fantasy as the retelling of a story of Diane's past, we need to think of the fantasy as Diane rethinking the past by reliving it from multiple points of view. The different points of view are personified as characters that work together or are in conflict with one another. Diane has deeply conflicted issues going on inside of her, not the least of which is the question about why she hired a hit man to kill someone that she loved, and what she thinks about herself in the aftermath of that event. To survive the conflict within her, she's trying to keep alive the connection to her past innocence and her future aspirations. So, of course, there are personas representing both of these central parts to her identity. Yet, as we shall see in the fantasy, it is in the persona of Diane's childhood innocence that she places her greatest hope. It is the hope that Diane can still find the refuge that she sought in the past by returning to the guiltless image and personality that her aunt so greatly loved and adored.
The crisis that the fantasy is addressing concerns Diane's inner struggles with her own life experiences and her various conflicting responses to them, even when it appears to be about someone or something else. For instance, when the Rita/Camilla persona has amnesia, many reviewers assume that this is because in recovering her memory Diane wants to explore issues concerning who Camilla was in real life and why Diane was in love with her. However, when Betty and Rita began to investigate who Rita was, all Rita can remember are things about Diane's life, such as the disastrous trip up Mulholland Drive that Camilla never really took and the name "Diane Selwyn." These clues lead to an understanding about what happened to Diane, not to Camilla. And when a person named Dan is in Winkie's talking to his therapist, some believed that he was talking about his own dream, when he was referring to Diane's dream within her dream. In fact, I believe that Dan's death that occurs when he sees what is behind the diner, mirrors a type of death Diane experienced when she went behind the diner for reasons I discuss in the analysis of that scene. Furthermore, "Dan's" name is a play on the name Diane, just as I believe the name "Ryan" is chosen because it rhymes with Diane. The Ryan Entertainment company is just a fancy name for Diane's vivid imagination. And even when Adam from the fantasy confronts an infidelity that the real Adam faced in his home, we are shown how Diane associates this with the infidelity that she was involved in during her childhood, as I explained above when I discussed the metaphor of the family jewels. This is all just to say that to understand Diane's fantasy, you have to accept that deep down it is really all about Diane.
A SCENE BY SCENE ANALYSIS
The first scene opens with the Jitterbug dance sequence. The dance sequence is a mixture of images that are full of energy and that have a powerful impact. We are clearly supposed to be impressed with the quality of the dancing, and so when it ends with Diane being the winner, we can imagine how much she felt like a star at one point in her life. Some have argued that it is not likely to have been a scene from reality because we don't see her dance partner, but I think that couldn't be farther from the truth. She's remembering what was important to her from that time of her life, and her dance partner wasn't very important to her. What was important is that she beat all of those other great dancers, and that her grandmother and grandfather were there to celebrate the occasion with her. In fact, it is extremely important to her that they seem to be proud and happy for her, because as we find out at the end of the movie, she is incredibly afraid of them. But she is not afraid of them during this happy moment of her life. Everything is perfect. Her face is shown shining in the lights. We can see in her eyes that at this point she believes in herself, and she believes that her star can shine even outside of Deep River, Ontario. However, it is important to note that all of the images of her grandparents that show up in this scene quickly get fuzzy and unsteady. And I believe this suggests that there is something unclear and unstable about her relationship to them that keeps getting in the way of this perfect picture.
As these images fade out, we see a fuzzy scene and hear what seems to be a person--who we later find out is Diane--deeply inhaling from some device like a drug pipe or a bong. After the inhalation the scene gets clearer and we see that we are looking from her point of view while she is on a bed. Her bed sheets are red, and as we continue to hear her breathing in and out, we see that she is moving her body further onto the bed and placing her head on a pillow. Then the scene fades to black as the dream/fantasy begins.
Even if a viewer cannot be expected to understand what is happening initially, the vibrant energy of the Jitterbug sequence is contrasted effectively with whatever is happening on the bed. So it is hard for the viewer not to feel that something is wrong as this scene ends, as Lynch obviously intends. Some reviewers believe that the Diane has just shot herself in this scene and she is dying. I think that is wrong. There is no blood and when she does shoot herself at the end of the movie things progress much faster and her eyes never face the pillow. At this beginning point in the film, I believe that it is important that Diane is still trying to cope with what has happened in her life. In fact, I believe that the fantasy world that she creates is a powerful coping mechanism.
(Note: For those who are not convinced that the initial sound is somebody breathing in from a pipe or a bong, it is interesting to note that later in the fantasy portion of the film a bong appears to be in Aunt Ruth's living room. This is significant because Diane did not come to LA until after her aunt's death, so her vision of what would be in Aunt Ruth's home is coming from Diane's imagination. If there is a bong in Aunt Ruth's living room, it is there because it is something to which Diane had a connection. The first time we can see the bong is when Betty first enters Aunt Ruth's home with Coco. As she looks to the shelves on the opposite wall, you can see what appears to be a bong on the set of shelves to the right, on the third shelf down, in a corner in a shadow right beside a fancy magnifying glass. The next time we see it is right after Betty has been sitting on the couch speaking on the phone with her aunt and she has just learned that her aunt does not know anything about Rita. From Betty's point of view the camera leaves the couch and then passes by the shelves much closer than the first time. Now you can see the magnifying glass very clearly with the bong in the corner right next to it still in the shadows. It is near some pink flowers, a fact which I believe is an indication that the bong belongs to Diane due to her pink persona as discussed above. Although I do believe the object to be a bong, I will grant that there may be other meaningful interpretations.)
This scene opens with a shot of a street sign for Mulholland Drive late at night. There is eerie music playing in the background and lights are reflecting off of the sign in a jittery fashion. The mood established is a haunting one as the fantasy begins. We see the blue lights of the city from above, establishing that Mulholland Drive goes up a hill. Next we see that a limousine is moving up Mulholland Drive and there is a woman sitting in the back. We don't know her name or anything else about her, but after the fantasy is over we find out that she is the real Camilla Rhodes. At some point the limousine pulls over and stops and the woman says, "What are you doing? We don't stop here." We see some drag racers coming down the street some ways up ahead. The driver turns around, pulls a gun on the woman and tells her to get out of the car. A third person who was sitting with the driver gets out, opens her door and then reaches in to pull her out. Just then, one of the cars that was drag racing slams right into the limousine creating a devastating accident. Blue smoke slowly covers the whole scene. And then, with only minor injuries, the woman steps out of the car, apparently the only survivor. She looks around, and then begins walking down the hill toward the city below, no longer knowing who she is.
It doesn't become clear what this accident in the fantasy signifies until later when we see that in the real world, Diane Selwyn was the one in the limousine. We know that this is an altered version of the trip that she took because of the words that came out of her mouth during her late night drive. Diane also said, "What are you doing? We don't stop here." But no one pulled a gun on Diane, and no car accident occurred. So why has she changed events in this way during her fantasy? One reason is that what happened after Diane's trip up Mulholland Drive was as traumatic as a car crash. And certainly she felt like she ran into a lot of threatening figures that night. But why does Diane replace herself with Camilla in this part of the fantasy? Although there is more to it than this, I believe that the reason involves the idea that the part of Diane that wants to be like Camilla went up Mulholland Drive that night. In other words, part of Diane was fixated on Camilla and would do just about anything to make it the way Camilla has made it. And if that is not possible, then this part of Diane at least wants to be a part of Camilla's life as she becomes a star. This is the part of Diane that is the Camilla persona. And from Diane's point of view, the party on Mulholland Drive involved an assassination attempt against this persona. It was as if those who invited her to the party wanted to kill off Diane's hopes of ever getting back together with Camilla. And, without Camilla, all of her Hollywood hopes and dreams were threatened. A parallel issue that is represented by this scene is the fact that Camilla has been murdered, and Diane is having trouble coping with that truth. Even as she is protecting her own Camilla persona, she is repressing the memory of the fate of Camilla Rhodes from her real life.
Because of the complexity of the issues involved in this film, I will examine certain issues not found in this scene to establish the context needed to understand why it is important to view the characters as Diane's personas. I mentioned earlier that the structure of the fantasy parallels the Wizard of Oz, particularly at the beginning and the end of her fantasy. But in the Wizard of Oz Dorothy continues to use her real name and she remains the central character throughout her fantasy. Yet in Diane's fantasy, there is only one place that a character with Diane's name shows up in the fantasy. And that Diane Selwyn is a dead person, lying on the same bed where she is sleeping while this fantasy is going through her mind. This is one reason why some reviewers believed Diane had shot herself prior to the fantasy and that she was dying during the fantasy. As I said before, I don't agree. This is not a dream of someone whose mind is blacking out and shutting down. In fact, this is quite a vibrant and active mind at work. But one thing is clear because of the nature of Diane's sole reference to herself in her fantasy. Diane is contemplating her death and maybe even becoming suicidal. In fact, it becomes clearer as we start to unravel the state of her psyche, that if Diane is not able to resolve the struggle that is going on inside of her, she just might "Shut everything down." That is a phrase used in the fantasy that is probably a metaphor for suicide, and it is a real issue that is being contemplated in the subtext of Diane's fantasy.
Diane does not want to be Diane anymore. She has had a bad self-image since her childhood trauma, but it is now becoming impossible to live with herself because of what she has recently done. As one of the characters in her fantasy, Robert Smith, tells her Adam persona, "You're in the process of re-casting your lead actress." A person might think that he was referring to re-casting Camilla's role in Adam's latest movie, because we just saw Camilla in the car crash and they don't know where she is. But Robert Smith gives us a double clue explaining why that is not the issue to which he is referring. When Adam asks him what he is talking about, he says, "An open mind." And then to make it a double clue, he says again, "We're asking you to keep an open mind." Diane's mind is the one that is open, and she is trying to replace herself as the lead actress in the movie of her life. Furthermore, the company that is responsible for this movie that Diane's Adam persona is directing is called Ryan Entertainment. As I mentioned earlier, I believe Ryan is short for "rhymes with Diane." So this is a Hollywood production managed by the mind of Diane, and Adam is the one she has chosen to be the persona who is her director.
Some reviewers have suggested that the Camilla persona suffers through the bruising experience in the car accident because Diane is dreaming about how to repay her for the pain she caused Diane in real life. But nothing could be further from the truth. Camilla has played an important part of Diane's self-image in the past, and so she has been brought into this production of Diane's mind to play an important role. Camilla represented the sensual and glamorous side that Diane hoped to foster in herself, Diane's more red than pink image of herself. Camilla had the glamour and sexual presence that Diane envied, and the fact that Diane and Camilla were in a relationship gave Diane hope that she could one day embody that as well.
But Diane's life is a little bit more complicated than the role that the one-dimensional Camilla could play. She chooses a whole cast of characters to play her various personas. It is important to note that she has chosen Betty to play her central persona, even more central than Rita, who is her other key persona. Apparently, Betty represents the pink and innocent part of her life, the kind of innocence that Dorothy represented in the Wizard of Oz. I believe Betty represents this to her because the real Betty worked at Winkie's, a place that is not associated with the sins of Hollywood, and a place at which Diane herself probably worked before she entered the call girl business. But no matter what the reason she chose her, it is revealing that the innocence of her Betty persona still plays such a key role in her psyche, even after all that has happened in her life. Adam, on the other hand, is all about Hollywood. She is entrusting him to direct everything because Hollywood is still at the center of her dreams. We already mentioned that the Cowboy is the part of her that is trying to be smart, Mr. Roque is the part of her that is very unyielding, and the Castigliane brothers are the side of her that try to be tough. These three are also Hollywood insiders, and as we will see soon, they probably also embody aspects of her abusive father figure that she has internalized. Coco is another Hollywood insider, but she embodies more of her mother figure's qualities, flawed, but protective and sophisticated. Diane also has a persona that is full of fear, one that is whorish, and of course, she has one that has the capacity to kill. And there are a couple more, as we shall see as we go through the different scenes.
Diane's Camilla persona will later adopt the name Rita. The accident that Rita experienced is a metaphor for how Diane felt that night she took her ride up Mulholland Drive. She felt like it was a setup, and although she survived it, she left battered and confused. Rita leaves the accident in this same state and makes her way to the home of Diane's aunt, who in the fantasy is Betty's aunt. The state of crisis and the danger that the real Diane is in can be seen in Rita's expression as headlights shine into her face. And then a police car drives by emphasizing that this is an emergency. Outside of Aunt Ruth's complex, Rita hides in the bushes and falls asleep. Rita will fall asleep three times in these early scenes hinting at the sleeping state of the real Diane while at the same time showing an image of the dead state of the real Camilla.
As Rita sleeps this first time, the police arrive at the scene of the accident and they seem sadly struck by all of the death and destruction they find. They also find a pearl earring that they know does not belong to any of the bodies at the scene. "Could be someone's missing, maybe," one says. "That's what I'm thinking," the other replies. Sure enough, an earring did come off of Rita's left ear during the accident and I discuss the significance of this above when discussing the assassination references, but the most important character missing at this point in the fantasy is Diane herself. It is the fact that she is missing and the need to find her that becomes a background motivation for some of the main characters.
Once Rita awakens, we see her sneak into Aunt Ruth's home literally right under her nose. This fact introduces us to yet another background motivation of Diane. Searching for Aunt Ruth is a quest that Diane has been on since before she came to Hollywood. In fact, it probably started in earnest as things in her family fell apart after the abuse she went through. Aunt Ruth is her only notion of family anymore, as the picture of Aunt Ruth with Diane as she was a child in her fantasy seems to attest. Yet, as we will see repeatedly, the Aunt Ruth of Diane's dreams never connects with Diane's various personas, as though she is just out of reach. And this represents a tragic truth that she cannot escape, that Aunt Ruth died before Diane made it to Hollywood. And without Aunt Ruth, Diane has been afraid and alone, unable to find the right path on her own. When we begin to understand the weight of this issue in Diane's life, we begin to understand what Lynch's darker version the Wizard of Oz is all about. Dorothy realized the lesson in time to reconnect with her Aunt, but Diane did not. You cannot run from your problems and find a promised land "somewhere over the rainbow." Your problems will just follow you. In the subtext of Lynch's film, we learn that almost from the beginning of Diane's quest, her dream was becoming a nightmare.
This scene begins with the sound of a siren outside of a Winkie's diner. Even though the siren is an indication that something is wrong, when we go into the diner we see two men sitting peacefully and talking. Dan is talking to Herb, telling him that he wanted to come to that particular Winkie's for a reason. Herb appears to be a therapist and he listens as Dan talks about a dream he has had two times that involved that particular Winkie's. The dream occurs during something Dan calls half-night, the transition point between night and day. In his dream, the lighting is weird and Dan notices Herb by the cash register. He says Herb is scared in the dream and that scares Dan as well. Then Dan realizes that there is a man behind the Winkie's with a horrible face who is controlling whatever is going on in the Winkie's. Dan is terrified of ever seeing that man's face outside of his dream. Once Dan has finished recounting his dream, Herb decides they should go outside and look behind the Winkie's to see if there is anybody out there, because he thinks this will help Dan. Dan says he is willing to go look because he wants to get rid of the "God-awful" feeling he has. However, when they go behind the Winkie's and come to a walled area, a horrible face looks out at them from behind the wall and Dan is literally scared to death.
This is an example of a dream within a dream, just as we later deal with "The Sylvia North Story" as a movie within a movie. Both the embedded dream and the embedded movie give us important clues in the form of metaphors about the life of Diane. What is happening in this scene doesn't become clear until after the fantasy has ended and Diane's flashbacks have revealed to us the relevant information. Diane was sitting in that same diner when she paid the hit man to have Camilla killed. The hit man showed her a blue key that he said would be at a place he had previously told her about when he had finished the job. As soon as he shows her the key, she notices the man she calls Dan in her fantasy, looking at her. Although this man probably did not know what they were talking about, she remembers him because he too saw the key. He therefore becomes connected to her fixation on the key. And, as the hit man told her, Diane was going to have to go and get the key to find out if Camilla was dead. So the key becomes associated with the point of no return for Diane. Once she has retrieved the key, the horror of what she has done will finally become clear to her. And the man she calls Dan in her fantasy witnessed the moment she first came in contact with the key.
Dan's name sounds very much like Diane, so it should be clear that he is one of her personas. It also should be clear that he is the part of her that is terrified of confronting the truth of what she has done. And where does that truth get confronted? At the place where she will find the blue key when Camilla has been killed. So when Diane's Dan persona has a "God-awful" feeling about going behind Winkie's and seeing that horrible face, we can surmise that that is where Diane had to go to find the key. We can also assume that the horrible face is the face of Diane's own guilt. Somehow a dirty and disgusting part of Diane drove her to have Camilla killed, and the day she went to get that fateful key, something died inside of her as she realized that something awful within her had won out. That the beast behind the diner is something within Diane is borne out at the end of the film when we see the beast's face fade into Diane's face after she has killed herself. This beast within her has probably tormented Diane for awhile before she finally gave in to it. Diane probably struggled with the terrible feelings she was experiencing with her therapist, who is probably the man Dan is talking to in the dream. However, the therapist was not able to help her, perhaps because he didn't believe her issues were as drastic as they had become.
This scene has an important relationship to the scene right before it. Earlier we found out that Diane does not want to be Diane anymore. Now we know one reason why. The next scene reveals to us yet another reason. Even before we get to that scene, it is worth pointing out that Diane's subconscious is sending warning signs and important messages to herself even during this fantasy in an attempt to save herself. We can see one example of that when Dan noticed an arrow pointing in the other direction as he was walking to the back of the Winkie's. If he had turned and followed the arrow maybe Diane's death could have ultimately been avoided. Another thing that caught Dan's attention as he walked towards his darkest fear was a telephone. The reason that the phone caught his attention comes to light in the next scene.
In this scene we see Mr. Roque calling someone in the lobby of a fancy hotel and he says, "The girl is still missing." The person in the fancy hotel calls someone else in what looks like a very beat up looking apartment kitchen. The person who answers says, "Talk to me." And the person who made the call says, "The same." Then the person in the beat up apartment hangs up and makes another call. His call goes through to a phone on a wooden telephone and lamp stand. The phone is next to a lamp with a red lampshade and an ashtray full of dead cigarette butts. The phone rings three times, and then the scene ends.
In an earlier discussion, I talked about how the call girl operation that Diane was involved in probably worked. We learn these details from this scene. A call would be made by a client, also known as a John, to a middleman in a fancy hotel. The John would arrange to rent a room from the middleman in most cases and have a call girl sent to that room. But the John might also have the call girl sent somewhere else. The John would explain what type of call girl he wanted and then the middleman at the hotel would call a pimp to have him send over someone who fit the bill. The John would then never have to deal with people like the pimp. Call girl pimps would not have their girls on the street. Instead they would just need the phone numbers of the call girls, allowing the call girls to hide their involvement in prostitution from the rest of the world. Call girls can live a double life, as can their Johns. Because it was Diane's phone that rang at the end of the chain of calls, we learn that she is a call girl living a double life.
In the chain of calls, Mr. Roque is Diane's John this time around. In the logic of the dream, Rita, Diane's sensual persona, was in a limousine heading somewhere. She never makes it there and goes into hiding. However, Mr. Roque was expecting her, as if her limousine was headed to a liaison with him. We find out later that Mr. Roque is working with others who are trying to replace Camilla Rhodes with a blonde haired woman, and we shall discuss this more below. But this fact means that Mr. Roque was most likely involved in the assassination attempt against Rita, and is now trying to find out what happened to her.
In Diane's fantasy, Mr. Roque represents a type of power in the movie making business, and Diane's Rita persona was heading to a liaison with him. This hints at the fact that Diane probably saw her attempt to make it in Hollywood in much the same terms as she saw her call girl activity. She had to be willing to promote the sexual side of herself to make it, and the Rita/Camilla persona helped her do this. In fact, we see her do this again during her audition with Jimmy "Woody" Katz. We will look at that audition very closely because the dialogue and the context indicates that this willingness to perform sexually for men is related to her childhood abuse from a father figure. Therefore, by being one of her Johns, Mr. Roque is associated with her father figure. And this tells us that the father figure was probably an unyielding, dark Tinman-like personality that we see in Mr. Roque. Later, we find out that both the Cowboy and one of the Castigliane brothers is also connected to her sexual abuse, so they give us further insights into her abuser's character. However, in her fantasy world, she is no longer willing to do tricks for the likes of Mr. Roque. In fact, in her Camilla persona she hides from them, in her Adam persona she fights them as best she can, and the sleeping Diane will not answer the phone when they call.
Another important thing about this scene is that it gives us insights into the nature of the third character in the phone chain. He is the one in the grungy, beat up apartment or kitchen who knows Diane's number. In the film's credits he is called "Hairy-Armed Man." We never see his face, so we don't know who he is, but we do learn something about him. We see that even though the place where he is located is not being taken care of very well, he has a phone that is very important to him. In fact, the round neon light that is shining on his phone encourages us to think that the phone is the most important thing in that room, as it would be for a pimp in his profession. This makes this character very similar to another character who shows up later in the film. Like that other character who I will discuss later, Hairy-Armed Man must have access to a lot of phone numbers because he has to have a direct line to all of the call girls. This issue will provide us with an important revelation later in the film.
This is not the only thing that we learn about the Hairy-Armed Man. We also see that the place he is in is similar to the apartment Adam rented from Cookie at the Park Hotel, because of its run down state. When Adam shows up at the Park Hotel, it is difficult to understand why a man of his prominence would choose such a seedy hotel when he still thought he had access to all of his money. However, the logic of the dream suggests that this was where Diane ended up at one point in her life. And when the Hairy-Armed Man calls Diane, he doesn't use a normal phone number. It seems more like a number that connects him to an extension within the same building. This is very telling because we know the Hairy-Armed Man is calling Diane. However, rather than calling her at her current location at 2590 Sierra Bonita, he seems to be calling her at a place where she lived at some time in the past, at some place like the Park Hotel where perhaps she first became involved in the call girl business. In her dream, we see many elements of her past and her present merge together and by decoding which is which, we begin to understand her state of mind better. So the phone chain makes an important connection between where she was and what she is doing now. Yet, as the Hairy-Armed Man dials her number and the call causes her present day phone to ring, the scene ends with Diane apparently being no longer available to answer that call.
As this scene begins the mood shifts to a lighter and more upbeat note. In the scenes before this we saw the promise of Diane's Jitterbug contest lost to a spirit of despair. Then in the logic of her dream world we saw an assassination attempt against Diane's Hollywood hopes embodied by Camilla. This led to a horrible accident that I believe hints at the real Camilla's death while showing the Camilla persona of Diane desperately attempting to survive. Then in the next scene, we see, through the Dan persona of Diane, how terrified Diane is of facing a horrible truth that is hidden behind Winkie's, and this is a horror that again involves death. And finally, in the fourth scene we get an inkling of Diane's double life because of her phone being the last in a chain of calls that hint at a call girl business in operation. As I mentioned much earlier, this sequence follows the pattern of the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy enters Oz only after she sees her troubles displayed in a window while she dreams of her house being carried away in a tornado. Having now seen a synopsis of the issues with which she is struggling, Diane, like Dorothy, finally lands and her quest begins with her Betty persona on an apparently happy note.
I believe it is significant that Betty is wearing a pink sweater that looks too small for her. It seems clear that the sweater is something Diane may have worn when she was younger, perhaps when she was Dorothy's age. This means that Betty represents an almost childlike innocence in Diane's past. It is also important to note that the elderly couple who leave the airport with Betty and say goodbye to her never show up again in her fantasy. You might even say that they are dispatched quickly and with finality. Their reason for being here at the beginning of Betty's entrance into the fantasy is probably because in Diane's mind the incident is similar to the same two elderly people dropping her off at the airport in her real life when she left Canada for LA. I believe this couple to be Diane's grandparents and I believe that there is something unsavory about them as hinted at by their sinister laughter as they are driven off after parting with Betty at the airport. Yet, since part of the point of Diane's Betty persona is that with her everything is seen in idealized innocence, only positive images are allowed to surface at this time. And Diane struggles to keep it that way for Betty for as long as she can.
Betty's Oz is LA, and although Diane's mind doesn't treat the two elderly people like she is very familial with them, she does make them into her munchkin-like welcoming committee to make her feel right at home. Betty's yellow brick road is the yellow cab, and 1612 Havenhurst and a successful Hollywood career are her destination. The Hollywood sign in the distance shows up prominently to set the context. But after things start off on such a positive note, the Oz analogies become much more complex and much darker. It turns out that Havenhurst is where her Aunt used to live and she believes it is the place from which she can enter the movie business. Unfortunately, she has no red haired Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, to give her guidance because her red haired aunt, who represents Glenda, is on a trip to the north. However, a motherly figure named Coco, dressed all in black to signify her influential status, is there to greet her.
Coco takes charge of everyone in this apartment complex which is associated with Betty/Diane's Hollywood aspirations, much the same way the real Coco appeared to take charge everything at Adam's party with his Hollywood insiders. Yet Coco's last name in the fantasy is Lenoix, a French name the same as "le noix," which means "the nut." The symbolic significance of this is reinforced later when we see the Coco of the real world at Adam's party eating nuts during a conversation about Diane trying to make it as an actress. There is definitely something strange and "nutty" about the wannabes in Coco's Hollywood "haven." There is dog excrement in the middle of the courtyard, and Coco tells a story of how a kangaroo at one point made even a bigger mess. In telling the story Coco mentions the word "kangaroo" and court in the same sentence, and we begin to realize that the powerful ones in Hollywood run the place like it's a kangaroo court. Thus, we can surmise that talent is not always the determining factor in Hollywood. But Coco approves of Betty in the fantasy and gives her the key to her aunt's apartment. By giving her the key that the aunt wanted Betty to have, Coco is opening a new door for Betty. And like the door that was opened by the key that the hit man gives Diane later, this new door in Betty's life ends up involving Rita/Camilla.
When Betty explores her aunt's home she quickly finds that the naked Rita was there first, and so it turns out that Diane cannot play out her Hollywood dream with only the simple innocent Dorothy-like persona of Betty. She becomes linked to the sensual Rita/Camilla persona even before Betty can unpack her blue suitcases, because in truth her aunt was never there to show her any other way. The fact that Betty's first sight of Rita during her fantasy is when Rita is naked in a shower emphasizes how much Diane connects the Rita persona with the image of her naked body. Betty also opens the shower door when she first sees her, which is an important detail we will come back to and deal with in a later scene when the metaphor of "opening the door" is addressed. It is Diane's mind that is the source of this image of Rita, and that is an important thing to focus on here. Later in this scene, Betty says, "And now I'm in this dream place," to give us yet another clue to the fact that we are in Diane's dream. I believe that she brings into the dream the nakedness of Rita to reveal to us that the issue of women being seen as sex objects is why the Rita persona is so important to her quest to make it in Hollywood. With no Aunt Ruth around to give her any other advice, Betty eventually embraces the Rita persona trusting that it will not lead her in the wrong direction.
As I mentioned before, Betty's Aunt Ruth is the one she looked to as a guide, just as Dorothy looked to her Aunt Em. However, Betty's aunt is always just out of reach in Diane's fantasy, always leaving just before Betty gets there, or in the end, arriving just after Betty has left. Dorothy had hope that she could find her way back to her aunt, but Diane's yearning for her Aunt can never be resolved because Diane's aunt is dead. So Diane, unlike Dorothy, has "no place like home" to which she can return. With this as her reality, Rita/Camilla becomes Diane's only hope to help her navigate the road to success in Hollywood.
I've mentioned before the symbols we see in this scene which show how Rita is more an embodiment of the aunt's success than is the innocent Betty, with her pink sweater that is just a little too small. It is Rita who got to the house first. It is Rita who becomes the red haired Rita Hayworth's namesake from the beginning. And it is Rita, with her red towel, who is the one who gets to wear the aunt's majestic looking red and black robes. Therefore, by the end of this scene Betty wants to help Rita. In fact, since Rita is so closely associated with the quest that brought her to Hollywood, Betty wants to protect Rita from those who are out to get her. The partnering of the Betty and Rita personas becomes a central component to the resolution of Diane's identity crisis. However, that is not the only thing going on in her head.
In this scene we are introduced to the character of Adam Kesher and the Hollywood big shots who are involved with a movie he is directing for Ryan Entertainment. He is re-casting his lead actress and two of the big shots are trying to force him to accept a replacement actress that they have chosen. He angrily resists them, even to the point of smashing the windshield of the limousine within which the two were driven to the meeting. I have already discussed much of the symbolism in this scene. I have argued that the movie Adam is re-casting the main actress for is about the life of Diane Selwyn, our dreamer. I have already explained that she is going through an identity crisis and so she has created this elaborate fantasy world to rethink her life, and hopefully find a new outlook that can convince her to keep on living. I have claimed that the name "Ryan" in the movie company's name is really short for "Rhymes with Diane," because after all, the company is really just a metaphor for Diane's active imagination and her "open mind." And I have argued that Adam is an important black clad persona of Diane's that is trying to direct her life, as are the two Castigliane brothers and Mr. Roque. I have also mentioned that the character traits of the Castigliane brothers are a twisted version of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, just as Mr. Roque is a twisted version of the Tinman, and that they have a certain association the twisted character of Diane's father figure. What I haven't discussed is what is the nature of their conflict with Adam.
Adam embodies the belief that the Hollywood enterprise is on the level. He has the naiveté of Betty in that he thinks everything is about great actresses and glamorous movie stars. He believes that there is "no way" that corruption and manipulation can be involved in his movies. Like Betty, he doesn't perceive that image is often more powerful than talent, and that images can be manufactured, bought and sold. To Adam, his work is about real talent. His integrity is not for sale and he will not be manipulated. This is the somewhat idealistic side of Diane that Adam represents.
On the other hand, Mr. Roque and the Castigliane brothers see things differently. They represent Diane's jaded and disillusioned side. To them movie making is all about manipulating people with images that can be corrupt. Here we see the attitude that had taken over Diane when she decided to have Camilla killed. No longer did she believe that Camilla was a glamorous star whom she should emulate. Instead Camilla was a successful manipulator who had used her sensuality to make both Diane and Adam fall in love with her. Her stardom was a sham and she deserved to be eliminated at all costs. The words that came from Diane's mouth during this angry state of mind were, "This is the girl." So those words echo to us over and over again from one of the Castigliane brothers, and later from the Cowboy. The words reinforce Diane's angry condemnation of Camilla and by extension, the Hollywood dream as well.
When Diane said, "This is the girl," in real life to the hit man, she was doing more than just identifying Camilla as the one to kill. She was identifying Camilla as the one in whom she had put all of her hopes. The one who took the place of her aunt as her only family and her guide in her attempt to navigate the Hollywood dream. Yet, Camilla was also the one who had betrayed Diane by replacing her with another woman in Camilla's life. Camilla's relationship to Adam could be forgiven because it was probably just a move to advance Camilla's career. But when Diane saw Camilla kissing another woman, it seemed to Diane that Camilla was definitely breaking up with her for good. Camilla's commitment to Diane was no deeper than the type of commitments that Hollywood makes. If Camilla could replace her so easily, then Diane would get rid of Camilla and turn the tables, replacing Camilla with the same person whom Camilla was using to replace Diane. This is why the Castigliane brothers show Adam a picture of this other woman with the name Camilla Rhodes. The Castigliane's are trying to destroy the image of the old Camilla Rhodes, because in their image over substance view of the world, destroying Camilla means getting rid of the old image of her and replacing it with a new one. "This is the girl," is the statement that tells us that the part of Diane that wants to kill Camilla is at work, and the Castigliane's are attempting to do that in this scene.
Yet Adam reveals to us the conflicted nature of Diane's world. Part of her does not want Camilla killed, and in fact this part of her is still interested in becoming like Camilla. This is the Betty part of her that is trying to protect Camilla at the same moment that Adam is meeting with that part of Diane that is committed to putting an end to Camilla. This tension causes something of a replay of what happened when Camilla was in the limousine at the beginning of the fantasy. Part of Diane's mind tried to kill her, while another part created an accident to smash up the limousine so the Camilla persona could escape. Now, after Adam has met with the Castigliane brothers and realized their intent, he goes outside to their limousine and smashes it in a way reminiscent to the first limousine being smashed up. And then he flees in a way reminiscent to Camilla's flight. In all of this, Adam's defiance connects him to the Betty persona, even as the real life Adam's love for Camilla connected him to the real life Diane. We see this especially clearly during the double toast at the beginning of the party scene at Adam's house. These two people are both in awe of the image that Camilla embodies, and so they both fall under its spell. But not everyone falls under Camilla's spell in real life or in the fantasy as we shall see.
In this scene, Betty checks up on Rita as she sleeps. This demonstrates how protective the naďve Betty persona is of the Camilla persona.
In this scene, Ray Hott goes to speak with Mr. Roque. The first thing we notice is that Ray has to speak to Mr. Roque from behind a glass wall with a speaker in it. Mr. Roque is sitting in a wheelchair and he is in the dark until Ray begins to speak with him. Mr. Roque does have an assistant in the room with him, but the assistant does not move. And Mr. Roque does not move much either, or say many words. He let's Ray do most of the talking, but somehow his silence is ominous and we know that Ray is afraid of him. Ray tells Mr. Roque that Adam doesn't want the fake Camilla Rhodes, and Ray wants to know if Adam should be replaced like the Castigliane brothers suggested. With just a few words, Mr. Roque indicates that he is on the side of the Castigliane brothers, and Ray realizes that this means they should "Shut everything down."
I have discussed already how Mr. Roque is like a rusted Tinman, unable to talk much and paralyzed. But why does he sit in the dark behind a glass wall? I believe this has to do with the fact that it is his persona in Betty that is driving her to "Shut everything down," which is a metaphor for withdrawing from life and ultimately ending it altogether. Mr. Roque's name is similar to the word "rock", which is a simple lifeless object. Everything about Mr. Roque is lifeless. This is why he is sitting in the dark and keeping people at a distance with his glass wall. Later we see that Diane is becoming like this as she descends into a suicidal depression, sitting alone on her couch in her living room. Whereas the Castigliane brothers show the side of Diane that is threatening to others, Mr. Roque shows the side of Diane that is most threatening to herself. The next scene picks up on this theme of the dangerous currents running wild within Diane's psyche.
In this scene we see two men, Joe and Ed, who seem friendly to each other. Joe is a blonde with short hair, and Ed has long dark hair. As they talk in Ed's office, all of a sudden Joe pulls out a gun and kills Ed. When he tries to make it look like suicide by putting the gun in Ed's hand, he accidentally fires a shot through a wall and the bullet hits a heavyset woman in the next room. As the woman screams, Joe goes over to that room and struggles with the woman, finally dragging her back to Ed's office. A janitor with a vacuum cleaner notices Joe dragging the woman, so Joe calls to the janitor telling him that the woman is hurt and he is just trying to help her. He asks the janitor to come to Ed's office to call a hospital for the woman because Joe needs his help. Then Joe goes into Ed's office, and positions the woman by the wall that the bullet went through. And then he shoots her twice in the back. Just after that the janitor walks in and Joe shoots him and then positions his body next to the woman's. When the janitor was shot, the vacuum cleaner turned on and so as Joe puts the gun back in Ed's dead hand, he next shoots the vacuum cleaner. This causes it to short out, which causes a problem to the building's electrical circuits, which causes an alarm to trigger in the building. Joe wipes away all of the fingerprints he thinks he has left, and then he grabs Ed's black book and heads out the window and down the fire escape.
I believe Joe is Diane's assassin persona, just as the Joe from real life is a hit man Diane employed. Her murderous rage is driving this persona, and he is interested in killing everything that is connected to Camilla in Diane's life. However, to understand the connection to Camilla here, it takes following a number of clues. The first clue is the hair. Joe's is short and blonde, like Diane's, and Ed's is long and black like Camilla's. Another clue is the black book, which Ed calls, "the history of the world in phone numbers." This black book makes Ed a likely candidate for the pimp of the call girls because that business is run by the one with all of the phone numbers. More evidence of this comes from a particular interpretation of the discussion Joe and Ed have right before the shooting. The two of them are talking about an accident which they say was something "unreal" which no one could have foreseen. It seems clear that they are referring to the "unreal" accident that Rita had at the beginning of the fantasy. Then Joe says to Ed, "Gee, I hope you're not going to get in any trouble." At which point Ed says, "Oh that was just a thing man." And a little later he mentions explicitly that it was a car accident. So the question is why would a car accident involving Rita make Joe think Ed might get in trouble? Some reviewers have suggested that Ed was involved with the drag racers, perhaps even being in the other drag racing car that was not in the accident. But certainly that would be a bigger deal than the "that was just a thing" that Ed describes. If Ed had a relationship to any of the dead people at the scene, wouldn't he acknowledge that it was a bigger deal than he seems to be indicating? However, if Ed was a pimp sending the Rita persona to a John, like Mr. Roque at the beginning of the fantasy, then the problem Ed would be facing would mainly amount to an unhappy client whose call girl never showed up. And in that case it makes sense for him to say, "that was just a thing," because he has many more numbers in his black book. Losing Rita does not hurt his business that much.
However, if you interpret the conversation the way that I just have, you can see why Ed is in deeper trouble than he knows. Joe is trying to track down Rita/Camilla, and he has come to a pimp to find out if she was one of his girls. Since Rita/Camilla is associated with Diane's sensual persona, which is what Diane embodies when she is involved in her call girl liaisons, the pimp was connected to Rita/Camilla. Ed confirms this when he tells Joe the story about the accident and so Joe now realizes that Rita may be somewhat bruised and hiding out in the streets, as he indicates in what he says in the next scene in which Joe shows up. For now, Joe decides that it may help him locate Rita/Camilla if he has Ed's phone book. Ed doesn't know that Joe is an assassin who is after one of his girls, so Ed doesn't realize he has told Joe too much. Since Joe needs the book, and Joe's goal is to kill Rita/Camilla without anyone knowing it was him, Ed must die, as must any other witnesses in the building who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The assassin with his short blonde hair, kills his a friend with his long dark hair in another parallel to Diane and Camilla, because they were also friends once. And if Camilla and the pimp are connected, just as Diane and the hit man are connected, this raises the question about whether Camilla was engaged in fixing Diane up with Johns? I believe this was in fact the case, but Camilla would have been more likely to focus exclusively on powerful Hollywood men. This issue also comes up because of the way a man Diane believes to be Luigi, one the powerful Castigliane brothers, looks at Diane in the real world of Adam's party much later in the movie. Luigi, in a way similar to Mr. Roque at the beginning of the fantasy, is acting like one of Diane's Johns showing interest in her on the same night that Mr. Roque does in the fantasy. We later see a hint of the same type of sexual relationship with Diane concerning the Cowboy. They could all represent powerful Hollywood men in Diane's life who are her Johns, and they may all be forcing her to relive the abuse she went through as a child? This would explain some of the intensity of the anger Diane feels toward Camilla. Did Camilla become a symbol of the abuse, corruption and betrayal Diane experienced as a child? The next set of scenes presents compelling clues that this was in fact the case.
Incest is a betrayal from someone a child loves and so it is the worst type of betrayal. It can often lead a child into a life of sexual promiscuity, which I believe is the story behind why the call girl business is so often lurking in the shadows of this film. Ed's character assumes the role of Diane's pimp mainly because he has a black book that Diane saw Joe with at the time Diane was arranging the hit on Camilla in her real life. To Diane, a black book represents phone numbers, and phone numbers represent the call girl profession. So since Joe is her ally against Camilla, she creates a scenario in her fantasy for how Joe came to have this book. Yet as Joe becomes Diane's agent to lash out at the abusers like Camilla and the pimps in her life, we see the innocence of Diane being further destroyed. And this is why I believe the two innocent people are killed by the hit man in Diane's fantasy. Diane is trying to hold on to some of her innocence, as most clearly represented by Betty, but she is losing that battle. The actions of the hit man kill off the innocent as well as the guilty characters by the end of this scene, and similarly we will see how the innocent character of Betty is lost by the end of the fantasy.
The next three scenes are important to understand in parallel to some degree because each focus on the childhood abuse to some degree, and I believe that they all illuminate one another. So I will try to discuss them together as much as possible, drawing conclusions from scenes that build upon the points from the other scenes. This series begins with Betty talking with her aunt on the phone about an audition that her aunt has arranged for her. While describing how hard she will work at learning the lines of the script so she can try to be like a movie star, Diane then tells her aunt about how she found Rita, naked in the aunt's shower. The aunt says she doesn't know Rita and this is a shock to Diane because she thought Rita was the aunt's friend. This dialogue is very significant because it shows us that Diane realizes that Rita was not the Hollywood connection that her aunt would have chosen for her. In fact, Betty says that she "opened the door," referring to the shower door, which led to Rita, while "Coco unlocked the door" to the aunt's apartment. I believe this is a cryptic way of saying that even though Coco was trying to help her go in the path that her aunt wanted her to go, she mistakenly opened the door that led to Rita/Camilla. While Betty is still discussing this on the phone with her aunt, the camera pulls away from Betty and begins literally following the path that leads to Rita. In this way, Lynch is saying to us that we are now going to learn what doorway Diane went through and where that path led her.
When the camera moves away from Betty while she is on the couch talking on the phone to her aunt, at first it is not clear why the camera has left her. Then as it moves forward we realize we have suddenly changed to the point of view of Betty, and we are seeing through her eyes as she walks from the couch to the bedroom where she finds Rita. This is an important detail because when the camera adopts the point of view of Betty we are being told to look from her eyes and see what she sees as she walks. It is a short walk to the bedroom that Camilla is in, and there are a couple of significant things that Betty sees as she walks there. The first thing we notice is the pink flower, representing Betty, Diane's innocent persona. And then we see a shelf with a picture of Betty's aunt on it. There are other things on the shelf as well, such as a magnifying glass, which encourages us to analyze the many clues that Lynch leaves for us, and there is also a bong on the shelf, whose relevance I discussed earlier. But the picture is the most important thing on that shelf in this context, because Betty is also in that picture as a little girl with her aunt. The picture tells us that a loving relationship existed between Betty/Diane and the aunt that extended back to Betty/Diane's childhood. And now we are aware that a picture and Betty/Diane's childhood are something on which Lynch wants us to focus while the camera continues to move.
The next significant thing that we see is another picture, which this time is a painting on which a special light is shining. As the camera moves, it lingers a little on this painting, and then it continues on to the bedroom door. The door is closed at this moment, and from Betty's point of view we linger at this closed door briefly as Betty "opens the door" that leads us to Rita. The scene continues, but we must understand what the reference to the painting was all about in order to really understand what the path was that led Betty/Diane to the Rita/Camilla obsession. The painting is a famous one called "Beatrice Cenci" by Guido Reni, although some argue that it may have been painted by Elisabetta Sirani, a protégé of his. Beatrice Cenci was a young Roman noblewoman who lived from 1577 to 1599. She was a victim of the incestuous advances of her father and so she hired two hit men to kill her father and then make it look like an accident. Even though she was caught and executed for the crime, along with other family members, the sympathies of the public were with Beatrice. She became legendary as a symbol of the lost innocence of victimized daughters, and she has inspired many works of art, books, plays and even a few movies that attempt to capture her story. One author, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who wrote a play about the tragedy called, "The Cenci," said Beatrice's story is about "the most dark and secret caverns of the human heart."
We see the "Beatrice Cenci" painting right after seeing a picture of Betty/Diane as a little girl and right before seeing Rita/Camilla on the bed. Later in this scene we see both Betty and Rita sitting together on the same couch where Betty was talking with her aunt over the phone at the beginning of this scene, and the painting is in the background right between the two of them. It is clear that Lynch wants us to probe the connection between this picture and Diane's relationship to Camilla. And I believe the only logical conclusion is that Diane's sexual abuse as a child led her into an unhealthy image of herself, which then led her into a relationship with Camilla. Camilla's role in Diane's life comes after the abuse, but by encouraging the view that Hollywood success comes from exploiting a sexual image, Camilla pointed Diane down a path that led her to continually relive the abuse.
After moving down the path leading to Rita, Betty opens the door to question her. But Rita is in tears because she doesn't know who she is, she has amnesia. As I mentioned before, this is the Rita/Camilla persona of Diane, not the real Camilla. So as Betty begins to help Rita discover her identity, the real issue that is being investigated concerns Diane's identity crisis. When Betty picks up Diane's purse to see if Rita's identity is somewhere inside of it, Rita has a look of fear on her face. When Rita opens the purse they find stacks of money and a blue triangular key. The money is very ominous, while the key is very intriguing. I think its triangular shape relates to the three-way triangle between Diane, Camilla and Adam, but we know it also signifies Camilla's death at the hands of the hit man. Rita is afraid of these objects because they inevitably lead to the issues which are making her a target to be killed. Even without her memory, Rita instinctively knows that the truth can be very dangerous. Yet, Rita faces her fears and holds up the blue key. As she does this, the scene shifts to a scene at "Pink's" hotdog establishment, where we see three people who will help us to understand why the path that Diane chose ultimately led to that blue key.
I've already described how this scene with the hit man, the prostitute and the pimp, shows us the movement from the pink persona of Diane to her state of prostitution. I've explained this by discussing the meaning of the two phallic symbols of the hotdog and the red rod. There are also other red symbols that appear in this scene, such as a red lampshade, a red fire/emergency truck and a red rose, that we see before the three characters make it around the corner near the beginning of the scene. And there is a red trash can that appears a little later. The red lampshade is symbolic of prostitution as we have already discussed, the fire truck here probably is symbolic of the danger that Diane is in, and the red rose is indicative of the lost love involved. The red trash can is a reference to the dirty, fallen state in which Diane ends up. I believe that the fact that red is reemphasized so much in this scene is to hammer home the connection to prostitution just in case the profession of the woman is not entirely clear to anyone for some reason. And, as I've mentioned before, anytime something is emphasized twice or more in this film, it is very important. That Diane has fallen into a state of prostitution is a difficult but critical component of this film's subtext. While I have tried to make these points before now, what I haven't described yet is why the hit man is in this particular scene.
While the prostitute talks to the hit man and the pimp stands behind her, we see bruise marks on her arm. As the prostitute gets a cigarette from the hit man, we see the pimp's hand move to her bruised arm as he offers to light her cigarette. She looks suspiciously at him while his hand actually touches the bruise, but she then looks relieved to see that he only wants to light her cigarette. This shows us that Diane has been injured by her pimps in a way I think is analogous to the way that Beatrice was injured by the abuse of her father and Diane was injured by her father figure and by Camilla's betrayal. And both Beatrice and Diane turn to the hit man for their justice. The pimp is unaware that the reason the abused woman is drawn to the hit man is because he can kill off the pimp, as the hit man has already done with Ed, the call girl type of pimp in an earlier scene. But now the hit man expects the prostitute to connect him to another target, a brunette who is "maybe a little beat up." By repeatedly returning to the scene with Betty and Rita, we know that this scene with the hit man, the prostitute and the pimp is happening at the same time that Rita holds up the blue key in front of Betty. Clearly, Rita/Camilla is the target of the hit man. But we also see in this scene that Diane and the prostitute have a similar connection to the hit man. This is because in real life the hit man showed Diane the blue key after taking it from his shirt pocket, and in the fantasy the prostitute reaches into that same pocket to get a cigarette. Other than just indicating for us that Diane and the hit man smoke the same type of cigarettes, this scene also shows us that the hit man supplies what the prostitute wants in the same way that he gives Diane what she wants, by going into his shirt pocket. Then the prostitute gets into a blue van that is apparently owned by the hit man. So now the association with the hit man brings both Diane and the prostitute into contact with a blue object that cause some type of movement or transition in their lives. However, they are going in a dangerous direction because as Beatrice's life show us, the hit man's justice will not lead to a happy ending.
As the prostitute gets into the van, the scene shifts back to Betty and Rita in the bedroom. It is here that Diane asks Rita about the money and the key, and as I mentioned before this scene's close association with the scene before it give us the answer to Diane's question. The money came from Diane's work as a call girl prostitute, and the key came from the hit man. Together they are the payoff for the hit and the signal indicating that the hit had been successful. As Rita struggles with these questions we switch to a scene where Adam learns that Ray from Ryan Entertainment is shutting down the movie. Adam is having trouble resisting the forces at work that ultimately want to replace and kill off the Camilla persona, and so he just says he is going home. Earlier I mentioned how his "I'm going home" statements are a clue that explains that we need to go to Diane's home to understand the source of her childhood trauma that in some ways is the beginning point of all of her later troubles.
The scene shifts back to Betty and Rita, and now they are both on the couch. And Diane is wondering where Camilla was going when the accident happened. Camilla remembers that the location was somewhere on Mulholland Drive. Diane gets excited because this is a clue. She suggests that they call the police and find out about any accidents on Mulholland Drive. But Rita looks worried. So Betty says, "It will be just like in the movies. We'll pretend to be someone else." This is Lynch giving us another hint that we are in Diane's dream world right now. The story of Diane's life is being told in this dream, "just like in the movies," and the characters in her life are pretending to be "someone else." The scene ends with Betty and Rita agreeing to try to find out whether or not there was an accident on Mulholland Drive. As they make this agreement the camera moves to a new position so that we can see the painting of "Beatrice Cenci" centered right between the two women as they hold hands.
We now go to the scene with Adam in his car finally arriving at his home. As I have described before now, he walks in on an infidelity that destroys his family. I explained at length earlier how this infidelity relates to Diane's sexual abuse, although on the surface the scene appears to be only about Adam's break up with his wife. Yet, as I have already stated above, when Adam pours pink paint over the family jewels he is telling the story of Beatrice Cenci's abuse all over again. When Adam is thrown from the house beaten and bleeding we get the impression that he is finally starting to realize that the part of Diane that wants to pay back Camilla for the suffering Diane has gone through will inevitably win this internal struggle. And that's bad news for the Rita/Camilla persona. Even though the Betty persona has not given up yet, and is in fact shaking hands with Rita to signify her allegiance to Rita, we see that Adam is losing the fight that was in him. To emphasize this point, a thug working for the Castigliane brothers later shows up at Adam's house with music in the background playing the words, "Baby, I'm going to bring it on home to you." Then the thug proceeds to beat up the guilty parties in Adam/Diane's home, meeting out a type of justice that Diane would like to see, although it is short of the hit man's justice, which is ultimately what Diane's vengeful side wants.
Meanwhile, Betty has decided to try to save Rita from the ultimate retribution. Betty and Rita hide the money and the key in a hatbox in the closet. Then they head to Winkie's to call the police from a pay phone. Once again we see the arrow from Diane's subconscious pointing away from the back of Winkies where the beast and the God-awful feeling are found. The Betty and Rita personas obey the sign and, unlike Dan, they stay away from the back. But Betty does call the police and she does find out that there was an accident on Mulholland Drive. Then they go inside of the Winkie's and there they see a waitress with "Diane" on her nametag. This triggers another memory in Rita. She remembers the name Diane Selwyn. They go back to the aunt's apartment and look up the name in the phonebook. There is only one entry for "D. Selwyn" and so they call the number. An answering machine picks up and they hang up without leaving a message. The voice on the answering machine is not Rita's, but she does recognize that it is the voice of someone she knows. So they are not sure if Rita is Diane Selwyn or not, but they believe that they are getting close to unraveling the mystery of Rita's identity.
There are many issues in this scene which help us unravel the mystery of Diane Selwyn's dark struggle. For one thing, the waitress at Winkie's is yet another short haired blonde, who, like the prostitute, might be a true doppelganger of Betty. In her real life, Diane saw this woman at the Winkie's while she spoke with the hit man. At that time the woman had "Betty" on her nametag, so we know that it is from this waitress that Diane gets the name of her innocent persona in her fantasy world. But why does a person like this represent innocence to Diane? She does where a pink blouse, but I think the connection to innocence goes deeper than that. Later, in Diane's real life, we see Diane drinking from a coffee mug that looks suspiciously like the coffee mugs at Winkie's. This indicates to me that Diane may have worked at Winkie's in the past, bringing one of their mugs home with her at one point. If this is the case, then it was during a time that Diane now sees as an innocent period of her life. Which would mean it is a period of time before she got involved in the call girl business and before she met Camilla, in my view. But if Diane did work at a Winkie's before meeting Camilla, this means that her aunt's money didn't last very long.
Later, when they are back in Aunt Ruth's apartment, as they are calling the number they found for "D. Selwyn," Betty says, "It's strange to be calling yourself." And even though at this point in the film we think she means it's strange for Rita to be calling herself, later we figure out that it is Betty, who is the primary and central Diane persona, who is calling herself. This is reinforced when Rita responds to Betty with, "Maybe it's not me." With this initial exchange, I believe we are being told that we should pay close attention to this dialogue because it will contain truths that even the speakers themselves may not understand. After hearing the answering machine message from Diane Selwyn's number, Rita says, "That's not my voice. But I know her." To this Betty says, "Maybe that isn't Diane Selwyn's voice. Maybe that's your roommate. Or if it is Diane Selwyn, maybe she could tell you who you are." As we find out later, it certainly is Diane Selwyn's voice, as Betty was quick to allow for, but here is the only time someone tells us that maybe Diane and Camilla may have been roommates once. I think this is the important truth that we are supposed to hold onto from this conversation. It explains how close Diane and Camilla had once been in the real world. And since we find that they are no longer living together when Diane moved to apartment #17, we are getting a hint that a gradual break up was probably occurring between Diane and Camilla before she left apartment #12. And in fact, we will find that Rita hints at this later in the reality scenes when they are on Diane's couch together probably for the last time.
In this scene a thug, named Kenny, working for the Castigliane brothers dishes out some retribution at Adam's house. We've discussed this scene already. The way Lorraine and Gene treated Adam was so outrageous, that it is nice to see Adam getting help dealing with them from some corner, even if the help is coming from other enemies of his. But what this shows us is that the two conflicting sides of Diane, the side that wants to love her and the side that wants her dead, both hate the memory of the incest from the past. But this is ultimately a setup for how the Adam persona is finally won over to the other side. In the scenes to come, the argument is made to the Adam persona that you can either be a victim of the scars of the past, or you can dish out some scars of your own.
In this scene, a growing darkness is descending upon Adam. It is nighttime now and the Adam persona is learning just how far he has fallen. Like Diane, he has fled from the abusive family, but he soon learns that even though he used to have money, he is now broke. And people who he is afraid of know where to find him. He has one hope. Go to see the Cowboy, and learn how to play ball with corruption.
When you look at this scene as a picture of Diane's life at one point, it is not hard to guess where that point was when a similar situation confronted Diane. Like Adam, Diane thought she had a lot of money when she first arrived at LA with her aunt's inheritance. But, I believe, she found herself broke and living in a seedy hotel before finally giving into someone like Ed, the pimp of the call girls. In the end, her only way out of the situation that she and her Adam persona were in was to follow the path of the Midnight Cowboy, another reference to prostitution. This link to the movie "Midnight Cowboy" is made because of the late hour that Adam and the Cowboy meet together. The movie "Midnight Cowboy," involved prostitution between a younger man and older women who were his Johns. So, for Diane we can assume that as a younger woman she was dealing with older male customers. Older like her father figure.
In the next scene, we are back with Betty and Rita in the Aunt's home at night. They are on the floor near a coffee table looking at a map. Betty is convincing Rita that they should go to the address they found in the phonebook for "D. Selwyn." Rita is very nervous about this idea, and as she hesitates, someone comes up to their door in the darkness and knocks. As they get up, we see the Beatrice Cenci painting shown prominently again, and the camera lingers on it telling us to be prepared for more references to sexual abuse as Betty goes to answer the door. When she opens the door we see a woman with long blonde hair named Louise Bonner. She is dressed all in black, and as her face is shrouded in the shadows she appears to be some type of psychic or spiritual medium. She says to Betty, "Someone is in trouble. Who are you? What are you doing in Ruth's apartment?" Some of Betty's face is also in the shadows now, and she replies, "She's letting me stay here. I'm her niece. My name's Betty." To this Louise responds strongly, "No it's not! That's not what she said. Someone is in trouble. Something bad is happening." Coco interrupts soon after this. And Louise says to Coco, "Oh Coco. I've been trying to get a hold of you since 3 o'clock this afternoon. That one is in my room and she won't leave. I want you to get her out. I want you to get her out now!" Then, after Coco gives Betty a script for an audition the next day, she tries to escort Louise away. But Louise pulls free for one last premonition. Louise says, "No, she said it was someone else who was in trouble." After all of this, when Betty closes the door and turns back to Rita, she sees a look of absolute terror on Rita's face.
To understand this scene we have to understand the identity of Louise Bonner. To do that we need to unravel her symbolism. Since she is wearing all black she has power of some sort. Since she is acting like a medium, she must be a powerful one. Who then is she channeling? It's not Aunt Ruth, because she came to the apartment expecting to speak to Aunt Ruth. Since Louise is in a dream world, the other world to communicate with would be the real world of Diane Selwyn. Like the arrows on the side of the Winkie's, I think Diane Selwyn is trying to give important information to our characters, but this time through Louise. "Someone is in trouble," refers both to the Rita persona and to Diane Selwyn who is descending into a suicidal depression. Clearly when Louise says, "No it's not" she's referring to the fact that Betty is not Diane's real name. You might say that Diane realizes that the fantasy is taking a turn for the worse, and she is trying to wake up before the things end horribly. There is a truth waiting to be discovered that would destroy the innocence of the Betty character, perhaps for good, and with Betty gone, any hope of holding on to something to live for would be gone as well. Of course, Betty still thinks her hope lies in connecting with the Rita persona, even though that was never the right path for her. And the Rita persona's doom is coming, as we can see by the look of terror on Rita's face after Louise has delivered her premonition. Just as the grandmother probably wanted Diane out because of the infidelity, so too does Diane's vindictive side want to completely erase Camilla and Rita from existence because of Camilla's betrayal of the love-struck Diane.
When Coco interrupts them, Louise snaps out of her trance and then begins to represent someone else. When she says that there is a female in her room who she wants out now, she refers to 3 o'clock. When Adam discovered his wife in her room having an affair, there is a clock on the shelves next to the door as he walks in that show it is just before 4 o'clock. This means that the incest that that infidelity represented had probably been occurring since 3 o'clock. In my opinion, this is why we saw the Beatrice Cenci painting again right before Betty came to the door. Louise is now referring to the incest, and I believe she is taking on the role of Diane's mother figure, like Lorraine did. And Louise is wearing black, like Lorraine was before putting on the blue dress to symbolize the transition forced upon Diane that I talked about early. In the Beatrice Cenci story, the mother's name began with an "L," Lucrezia. So I believe that both Louise's and Lorraine's name begins with an "L" for that reason, and I believe that their long blonde hair is to show you that they are related to Diane, although they do not entirely represent her character. And the mother figure's anger ultimately drives out Diane, just as Adam was driven out of his home when he was representing Diane trying to go back home. Louise Bonner is unhappy that Betty is there, because as Diane's mother figure she had always wanted her out ever since she found Diane in her bedroom.
Moreover, I believe the complex character of Louise Bonner also represents a third person. In my view, the name "Bonner" comes from the Sam Peckinpah film, "Junior Bonner." I believe Lynch is making an ode here to the Peckinpah's use of psychologically intense character confrontations, with often violent endings. The scenes with the hit man and with Kenny the thug show the violent direction that Peckinpah is so well known for, but here we have the non-violent thread developed in the "Junior Bonner" film. The main character in the film was a rodeo cowboy who rides bulls and is past his prime. Louise Bonner is an actress past her prime in Coco's court of Hollywood hopefuls. What happens to actresses in Louise's state? If they have no life outside of Hollywood to return to, as Diane did not, they become a shell of their old selves, as Coco indicates that this "happens sometimes" with Louise. So Louise also represents the state of Diane's acting career, which was contributing to her depression. This reference to "Junior Bonner" becomes clearer as we head into the next scene, where we come upon an old rundown corral, just like where a rodeo might take place, with the skull of an old steer hanging from the gates entrance. The corral, like Diane's hopes for an acting career looks like it has been abandoned.
Adam arrives for his meeting with the Midnight Cowboy at the old beat up corral. It is a difficult meeting for Adam because the Cowboy is there to make him give in to the corrupt personas in Diane's mind that want Rita/Camilla dead. The Cowboy ridicules Adam by telling him things like, "You're too busy being a smart aleck to be thinkin'." At one point he says, "A man's attitude ... a man's attitude goes some ways to the way his life will be." Then at another point he says, "There's sometimes a buggy. How many drivers does a buggy have?" "One," Adam replies. To which the Cowboy says, "So let's just say I'm drivin' this buggy and if you fix your attitude, you can ride along with me." It becomes clearer what he is getting at when he says to Adam, "You must be a person who does not care about the good life." Adam, knowing that he wants the "good life," inevitably capitulates saying, "What do you want me to do?" What the Cowboy wants more than anything else is for Adam to say, "This is the Girl," when the fake Camilla Rhodes girl shows up for the part during auditions the next day. This will indicate that he agrees that she will play the lead in Diane's life story, instead of the old Camilla Rhodes character, who had the lead role before. If Adam gives into this, he can go back to living the "good life." Finally, the Cowboy says his most mysterious statement, "Now, you will see me one more time if you do good. You will see me two more times if you do bad. Good night." And then he walks off and disappears into the night.
It is both a very difficult scene and a very illuminating scene. The Cowboy seems to be a calm, soft-spoken type, but he has a dark malevolence to him that finally breaks down Adam's resistance. The Cowboy has the same type of no-eyebrow, death-like presence as the Mystery Man in Lynch's "Lost Highway." But the Cowboy is not Death personified. I've discussed before how the Cowboy is like Dorothy's scarecrow in a darker sense, the same way that Mr. Roque is like the Tinman and the Castigliane brothers are like the Lion. But in some ways, the Cowboy is more central than the others. He explains what is going on at a level that none of the others even attempt. As I mentioned before, Adam, like Betty, represents a side of Diane that is still somewhat innocent. A side that believes in the Hollywood enterprise so much, that, like Diane, he falls in love with a person like Camilla who so personifies the image-over-substance Hollywood conceit. But Adam is being told that if he wants the good life, he is going to have to let the jaded and darker figures in Diane's life take over. The personas who want to be rid of the real Camilla want to be in the driver's seat. When you connect this to the idea that Diane probably chose to get out of poverty and embrace the "good life" by becoming a call girl, then the same corrupt thinking is convincing her director persona to agree with the "this is the girl" statement that spells doom for Camilla.
Yet, in a malevolent way, the Midnight Cowboy and his ominous partners are only doing what they think is in the best interests of Diane. The Cowboy explains that he believes Diane's sad life is the result of a sad attitude. Since Diane believes more in Camilla than in herself, Camilla is the one becoming the star. To them, the logical solution to this is to get rid of Camilla. In their view, if Camilla stays, then Diane is doomed. The Cowboy's last statement about one or two more visits explains this when you look at what happens at the end of the fantasy. He enters Diane's room smiling, saying to the "Pretty Girl" in the bed that it is time to wake up. But it is not Diane in the bed, it is Rita/Camilla. In the Cowboy's logic this is bad. Or, more to the point, something bad happens because of it. Diane is still obsessed on Rita/Camilla because she is in her bed. The wrong woman is in the room, just as Louise Bonner had told us earlier. There are going to be terrible consequences because of this. The scene fades out, and then back in. The Cowboy is now appearing for the second time and he is no longer smiling. As he leaves the second time, we now see on the bed the image of the Diane Selwyn from the dream, and she is dead and the fantasy comes to an end. I will explain in more what the implications of this later scene is and what it was that caused the Cowboy to be seen twice when we get to that scene below.
In this scene it is morning time, and the Hollywood sign shows up once again very prominently. Betty's quest for stardom is in full swing as she rehearses her lines with Rita for her big audition. The script they are reading is very revealing in more than one way. Because of her fantasy's logic, The Sylvia North Story script is really about Diane's life story. Initially, we get subtle clues in the script about the relationship between Diane and Camilla. Later the same script gives us clues about the relationship between Diane and her grandfather who we finally learn must be the abusive father figure, the called her father's best friend.
The first line is from Betty. She says, "You're still here?" To which Rita replies, "I came back. I thought that's what you wanted." In an angry voice Betty answers back, "Nobody wants you here!" At this point in the scene the camera moves to a position to show you that Camilla is reading a script. Before that point, it was not clear that they were rehearsing lines, and it would have been possible to think they were actually in a real conversation. By putting on this brief but fake conversation, Lynch is asking us to think about those lines. They are coming from somewhere. Although they are not the words that the Betty persona would like to be said between the two of them, other aspects of Betty's mind would very much like this conversation to happen between Betty and Rita. They want to be rid of Rita/Camilla, and through the script they have found a way to briefly show themselves.
Another issue that I have alluded to earlier is that the scene shows that Betty takes acting seriously, while apparently Rita does not. Yet, once again, it is Rita who is wearing the glamorous red and black robe, while Betty is in a cheap pink one. Even though Rita says that Betty is very good, that hasn't made a difference in the real Diane's life. Camilla will always beat Diane out for big roles because image is more important than talent. And this fact is not lost on Diane, or her Betty persona, because Betty will take a chapter out of Rita/Camilla's book when she performs in the audition.
Next, the scene jumps a little bit ahead in the morning. Coco, comes to the door and notices Rita for the first time. When Coco asks Rita who she is, Rita says, "Uh, Betty…" In the context of her response, she is calling Betty to have her deal with Coco. But in a literal sense Rita is Betty, since they both are just personas of Diane. When Betty comes out of the kitchen, Coco is frowning. She does not approve of Rita. Coco asks Betty to go outside so that they can talk. In the conversation Coco let's Betty know that she spoke with the aunt on the phone and the aunt doesn't want Rita there. Betty tries to cover for Rita, saying that the aunt misunderstood in their earlier conversation about Rita. And besides, Betty further argues, Rita is "very nice." To this Coco says, "Honey, you're a good kid. But what you're telling me is a load of horse puckey, even though it comes from a good place. Now I'm going to trust you to sort this thing out." This allows Betty to keep Rita from being kicked out, but Coco does add, "Don't make me out to be a sucker. Louise Bonner said there's trouble in there. Remember last night? Well… Sometimes she's wrong, but if there is trouble - get rid of it." With that, Coco leaves, and Betty goes back inside to reassure Rita that she is not abandoning her.
The message in the dialogue with Coco is clear. Coco does not believe that Betty is right about Rita. She thinks she's trouble and that means she should get rid of her. That puts Coco in line with all of the other personas that have been out to get Rita. But Betty is holding out. She still wants to protect Rita from an increasingly hostile dream world.
In this scene, we see men driving around who appear to be undercover police or undercover mobsters who are searching for Rita. Betty has her safely inside of Aunt Ruth's apartment, and so she heads off to her audition in a yellow cab. When she arrives at the office of her aunt's friend, Wally Brown, she finds that he has invited the director and many others to come see her audition for the part. The director's name is Bob Brooker, and the actor who has been hired to play opposite her is named Woody Katz. Among the others there, there is a red head woman named Linney James who is a very successful casting agent, with her black clad assistant named Nicki. Before Betty and Woody do the scene, Bob at first says he has nothing to say, and then he offers some advice nevertheless. He says, "It's not a contest. The two of them with themselves … so don't play it for real until it gets real." Everyone looks confused and unimpressed at this. Then Woody says with a smirk on his face, "Just tell me where it hurts, baby." And then he looks at the director and says, "Hey Bobby, I want to play this one nice and close. Like we did with that other girl, uh, what's her name? The one with the black hair. That felt kinda good. Whaddya think?" The director then says, "That's good, Woody. Just don't rush that line again. I told you... the line where you say, 'Before what?'" And Woody responds, "Bobby, acting is reacting." Then after explaining why it is always the other person's fault when he rushes the line, Woody says to Betty, "Betty, look, you don't rush it, I don't rush it, okay? Now, we're gonna play this nice and close, just like in the movies. Okay? … Dad's best friend goes to work."
Even before the acting starts, there are many issues to learn from this scene. First off, we find a red haired successful Hollywood agent. In my view, this is Diane giving us our closest look yet of how she remembered her aunt when she was alive. The woman is described by Wally in glowing terms, "Now our surprise guest, Linney James. Alas, we can't afford her to cast our show. But, well, as casting agents go, she is the best." Wally emphasizes her successfulness twice, explaining that she gets paid more than they can afford, and stating that she is the best. We know that this is what Diane probably believed about her aunt, and it seems a little bit over the top and not necessarily true. Another interesting feature of this scene is Linney's assistant, Nicki. She is dressed completely in black like a person of power, although she is only an assistant. The reason for this becomes clear when we notice that her jet-black hair and the way it is styled along with her thick black glasses, makes her a female double of Adam. Adam is the one whom Diane has chosen to be the persona who directs the re-casting of her life story, so we know that Diane admired Adam in real life and probably thought she would have chosen to be like him if she had not decided to become an actress. So it seems evident then that she is identifying with Nicki as well. Nicki is where she might have been if only her aunt had lived and Diane had been able to work with her aunt. The fact that Diane is using such an idealized image of her aunt and her assistant should warn us that the outcome of the audition will not be a true to life account. Instead, this is the audition as she would have wanted it to be, since we do find out later from the party conversation in the reality portion of the film that in real life this audition was a flop for Diane.
The next character that appears to have some important symbolic significance is Woody. Like the family jewels in an earlier scene, with Woody we again have a slang term for the sex organ of a man. And when you add this to the fact that Woody starts off his interaction with Betty with let's-play-doctor jokes like, "Just tell me where it hurts, baby," it should come as no surprise that with Woody, we are entering into Diane's sexual abuse territory. This means that when Woody says things like, "you don't rush it, I don't rush it," we have to consider that maybe this is what Diane's father figure said during the acts of incest. And when Woody says, "Dad's best friend goes to work," we have to consider that maybe he is saying that the best friend of a father figure is his penis. As I said earlier, the script gives us clues both about Diane's relationship with Camilla and her relationship with her grandfather. And this audition scene especially focuses on her the issue of her relationship with the father figure who is her grandfather.
There is one other issue in the subtext that we should consider before we look at what is in the script. There is a clear implication being made when Woody says, "Hey Bobby, I want to play this one nice and close. Like we did with that other girl, uh, what's her name? The one with the black hair. That felt kinda good. Whaddya think?" The girl with black hair that liked playing it really close was probably a memory from Diane's real life. And during the real life dinner scene, Diane told us that Camilla won the role instead of her. So the clear implication is that Camilla was the one who liked to play it close. In fact, she seems to have been the only one who wanted to play it close since the issue stood out in everyone's mind, and this tells us a lot about Camilla. As we see when Betty has to play it close, it turns into a hot sexual scene, and this is the first time we are getting a clear indication that this is how Camilla gets parts. She plays it very hot and very sexual, and she is very successful. No wonder then that when Diane revisits this traumatic event in her life through her fantasy, Betty decides to play the scene the way Camilla did. And sure enough, she gets the same reaction. The scene that Betty called "lame" when she rehearsed it with Rita in Aunt Ruth's apartment, now has become hot and heavy. As we have seen all along, Diane's innocent Betty persona believes in Camilla passionately. And so she cannot help but try to relive her life in Camilla's image.
The following is how David Lynch's script describes the scene:
Betty and Woody start the scene. It is very difficult for
Betty as Woody has her in an absurd clench now.
You're still here?
I came back. I thought that's what you wanted.
Woody plays this with a big lecherous smile. He gives the
last part of the line across her cheek up to her ear.
Nobody wants you here.
Betty uses the anger of this line to push herself away from
Woody. Woody reaches out and grabs her wrist.
Betty pulls her hand away and stands her ground.
My parents are right upstairs! They
think you've left.
Woody smiles broadly and moves again toward Betty.
So ... surprise!
Betty pushes him back.
I can call them... I can call my dad.
But you won't.
He grabs Betty by the wrist again and pulls her in to him.
He puts his hand on her waist and it accidentally slips and
keeps going down her hips. He jerks his hand back. Betty
looks down and sees Woody's hand hovering above her thigh.
Betty takes her hand and gently presses down on Woody's hand.
She slowly looks up with the most seductive smile. Woody
lets his hand rest more firmly on her thigh, and squeezes her
thigh as he sees her smile. With his other hand Woody gently
pulls her closer. Something has started coming over Betty
and she catches the drift of this scene in a different way.
She's surprising herself.
(almost a hot whisper)
You're playing a dangerous game here. If you're trying
to blackmail me... it's not going to work.
Woody now surprises himself. He becomes almost tender and
genuinely worked up from the heat coming off Betty.
You know what I want...it's not that difficult.
Where the scene should turn to anger from Betty it can't now
and Betty plays it as she feels it. She stays in very close
to Woody - looking him right in the eyes.
(whispering desperately -
Get out... Get out before I call my dad.
He trusts you... you're his best friend.
(her arms go around him)
This will be the end of everything.
Woody gets lost. He doesn't know where he is anymore. He
can only see Betty's eyes.
What about you? What will your dad think about you?
Betty still playing it in a dreamy whisper... lost in heat.
Stop... stop it. That's what you said
from the beginning. If I tell them what
happened... they'll arrest you and put
you in jail. So get out of here… before...
(caught by her transfixing,
sultry eyes, and almost
breathless ... he finds himself
taking an extra long pause)
As scripted Betty pretends to pull the knife from behind her
back, but wraps the knife around behind Woody and pulls him
into a kiss.
(as she kisses him - whispers)
Before… I kill you.
Woody panics and pushes Betty away with his hands on her
shoulders as if forcing himself to come out of a trance. He
finally is able to say his line.
Well, then they'd put you in jail.
As scripted Betty is supposed to cry now and it is very easy
for her to do this because she's ashamed at how the sex of
the scene took her over. Tears begin running down her
cheeks. She backs away.
I hate you... I hate us both!
She pretends to drop the knife. The scene ends.
At the end of the scene, everyone is amazed with Betty's performance, except Bob, the director. In fact, the director may not have been paying too close attention because he appears to have been reading the script during the audition. He starts off by saying, "Very good. Really." But then he adds a more ambiguous comment, "I mean it was forced maybe, but still humanistic. Yeah, very good. Really. Really." Like everything else he has said up to this point, his comments don't appear to be especially insightful. But when we deal with the content of the dialogue, the director may have a valid point after all. When you take the script somewhat literally, the scene seems to be about a girl who is sexually involved with someone who is sneaking into the house under the nose of the parents. The person seems to be the best friend of the father, and could easily be a relative. And the person seems to have kept the girl from telling anyone by convincing her that if she does tell, her relationship with her father will be destroyed. The girl has become unstable because of the sexual abuse, and she is becoming both suicidal and homicidal.
The literal reading by itself is an indication that Diane is remembering some type of sexual abuse in her past when she plays out this scene. But when we deal with the symbolism involved, we learn even more. In the dialogue we are told that the mother and the father are upstairs, and I believe this to be a reference to the two of them being in heaven. And her threats to call on the father I believe to be an indication that the father was very close to her abuser and so calling on his memory would be damaging to the abuser. And since the grandparents' persecution Diane at the end of the film involves forcing her onto her bed, the grandfather is the most likely one who would have been close to the father, and who would have become the father figure after the mother and father's death. If the grandfather was the abuser, we can assume that he was the biological father of her father because of what is implied here. Yet, calling on the father's memory was a risky move for Diane because the grandfather could claim anything he wanted to about his son. He says to her, "What about you? What will your dad think about you?" If he is implying that her dad would think of her as a slut, he could be arguing that her biological father would have engaged in the same sexual assault on her as the grandfather, thus destroying her connection to him even in death. To her the abuse rose to the level of being the "end of everything." So she threatens to kill her abuser, which we know actually happened in Beatrice Cenci's story where the abuser was the father. But Diane goes further, and threatens even to kill herself.
With this as the backdrop to Diane's life, we can argue that Bob's, "it was forced maybe," could be seen as a comment on the sexual abuse and not on Betty's acting. But we do know from what Diane says in the reality portion of the film, that Bob was not impressed with her acting. And we know that she did not get the chance to play the lead in The Sylvia North Story, which I believe so closely mirrored her own life story. This was devastating to her, and now she seems to be rewriting that portion of her life by using Rita/Camilla's sensual performance instead of her own performance that we saw in Aunt Ruth's kitchen. Linney, the stand-in for Aunt Ruth, is so impressed she immediately recruits Betty for her latest casting project. But before she takes Betty to this new project, she takes a few digs at Wally's production, saying, "God, that was awful." Betty is stunned, thinking that she was referring to her audition. But Linney explains that she was talking about Wally's production of The Sylvia North Story. Linney says that Wally is past his prime and the film will never get made. And Nicki adds, "And the cast I hear so far is terrible." Which Linney agrees with by saying, "Oh, God, terrible!" And she even goes so far as to say, "That poor old fool Wally." In the reality portion of Lynch's film we learn that the film was indeed made, so we know that these digs most likely represent what Diane would like to believe rather than the truth. In Diane's mind, the movie would have been done better had Adam been the director, and, of course, if she had been the star. And so, as they leave one audition that represented Bob Brooker's incompetent casting of The Sylvia North Story in a little office, Linney takes Betty to Adam's casting of The Sylvia North Story. Adam's audition happens on a glamorous movie set in a wonderful sound stage, the way it should have been done, as far as Diane is concerned
As Linney walks Betty over to Adam's audition, she says, "Now we want to take you across and introduce you to a director who's a head above the rest. He's got a project that you will kill!" Since The Sylvia North Story is all about Diane's life, this is a premonition that Diane will kill herself, and we will see a premonition like this again. But Betty is a little startled by the use of the word "kill" and so Linney rephrases her statement by saying, "Knock it right out of the park."
This scene starts off on the set of Adam's version of The Sylvia North Story. Clearly, he's making Diane's life story a musical, with the lead actress in a sparkling pink sequined top in this scene. Perfect for the pink clad innocence of Betty with her musical Jitterbug claim to fame. The actress auditioning now is someone who we were told earlier is one of the six top actresses. Her name is Carol, and she's lip-synching to the song "Sixteen Reasons" by Connie Stevens.
This is all much more impressive than what we saw in Wally's office, and I think it is important to state once more that this has very little to do with how The Sylvia North Story movie was really made. In the reality portion of Lynch's film, we are explicitly told that Bob Brooker was the director of The Sylvia North Story, and we are told this while Adam is sitting across the table and he doesn't complain. He had nothing to do with The Sylvia North Story. But after Camilla starred in The Sylvia North Story, we are told that she apparently got a number of other leading roles, and in some of them she helped Diane get small parts. It is in one of the last of those later films in which Camilla stars, that Adam directs. We find this out in one of Diane's reality flashbacks. And in that flashback we see the same props and background scenery that we see in Diane's fantasy of how Adam would have made The Sylvia North Story. Some reviewers have mistakenly suggested that this means Adam really did direct The Sylvia North Story, or that Diane's reality flashback was mistaken. But on the contrary, Diane's flashback was accurate, but her fantasy's depiction of The Sylvia North Story is not. She brings into her imagination things that come from the more current events in her life, and that includes some of the props from the show Adam is currently making. Clearly she is impressed with Adam, having used him so prominently in her fantasy, and so she wants all of his impressive sets to be in her fantasy's recreation of her own life story.
In Diane's fantasy, as Carol continues to pretend to sing "Sixteen Reasons," Betty walks into the set with Linney and Nicki. As she walks in, Adam turns and looks at her from his director's chair. As their eyes meet, there is clearly a strong connection between them. The music in the background goes through the following verses as the connection lasts:
(Thirteen) The way you thrill my heart
(Fourteen) Your voice so neat
(Fifteen) You say we'll never part
(Sixteen) Our love's complete
Those are all of the sixteen reasons why I (why I) love you
It is as though Adam immediately recognizes that she is the one who is right for this part, and possibly for his life as well. Yet since he represents the persona that is directing Diane’s fantasy version of her life story, we can say that this important part of Diane’s psyche really loves the Betty part of herself and wishes she could bring that aspect of herself into the limelight. But for terrible reasons this cannot happen, and the show must go on, so Adam does not do anything about this reaction. As the singing stops he goes and talks to Carol, who loves the role and really wants the part. He compliments her nicely but is noncommittal and then he goes back to his chair. While lighting a cigarette, he asks who's next, and is told, "Camilla Rhodes." He is briefly shaken, remembering what the Cowboy told him from the night before. He asks them to bring her in, and then blows a circular ring of smoke as the following announcement is made over the sound system, "Sylvia North Story, Camilla Rhodes, Take One."
As the fake Camilla takes the stage, this time the song being lip-synched is "I've Told Every Little Star" by Linda Scott. Adam tells someone to get Jason, an official involved in the casting who had told Adam to go see the Cowboy. After making Jason wait a little while, Adam tells Jason, "This is the girl." Ray, the one who reports to Mr. Roque, is listening as he stands behind Jason somewhat in the shadows and very close to Jason's shoulder. After Adam says the required line, Ray comes out of the shadows and out from behind Jason as he says, "Excellent choice, Adam." Adam looks somewhat saddened, and right at that moment Betty begins to look worried. She looks disappointed, and as she looks at her watch she says, "Oh my goodness." At this point Adam turns around and they look into each other's eyes again. This time there is sadness in both of their eyes as the following lyrics play in the background:
Maybe, you may love me too
Oh my darling, if you do
Why haven't you told me?
This is a question for Diane in her Adam persona, and the question is why hasn’t she been true to her Betty persona if it is so important to her? After this, Diane says to Linney and Nicki, "I have to be somewhere. I… I promised a friend. I'm sorry, I must go now." And then she turns and literally runs out of the studio with Adam's eyes still on her. His expression is especially regretful now.
This scene is a momentous one for the Betty persona. She had been intending to be the new one to play the lead in Adam's production, and clearly Adam wanted her to do so as well. But Adam, who seemed to be her ally at the beginning when he resisted the corrupt personas, has been intimidated and no longer can fight the dark forces in Diane's life. Diane's mind is still conflicted, but it does ultimately choose a substitute for Camilla Rhodes to play the part instead of Betty. In a sense, the part of her that is angry at Camilla and that had her eliminated is still obsessed with Camilla Rhodes, but now the obsession just involves replacing her with another version of Camilla Rhodes. And since Diane's mind is ruled by her obsessions, Betty is also obsessed with Camilla in a defensive way that is focused on the persona of Rita. The "This is the girl" personas want to remove and replace Camilla with someone who looks more like Diane, but who is not a sweet innocent persona like Betty. On the other side stands the innocence of Betty, which portrays her obsession as true love for Camilla. Yet, at the audition, Betty clearly loses, although the director feels terrible about it. Diane has essentially chosen the corrupt path over the path of innocence. The path that leads to murder over the path that was supposed to lead to love. However, both paths also included a desire to incorporate Camilla's sensual power into Diane's life, so in the end, neither path was completely innocent.
This scene begins with Betty and Rita both getting into a yellow cab and heading over to where "D. Selwyn" lives, at 2590 Sierra Bonita. As they get there Rita sees two men with dark glasses on in a car who she thinks are looking for her so she ducks down and Betty tells the cab to drive them around to the back. They get out and go in the back entrance. They come to a board that lists all of the residents of the apartments, and it says that D. Selwyn is in Apt. 12. It also says that L. J. DeRosa is in Apt. 17. So they head to apartment 12. As they are walking there Rita sees another man with dark glasses and so she hides behind some bushes and pulls Betty down with her. Then they see that the person was just a driver for a woman with red hair that looks like yet another image of Aunt Ruth. Just like Aunt Ruth at the beginning of the fantasy, the woman is loading luggage into her car to go on a trip. We see the numbers 2904 nearby her car.
I believe this encounter with an Aunt Ruth doppelganger is significant in that it tells us that Diane still wants her aunt there to guide her. Unfortunately, like the woman in this scene her aunt has already packed and left. In Diane's fantasy the Aunt just went north, and I believe the 2904 near her car is showing that her car is headed to a higher number than the 2590 where Betty is. The higher number in this case would represent the northern direction. Or if we consider that Diane may be coming to terms with her aunt's death, the direction north and the higher number here might represent that Diane understands her aunt to be in heaven.
After seeing that there is no danger, Betty and Ruth proceed on to Apartment 12. There, Diane knocks on the door, although Rita doesn't want her to do so. At first it seems that no one is home, but then the door does open and a woman comes out. Betty asks her if she is Diane, and she says, "Number 17." To this Betty replies, "But it said Number 12?" The woman looks off for a moment like she is thinking about how much to tell them, and then she just says, "I switched apartments with her. She's in 17." At this point Rita looks at the woman as though she recognizes her. And the woman, who we now know must be DeRosa, looks back at Rita like she too recognizes Rita but she disapproves. Because of the disapproval Rita looks down, and Betty looks at her as if she's trying to figure out what's going on. DeRosa says, "It's down at the end, on the left… But she hasn't been around for a few days." To this, Diane says, "Oh. We'll leave her a note." And DeRosa replies, "I'll go with you... She's still got some of my stuff. " To this idea both Betty and Rita look a little uncomfortable, but there doesn't appear to be anything that they can do about it. And then a phone rings inside of DeRosa's apartment. So DeRosa says, "You go ahead, I got to get that." And Betty and Rita proceed on alone.
I've explained in my chronological telling of Diane Selwyn's life story, that I believe DeRosa was a neighbor who switched apartments with Diane out of compassion. I believe she saw Diane get depressed after Rita moved out as Diane's roommate while Diane was living in Apartment 12. The therapist that Diane was seeing may have suggested she get a new apartment to distance herself from the painful memories in #12, or Diane may have just decided this on her own. But either way, DeRosa probably agreed to the switch for Diane's sake only. This then would explain why DeRosa looked at Rita with some disdain. It would also explain why DeRosa wanted to go with them, because as I see it, DeRosa could be reaching out to Betty and trying to protect her from Rita. But Betty/Diane does not want to be protected, so Diane, the dreamer, causes the phone to ring.
As Betty and Rita proceed to number 17, Betty takes Rita's arm as if to signify that she will not let DeRosa come in between them, just as she has been protecting her from other personas. When they knock on the door for Apartment 17, there is no answer at all this time. So Betty walks around to a side window to see if she can open it. One window is unlocked and Betty opens it and then asks Rita to help her in. Reluctantly Rita helps her, and Diane gets in and opens the front door so she and Rita can go in. Once inside they are forced to hold their noses because there is a terrible smell. As they make their way to the bedroom they find a corpse there which they assume to be Diane Selwyn. The dead person was killed by what appeared to be shot gun blasts, which left many holes in the mattress. Rita is extremely distraught, and after DeRosa comes back and looks for them for a little while out in the courtyard and then finally leaves, Betty and Rita run out of the apartment with Rita terrified, silently screaming and hiding her face in her hands.
The dead body was in Diane's bedroom but the hair is a little too long and too dark for it to be Diane's hair. I am convinced that the Diane Selwyn who is dead we see in the fantasy is something of a mixture between Betty and Rita. And although Betty doesn't yet accept this, Rita certainly seems to. And the thought that she is headed for death terrifies her.
In this scene, Rita has her head in a sink as she is trying to cut her hair while she's crying. Betty grabs her hand and says, "I know what you're doing." She takes the scissors out of Rita's hand and puts them on a blue book called "Tout Paris: The Source Guide to The Art of French Decoration." Then she looks Rita in the eyes and says, "I know what you have to do… But let me do it." Rather than cutting her hair, Betty creates a new look for Rita by putting a blonde wig on her. The wig's short blonde bangs transforms Rita into a doppelganger of Betty/Diane.
The issue that the Rita persona feels so desperate about is that she is going to be killed, or more accurately, eliminated. Rita has been worried about this issue throughout the entire fantasy. In fact, the fantasy started with an attempt to assassinate her. And it seems to have become progressively clearer that she is a dangerous persona that has been leading Diane into a self-destructive state. In some ways the Rita persona is the opposite of the Betty persona, and in some ways she is just the natural progression from the one to the other. Since Betty represents Diane's innocence, in some ways Rita represents the darker sexual side of Diane that is willing to be a corrupted commodity that is bought and sold, filled with selfish ambition. In this, Betty and Rita are opposites, and Rita is seen as a force leading to Diane's destruction. In another sense, Rita is just the more womanly and glamorous sexual persona that the girlish Betty persona aspires to grow to become. This is natural because, as indicated by Betty's pinkish sweater that was too small, the Betty persona is a representation of Diane's childhood innocence, it she must inevitably seek to mature in an uncorrupted form of sexual expression. The confusion of the two sides of the Rita cause extremely different reactions from Diane's various personas. Some see her as the negative force in Diane's life that must be eliminated. Coco represents these voices when she says, "If there is trouble - get rid of it." On the other hand, Betty sees a Rita who has no memory of Camilla's negative behavior. In Betty's mind she is uncorrupted and a persona worthy of Betty's love and admiration. However, Betty's view is not a very popular one when it comes to Rita.
All the other personas that Rita has come into contact with want to get rid of her, except Betty. Betty thinks like Diane did at first, that she can embrace Rita/Camilla and become the kind of success at Hollywood that a mature woman like Rita can become. But will Betty's naiveté last if she is exposed to what the real Camilla was like? The Rita persona knows that the reason she is a target has something to do with her Camilla image, and therefore she is looking to change her image before it is too late. That is why we see the French blue book on redecorating, because after all, it offers a discussion on how to transform an image. The book is also a blue object, so it indicates some type of transition from one state to another. However, Rita/Camilla is Spanish, while Betty/Diane is from Canada where the French language and culture is more accessible. So the French book seems to suggest that Betty/Diane would have Rita/Camilla change her ethnic and cultural identity as well as other more external attributes, like the hair that Rita initially was going to cut shorter. Betty and Rita both understand that there needs to be a change in image if Rita is to survive, but when Betty offers to help what she does is focus on using makeup and a wig to create only a cosmetic change, and therefore not making the change permanent. Even though Betty understands why Rita has to change and how to do it, she still wants the same Rita to survive underneath it all, as we shall see in the next scene. But even if the change is only an illusion to some degree, it is a dramatic one. Rita becomes a doppelganger of Betty. The Betty and the Rita personas appear to be merging. And this is happening in more ways than one, because even as Rita is changing to look more like Betty, Betty is also changing. Betty is losing some of her innocence as she is being influenced by what Rita represents. Examples of the changes to Betty include her lying to Coco, her willingness to get sexual with Woody, and even her breaking into Diane's apartment. Apparently, Betty is learning to stop at nothing to achieve her goals.
In this scene we find Betty in bed by herself with her pink pajamas on as Rita comes in to say good night. Betty immediately asks Rita to take off the blonde wig she still has on. Rita has nothing else on except a red towel that she has wrapped around herself, apparently after taking a shower. Rita had been planning on sleeping on the couch, but Betty convinces her that they should share the bed. As Rita comes over to the bed, she takes the wig off and looks at herself in the mirror fixing her hair. There are a bunch of hats hanging around the mirror, one of which is a cowboy hat. Then Rita comes over to the side of the bed and takes off her towel. She is totally nude as she gets under the covers. The sheets of the bed are blue.
I think it is best to make some comments at this point in the scene. Right before this scene we saw that Rita has begun trying to become more like Betty in order to protect herself. This is a switch from the real life situation where Diane has been trying to become more like Camilla in order to be more successful in Hollywood. However that strategy led to obsession and corruption in Diane's life, which caused her to grow homicidal when Camilla begins to leave Diane behind. The reverse strategy must be understood to be in the context of the real life Diane whose mind is coming up with this fantasy. Diane understands that she has gone too far with her obsession over Rita/Camilla, and so she is trying to reform the Rita persona back toward the innocence of Betty. However, there are obvious questions about how successful that approach can be when the Betty persona is clearly still so obsessed with the Rita/Camilla persona that she cannot let it go altogether. In fact, in this scene, the Betty persona is asking the Rita persona to take off the wig and get in bed so she can get back together with the Rita persona who looks like Camilla whom she loves so much.
Another interesting issue to note in this scene so far is that there is a cowboy hat over the mirror in the bedroom. This is where we get our first indication that the Cowboy has some relationship to Diane's bedroom. We shall see another example of this issue before the end of the fantasy, and it apparently indicates that the Cowboy, like Mr. Roque and the Castigliane brothers, plays the role of some type of John for Diane. The last thing we should note here is that the blue bed sheets indicate that some type of transition will be occurring in this scene.
Once Rita has entered the bed with Betty, she looks at her lovingly. Betty who has invited Rita into her bed keeps her eyes off of Rita's eyes. Then Rita says, "Thank you Betty." And Betty replies, "It's nothing. I shouldn't have let you sleep on the couch last night." Then Rita explains that Betty misunderstood, "No, I mean thank you for everything." To which Betty answers, "You're welcome." Clearly Betty's mind is on the fact that Rita is in bed with her, while Rita's mind was initially on all of the ways that Betty has helped her. To me, this is first indication that it is Betty, not Rita, who is the most focused on the issue of the two of them being in bed together and what that means.
After looking at Betty for a little while, Rita says to her, "Good night sweet Betty." Then Rita leans over and kisses Betty on the forehead. Immediately Betty moves her face over to attempt to kiss Rita on the lips, and then she hesitates. It is as though she realizes that Rita's kiss on the forehead wasn't necessarily an attempt to make out with Betty, it may have just been another attempt of Rita's to show her overwhelming gratitude to Betty. But as they look each other in the eyes, it is now clear that Betty wants to go much further and Rita is willing. Betty says, "Good night," as their lips come even closer together. Then Betty goes ahead and kisses Rita. Rita responds and they begin to make out. As their passion grows, Rita takes off Betty's top. There is some more kissing, and then Betty says, "Have you ever done this before?" "I don't know," Rita responds, "Have you?" The kissing continues as Betty says, "I want to with you." They continue to make out, caressing each other now, and increasing the passion still further. Finally, Betty says in a heated whisper, "I'm in love with you." And after more passionate kissing she says again, "I'm in love with you." As they continue to make love, and the scene begins to fade, Rita is silent. She never claims to feel a reciprocal love for Betty.
As the scene fades back in with Betty and Rita in bed together, we notice that they are holding hands. The camera moves up to where we see Betty's head behind Rita's head. The camera is positioned so that we see the left half of Betty's face in the background out of focus but on top of the right half of Rita's face. Their features are lined up almost perfectly. The perspective makes it appear that the two faces have merged together into one face, in a technique reminiscent of a similar shot from Ingmar Bergman's "Persona." Then suddenly, with her eyes still closed, Rita says softly, "Silencio. Silencio. Silencio." Then she says, "No hay banda. No hay banda. No hay orchestra." As she is saying this, her eyes open in a trance-like state. Then her voice gets louder as she goes back to repeating, "Silencio," over and over again. This wakes up Betty. Rita seems to be talking in her sleep, so Betty says, "Rita. Rita. Rita wake up." "Huh… No," Rita replies, her eyes still looking up entranced, and not looking at Betty. "It's okay," Betty says. "No, it's not okay," Rita replies, still not looking at Betty. Betty then asks, "What's wrong?" Rita answers, "Go with me somewhere," still not looking at Betty. Betty says, "It's 2 o'clock. It's 2 o'clock in the morning." Finally, Rita turns and faces her, and then she says emphatically, "Go with me somewhere." Betty relents, "Sure… Now?" There is a wild look in Rita's eyes as she says, "Right Now!"
I believe it is important to note that this scene begins with the image of the two of them merged together, and then Rita enters into some type of trance that creates a tension that interferes with the image of their merged personas. It was Betty who invited Rita to bed. It was Betty who professed love for Rita. Rita has not been the force primarily behind the merging of their personas, but yet here she is the one who begins to challenge it. Ever since Betty meets with Rita in the fantasy, there is a type of energy between them that seems directed toward their ultimate union. Yet Betty makes statements about the depth and sincerity of this union that we never hear from Rita. The same probably can be said about the relationship between Diane and Camilla before their breakup. So, as this scene comes to an end, we have found that even after one of the implicit goals of the fantasy has been reached, namely the merging of the Betty and Rita personas, some unresolved tension still exist. Although it is still unclear why, the tension must have something to do with the Spanish words Rita was chanting. Translated, what Rita said was, "Silence," "There is no band," and, "There is no orchestra." And, whereas Betty pushed for the merger between the two of them, it turns out to be Rita who demands that the issues involved with the tension be addressed, even at 2 o'clock in the morning.
In this scene we first see Betty and Rita outside on a street corner flagging down a cab. They are not on the beautiful street where Aunt Ruth lived anymore. And the cab that picks them up isn't yellow this time. It is much darker. And Betty isn't wearing pink, or even light blue, anymore. In fact, her blouse is red for the first time. Rita has on her blonde wig, and she is wearing all black. In fact, Rita's dress is reminiscent of the all black dress she wore at the beginning of the fantasy, although it is a different style. The cab ride to Club Silencio is a gritty affair. Betty and Rita sit silently and they seem sad. They see the lights and buildings of the city from strange angles, they see unfinished areas of the city, and most of all everything is dark and not very Oz-like any more. When they finally arrive at the front of the club, the camera shot is from far off in an empty parking lot, and we zoom in on them as they enter the door. The camera focuses in on blue lights just inside the door as they step out of view.
By hailing a cab from a street corner, by using a cab that is not yellow, and by viewing the city from grim and unflattering points of view, we become aware that something fundamental has changed. Betty's innocence is not so obvious in her red and black outfit and Rita does not look as lost in her sleeveless black gown. Clearly, reality is beginning to force its way into Diane's fantasy, even before they get inside of Club Silencio.
Inside Club Silencio is a grand theater with a large stage and tall red curtains. The seats and some of the walls of the theater are also red. As Betty and Rita walk down the aisle to their seats, a performance begins. A man dressed in a black suit with a silver shirt and tie walks on stage, saying, "No hay banda." These are some of the same words that came from Rita. As he speaks, he motions with his hand and a wand appears. Clearly the man is a magician. He goes on to say in English, "There is no band!" Then in French he says, "Il n'y a pas d'orchestre" (There is no orchestra). Then using English again he says, "This is all a tape recording." Now in Spanish, "No hay banda." Then in English, "And yet… we hear a band."
All the red in this theatre indicates that there will probably be sexual themes addressed during the performance. Also, the fact that we see the Magician freely moving between English, Spanish and French, tells us that he has something to do with the merger between Betty and Rita, in the same way that the "Tout Paris" book raised those issues. We should also be aware of the fact that the nature of a magician is very similar to that of a wizard, and so, as I've mentioned before, we should be looking for parallels between this magician and the great wizard who lived in Oz.
The magician continues to speak with using all three languages. In English he says, "If we want to hear a clarinet… Listen." We hear the sound of a clarinet, although we see no one playing a clarinet. Then in French the magician says, "Un trombone a coulisse" (A slide trombone). And we hear the sound of a slide trombone playing. Next he says in Spanish, "Un trombone con sordina" (A muted trombone). And we hear the sound of a muted trombone playing. And now in French, "J'aime le son du trombone en sourdine" (I love the sound of a muted trombone). He throws his wand into the audience in excitement as he says in French, "Je le sens!" (I feel it). Now using English again, he says, "A muted… trumpet." We hear the sound of a muted trumpet as a trumpet player walks onto stage from behind the curtains. He looks like he is playing the notes we hear, but at some point he throws up his hands while still holding the trumpet, and yet the music continues. So we know that he was never really playing. "It's all recorded," the magician reemphasizes. "No hay banda! It is all … a tape," he goes on to say. Then the magician throws out his left hand to the left and a trumpet note sounds. Then he throws out his right hand to the right and a trumpet note sounds. Again, he does this with the left hand, and then he says, "Il n'y a pas d'orchestre. It is … an illusion." At this point he is standing close to and below a box seat in the balcony section and we notice for the first time that a woman with blue hair is in that seat. Then the magician says emphatically, "Listen!" As he puts he stretches his hands up, we hear thunder and see the flashes of apparent lightning. Then Betty starts shaking in her seat like she is out of control. She has a terrified look on her face and Rita tries to help her by putting her arms around her. But nothing helps. And when we see the face of the magician, there is a strained expression on his face as his body is tense and his hands stay stretched upward. Then, if we do what the magician told us to do and listen very carefully, we hear a grunt noise as he suddenly gets a relieved expression on his face and all the tension ends. At this same moment, the thundering stops and Betty is released from her spasm of shaking. After this, what can only be described as an evil grin comes over the magician's face and he crosses his arms over his chest like a body in a casket as blue smoke comes up from the ground and covers him. Then he vanishes.
The magician's performance was anything but subtle. He emphasized again and again that something was not what it seemed. The message was clearly a warning that you must not believe in appearances. It may sound like a clarinet, but it is not a clarinet. It may sound like a trombone or a trumpet, but it isn't one of those either. It is only a tape, a recording, an illusion. Don't believe in it. But what is the thing that should not be believed? The easy answer would be that it is the fantasy itself which should not be believed, or perhaps it is the Hollywood enterprise which is deceitful. And although these are both certainly part of the answer, they are peripheral to the central truth to which the magician is hinting. The key clue to his revelation is that the false thing should not be believed whether it is speaking in English, in Spanish or in French. Two scenes before this one, we saw the blue French book symbolically point out that an effort was being made to hide Rita’s ethnic identity. Rita is Spanish, and now she is trying to use Betty’s connections to English and French culture in an attempt to remake herself so as to hide the fact that she still represents the Spanish Camilla who is so hated in Diane’s mind. But the magician is revealing that the change is not going to work, because it is just a change in image and not in substance. The Rita persona cannot escape the fact that she is only inside of Diane’s fantasy because Diane is obsessed with Camilla. And that fact leads to some very dark consequences.
Camilla, whom Rita is a link to in Diane's mind, is the one who actually got the part for The Sylvia North Story in real life by turning on fake passion with which everyone was impressed. Camilla is the sensual seductress that has convinced some people that she is a great actress when in fact Diane sees that Camilla's sexual image is beating out better actresses because image is more important than substance in Hollywood. And it is Camilla who has made people like Diane and Adam fall in love with her because of her seductiveness even when it is clear that she is running around with other people at the same time. So if seduction is simply a performance to Camilla, then love must be an illusion. When Betty expressed her love for Rita, what was her response? Silence. Silencio. No matter how much the innocent persona of Diane tried to believe in the Rita persona, the truth is that the Rita persona is a lie.
The truth is that Camilla was never devoted to Diane the way Betty was devoted to Rita. Camilla's primary focus had always been on her career, she never cared about Diane's career. But Camilla did enjoy seeing how much Diane revered her. She enjoyed having Diane see her get big parts. She enjoyed having Diane see her seduce her leading men as their leading lady. And she enjoyed having Diane see her seduce the recently divorced director named Adam. And then when Adam fell in love with her like so many others did, Camilla wanted Diane there to see Adam fawn all over her and then announce their engagement. Camilla did enjoy having sex with Diane, but unfortunately for Diane, she could get that thrill from so many other fans of hers, men and woman. She never really needed Diane, she just needed an audience. Diane was simply Camilla's favorite member of her audience, and even that distinction could not last. By the end of the dinner party at Adam's house, it appeared that Camilla had found another favorite devotee.
The magician, like the wizard in Oz, ultimately revealed that it was all a fraud. Because Diane believed in the hype of Hollywood she was not prepared for the fact that it is filled with self-promoting Camillas, so she walked right into the trap of the first one that took an interest in her. "Somewhere over the rainbow" for Dorothy was Oz, and she found out that it wasn't the promised land that she had seen in her dreams. For Diane, the place that she had dreamed of was Hollywood, and it also failed to be that land of her dreams. But, unlike Dorothy, Diane could not go home, and the magician makes this all too clear. When the lady with blue hair shows up, and he shouts, "Listen," another sad truth confronts Betty/Diane. The innocence of Betty was not what it seemed either as indicated by the lightning that seemed to be electrocuting her when the magician's arms were raised. And what caused that innocence to be illusive? Well, when we "listen" carefully, we hear what sounds like a man grunting at the end of Betty's paralyzing shaking. At the same time we hear that grunt, we see the magician appear to have released some tension he was feeling while Betty was shaking. With the context of the magician being relieved by the grunt after her body and his body are tense at the same time, it is simple to deduce that this incident was a symbol of sexual intercourse. A man of power, having sex with the Betty persona, destroyed her innocence. Again we see the echo of the Beatrice Cenci story, and sadly it tells us that Betty, unlike Dorothy, has no wonderful home to which she can return.
As the magician makes his exit after revealing how terrible Diane's situation really was, blue lights continue to flood the theatre for a little while symbolizing that a transition is occurring. In my view, the transition has to do with the Betty persona absorbing the truth of what she has just seen. As the blue lights fade out, we see that the blue haired woman is still there to serve as a guide, I believe, into yet another terrible truth. I have described above how the blue haired woman bears witness as a symbol of death, and death by assassination. She sits in the seat of Abraham Lincoln, who had the same mole as she does on his cheek, and he suffered a terrible death that symbolically reverberates throughout many of Lynches films. Like the magician, the blue haired woman is yet another witness to the loss of Diane's innocence because she is being shown that she actually was successful in her assassination attempt against Camilla, although the first scene in the fantasy tried to repress this truth.
But the tragic revelations are not over. Out comes Cookie with a red suit on, serving as the MC now that the magician is gone. In Spanish, he announces the following, "Senoras and senores, el Club Silencio les presenta… La Llorona de Los Angeles, Rebekah del Rio." This translates to, "Ladies and gentleman, the Club Silencio presents… The Crying Lady of Los Angeles, Rebekah del Rio." As Rebekah del Rio comes out, we see that she has on a dress that is a mixture of red and black. Her eye shadow is a mixture of red and yellow, with black eyeliner. Her earrings are red and she has a black tear painted on her cheek under her eye. When she gets to the microphone, she begins singing the Spanish version of "Crying," written by Roy Orbison.
I think it is clear with all of Rebekah del Rio's red and black motifs that she is representing the new red and black state of Betty's new wardrobe. Now that the magician and the blue haired lady have revealed that Betty's innocence has been lost, the fact that she is no longer in pink makes sense. But what her new state means is only explained by Rebekah del Rio. As Cookie introduced her, he called her "The Crying Lady of Los Angeles." There is in fact a legend about a lady by that name. She was jilted by her husband who ran off with another woman and left her with their two children. She could not bear losing him. So, because she believed the children to be the reason he left her, or out of revenge against him, or out of pure madness, she drowned the two children, and then she killed herself in the same way. This is who Betty/Diane is becoming like as the grief at her breakup with Camilla, a woman who jilted her, is starting to take hold of her. The song, "Crying," gives voice to her grief. The following are the English lyrics of the song:
I was alright for a while
I could smile for a while
But I saw you last night
You held my hand so tight
As you stopped to say hello
You wished me well
You, you couldn't tell
That I've been crying over you
Crying over you
Crying over you
And you said "So long"
Left me standing all alone,
Alone and crying, crying, crying, crying
It's hard to understand
But the touch of your hand
Can start me crying
I thought that I was over you
But it's true, so true
I love you even more
Than I did before
But darling, what can I do?
For you don't love me
And I'll always be crying over you,
Crying over you
Yes, now you're gone
And from this moment on,
I'll be crying, crying, crying, crying
Yeah, crying, crying over you
Lyrics and Music by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson
Sung by Rebekah del Rio
Both Betty and Rita are transfixed by Rebekah del Rio's singing. A tear falls down Rita's cheek. Betty is also in tears. Then Rita puts her head on Betty's shoulder, crying even more now. Betty also is getting more distraught. And then, all of a sudden, Rebekah del Rio stops singing, but the music and the words of the song continue, proving that once again it was all an illusion. Rebekah del Rio then falls to the ground, either dead or unconscious. Betty and Rita are still sad but no longer touching as Cookie and another man carry Rebekah del Rio off stage. At this point, Betty looks into her purse and takes out a blue box. Then the singing stops. Betty and Rita look at each other, and they are both afraid.
Diane never got over Camilla, even though she became aware of Camilla's narcissistic and corrupt nature. And like the Crying Lady, once Diane was jilted, her love led her into a murderous rage. Most of Diane's personas have agreed to eliminate the Rita persona. The question is will Betty continue to protect her? Somehow the answer is connected to the blue box. Perhaps when it is open they will find out what is deep inside of Diane's soul. If Diane has managed to hold on to the Betty persona's innocence and love, then certainly Rita still has a fighting chance. However, if all that is in that box is Diane's guilt and her hatred, then how can even the Betty persona survive? And without Betty, all hope for the Rita persona is lost.
In this scene we find Betty and Rita rushing back through the front gate at 1612 Havenhurst. Betty is holding the purse out in front of her like it is a bomb. Both women are walking extremely fast. As they enter Aunt Ruth's apartment, Betty takes the blue box out of her purse. When they get to the bedroom, Betty lays it on the bed while Rita reaches into the closet where the blue key is hidden in a hatbox with all the money. When Rita picks up the hatbox and turns around, Betty is gone. However, it is not until Rita has opened the hatbox and pulled out her purse with the key in it, that Rita finally notices that Betty is gone.
If Betty is gone, what hope is left for Rita? Rita doesn't give up. She calls out, "Betty? … Betty?" Then after a little pause, her voice gets meeker and she says, "żDonde estás?" (Where are you)? Now she begins to worry. She puts the purse down and goes to the hallway to call out her name into the rest of the apartment, "Betty?" Slowly she returns to the bed. She is really getting scared now. There is no way for her to avoid her fate anymore. She picks up her purse, opens it up and takes out the blue triangular key. Then she picks up the box, putting the key into it and slowly turning it. All the while, she has a look of fear and hopelessness on her face. After turning the key all the way, she opens the box, and we are looking down into it from her point of view. All of a sudden the camera zooms into the darkness of the box, and then the box drops and lands on the floor, and Rita is gone. There is no trace of either Betty or Rita. Then slowly the camera moves up to the door of the bedroom and we see Aunt Ruth walk into the hallway and then look into the room. It is as if she heard something and has come to see what it was. However, she sees nothing. Not even the blue box. It is as though Betty and Rita were never there. And so, satisfied that there is nothing there, Aunt Ruth leaves the room.
To understand this scene it is important to remember that in the last scene two of the most horrific facts that Diane was forced to confront within the metaphor and symbolism were that she was sexually abused during her childhood innocence, and that she had Camilla assassinated. These two facts have especially dreadful consequences for her two favorite personas. How can Betty and Rita survive such revelations? And a similar question confronts Diane's real life existence as well since she has realized that she now shares a kindred spirit with the Crying Lady. She is brokenhearted and she has been given over to a murderous rage. Yet, as terrible as all these realities are, there still remains the mystery the blue box. Betty and Rita can only hope that its contents can transition Diane into a better place and save their existence before it is too late. So this scene opens with their frantic quest to get back to the safety of Aunt Ruth's place, which represents the love and supportiveness of the aunt, so that from there they can open up the blue box.
But their hope that some answer can be found inside of the blue box is misguided. This hope is connect to the naďve question Diane asked the hit man when she was shown the blue key for the first time in her real life existence. She asked the hit man, "What's it open?" And the answer to that question is the same as the answer to what is in the blue box. And what did the key open? Well that becomes clear when we look at the circumstances surrounding her discovery and subsequent possession of the key. Even though this issue involves later scenes, I will address it now because of the importance of this mystery.
Diane did not have the key delivered to her house and placed on the coffee table after the murder, as some reviewers suggest. That doesn't make any sense because the hit man is trying to use the key as a secret signal between the two of them whose significance only they will understand. The reason he is doing this is because both of them want to have no contact with one another after Camilla turns up dead or missing. Either one of them might get caught if they are seen with the other person after the killing. So then with that logic, why would the hit man go into Diane's house and put the key on her coffee table when for all he knew, the house might have been under surveillance. Instead, I believe that the hit man left the key somewhere away from the house and Diane went to that place periodically to see if it had shown up yet. When it did show up, Diane took the key home and placed it on her coffee table herself. But the fact of the matter is, when Diane saw the key, that moment changed her life. The existence of the key told her that Camilla was dead, and Diane's innocence had died along with Camilla. This is why I believe that the key was behind Winkie's, because Dan, an innocent bystander who saw the key earlier when Diane saw it for the first time, died when he saw the horror that existed there. Seeing the key led to the complete destruction of any innocence still left within Diane's life. The key opened Diane up to an existence like the one the Crying Lady experienced after killing her children. It opened a door to a life of utter guilt and shame. Diane could never again be like that innocent girl that her aunt had loved, and in addition to this, she would never again see Camilla. The key opened up a life of desolation, loneliness and ruin for Diane.
That is what happened in real life, and it explains what happened to Betty and Rita in the fantasy. Betty, who represents Diane's innocence, cannot survive this truth. Certainly opening the box which represents this truth would have destroyed Betty. But the innocence of Betty was destroyed even before the moment the box was opened. This is because when she brought the blue box into the bedroom she immediately put it onto the bed. This connection to the bed forces Betty to confront the other awful truth that was exposed in Club Silencio. The electrifying scene of her going through spasms as she is being raped as a child is what destroyed Diane's innocence long ago. It is that early childhood abuse which was the reason that Diane's innocent persona had been absent from the magical world within her mind until she started this fantasy. If you remember, Diane's innocent Betty persona has been transported into her "open mind" because she has a memory at the beginning of the film of her long lost joy when she won the Jitterbug contest. The Betty-like innocence had to be reintroduced into her mind by the memory of her younger years because that innocence had been wiped out long before the murder of Camilla. So, after the scene in Club Silencio where Diane finally confronts all of this, when the Betty persona later makes contact with the bed Diane simply cannot hold on to her any longer.
With Betty gone, Rita has only enemies left in the world of Diane's fantasy. To her, there is no real alternative to opening up the blue box, because there is no other place to go, and her only hope is that the blue box will show her something that might save her. But, as I said before, what was in the blue box was the reality that the key opened up for Diane. Simply put, it was empty because Diane's life had become empty, desolate, and lonely. There was no Camilla in Diane's life anymore, so Rita's existence was wiped out when she sees the black emptiness inside of the blue box. And now that both the Betty and Rita personas are gone to Diane, all that she loved has been lost. Diane now has no hope of being the person her aunt had believed she could become. To her, that person had always been some kind of mixture of Betty the innocent, and Rita the star. But now all she has is a state of self-loathing. This is a realization of the final lines in the audition script for the story of her life. "I hate us both," was how that script ended, and it is how her fantasy is ending as well.
The scene ends with Aunt Ruth coming in to the house after Betty and Rita are completely gone. And we must understand that this is a scene in Diane's mind that is saying that she is still missing her aunt. To Diane's terrible misfortune, their lives never came to overlap in Diane's adulthood. And when Diane tried to make it in Aunt Ruth's world without Aunt Ruth, in both her real world and in the world of her fantasy, she failed completely.
The fantasy is now just about completely over but Diane still must wake up. The camera tries to fade out of Aunt Ruth's apartment in the fantasy and fade into Diane's apartment in real life. But apparently the camera is having trouble making the transition, because Diane's mind apparently does not want to let go of the fantasy. However on the second try the scene successfully switches. I believe that this technique is a device that Lynch uses to warn us that the character involved in the previous scene is having trouble dealing with the issues that will come up in the next scene. And so, since there is some resistance, the camera represents this resistance by fading in and out twice while trying to make the transition. Here the message we are being given is that Diane is not looking forward to going back to her real life.
But the fantasy is not entirely over yet, and that is clear when the camera moves toward Diane's bedroom and then goes inside. There we see the back of a woman lying in the bed. The woman is in a black dress that looks like the dress Rita wore in the limousine at the beginning of the fantasy. The woman also has black hair so it seems clear that this woman is supposed to be Rita or Camilla. She appears to be sleeping, and the sheets are in disarray, but there are no bullet holes in the sheets, which is significant as we shall see presently. We hear the sound of a door opening. Then the Cowboy says, "Hey pretty girl." We see him at the bedroom door now. "Time to wake up," he says. He's smiling. Then the scene quickly fades to black. When it comes back, we now see a brown clad woman with brown hair on the bed, and there are the bullet holes we saw when Betty and Rita discovered the dead Diane Selwyn of the fantasy. Then we see the Cowboy again, and he is not smiling this time. He leaves the room, closing the door behind him and it clicks shut. Then the scene fades out. We then hear knocking after a pause. Then the scene fades back in and the woman on the bed is a blonde and she has a dingy white nightgown on. The knocking continues. The woman gets up and we can finally see that it is the real Diane Selwyn. She slowly gets out of bed. Her bed sheets are not messed up and there are no bullet holes. She puts on a dingy white robe as she finally gets completely out of the bed.
With this final exit from the fantasy world of Diane, we again see that the Cowboy seems to be familiar with going into and out of Diane's bedroom. Since we saw a Cowboy hat in the bedroom of Aunt Ruth when Betty was there, we have to consider the idea that if this issue has come up two times, then he may be yet another person who should be thought of as one of Diane's Johns. At this point we have now had hints of four older men who have had some type of interest in Diane sexually. There was Mr. Roque, Luigi Castigliane, the Cowboy, and the magician. Since they are all older men, taken as a group they present us with more evidence that sexual abuse as a young girl is what started Diane down the path of engaging in exploitative sexual relationships with older men.
With the Cowboy being the last image of Diane's fantasy, he becomes associated to the harsh reality or rude awakening that forces her out of her dream world. What he says and does brings her back to her world of despair. This leads me to believe that we can connect his actions very closely to the actions of Diane's grandfather, because he is the one associated with her harsh reality. He came into her bedroom one morning saying "Hey pretty girl. Time to wake up." What he saw was the young Diane who, while still a girl, was now starting to express a womanly sensuality, much like that of the Rita persona. This caused a terrible "accident," which is to say, something overcame the grandfather and he sexually abused Diane. Then when he leaves, the girl's image has changed to the bullet-ridden image of the dead Diane Selwyn, the one that is some terrible mixture of the Rita and Betty personas. And from thereafter, her girlishness and womanliness were never able to merge in a healthy way. This is the harsh reality that greets Diane as she awakens from her fantasy.
Now we can finally interpret the Cowboy's words to Adam about the significance of seeing him one more time or two more times. Of course, his words were meant for the Diane in her Adam persona, not for the real Adam, so like everything else in the fantasy, the words apply to Diane and not to Adam. In this scene there is a strange fade to black that happens after we see the Cowboy one time. This means we are seeing him more than once if you count seeing him before and after a fade out as two times. When the Cowboy, like the grandfather, saw Diane the first time in her bed, he saw her growing sexual persona and she was still whole and undamaged. But the second time he sees her, it is after the sexual abuse and it has left her destroyed. In one sense, the Cowboy is saying that if Diane's mind just remembers the first part of the her grandfather's visit to her bedroom, the sexual abuse can stay a repressed memory and she can continue to keep the innocent Betty persona and the Rita persona in an uncorrupted form. But if she remembers the entire incident, then her Betty and Rita personas will be destroyed by the misery and the corruption that followed that trauma. In the Cowboy's logic, remembering too much is the "bad" thing of which Diane is ultimately guilty.
We are now in the real world. Diane gets out of bed and goes to the door to let her neighbor, DeRosa, in to get things that she had left there after the apartment switch. DeRosa says that she has been waiting three weeks to pick the stuff up. Diane tells her what box she put her things in, and DeRosa goes and gets the box. Before she leaves, she notices that her piano ashtray is on the coffee table. Diane says, "Take it." As DeRosa gets her ashtray, we notice a blue key on the coffee table. Then, after looking the place over one more time, DeRosa leaves, but she does remember to warn Diane that two detectives came by again looking for her.
By having DeRosa focus our attention on the coffee table, Lynch has given us some important details that we will need to remember soon, namely what was on the coffee table and when. Later, we find out that the fact that the blue key is on the coffee table tells us that the hit man has already killed Camilla. This fact helps explain why Diane is so depressed and unresponsive to DeRosa. Some have argued that DeRosa's personality is somewhat combative in this scene, but I disagree. DeRosa clearly wants to help her when you look at the way DeRosa looks into her eyes at the beginning and end of her visit. However, Diane is simply refusing to be helped.
When DeRosa is gone, Diane goes into her kitchen to make coffee. While she is standing over the sink she believes she sees Camilla alive, in a red dress, standing in the kitchen with her. Smiling, Diane says, "Camilla, you've come back." This line is suspiciously similar to what Dorothy said when she thought Toto had been killed but then he returned to her, "Toto, Darling! Oh I got you back! You came back!" Unfortunately for Diane, it was just a vivid flashback to a memory of Camilla standing in the kitchen at that spot sometime before their breakup. Diane's face contorts as she realizes that she is letting memories of Camilla invade her mind and take over her thoughts. She's upset with herself. Then we skip forward in time and see Diane in a different location, looking back at the spot where she had the flashback. She seems to be thinking of how pathetic she has become. After this, she continues to make her coffee.
She pours her coffee into a cup that appears to have come from Winkies. Then, with coffee cup in hand, she heads for the couch. As she gets to the couch, she suddenly sees a topless Camilla lying on the couch looking up at her. And then we suddenly see that Diane is topless as well, climbing over the couch with a glass in her hand instead of a cup and none of the nightclothes that she had on are anywhere in sight. In fact, she is wearing cutoff jeans now. So it is clear that this too is a flashback. On the coffee table, DeRosa's piano ashtray is still there, and there is no blue key. In this flashback Diane and Camilla are making out. Camilla says to Diane, "You drive me wild." But then her mood changes, and she tells Diane, "We shouldn't do this anymore." Diane is very upset when she hears that. She gets very serious and seems a little unstable as she replies, "Don't say that. Don't ever say that." And then Diane tries to force herself on Camilla. But Camilla pushes her back saying, "Don't Diane. Stop it! Diane, stop! I've tried to tell you this before." Diane pulls away and says, "It's him isn't it." Then the scene switches to a different flashback on a movie set.
In the above flashback, we see what has occurred during one of Camilla's visits to Diane's new apartment within the last three weeks. It probably occurred later on the same day that Camilla was in the kitchen in the flashback that Diane had a little earlier. At some point Camilla took her red blouse off while Diane and her were making out. But it appears that her real purpose for the visit was ultimately to break up with Diane, because she has a relationship with Adam that is turning serious, and she may be worried that Diane will try to interfere. Diane has already seen signs of this relationship with Adam, and so she has been afraid of this possibility, as her subsequent flashback in the next scene reveals.
Interestingly enough, at this point I think it is possible to answer a mystery that never gets resolved explicitly in the film. Why did Diane and DeRosa switch apartments? Some reviewers have suggested that it was because Diane was trying to hide from the police after Camilla's murder, but I have already discussed why that theory is unsound. It is clear that Camilla was not murdered until after the apartment switch. Other reviewers have suggested that Diane and DeRosa were lovers who had broken up, and DeRosa had just moved out of #17 into #12 because of their breakup. This does not make sense either because we clearly see that Diane has some of her own things in boxes as well. We know this because Diane has placed all of DeRosa stuff in one box, and when DeRosa is holding that box she looks at the other boxes in the room that are full of things just "to make sure" that none of them contains something that belongs to her. And Diane would not have things packed in boxes, as she clearly does in that scene, if DeRosa was the only one who was moving. I believe we must accept that Diane and DeRosa really did switch apartments.
In my view, the secret to understanding why they switched apartments comes from clues that hint at what happened while Diane was in Apartment #12. In the fantasy we are told that Camilla might have been Diane's roommate in the scene where Betty and Rita have tried calling the "D. Selwyn" in the phone book. "Maybe that's your roommate," Betty speculates. And since Rita and Betty essentially became roommates in the fantasy, this most likely was the case for Diane and Camilla in real life as well. Yet the two of them did not seem to be roommates by the time Diane moves to Apartment #17, so Camilla must have moved out before the switch. And Camilla had not just moved out on Diane while they were living in #12 together, but Camilla says she tried to tell Diane something, perhaps around that time, that had to do with why she later breaks up with Diane. "I've tried to tell you this before," Camilla says while on the couch with Diane as they are dealing with why Camilla wants their sexual relationship to end. We are not told why Camilla moved out, but it probably had something to do with what she is talking about in this quote. Since Camilla and Adam are probably secretly engaged at this time, Camilla may have moved in with Adam, although Adam or Camilla preferred to try to conceal this from others until after the party for some reason. But even though Camilla has not told Diane the entire story, when Camilla moved out of #12, Diane was most likely devastated.
Diane's obsession with Camilla was extremely unhealthy emotionally for Diane. In fact, now that we see Diane having flashback images of Camilla visiting Diane in #17, it does not take much of a leap to consider that Diane may have begun having flashbacks of Camilla in #12 after Camilla moved out. If she was traumatized by Camilla moving out and having flashbacks in #12 of her old roommate, Diane certainly may have thought that she too ought to move out of #12 so as not to be haunted by the memories of their former togetherness. Or perhaps she began seeing the therapist we saw with Dan in the Winkies in the fantasy, and the therapist suggested that she move out of that apartment. Whichever scenario is the case, Diane probably asked her neighbor, DeRosa who lived in #17, to switch apartments with her to help her distance herself from her obsessive memories about Camilla. Of course, she would not have asked DeRosa if there had not been a friendly relationship between them. And DeRosa agreed out of compassion for Diane, but also with some level of disdain for Camilla, which I believe we see in her eyes when she gives Rita an uncomfortable look during the fantasy when Betty and Rita first meet her. DeRosa probably saw that there were problems in the way that Camilla was treating Diane, problems that we begin to see in the next scene.
This scene is another flashback. In this memory of Diane's she is dressed in character for a bit part in a movie that Adam is directing and in which Camilla is the leading actress. Adam wants to show someone who is probably the lead actor how to perform his make-out scene with Camilla. So Adam orders the set cleared so that he can work the scene out with just Camilla and the lead actor without distractions. Camilla asks Adam if Diane can stay and he says yes. Then he proceeds to show the actor how to make out with Camilla. Camilla starts smiling at him and obviously getting into it. She looks over at Diane, smiling as if to tease her. Adam seems to be really enjoying himself while Diane watches. Diane cannot help but be jealous, and the pain shows in her eyes. At some point Adam yells, "Kill the lights," as he begins giving Camilla another big kiss.
Not only does this memory of Diane's show us that Camilla and Adam have begun flirting openly with each other, and perhaps they are already in a relationship, but the scene also shows us that Camilla enjoys making Diane watch her in this type of situation. This is our first real indication that Camilla may have been subjecting Diane to some type of emotional abuse for her own satisfaction. And it seems clear that Camilla is also showing Diane how she is promoting her career by flirting with the director. It is a self-promotion that is wildly successful, as we find out with the all but certain announcement of her engagement to Adam at the dinner party.
Next Diane is having a flashback that takes us back to her apartment. I believe that the flashback of the last scene went further back in time than the one before it because it explained why Diane believed there was something going on between Camilla and Adam. But this current flashback seems to occur just a little while after the argument on the couch. If you remember, the first flashback showed Camilla in Betty's kitchen with a red blouse on. The next one is when Camilla has taken off the blouse and they are making out. Then there is one that goes back further in time to explain what Diane is thinking during their argument. The flashback we are now in explains what happened on that same day after the argument. We know this because Camilla is wearing that same red blouse that she had in the first flashback, and they are breaking up now, which is what started to happen in the second flashback. And the breakup has been a very emotional one for Diane. As this flashback starts, she is kicking Camilla out of the apartment. Camilla is saying, "Don't be mad. Don't make it be like this." Diane obviously did not want to break up, so she responds, "Oh sure. You want me to make this easy for you. No. No f---ing way! It's not gonna be! It's not easy for me!" She is angry and almost out of control as she slams the door shut on Camilla.
Now we see Diane crying on the couch and trying to masturbate. She has on the same top that she had on while kicking Camilla out, and the same jeans on that we saw her wearing when she was on the couch with Camilla. So once again, we can deduce that this memory occurs on the same day as the argument that led to their breakup and Diane kicking Camilla out. Clearly she is distraught over the breakup, and she cannot handle the idea that she will not be able to make love with Camilla anymore. So she masturbates in an effort to find a way to replace the sexual passion that she still feels for Camilla. However, it is not working. She is not getting any pleasure out of it and she is having a hard time focusing on anything but the misery she feels over losing Camilla. Then the phone rings and interrupts her. She looks over at the phone, but we don't know who called her because she jumps ahead to a new flashback at this point.
It is nighttime and the phone is ringing next to a lamp with a red lampshade and an ashtray full of cigarette butts. This phone is probably the same one that she looked at in the last scene, but we have never seen the wall in her apartment that this phone is up against until now, except for during a brief scene inside of her fantasy. In that scene within the fantasy we saw this same phone ringing at what appears to have been the same time of night, with the same number of cigarette butts in the ashtray, and with those butts in identical orientations. In the fantasy and in this flashback, Diane does not answer the phone during the first three rings. The fantasy didn't show us what happened after that, but in this flashback we find out that the answering machine picked up after the third ring. The answering machine's message is the same one we heard in the fantasy when Betty and Rita called the number for "D. Selwyn" while sitting on Aunt Ruth's couch. After the message is through, Camilla starts talking on the other end and Diane picks up the phone and speaks with her. Camilla wants Diane to come to Adam's party. She tells her that a car has been sent to take her to the party and it is waiting just outside of her apartment. Hesitantly, Diane agrees to come. Then Camilla tells her that Adam's address is 6980 Mulholland Drive.
There are some very important revelations being made in this scene. The first one being that this is not only the same phone as the one we saw in her fantasy near the beginning of the movie, but it is also probably the same call as the one being made in the fantasy because of all of the matching details. The call in the fantasy was the result of a chain of phone calls that led up to the phone of an unknown person at that time who never answered the call. Based on the symbolism and plot line, whoever owned that phone was most likely a call girl. We also saw the arm of the "Hairy-Armed Man" making the call to the call girl's phone. Again, based on symbolism and plot line, we can guess that whoever made that call was the call girl's pimp. Now, both mysteries are resolved with a twist, in the great tradition of the Mobius strip that I explained earlier. Diane turns out to be the one answering the call girl's phone, and Camilla is the one making the call. Diane's involvement in the call girl business has already been uncovered in this analysis, but Camilla's complicity in Diane's plight has not been explored as thoroughly. Because Camilla has made the phone call that was associated with the Hairy-Armed Man, we know that Camilla has had something to do with the pimping of Diane in Diane's real life. I believe this scene tells us that the Hairy-Armed Man is not a real person, but instead a symbol of something hairy that strong arms people within its reach like Diane in some way. The hairy thing is Camilla's beauty, represented by her long black hair, and the strong arming concerns the way Camilla essentially uses her beauty to seduce people like Diane to get them to do her bidding.
This is the smoking gun that points to the abusive nature of Camilla's relationship to Diane. We must now question Camilla's motives in wanting Diane to come to Adam's party. Is there some person that she wants Diane to meet there like "Luigi," a character who shows up later at the party? It is very possible that this is part of her motive, but other dark motives of Camilla become apparent as well. When Diane begins to realize all of this, in her mind Camilla's corruption becomes similar to the filthiness of the Hairy-Armed Man's apartment that we saw in the earlier scene of the fantasy.
In this next scene Diane is in a limousine heading up Mulholland Drive. This scene is exactly like the opening scene in the fantasy, except now Diane is the one in the passenger's seat. As the limousine slows down on an empty stretch of road, Diane says the words that Rita said in the limousine in the fantasy, "What are you doing? We don't stop hear." The driver turns around and this time he has no gun. He tells Diane that it is a surprise. As the person who was in the front seat with the driver opens Diane's door, Camilla surprises her by coming out of hiding from behind a tree. She walks up to the car and says to Diane, "Shortcut. Come on sweetheart. It's beautiful. A secret path." Then she leads Diane up the secret pathway to Adam's home. As they walk hand in hand up the dark path with Camilla exposing her leg seductively, Diane begins to believe that maybe reconciliation is possible between them. At this point Camilla seems to be encouraging Diane to have hope again. Things do not stay that way for long.
Adam meets them near his pool carrying three drinks. Camilla says, "Ah. Perfect timing." Adam then offers a toast just between Camilla and himself, "Well, here's to love." After the two drink to that toast, Diane indicates that she thinks she can have the same relationship with Camilla that Adam now has. She offers the same toast just between Camilla and herself, "Here's to love." It seems clear that Diane is willing to share Camilla in this triangular relationship, identifying herself with Adam in a way that helps explain why she uses him as one of her personas in her fantasy. At this point Coco, Adam's mother, comes out of the house saying, "Ah, here she is!" It seems clear that she is looking at Camilla. While Camilla was waiting behind a tree for Diane, Coco was looking for her and getting impatient because Camilla was holding up dinner. As Coco is introduced to Diane, Coco says she's pleased to meet her, and she sounds very sincere. But Coco still seems irritated about Camilla. So Camilla looks at Diane because she wants Diane to take the blame. And Diane obediently does, saying, "I'm sorry I was late." Coco does not seem to think that that is the issue, but Camilla looks pleased that she has so much control over the situation. Satisfied that Diane is still willing to act as her pawn, Camilla gives Diane another mischievous look as she takes Adam's arm and then leaves Diane behind. As the four of them walk up to the house, Adam and Camilla take the lead, followed by Coco, and lastly Diane walks all by herself, apparently no longer a special guest of Camilla's. At this point Diane looks deflated, her shoulders hunched as she walks to the house. I believe that she is beginning to realize that she was probably invited to the party by Camilla to play the role of one of Camilla's devotees, who will say only good things about Camilla around Adam's high powered Hollywood acquaintances. She's just Camilla's pawn again.
The next flashback involves the dinner scene at Adam's house. The camera is having difficulty focusing on the scene because Diane is having difficulty focusing on it. To her, this is perhaps the most painful memory of them all. The scene begins with Coco asking about Diane's past and, once again, taking a sincere interest in Diane, in my view. Diane tells her how she came to Hollywood from Deep River, Ontario. She tells about the Jitterbug contest and how it led to her desire to be an actress. And she tells Coco about her aunt and about the fact that her aunt left her some money. It is interesting that at the point where Diane mentions how she became interested in becoming an actress, Coco picks up some nuts. I mentioned earlier that in the fantasy, Coco's last name was similar to "the nut" in French. I think the connection between these two allusions to nuts is that in both cases they are references to the Hollywood enterprise in general and the quest for stardom in particular. This is a commentary from Lynch about Diane's dreams of finding something meaningful in the land of image over substance, like the land of Dorothy's dreams that was "somewhere over the rainbow." Within the fantasy Coco represented a caretaker of people like Diane who were on this type of quest. It is a nutty business to put oneself at the mercy of the fickleness of stardom and the deceitfulness of glamour, but those who do so can perhaps survive if they are careful to keep their most precious relationships outside of the deceptive enterprise. Dorothy ultimately realized this, but Diane was never able to.
When Coco asks Diane about how she came to meet Camilla, the conversation gets pretty interesting. Diane says she met Camilla "on the Sylvia North Story," and a man sitting next to her named Wilkins immediately says, "Camilla was great in that." This man is the one whose dog leaves excrement in the Havenhurst courtyard during the fantasy. This excrement may represent what Diane's mind thinks of how sound his judgment is amongst other things. What Diane certainly believed is that Camilla knew how to "sex" the story up, but did Camilla really know how to represent a story that was so similar to Diane's own story? Probably not, and unfortunately, the director and the studio bosses were probably happy with Camilla because a sexy story is all that fans like Wilkins want. However, Diane does try to buy into this logic, as her corrupt personas in her fantasy world show us. And she probably does this because Diane saw Camilla as a person who could love her and help guide her like she had wanted her aunt to do. But by aspiring to follow Camilla's path, Diane left behind the path that he aunt would have chosen for her.
Following Camilla's path apparently meant more than just being seductive on the set. Camilla seemed to be willing to act just as seductive off of the set as on the set when it came down to getting her parts. We know that she became involved with Adam, the director of at least one of the movies she has been in. And when Diane mentions the movie "The Sylvia North Story," there seems to be some insinuation that she got involved with Luigi, and perhaps this is because he may have had something to do with that film. Apparently at this insinuation, Camilla says, "Yo nunca fui a Casablanca con Luigi" (I never went to Casablanca with Luigi). To which some man replies, "Qué lástima" (What a pity). And to this Adam says with what looks like a shrug of disregard, "żQué va?" (What gives? or Who cares?). While Adam says this, we see a look of indignation on Camilla's face toward the person who said, "What a pity." As Diane looks at Camilla during this exchange, her expression indicates she knows something that is not being said. And in the fantasy we find out that Luigi is one of the Castigliane brothers who are power brokers in the movie business, and who try to help the counterfeit Camilla get a role. And in the reality portion of Lynch's film, Luigi happens to be at Adams party. If we allow that the Casablanca could be a house, a hotel, a restaurant, or even the famous movie, then the insinuation may be that Camilla went out with Luigi for reasons that are shameful to talk about. Which means that it seems safe to say that there are rumors out there that Camilla is sleeping around to get her parts. And since this issue comes up while Diane was talking about the Sylvia North Story, we can argue that this had something to do with why Camilla got that part as well. So Diane is being influenced by a person who has denied her a chance at a role with which Diane might have excelled. Thus, the path laid out by Camilla's corrupt ways is the worst possible direction that Diane could be following.
As Diane continues to talk about the Sylvia North Story she says, "Yeah… I wanted the lead so bad. Anyway, Camilla got the part." At this point, Coco gives Camilla a look that suggests Coco sees Camilla's corruption. Diane continues, "The Director …" "Bob Brooker?" interjects Wilkins. "Yes," Diane says. "He didn't think so much of me… Anyway, that's when we became friends. She helped me get some parts in some of her films." To this Coco says, "I see," and she pats Diane's hand in sympathy. The insinuation here is that in Coco's opinion, Camilla's help may have been no real help at all.
As we jump ahead to a later point in the party we see Diane drinking coffee from a cup that has SOS in a decorative design on it's side. Diane needs help right now. Adam is saying at this moment, "So I got the pool and she got the Pool Man. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to buy that judge a Rolls Royce… Sometime good things happen." During this monologue, Luigi looks at Diane in a way that appears to show he is interested in her, but it is the interest of a John. So perhaps the SOS on her cup stands for "Same old Stuff." And if this is connected to Adam's statement about how "Sometimes good things happen," the unspoken issue, of course, is that money and corruption may be a part of the equation. Good things happen in Hollywood for people like Adam, but what about for people from Deep River, Ontario?
At this point a blonde woman comes over and first whispers in Camilla's ear, and then she kisses Camilla on the lips. Lipstick gets onto this blonde woman's lips, and she looks at Diane slyly. And then Camilla looks at Diane with an even guiltier expression, but still defiant. She seems to be confirming that the kiss was meant for Diane to see. It was meant to break her heart. As the blonde woman proceeds to leave the room, she glances back as if to see one more time if the damage was done. And indeed, Diane is beside herself with grief. For a brief moment, this is when she sees the Cowboy appear and walk quickly in one door and out another. Next Adam says to everyone that he and Camilla have an announcement to make. Adam asks Camilla, "Do you want to tell them. Camilla says, "No, you tell them." Adam says, "Camilla and I are going to be …" Then, instead of finishing the statement they start laughing and giggling. The unbearable heartache that Diane is feeling only gets worse with this new development. She is on the point of breaking down when a set of dishes break and Diane jumps in her seat as we switch to another flashback.
In Diane's final memory of Camilla, Camilla is just put a knife into Diane's heart. Making Diane witness Camilla embracing her two new love interests while she leaves Diane behind, is unforgivable in Diane's eyes. She finally realizes that Camilla is yet another important person in her life that has abused has. As dishes are breaking in the background, Diane suffers something of an emotional breakdown, and her love for Camilla turns into a murderous hatred.
In this flashback, we are at Winkies and a set of dirty dishes has been dropped and broken, just like the noise we heard at the end of the last flashback. Diane is jumpy and whirls around when the dishes break. After the waitress apologizes, Diane notices the waitress's name tag. It says "Betty" on it. Diane goes back to her conversation with the blonde man, whom we come to realize is a hit man. She shows the hit man Camilla's photo resume and says, "This is the girl." The hit man tells her not to show him that picture in a public place like Winkie's. Then he asks her if she's got the money. She shows him the money in a black pouch by her side. The hit man then says, "Okay. Now once you hand that thing over to me, it's a done deal. You sure you want this?" Diane replies, "More than anything in this world." The hit man seems satisfied with that remark and reaches into his shirt pocket and produces a blue key. "When it's finished, you'll find this where I told you," he says. After a few moments, Diane notices a man at the cash register who looks back at her after she started staring at him. Then she refocuses on the hit man and his blue key. She asks him, "What's it open?" He just laughs in a somewhat sinister way.
As I have mentioned before, in this scene Diane fixates on different things for various reasons, but that does not mean that there is reciprocal interest being focused on her. Even the man at the cash register did not start looking in Diane's direction until after Diane looked at him. Therefore, unlike a few other reviewers, I don't believe that the man at the cash register is a witness who can turn Diane in to the police. Instead, I think Diane's hit man was careful in what he said so as not to alert anyone who may be listening in or watching. The significance of the scene is to show us that Diane sees things like the man, the waitress and the key as certain types of symbols marking her movement up to the point of no return, and then her passing that point. The key represents the point of no return. The name of the waitress, "Betty," is what she saw before seeing the key, while the man, "Dan," is who she saw after seeing the key. Therefore, the name Betty is the connected to the image of her innocence because it is associated with the time before the key, while Dan is the doomed one who is killed by her demons because he is associated with the time after the key. With this in mind, when Diane asks the hit man what the key opens, her own associations tell us the answer to that question. But so does the next scene in dramatic fashion.
The scene fades to a scene outside behind the Winkie's. It is dark and there is a flashing red light. We see the beast there and he is looking at us. He has a blue box in his hand and is putting it into a paper bag. The image seems to reflect that the beast is telling us "it's in the bag." Diane's doom is a done deal now. The beast has accomplished his goal. The beast then drops the bag and we see the blue box on the ground still inside the bag. After a little while we see tiny versions of the two grandparents coming out of the bag, apparently after having gotten out of the blue box. They are making strange noises and they are walking strangely. They seem quite monstrous even in their small size.
This scene is a prelude to what's to come. The monstrous grandparents are surely demons at this point. And this gives us another metaphor for the blue box. Since the beast is yet another persona of Diane's, clearly being the darkest one of them all, this beast is showing us here that Diane is actually the one responsible for opening this box and letting it's demons out. In that way, the box is a type of Pandora's box, and the blue key was a type of transitional object that opened that box and forced her into a new reality of guilt and self-loathing. By opening up what had been boxed up inside of her, Diane has revealed a terrible truth that had been hidden by her attempts to forget the past. Those two sweet old people that we saw in the beginning of the fantasy were false memories of parental figures who were actually her abusive tormentors. And in this scene we see that her mind is descending back into the fantasy to tell her that their true nature has now been uncovered and they are coming for her again.
We are back now in Diane's living room. We are finally finished with the flashbacks and her brief descent back into a fantasy with the vision that we saw in the last scene. Diane is now in the present again. We can tell this because she is finally back in the nightclothes that she had on right after the fantasy ended. All the other scenes that took place after she was taking the coffee to the couch had her in different outfits, and were therefore flashbacks, with the exception of the last scene, which appears to have been a brief return to her fantasy world again. That return to the fantasy world was not good, because it means that her mind is becoming very unstable now, as it is less able to distinguish fantasy from reality. And in her unstable state, her fantasy world has become a complete nightmare. In the real world the blue key is on the coffee table again. The Winkie's coffee cup is back and the piano ashtray is gone again. The look on her face is that of a person who seems to be mentally unstable. She is just staring ahead, sometimes focusing on the key, and other times looking at nothing in particular. The day is gone and it is now night. She may have been sitting in this one position on the couch all day. Although the flashbacks she was having represented the reality that she couldn't stop thinking about, she has finally begun to make a complete break with reality.
Suddenly, she hears a loud knocking on the door. In her mind, the little demonic grandparents crawl under the door laughing. She hears more loud knocking. Then she hears voices in her head. One of the voices is of a woman screaming. After hearing this she gets up and runs to her bedroom. The scream in her head seamlessly becomes her own scream of horror, perhaps the same scream she cried out during her childhood, as she sees that the demons have grown to full size and are following her into the bedroom. Blue lights are flashing all around as she is backing into the bedroom with the two demons on her heels. Finally, she falls onto her bed, reaches into a drawer near her bed, grabs a gun and then shoots herself in the head. After that we see that we see that her body is alone on the bed and everything quiet. Then blue smoke begins to fill the room.
For an epilogue, first we see the face of the beast in the blue smoke. Then the face fades into Diane's face. This tells us that the beast was indeed a completely corrupted and grotesque persona of Diane. Then the smoke goes away and the city lights of Hollywood at night fade in. In front of these lights we see the Betty and Rita personas of Diane, united and happy again. We know that this is the Betty and Rita personas instead of images of Diane and Camilla because the Rita persona is wearing a blonde wig. As Diane dies, the fact that the Rita persona has on the blonde wig also tells us that Diane finally accepts her own image as the glamorous persona that she believes in and loves. This is clear because when Rita wears the wig she becomes a doppelganger of Diane, thus no longer representing Camilla's corrupt image. It is as if at this twilight moment of her life, Diane has finally made peace with herself.
Slowly the images of Betty and Rita and the city lights behind them fade away, and we find that we are back at the stage in Club Silencio. Then our view switches from the stage to the box seat in the balcony where the lady with the blue-hair is still sitting. She looks at us for a little while and then she says in a deep whisper, "Silencio." No more can be said. Like Hamlet's dying words, "The rest is silence." Diane is dead. And the scene fades to black as the film comes to an end.
David Lynch was compelled to give ten clues to think about when interpreting this film. Like everything else that has to do with this film, Lynch's ten clues are illusive. But I will attempt to address each one since they all focus particular attention on specific issues in the movie that Lynch felt were worth noting. However, I believe a separate conclusion is still necessary as a fitting commentary on this exceptional work. I present that conclusion of mine after addressing the ten clues.
LYNCH'S 10 CLUES TO UNLOCKING THIS THRILLER
1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: at least two clues are revealed before the credits.
The opening scene is the psychedelic dancing of the Jitterbug contest. I believe this is a true memory of Diane's although it is somewhat jumbled because I think that her mind is being affected by some type of drug she has just been taking. Images of herself and her grandparents become superimposed on the scene of the dancing. However, the image of her with her grandparents is hazy and not very stable, while the image of her alone is very stable, as is the image of the dancers for that matter. It is only when she tries to remember that her grandparents were at the event that the image gets blurry. I believe that this is a clue that the grandparents are not very stable, or that their relationship to her is murky. In fact, I believe that this is a clue that she is having trouble dealing with the memory of her grandparents and is in fact repressing some truth about them. She wants to remember them as smiling and supportive of her during this important moment in her life, but she is having trouble doing just that. Therefore, the smiles on everyone's faces are masking some deeper issues.
A second clue to the mystery surrounding the movie is the fact that we are looking from the perspective of Diane right after the Jitterbug scene. Therefore we should interpret the following scenes as coming from her point of view and involving issues that revolve around her state of mind.
A third clue, that might also be considered to be an extension of the second clue, is that when we see through Diane's eyes that she is putting her head down on a pillow, we are being shown that she is entering a dream world. Other clues about the fact that the first three-quarters of the movie are a dream are presented to us from within the dream. But this clue gives us our earliest indication of that fact.
2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
There are three appearances of the red lampshade, with the second appearance being very brief and potentially representing simply a look-a-like red lampshade. The first appearance of the lampshade occurs when Mr. Roque begins the chain phone call near the beginning of the film. He is trying to use what appears to be a call girl network to get a particular woman to come to him. The woman he is calling is unknown to us at this time, but the red lampshade is symbolic of prostitution, which gives us some evidence of her connection to the call girl profession. This becomes increasingly clear when we see the second appearance of the red lampshade.
The second time that we see the red lampshade is when a prostitute, a hit man and a pimp are walking around a corner after leaving "Pink's" hotdog establishment. The red lampshade is in the window of an antique store they are passing by. Other red objects are also in this scene, like a passing fire/rescue truck, a red rose, a red pole that acts as a phallic symbol, and a red garbage can. With all of this red symbolism it seems certain that the inclusion of the red lampshade was no accident here. And, as I have mentioned in my fuller analysis, the movement of the prostitute away from Pink's after the appearance of certain phallic symbols in this scene seems to show how the innocence represented by the color pink was lost to Diane after some sexual act during her childhood. This then led to her involvement in prostitution, as indicated by the prostitute in the scene. The red lampshade's presence in this scene reemphasizes that the red lampshade is associated with the issue of prostitution as well, but it is most likely a reference to call girl prostitution because of the earlier scene that shows the red lampshade next to a telephone.
The third time that we see the red lampshade is during one of Diane's flashbacks after the fantasy is over. When we see Diane pick up the phone near the red lampshade, we realize that this is the same phone that was called at the end of the chain call that Mr. Roque initiated earlier in the movie. And in both this scene and the earlier scene there are the same number of cigarette butts in the ashtray and the lamp is turned on and oriented in the same way. The matching details identify Diane as the call girl that was being called in the fantasy, but those same details also identify the one calling her who served as her hairy-armed pimp. And since it was Camilla who made the call in real life, this gives us evidence that she was acting like Diane's pimp at times, setting her up to sleep with important people in the Hollywood movie business. I've explored this evidence in more depth in my scene by scene analysis, but I think it is important to note here that the hairiness of the Hairy-Armed Man's arm is symbolic of Camilla's hairy mane, which she uses so seductively, in essence, to strong-arm those whom she seduces.
3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?
The title of the film Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for is "The Silvia North Story," and yes it is mentioned twice. Once during the audition with Adam in the fantasy, and once in the real world by Diane at the dinner party. However, there is also another phrase mentioned twice that is like a title of the movie Adam is directing in the fantasy. The phrase is "An open mind." This title-like phrase was mentioned twice in the fantasy during the boardroom meeting, both times by Adam's manager, Robert Smith. When Adam says to him, "What are you talking about?" he replies, "An open mind ... You're in the process of re-casting your lead actress and I'm... We're asking you to keep an open mind." You can interpret the first time he says "An open mind," to be his giving Adam the movie title as his response. And you can interpret the second time he says the phrase to be his telling Adam that they are trying to keep him on as the director of "An open mind." This second title indicates that "The Silvia North Story" is really just another name for Diane's "open mind," which these different personas are trying to direct. There are also other issues that connect the name "Sylvia North" to the name "Diane Selwyn" as I have explained in other sections of my analysis of this film. And these other connections lead to the same conclusion that "The Sylvia North Story" is really "The Diane Selwyn Story," at least from the point of view of Diane's "open mind" during her dream.
4. An accident is a terrible event... notice the location of the accident.
The terrible accident in the fantasy occurred on Mulholland Drive at around the same location that Diane got out of the car in real life to walk with Rita up the "secret path" to the house of the Hollywood director, Adam Kesher. There are many clues that we can find in the connection between the fantasy and the real life scenes at the accident's location that point to the conclusion that both are about a terrible metaphorical accident that Diane suffered during her trip up the road to a Hollywood career. As I have explained previously, Mulholland Drive is a pretty important road to Diane because it leads up a hill where important people in the movie business live. I have even likened it to Mount Olympus, because the people living on that hill are like movie making gods as far as Diane is concerned. It was during her attempt to travel up this mountain in a symbolic sense that she met Camilla. And that turns out to have been a terrible accident. It led to Camilla putting her on a "secret path," which was really just a path that promoted Camilla's career using Diane as a pawn that Camilla was willing to pimp. In this way, Camilla helped kill off more of Diane's already low self-esteem. Simply put, meeting Camilla turned out to be "a terrible event" in Diane's life.
5. Who gives a key, and why?
Keys open things, and in Diane's life there seemed to have been only one person who was really interested in trying to help Diane open some doors. That person was Diane's Aunt Ruth. In the fantasy, the aunt sent her key to Diane through Coco, a maternal caretaker at Havenhurst, a place for the Hollywood hopefuls. As I mentioned in my analysis, the name Havenhurst indicates that some that came there found a haven while others found a hearse. So the aunt's help to Diane was not a guarantee of success. And it all was symbolic of what happened in Diane's real life. In reality, it was with the aunt's help that Diane came to Hollywood. But because her aunt had died before Diane could get there, Diane had no real support when she arrived. And without her aunt's guidance, the City of Dreams turned out to be Diane's hearse.
The hit man also gave Diane a key that opened something that was disastrous for Diane as well. The hit man's key opened up a Pandora's box of overwhelming guilt and evil demons from her past that Diane could not handle. He had warned her that there was no turning back, but she was unable to understand the nature of the self-inflicted wound she was about to deliver upon herself, even as she lashed out at Camilla.
Keys can also be understood symbolically as ideas or information that enhance or open up a person's understanding of an issue. For Diane, both the aunt's key and the key involving Camilla were connected to a person who was dead. In a sense, both of these keys ended up revealing that Diane's dream was dead because of the tragic course her life took. And in the end, it was only in death that she could finally find peace of mind for her troubled soul.
6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
After the fantasy portion of the film is over, Diane wakes up and goes to the door to deal with her neighbor who has been knocking. Her neighbor has come for the stuff that belongs to her that was left with Diane after they had switched apartments. One of those things was a piano ashtray. So the neighbor comes in to collect all of her things, including the ashtray, and then leaves, after which Diane goes into the kitchen to make some coffee. She suddenly sees a vision of Camilla, who is not really there, and we discover that this was a progressively more forceful flashback from what happens next. At this point, Diane is wearing a dingy white robe with a dingy white nightgown on underneath. Once her coffee is ready, Diane heads to the couch with her coffee cup in her hand. But as she gets to the couch, once again she sees Camilla, but this time she is lying topless on the couch, and something strange has happened to the coffee cup Diane was holding, the robe she was wearing and the ashtray that the neighbor took earlier. Diane suddenly has a glass in her hand instead of a coffee cup, she is topless and wearing cut off jeans rather than a robe and a nightgown, and the piano ashtray that the neighbor had just taken is back on the coffee table. The fact that all of these things changed is an indication that Diane is experiencing a flashback to an earlier time that is forcing her to relive that moment. Many more similar flashbacks follow, and it is important to recognize these non-linear shifts in time as memories in order to correctly interpret the narrative.
Interestingly enough, there is some other important information revealed to us by different instances of robes, ashtrays and coffee cups in the movie. The plain pinkish robe worn by Betty is contrasted with the regal red and black robes worn by Rita to show that Diane lacked the glamour and star-quality of Camilla. At different times we see that there is an ashtray full of cigarette butts near the phone and the red lampshade that shows us that whoever used that phone had a perhaps hidden smoking habit. Then when we see the prostitute smoking the same kind of cigarettes in another scene with a red lampshade in it, we realize that since the prostitute represents Diane, it must be Diane who had this smoking habit when she was dealing with her activity in the call girl business. And the coffee cup that is in Diane's house is very similar to the ones being used at Winkie's, suggesting that Diane worked there at some point, probably before her call girl experience, and she took at least one home with her. These are all interesting clues that give us pieces to the overall picture of Diane's history and the situation she faced.
7. What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio?
Diane's Betty persona felt the reality of the sexual abuse that Diane experienced as a child and apparently repressed as she got older. This reality was felt through the Club Silencio magician's thunder and lightning show that caused Diane to go into shaking spasms that seem to mimic what a child might go through while being raped. I explored other evidence of Diane's history of sexual abuse in my in-depth analysis. Another thing that the Betty and Rita personas felt in Club Silencio is the extreme sorrow of the Crying song, which expresses the tragedy of unrequited love, a tragedy that Diane was living through in the real world.
Both the Betty and Rita personas come to realize that everything they were experiencing was an illusion. However, as their realization is focused on the fact that they may not be living in the real world, our realization as the viewer should go deeper. We should begin to understand the bitter disappointment that Diane experienced when she realized that for her there was no aunt, there was no Hollywood career, and there was no love. And because of the symbolism behind the blue haired woman, we should see that Diane is beginning to realize the Camilla did not survive the assassination attempt, any more than Abraham Lincoln survived his. And indeed, it is a signal that a dream is coming to an end when the characters of the dream begin to realize that they are not in the real world. After the magician's performance is done, he vanishes, as the Betty and Rita personas will also do very shortly, after they return to the aunt's apartment.
And finally, what was gathered by the Betty persona was the blue box, which suddenly appeared in her purse. Both Betty and Rita seem to understand immediately that this means they are to get the blue key and open the box. They seem to know that this will clear up a major mystery concerning Rita as well as the one surrounding Betty and her spasms. And they go forward with their plan to open the box even though there is a look of fear on both of their faces as they contemplate what their fate will hold.
8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
Camilla was extremely talented at using her sensuality to seduce others. In the world of movie making this is an especially important talent, because even if "playing it close" is inappropriate at times, as it might have been in a movie about child abuse like the Sylvia North Story, it will still generate a desirable affect on the viewers. Viewers tend to fall in love with the sexy actress, even if she is bad news, as both Diane and Adam can attest, as can Wilkins, the guy who said Camilla was great in the Sylvia North Story. But this was not the only secret to Camilla's success. Apparently, Camilla was willing to sleep with directors and to encourage other actresses like Diane to sleep with movie executives, all in her efforts to make it to the top. And, as her engagement to Adam apparently indicated, her plan was succeeding.
9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkies.
The "man" behind Winkie's appeared three times. The first time that we see him is near the beginning of the movie when Dan goes behind the Winkie's diner to find out if he is real. Dan is literally scared to death at the very sight of him. The next time we see him is right before the ending, when he is putting the blue box into a bag. With Diane's fate "in the bag" so to speak, he then drops the bag and after a few moments we see a miniature version of Diane's grandparents coming out of the bag, and apparently out of the blue box, laughing like demons. Then the third and final time that we see the man from behind Winkie's is after Diane has shot herself and blue smoke has covered her bedroom. As the movie is coming to an end, we see the man from behind Winkie's superimposed on top of the smoke. And then we see his face fade out while Diane's face fades in. This last appearance of this "man" is especially instructive because with the connection between his face and Diane's face we are being told that this monster is yet another persona of Diane. And so we realize that it is not a "man" at all. He is a she. In fact, the character of this beast is even played by an actress by the name of Bonnie Aarons, which is stated clearly in the credits of Mulholland Drive. This female monster from behind Winkie's is Diane's dark, twisted and baneful persona, and it is ultimately the face of her guilt. This is the side of Diane that was firmly in control of her when, while at Winkie's, she said to the hit man that she wanted Camilla dead "more than anything in this world." Seeing the face of this guilt is what caused Dan to die. And indeed, such a ruinous side to Diane would not be fit to show itself in the regular world. This brooding and vindictive wickedness is more comfortable being shunned and hidden in the back alleys of Diane's mind. There is even an arrow on the side of Winkie's in Diane's fantasy that points away from the alley, warning any who will listen not to venture back there. But even from there the monster was still successful at becoming the persona who was able to direct Diane's life in the end, and inevitably drive her to her doom.
10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
Aunt Ruth represents Diane's hope for a life full of love and success in Hollywood. We can infer this because of what Diane says about her aunt at Adam's dinner party and because we see what appears to be a loving picture of Diane as a child with her Aunt in the fantasy. However, in real life Aunt Ruth had died before Diane came to Hollywood, and in the fantasy she travels to Canada just before Betty arrives on the scene. In other words, Aunt Ruth is just out of reach. Never there to give Betty any guidance on how to make her dream come true. And since Canada is to the north and heaven is up above and up is always north on a map, we can say that Aunt Ruth also represents what Glenda did to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Aunt Ruth is Betty's good witch of the north. However, Glenda actually meets with Dorothy on two occasions in the Wizard of Oz, right when Dorothy first gets to Oz and just before she leaves. However, in Betty's case, Aunt Ruth left right before she got there, and arrived the second time right after Betty left. Diane's was a fantasy that never had much hope because she never had the love and support that Dorothy found on her journey. Like Diane's dreams of love and success in Hollywood, Aunt Ruth was dead before Diane even got there.
The tagline for Mulholland Drive is "A love story in the City of Dreams." And love story it is, but in my opinion, Diane's struggle to love herself is what gives the film its poignant power, even more so than her doomed struggle to love the glamorous Camilla. And that is as it should be, because we do not get much help understanding why Camilla is the person whom she is, but Diane's mind is laid open to us. The Jitterbug scene is a great beginning point to discuss how Diane perceived her reality. It may seem absurd to think that becoming a movie star is a natural next step after winning a Jitterbug contest, but that Diane wanted to believe this is what makes it so important. Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, had a similar mindset when she had to battle an evil woman bent on killing her beloved dog. To save the life of her dog, Dorothy runs away ostensibly in search of that magical place she sang about called, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The lyrics to the song seem no more and no less absurd than Diane's connection between the Jitterbug contest and her Hollywood ambitions, but what makes both of these romantic notions so moving is how heartfelt and compelling they were to these sweet young women. Moreover, if we view these young women as being on an epic quest to protect something dear and precious in their hearts, then the lyrics to Dorothy's song effectively sums up both of their mindsets in poetic fashion:
Somewhere Over the Rainbow:
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
"If happy little bluebirds fly ... Why, oh why can't I?" Happiness and the ability to soar are what both Diane and Dorothy wanted, and in their naďve view they thought this could only be possible if they escaped their present reality to go far away to a land of their dreams. We don't know the lullaby from which Dorothy's dreamland took shape, but we do know that Diane's dream was based on her conceptions of her aunt's successful life in Hollywood, and it was triggered by the thrill of her being in the spotlight, probably for the first time. Diane's success in the Jitterbug contest gave her a sense of being valuable in a way that she was not used to feeling. And I believe that she was desperately trying not to go back to her old reality.
While running away, Dorothy tells Professor Marvel, "Nobody cares about me at home. They wouldn't even miss me." And she is adamant about this opinion, as is evident when the Professor expresses his doubts by saying, "Aw, come, come, come." But Dorothy reiterates, "No, they won't - honestly." The fact that her family had allowed her dog to be condemned to death caused Dorothy to lose all hope in them. And I believe that Lynch has developed Diane's character along the same lines, although in Diane's case her angst involving the situation with her family is much darker and more insoluble. This is true even though Diane tries to see the grandparents who raised her in the best light possible, with blurry and unstable images of them embracing her at the Jitterbug contest, and smiley and encouraging faces seeing her off at the airport after arriving in her fantasy land. But the evidence is still there that Diane felt abused and unloved. And the possibility exists that her grandparents may have only embraced her when she was in the spotlight or when she was on the road to Hollywood, implying in a way that they only viewed her as important in that context. This would be yet another slight, devaluing the intrinsic importance of Diane as her potential stardom becomes the focus. If this is the case, then she was simply trading one type of abuse for another, which would not improve her self-image. It is not a bad thing to want to become a star, but it is another thing altogether when you need to become one to feel good about yourself.
In Diane's Betty persona we see a passionate woman and a dreamer. A woman who seems so easy to love, and so determined to find the path that is right for her while she resolves whatever challenges stand in her way. But in Betty we also find the image of a girl wearing a sweater that is too small for her, and who is afraid to face the world without putting herself in surroundings that evoke the loving memory of her dear departed aunt. I believe that deep down Betty was terrified of going it alone, and this is why she would not allow even her aunt's wisdom, in the form of a phone call from her aunt, to convince her to kick out the Rita persona before it was too late. Desperate for love, Betty tried to find in the glamour of Rita a love that would give her a reason to feel good about herself. This parallels the fact that Diane had been looking for love in all the wrong places ever since her brush with celebrity after the Jitterbug contest. Furthermore, Diane stubbornly clung to her misguided quest by embracing Camilla's stardom after she began losing hope of becoming a star herself once she lost the lead for "The Sylvia North Story" to the sultry performance of Camilla. And unfortunately for them both, this caused Diane's desire for Camilla to progress from a passion into an obsession.
One thing we do know about Camilla is that she enjoyed seducing people. And she probably enjoyed it when someone became a devotee of hers as well, as apparently Diane quickly did. So it can be argued that Camilla may bear some of the responsibility for Diane's dashed Hollywood dreams, because she essentially worked to keep Diane focused on doing only bit roles in movies that advanced Camilla's career. As Diane's star remained dim, Camilla's began to shine. And Camilla seemed to enjoy rubbing Diane's nose in this fact as well. Camilla was the star, not Diane. This issue plays itself out in Diane's fantasy world when the personas in her mind seemed bent on believing that Camilla Rhodes should be chosen to be the star of the movie that was to be Diane's core identity instead of a persona like Betty, who represented Diane's lost innocence. And this was true even when the persona who took the name Camilla Rhodes was yet another actress who had harmed Diane by kissing Camilla at Adam's party. This reveals the fact that Diane's self-image was in terrible shape when we see that part of her believes that the people who are harming her are more deserving than her. But Diane would not have been vulnerable to this twisted way of thinking if she had grown up with a healthy amount of love for herself.
At the core of this film is the struggle between love of self and love of the images that we hide behind when we are afraid that others will not love us. This is the tension that is played out between Betty/Diane and Rita/Camilla, and in the movie a resolution begins to take shape when Rita changes her image to look more like that of Betty. But the change is only cosmetic, and as such it is simply too little, too late. In the end, Diane is even less able to love herself than she was in the beginning. In fact, she has become disgusted with herself. I think this view is most clearly expressed in the scene that I believe David Lynch would call "the eye of the duck." David Lynch uses this phrase to refer to his idea that to get a sense of the overall state of being of a duck, you need to look at a duck's eye. No other spot on a duck is as good a place to look if you really want to know the duck. And Lynch argues that there are scenes like that in every film. In this film I believe that scene is the extended scene that begins with Diane answering the phone near the red lampshade, then traveling up Mulholland Drive, then meeting Camilla, then following her up a secret path, and then interacting with her at the summit that was Adam Kesher's house. After that interaction Diane ends up walking alone into the party, depressed and defeated, while Camilla leaves her behind and advances to a place of greater success and importance. The arch of Diane's life is all there. Her fear of being abused, her attempts to find love by repressing memories of past abuse, her reentering into abusive relationships, and finally, her growing broken and ruined emotional state after suffering new abuses and betrayal.
The tragedy starts in this extended scene with the look on Diane's lonely face while her phone is ringing. Clearly that look tells us she has suffered at the hands of that sweet voice that begins talking when the answering machine answers the phone. And yet Diane takes the call anyway and hesitantly agrees to trust Camilla with her heart one more time, still trying to be hopeful that the love she is seeking can still be found. Yet, Diane is still very much afraid when she is in the limousine traveling up Mulholland Drive, up the path that represents the road to successfulness in Hollywood. She is all alone, and because of her fantasy where we saw that the driver was an assassin, we know that she doesn't even trust her driver. When he stops unexpectedly, in fear she says, "What are you doing. We don't stop here." However, the fear seems unnecessary, because the driver simply stopped for a surprise meeting that Camilla had arranged. And certainly the context of the story tells us that it is okay for Diane to meet Camilla there, and there is nothing to fear, but the subtext of the film is saying something quite different. Just as when Betty was surprised to find Rita in her aunt's house, Diane's surprise meeting with Camilla ultimately leads her off of the path that her aunt would have wanted her to take. Instead she follows the path that Camilla offers her. In the scene from her real life Camilla says, "Shortcut. Come on sweetheart. It's beautiful. A secret path." Again, the subtext is that Camilla, the picture of seduction, is leading Diane astray, and Diane never gets back on the right road. So it turns out that the fear that she had felt when the car stopped was warranted after all.
With the smile she gives Diane and the sensual air about her, Camilla convinces Diane that there may actually be a chance that their relationship can be resumed. It is as though Diane has already repressed her memories of the pain she suffered in the past because of Camilla. She has forgotten that in reality Camilla just enjoys the art of seduction, the act of "playing it close" with whomever she wants. And true to form, when Diane and Camilla reach Adam's house, Camilla begins to turn her enticing attentions onto Adam. Adam and Diane are both in her web, as the double toast that they make to Camilla shows. When Coco, Adam's mother, walks over and shows signs of being irritated at Camilla, Camilla just looks at Diane who obediently takes the heat off of Camilla by apologizing for being late. It is extremely unlikely that Coco was waiting for Diane, but Camilla wanted her devotee at the party, so she held things up by hiding out while waiting for Diane. Camilla is most likely the one responsible for things starting late, but she needed a devotee like Diane at the party who could constantly heap praise on Camilla around the Hollywood hotshots. This is probably one of Camilla's tactics for creating some buzz about herself, but it requires loving devotees like Diane. Furthermore, deep down, it seems that Diane knows she's just a pawn. As they walk off and Camilla gives Diane a mischievous look, Diane can no longer pretend that Camilla was inviting her to the party because she wanted to rebuild their relationship, or even that she wanted to spend any serious time with her. By taking Adam's arm, Camilla has dropped her pretense of interest in Diane, and in a betrayal that grows throughout the night, Camilla once again leaves Diane behind. As Diane follows Camilla and the others into the party, Diane looks drawn and anguished, with her shoulders hunched and her head down. To me, this is the eye of the duck moment within the eye of the duck scene that shows us how wretched and alone Diane feels on the inside. Brokenhearted since childhood, her pain appears to have only deepened as an adult. And it is the transition from her innocent childlike persona as Betty with her continual yearning to love and be loved, into her twisted and defeated adult personality as Diane that grips viewers no matter what they think the story line is about.
Repeatedly, Diane is rejected and humiliated in small and large ways by Camilla. In the car scene during a rehearsal, on the couch in Apartment #17, right after Diane meets Coco after walking up the secret path, and then most painfully when Camilla kisses another woman during Adam's party. Camilla has been playing abusive games with Diane's heart, and yet still Diane comes running back. Until finally Diane suffers a breakdown, as symbolized by the falling dishes in the Winkie's diner. And when Diane breaks down, her love turns to hatred as she is taken over by the murderous persona in the back alley of her mind. I believe that this is the persona that held on to the terrible memory of the abuse Diane suffered at the hands of her grandparents. And I believe that is why it is this back alley persona that turns that memory--in the form of miniature versions of Diane's grandparents--loose near the end of the movie to haunt Diane and ultimately drive her to commit suicide. In my view, that monstrous persona had existed in Diane's mind for a long time, keeping her too terrified to deal with how the childhood abuse had affected her.
Yet I believe we are given a hint that Diane tried to address the issue of her abuse with a therapist as things were deteriorating faster than she could deal with them. In my view, the therapist that Dan was talking with in the fantasy at the Winkie's diner was probably Diane's therapist. Unfortunately, the therapy was probably too little too late, in a way similar to the fact that Betty's attempts to refashion Rita as a more accurate image of Diane were also a type of therapy that was too little too late. When Diane realized that her relationship with Camilla was unhealthy, she seemed to be unable to walk away. In the scene where she hesitated in picking up the phone and answering Camilla's call, ultimately she answered it anyway against her better judgment. It was only because of a jealous rage that she fought back, and then she went too far, giving herself over to murderous demons. So in the end, even in fighting back, she had allowed her obsession to consume her all the more.
Like the seductive power of Hollywood, Camilla was a force in Diane's life that overwhelmed her. Yet if Diane had any significant love and respect for herself, she certainly wouldn't have let Camilla, or Hollywood for that matter, walk all over her. And there were certainly other less glamorous and more meaningful friendships to be made in Hollywood than the bankrupt one she had with Camilla. Clearly a neighbor like DeRosa, who was willing to switch apartments when Diane was in need and to even cover for Diane when the police were looking for her without being asked, is a person who cared for Diane. And it's possible that she even cared deeply for Diane. Different reviewers interpret the looks in DeRosa's eyes differently, but I saw condemnation when she looked at Rita, and compassion and empathy when she looked at Diane. But Diane couldn't see it, ultimately to her own loss. And clearly Coco showed some sincere interest in Diane's story, while at the same time Coco had many unpleasant looks for Camilla. If Diane needed someone who could give her the kind of advice that her aunt would have given her, a person like Coco would have been the perfect choice. And when Diane's Adam persona was homeless in the fantasy and Cynthia offered him a place to stay and perhaps a place in her heart, he refuses the way Diane refuses comfort from DeRosa. In my view, this is because Lynch is telling us that Diane is unable to desire loving relationships with those who do not reflect Hollywood's glitter and glamour. And this mindset of hers is especially catastrophic because she is so desperately in need of authentic love. Cynthia's response to the rejection says volumes, "Okay, but you don't know what you're missing."
There are many reasons for this film's appeal. And one of them is certainly that Diane's Betty persona is such an easy person to care about and to love. But because of her flawed and negative view of herself Diane was unwilling to receive love from those who were most able to give it to her. And so, as an ode to Hollywood's fallen angels like Diane, this film is a warning to those who would like to fly like bluebirds, but who still need to make a blueshift transition to understand what true love is all about. "A [person]'s attitude goes some ways toward how a [person]'s life will be." If you fall in love with the Hollywood dream, make sure that you have even more love for the person that you are and for the relationships that you have outside of the spotlight. Otherwise, the dream will become a nightmare.
Alan C. Shaw, Ph.D.