Sunday, February 03, 2013


Mulholland Dr. (2001) a film of  David Lynch (of Twin Peaks fame) 146 m

Reading this film is like watching a trailer to the movie, with every item out of sequence, and trying to rearrange everything in correct order.

It is also a matter of deciding which scenes are in unreal dreaming, and which are in actual reality.

The music should assist us. When it is spooky we are in fantasy-land, or dream-time.

What we see is a dream, interspersed with explanatory scenes from reality, before (and after?) the central character shoots herself. She had taken to her bed in grief and not responded to reality, but finally opens the door to a caller, then sinks into madness, and death.

Here is the gist of the story, as I see it:
A young woman, Diane Selwyn or Betty (Naomi Watts) has come to Los Angeles to be a Hollywood actress. She stays in a house belonging to her aunt; we do not see this dwelling till later in the movie; the place at the start is in her fantasy, I suggest. A mysterious woman named Camilla Rhodes or Rita (Laura Elena Hurring) is involved in a car accident; she loses her memory and finds refuge and consolation with Diane/Betty; they become lovers; but Camilla/Rita leaves her for a young film director (Justin Theroux); Diane hires an assassin to kill Camilla.

Rita's purse with the wads of notes corresponds to the one Diane Selwyn (Betty) gives the murderer to kill Camilla Rhodes (Rita); but there is only one wad originally; and the mysterious blue key to the box of dark secrets is the blue key that the murderer delivers to show the deed is done; this key is on the low table in her home when Diane answers the door to the woman who had come to collect her belongings; this woman knew that Diane had been out of circulation for three weeks, and that two detectives were looking for her.

Towards the end of the movie, at the party on Mulholland Drive (depicting reality, and supplying the key to the whole thing, with the main characters in the dream all present) the director announces his engagement to Camilla; he has won Camilla from Diane (she had watched him demonstrate, to an actor,  on the set of the movie, how to kiss her); Diane tells how she met Camilla through the movies; C helped D (shown when Rita takes Betty through her audition lines, in the dream); his mother 'Coco' (adorable Ann Miller in her final movie, in a non-dancing role) apparently does not approve of her son's choice, and she puts her hand comfortingly on Diane's: and that is why she appears in the dream as Betty's landlady, looking after her, but not approving of any trouble disturbing the peace. Diane's drive in a limo to the party also turns up in the dream; and it crashes on M Drive; but it is Camilla in the car, and she escapes from her assassins; she makes her way through a bushy area to find refuge with Diane; in reality she had led Diane from Mulholland Drive to the house where the party was held.

The waitress at Winky's Café has the name Diane in the dream but she is Betty in a reality scene, and presumably this is where Diane's name Betty comes from in the dream. Camilla (Rita) in her amnesia saw the name Diane on the waitress's name tag and remembered a connection; she had first taken the name Rita from a poster in Aunt Ruth's place, relating to a film starring Rita Hayworth; she recalls the name Diane Selwyn and accepts it as her own.

Diane saw a guy at Winky's, so he gets into her dream; significantly, he is telling someone about his terrifying dreams (the same dream twice).

Another woman had the name Camilla Rhodes in the dream, and I think all the stuff about the Mafia causing her to get the part might simply be Diane's rationalizing why she did not get it. At the same time it might be a criticism of interference in movie-making in Hollywood (akin to Woody Allen's Bullets over Broadway, 1994). At the engagement party, that woman, the Camilla of the dream, kisses the real Camilla in front of Diane; this would increase Diane's jealousy and despair.  The cowboy walks past, to show it is real. An earlier detail that is emphasized is the glance shared by Diane and the director at the point where he is allegedly forced to choose Camilla Rhodes for the leading role in his film ("This is the girl").

The beginning is the end. David Lynch says the clues are there at the start: Diane as winner of the jitterbug contest (confirmed in her narrative at the party); her red bed is shown; we hear breathing, so she is still alive but dreaming. The old couple she met on her way to Hollywood reappear comically but terrifyingly, in her imagination, when she takes up the gun to commit suicide.

The assassin is never in the dream. He has his scene when he murders a man after they had talked about a car accident  (the one on M Drive?); on the other hand, Diane may be portraying him as incompetent: besides his victim, from whom he takes the Black Book of telephone numbers, he has to shoot three cleaners (a female,  a male, and a hoover). His meeting in the café with Diane is actual; she shows him a picture of Camilla Rhodes, which is of Rita, not the Camilla in the fantasy.

Aunt Ruth looks in at her home, which she had lent to Betty, but sees nobody there. This means that Diane had moved to her own place now? Or this indicates that this house was not real. Viewing the film again (on 6/1/2022) I think that we have two scenes of the aunt having her luggage put in the boot of a car, and leaving; the second time is in a dream sequence, and takes place in the  housing complex where Diane lives. I say "complex", because this long scene is complicated, and Cryptcracker may not succeed in unraveling it. Diane (Naomi) is being Betty, and Camilla (Laura) thinks she is Diane Selwyn. Betty (Diane) knocks on the door of the dwelling where Diane Selwyn is supposed to live; the woman who opens the door clearly knows Diane, but she does not recognize either Naomi or Laura as Diane; she is aware that Diane has moved to another place in the village, and the couple go there; they break into it; they are struck by a stink, and find a dead body on a bed; it is a woman, wearing a dress; when Diane dies she is in her dressing gown; David Lynch might know who it is supposed to be. One possibility is the long-haired figure with a terribly ugly face, who lives round the corner, behind Winky's café. After seeing the features of the body on the bed, Camilla cuts her long brown hair short and wears a blonde wig. matching Diane's blonde hair. This must mean something; perhaps Diane in her fantasy is reconstructing Camilla to be one with her again; certainly, it is at this point that they go to bed together (without the wig), with a hint of this not being the first time. However, the blissful spell is broken by Rita waking up in terror (Silenzio!) and the search for her identity continues, at a sort of concert.

When Rita/Camilla eventually opens the blue box with the blue key, deep gloom ensues. and Betty has suddenly disappeared.

The cowboy may be in the real world, when the director goes to him; but when he goes to Diane's bedroom and says it is time to wake up, he is in the dream. His place, with the skull of a bull, possibly means he represents death. And he appears, just passing through, at the engagement party.

The trigger that sends Diane into despair is the frolic on the couch (a real reconstruction, not a dream) when she was wearing shorts (but in her dressing gown as she relives it in her mind), and Camilla tells her they should not do this any more. This was presumably a reminiscence made after Diane had been in bed for three weeks, moping about it, and also the murder, though she was now in her dressing gown. But, subsequently, after the move from lovers to friends, she had reluctantly accepted Camilla's invitation to the engagement party on MDr.

Then there is the visit of Betty and Rita to Diane's home (not the one in the phonebook, because of a swap) and the decomposing body is found; the face is not recognizable but it seems to be Diane.

On the way Camilla is afraid when she sights two men in a car. Diane is told that two detectives are looking for her. This might be the reason why Betty and Rita are searching. However, the detectives may be investigating the death of Camilla, in real life, and Diane is the one they are seeking, and Camilla is "Diane" at this juncture (a possible case of blame-shifting).

When they flee from the house the heads are put out of focus or phase (merged?). To confuse us along the way Camilla changes her name from Rita to Diane (after sighting this name on the waitress); and the real Diane Selwyn is given the name Betty. Something similar occurs with the two dwelling places; they are shown to be one, I ween.

All the Betty and Rita scenes are in dreamland, but their sexual relationship took place in reality. Rita already has a pet name for Betty when they first get into bed together. Betty asks: Have you ever done this before? I assume they did live together in one place for some time.

But, was Camilla still alive in the aftermath? Rita escaped from the attempted murder on Mulholland Dr. The hit-man hired by Diane is shown to be a bungler, as we have seen. However, the tell-tale blue key is in place on the low table at a late point in the sequence, and Diane is unnerved by it; her fantasizing is caused by it. Rita's escape from death may be wishful dreaming on Diane's part, amplified in the scenes of the relations between the couple; in the dream, Camilla has forgotten her past and is able to make a new start with Diane. The cowboy appears to tell Diane to wake up to reality; she gets out of bed, makes a cup of coffee, has a brief encounter with the real world in the person of a woman from the community who comes to collect her belongings, packed in a box (these details might become Coco and the blue box in the dream). Diane has a fleeting vision of Camilla ("You've come back"), and then she hastens to her death.

Finally, Diane/Betty and Camilla/Diane are both together, with happy faces, but in ghost form.

What is the point of "Silenzio", in the scene at a concert hall, repeated at the very end? "The rest is silence"?

My decipherment remains as enigmatic and disordered as the original; this is a comparison of the motifs in the two realms, rather than a frame-by-frame analysis;  but I think that this is the method to be applied: distinguish the dream (Diane's life flashing before her in a distorted fantasy) from the reality (the fictional story!). 

In January of 2021, I watched a documentary about the singer Donovan and his sojourn (together with the Beatles) at the ashram of the Maharishi, to learn Transcendental Meditation. David Lynch appears and says that he saw the scenes of MDr in his mind in the sequence they should follow. OK! Or should we say (as in The Castle): Tell 'im 'e's dreamin'.

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