Mulholland Dr. (2001) a film of David Lynch (Twin Peaks) 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 dreaming, and which are in reality.
The music should assist us.When it is spooky we are in fantasy-land, or dream-time.
What we see is Diane's dream before and/or after she shoots herself.
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.
The purse with the wads of notes is the one Diane Selwyn (Betty) gives the murderer to kill Camilla Rhodes (Rita); and the blue key to the box of dark secrets is the blue key that the murderer leaves 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.
At the party on M Drive (reality) the director has won Camilla from Diane (she had watched him demonstrate how to kiss her on the set of the movie); she tells how she met C through the movies; C helped D (shown when Rita takes her through her audition lines, in the dream); his mother 'Coco' (adorable Ann Miller in her final movie, in a non-dancing role) puts her hand comfortingly on Diane's, and that is why she appears in the dream as her landlady looking after her. Diane's drive in a limo to the party also turns up in the dream and crashes on M Dr, but it is Camilla who escapes.
The waitress at Winky's has the name Diane in the dream but Betty in reality. Camilla in her amnesia saw the name Diane on the waitress's name tag and remembered a connection; she had taken the name Rita from a poster in Aunt Ruth's place, relating to a film starring Rita Hayworth.
Diane saw a guy at Winky's, so he gets into her dream; significantly he is telling someone about his dreams.
Another woman had been 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. In the end, that Camilla kisses the real Camilla in front of Diane, and this shows the two are one. The cowboy walks past, to show it is real, or to confirm the identity of the two?
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 as she dies. The old couple she met on her way to Hollywood reappear 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?). His meeting with Diane is actual; she shows him the picture of Camilla Rhodes, which is of Rita, not the one 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 was not reality.
When Rita/Camilla opens the box there, Betty has suddenly disappeared.
What is the point of Silenzio, in the scene at a concert hall, repeated at the very end? "The rest is silence"?
The cowboy is 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 is present at the engagement party.
The trigger that sends Diane into despair is the frolic on the couch, when she was wearing shorts, 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 she was in her dressing gown.
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.
When they flee from the house the heads are put out of focus or phase (merged?).
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?
At the end they are both together in ghost form.
So, was Camilla still alive?
My decipherment remains as enigmatic as the original, but I think that is the method to be applied: separate the dream (Diane's life flashing before her in a dream) from the reality.
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.