Hi, I've just spent a very special evening re-reading your fascinating review and reading for the first time the visitors' comments and now I just can't push the whole thing out of my mind and so I feel compelled to add my own remarks. Well, maybe I barge in a bit late, but due to the weird quality of the film I think the debate could virtually go on forever... (unless we decide to kidnap Lynch and keep him tied up till he accepts to explain the film... well, I would pay for that).
Though I haven't developed a systematical interpretation, I'll propose some remarks of mine. They are practically at random, but I hope they could help to clarify (or to confuse even more, also due to my somewhat "muddy" english) some dark points.
Camilla's incoherent behaviour as an echo from Lost Highway.
I'm not the only one who noticed how odd Camilla's way of behaving during the second love scene is: she begins by whispering some very intimate and sultry words to her friend, and immediately after she gets as cold as ice and breaks the relationship. I can see only two possible explanations:
1) Assuming that the scene is set in reality, it shows us how unspeakably bitchy Camilla can be. It shows how little she really cared about the sweet and affectionate Diane, and makes utterly credible the assumption that at the dinner she intentionally humiliated her friend, even worse, that she invited her with the precise goal of humiliating her. Nobody pointed out an element that establishes a very close relationship between the short lesbian scene and the long dinner scene: in both Diane experiences the same "emotional rollercoaster" of sweet delusion that turns into bitter disappointment: in the first Camilla deludes Diane ("you drive me wild") and then she disappoints her ("we shouldn't be doing this anymore"), in the second Camilla deludes Diane by picking her up all alone in the night and leading her romantically up the shortcut, and then disappoints her in that cruel way during the dinner.
2) The inconsistency could be reduced if we assumed, as a minority of visitors did, that even the last part of the film is not (or mostly not) reality, but the other side of her delirium, another state of delirium with inversion of roles (Diane at her best vs. Diane at her worst).
Anyway, nobody pointed out that the surprising rapidity with which Camilla contradicts herself has a precedent in Lost Highway. When Bill Pullman asks Andy the pornographer about the identity of the mysterious man he met at the party, the latter says he's a friend of Dick Laurent, and the former insists: "but Dick Laurent is dead, isn't he?". At this point Andy begins by saying something like "yes, but I didn't think you knew him" and a few seconds later he (inexplicably, I think) gets upset and denies what he seemed to have just confirmed ("Dick can't be dead, who told you he was dead?"). Since LH is meant to be the depiction of what happens in a haunted and deranged mind more than what happens in a real world, perhaps this analogy could be seen as a clue that the love-making on the couch is not so real either... mmhhhh...
"You'll see me one more time if you do good, you'll see me two more times if you do bad".
One of the most obscure riddles of the whole lot, I had dismissed it as gibberish till I came across the visitors' comments, that produced two interpretations worth discussing. I'll sum them up like this:
explanation 1, in which we assume that the cowboy's words are really adressed to the filmmaker: "we'll see each other in hell anyway, because we are both part of a rotten system, but if you don't obey you'll see me once again in this earthly life, when I'll punish you by killing you".
explanation 2, in which we assume that the cowboy's words are really adressed to Diane (and maybe to the public as well): the fact that the cowboy appears twice means that Diane "did bad" by getting criminally rid of her lover/rival.
Personally I think that explanation 1 is much smarter than plausible: if Adam "does bad" according to the cowboy's point of view, he's just behaving honestly, casting the actors because of their talent and not because of their recommandations, and I can't possibly see why he should join the cowboy in hell (only because he works in Hollywood? and where does Lynch work? so Lynch is placing himself in hell too. mmhhh....).
Explanation 2 is more promising, but still problematic. Could the words be purely and simply directed to Diane? I doubt it very much, since WE see him twice again but Diane doesn't because when he appears saying "hey pretty girl, it's time to wake up" she doesn't even turn towards him. A possible objection to what I've just said is that we can state that she sees him twice if we mean that Diane as a person who is dreaming sees the cowboy as a character of the dream: in this sense I could accept that she sees him twice. But at this point I can't help proposing a counterobjection: we see him two more times, ok, but it's obvious that in a chronological perspective the cowboy's apparition at the dinner is the first one, and precedes both his apparitions in Diane's dream (if we assume, as i do, that her dream/delirium is full of elements from her previous days "recycled" in odd ways, e.g. Angelo Badalamenti, who in the real world is nothing more than a very sicilian-looking guest at the dinner, and in the dream turns into a mafia boss). As we can see, we can turn the puzzle the way we want but we can never get rid of all the glitches.
The theatrical actor.
It seems that nobody pointed out how satanic the look of the Club Silencio performer is. Odd that nobody (nobody here, some other people on other websites did) brought it up, but many of the conventional "devilish" features are there, and this is blatant immediately before he disappears: his dark little beard, his sinister grin, his unearthly disappearing in a puff of smoke. Is Lynch just having fun? I don't think so. On the other hand I wouldn't take him too literally and state that he really is the devil, but I think his features simply show that he is a part (and probably the pivot) of that supposed "axis of evil" that seems to comprehend the bum, Mr. Roque, the grandparents and maybe the cowboy.
The white-moustached man.
Here's a character that creates some problems to the theory (that anyway I accept) that Diane's dream characters are recycled from her real life. Someone else has already remarked that of many of them there is no trace in her real life (and especially of a character that seems very important and very ominous, Mr Roque), but what I would like to remark is that all the characters that appear in two different roles appear once in reality and once in the dream ("HP Lovecraft", the cowboy, the director's mother/Coco, Badalamenti/the boss Castigliani, the girl at the dinner/Camilla Rhodes the recommended one), all except the white-moustached man. Why (if there's a reason) he is the only one who appears twice in the dream in completely different situations (at the hotel downtown and at the Club Silencio) remains a mystery to me.
Dream or agony?
I'm flabbergasted that so many people seem convinced that what happens in the first 3/4 of the film is her pre-mortem experience, when in my opinion there is good evidence that it is all a dream that takes place the night before the suicide. The only clue that leads towards the pre-death delirium is the assumed circularity beginning/end: the POV from Diane's head sinking into the pillow at the beginning is supposed to find its correspondence in her corpse dropping onto the bed after just the fatal shot. But in my opinion this is not enough to jump to conclusions, because the circumstances are too different:
1) Diane's (who else's?) heavy breathing at the beginning is most definitely the clue that the person who is longing for sleep is haunted by regrets, and this is perfectly consistent with Diane's situation before her last night's sleep, both full of disappointment and bitterness for having seen her most delicate feelings trodden on and her fame dreams shattered, and full of remorse for having hired the killer: how far is this slow breathing from the frantic last seconds of her life!!;
2) the POV from the camera (what Diane's eyes see!) down onto the pillow and deeper down into the night is an infinitely poetical and fascinating way of suggesting the sinking of her conscience from everyday consciousness deep down into sleep and dream;
3) as someone else acutely noticed, at the moment of her suicide the yellowish blanket is in a completely different place from the beginning: at the beginning it nearly covers the whole bed, while at the end it is all wrinkled near the bottom of the bed. If we notice that when she wakes up the blanket is already in the same position as when she shoots herself, we have a chronologically coherent chain of events:
a) she falls asleep on the bed (blanket up);
b) she wakes up after a night of restless sleep in which, oppressed as she was by disquieting dreams, she is very likely not to have kept still at all, thus pushing the blanket away (blanket down);
c) she doesn't touch the bed anymore and the same day she shoots herself (blanket still down). Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
Ilya Y. Rostovtsev
I would like to mention that your essay is phenominal, and since you've mentioned that visitor's comments are welcome, I figured that my two cents might be worth mentioning...
first and foremost, the character of camilla does not appear to be vicious to me... in a way, i think that diane is disturbed from the get-go. a little girl from canada, coming down to realize her dreams only becomes more and more disturbed seeing the success of camilla and the lack of her own. her jealousy of camilla then becomes so apparent, that she would invent the love between camilla and herself. camilla's actions, then, do not appear to be violent towards diane, but logical. what i'm getting at is that in reality, camilla and diane never had a physical relationship. furthermore, her being left behind at the set by camilla only aids the point diane made at the party, that camilla became her mentor, in a way. the party itself then doesn't seem so bad, because camilla wants to celebrate the new husband, and therefore asks her friend diane to be there. however, that adds problems as well, since then camilla wouldn't take diane on a romantic walk through 'the secret path'. however, the sence where diane masturbates and her daydream of seeing camilla as she is making coffee would hint on the fact that a real relationship was not necessary, since diane is pretty damn insane.
if you would agree that diane tends to hallucinate even during reality, it adds to the question as to why camilla kisses a woman (that later becomes camilla rhodes in the dream) at the party while sitting next to her husband-to-be. the woman walks away behind a wall, from which the cowboy emerges. he has no place at the party, since he isn't dressed for the occasion... if he, then, is a part of her hallucination, he could be a menacing memory of her past, and the woman from her dream that kisses camilla is as real as cowboy... i think at that point in time, diane was high strung enough to invent any reason to be pissed off with camilla rather than herself.
i know this sounds as if i'm simply pulling ideas out of my ass, but the cowboy's character is too established in her dream, if his character is based only on his swift move through the party. if so, the cowboy may symbolize a horrible memory of diane's, which then explains his grim reaper-like presence in the scene where he tells the director to cast 'camilla'. that also shows her waking up from a horrible dream to a voice of the cowboy, who i think would be a pretty haunting character to diane. and in front of him, she's as good as dead, again a possible projection into diane's past. this is far from certain, but i refuse to believe that the cowboy is merely a ficticious character that haunts diane for no reason, although anyone's call is as good as mine...
on the other note, it seems to me that lynch, in multiple ways, have eased the audience's work by removing some questions (although raising others) in terms of the storytelling. diane's dream probably doesn't include the prelude to 'rita's' appearence at her aunt's house. furthermore, joe the hit man's character is introduced and explained almost to the exess of his actual role. however, he is shown as very irresponsible, clumsy, and silly within diane's dream. since she hired that very man to kill camilla, it only makes sense that she sees him at the worst performance the hit man could pull off. also, the idea of 'dark hollywood conspiracy' provides a blurred answer to rita being haunted... if they are so focused to cast 'camilla rhodes' (woman who auditioned), it is possible that they are trying to remove 'rita', since they obviously do not tolerate those that work against them. particularities in this matter little, all we know is that 'rita' is in danger, and instead of blaming herself, diane's mind blamed 'hollywood's underworld'.
i've read ideas that the vision of everything is an illusion a-la donnie darko or the occurence at the owl creek bridge, which i do no believe to be true. a question i would love to have answered is how and why does diane (or lynch) focus so much on Adam the director, since the only 'important' element to diane is that he gives her that long meaningful look at the audition while being forced to cast another girl.
the film's idea of it being set in a dream (for the greater part), tends to excuse the paradoxal nature of it, since the dream does not have to be logical. people's speech may become non-sensical and in a way it is a tool that lynch probably uses to convey the separation between reality and fiction. he plays with illusions, however, and puts them into reality somewhat. like in lost highway, when the 'new man' becomes released from the prison, it's a physical take on an illusion that is completely internal. that would be what i attribute diane's aunt return to. just a laugh that lynch is having, while fixing his wild-looking hair. :)
that's really about it, sorry that i did not bother emailing you earlier, but a heated debate between a few friends about the film and it's value in a way made me revisit plenty of internet places that spoke of mulholland drive, which incuded your excellent essay.
What if we were to have taken a different road at some point in our lives? What if we were to relive a life again, how would it turn out the next time? Would we do things differently? Would we recognize others that had been a basic part of our past lives?
This movie has so much of revelations in it and beliefs or questions of "Where did we come from? Where are we going?" From a point above the hills of earth their was a chaotic collision and one came down to find herself. This is a story that questions our own beliefs of Creation or the Big Bang theory. Their was chaotic music from the start, chaotic figures dancing to the beat of their sexuality and humanism. This later evolved to a meeting of spirituality when you heard the song "Crying". It touched the soul. And as in Revelations a horn was sounded and Silence filled the world. Pandora's box was opened and showed what humans are capable of. This movie is about Free Will, it is about Reincarnation, it is about being given a silent role that you fill out as best you can. Through your life their will be guideposts (as there were mentioned many times in the movie, especially with directional hints: Sylvia North, all the Boulevard signs: The one that came up when amnesiatic "Rita" came to a intersection and had to decide which way to go). Also, there is a type of "rule" that when we are reincarnated, we are not to remember anything previously. We are to start out anew and evolve our spirits by our own judgements. Perhaps, the beginning of the movie WAS Camilla coming back to redeem herself to someone she had hurt deeply in another life, and there lies the irony: As bad a person as Camilla had been, she was killed by the person she came back to make peace with. There are some beliefs that we are not just living this one linear life/reality, but multi-dimensional ones at the same time. That could even have been going on in this movie. Yin-Yang. Then there was the part where "Adam" came home to find his wife with another man. A Pool man symbolic of the gene pool. Adam took his anger out on something his wife seemed to love more than her husband, her jewels. A materialistic thing and he tainted them. Also, there is the "Cowboy", who represents one of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse, who were the other three? There has always been a philosophical and even now men like Fred Wolf believe that the dreaming self is as real a part of our reality as the physical is. This is part of the new physics. This movie a symbolic venture of the multi-dimensional beings that we are, and having said that, of the multi-dimensional realities and levels of reality we are living at any given time. The two old people at the beginning were not sweet parents or grandparents. It was specifically mentioned that they had met with Betty while traveling. They showed a sweet loving side until they got into that limo- then take a good hard look at them- they are the demons they turn out to be in the end. You already see it at the beginning. It is their mission, that in the sceme of things such as Good and Bad, that they come home with a Bad Betty. Through the movie it shows two ways Betty could have lived her life. Maybe it is represented as two reincarnations. Space and Time are relative. The Past Present and Future are all happening at the same time, so why couldn't Betty have been living out and working out all of her demons and desires. The Book: It could be the book of revelations, but I believe it is the book regarded as the "Akashic Records". These records have every memory, life, name, everything whatever the beginning was to whatever the end will be. It is a sacred book. The parts surrounding the book are that a woman in the next room who was testing some type of chemical? was killed, the person who was "cleaning" in the same vicinity where the sacred book was kept was killed. Blood was spilled for this book. This has themes of the battle of Heaven and Hell in it. The meeting in the the room has a scene out of revelations where one that came tasted of the earth and found it bitter and spit it out. These could be the (2) of the horsemen, and the old guy kept alone and silent letting everything go as it is being played: you can tell that he is the "Head Honcho" of whatever building/enterprise this meeting is being held at, yet he keeps his tongue, he lets them have their free will. He is alone and I believe he is symbolic of God. The "Monster" in the dream and who had the bag the old people demons ran out of was death. Maybe he was the fourth horseman. Or maybe he was simply all the bad and nastiness that humanity still has residing in them and he still has a bag of tricks for those trying to walk the straight and narrow. All I would suggest is that you look at this movie with a more religious/buddhist/spiritual "eye". Read parts of the Bible, not for for your soul's sake, but for the sake of figuring out this movie, for God's Sake!
If there were one person I could meet and speak with for one week, it would be David Lynch. David Lynch gave me a mental/spiritual orgasm with the mysterious Mulholland Drive. I have watched at least a thousand movies and have read thousands of books, (For Real!) and no one has ever touched me, made me think, imagine and use my brain harder to figure out a puzzle more than David Lynch had. Mr. Lynch, please, I beg you, let's get together for a meeting of the minds; or at least let me bow to you and say thank you for the rare gift you gave to me. Curiosity and Awe.
More: (wherever "John is mentioned, it refers to "John" who wrote the book of RevelationsI.) am not a Bible Thumper, but I recognized enough symbolic features in the movie to recognize that the majority of the movie is based on the Bible's book of "Revelations", but using a "Hollywood/Babylonor Sodom and Gomorrah" twist, so to speak. In the 2nd Testament, there are several books of the bible that are based on the same theme: a time when the Light will battle the Darkness. There is a specific paragraph that has to do with the mystery of what is occurring (in Revelations) and the key to the "bottomeless pit". The 2nd Adam is also referred to (the 1st Adam would be, of course, the Adam in the Garden of Eden and the 2nd Adam would be Adam K.)
Also, there is a theme that we (the human race) have been given numerous chances to redeem ourselves so as not to end up being erased from the Book of Life. The theme in the movie has a lot of the characters who don't know each other, looking at each other as if they had met somewhere before, or share a common secret. I believe it has to do with reincarnation of the characters. How do we know that we are not simultaneously living several lives to try to "get it right"? Plus, there are so many hints that the premise is about Good vs. Evil and Heaven and Hell and religion, that it can't possibly be anything different. In Aunt Ruth's apartment, there is a bookcase: zoom in on the books: one of the is titled "Blind Faith". If you zoom in on a telephone pole that has flyer on it, it says: "Repent Now, Hollywood is Hell." Silencio: this is all recorded. Everything is recorded in the Bible. Even something as meanial as the robe that Rita was wearing on the bed is mentioned in exactly the same colors. Courtyards are mentioned frequently in the Bible, and are shown several times in the movie. Courtyards in the bible symbolize the "areas" where John and/or other desciples from different books of the Bible, are usually taken when they meet with angels or "God". Here is one of the things I believe was done on purpose and not for the sake of decency. We all seem to agree that there are some erotic moments in the movie and that there was absolutely very graphic scenes between Rita and Betty. When Rita comes out of the bathroom with her wig and towel on, then takes her wig off, right after she takes her towel off, you can see where the pubic area has been intentionally removed. This movie revealed too much to at this point not show a brief moment of "pubic awareness". Having said that, I believed that "it" was intentionally leaving that part out because, Ok, I'm going to say it, Rita was a reincarnated Fallen Angel. There is a mention in the bible that Angels were without sexual identity. (Yes, "she" had wonderful breasts, agreed), but being a Fallen Angel, she may have been on the side of Darkness, and also mentioned numerously, is that Evil is a great deceiver. Actually, I don't believe Betty was all that innocent either. I think it was all a setup to get Rita back where she belongs and they used Betty to get her there. There are all kinds of hints: the flowers/plants that are at the entrance to the courtyard where Ruth lives are called "Birds of Paradise". Also: anyone who had several batches of $100 bills (had to be at least a million dollars there) would be a little awed by that (materialistic, yes, but human), yet, Rita and Betty were more awed by the blue key, which of course belonged to the blue box, which I believe is the Mystery and the Bottomless pit. There is no excaping. They are given chance after chance until they get it right, (well, at least 3 chances, according to the "Cowboy".
Ok, I've taken enough of your time "preaching". Here are some things I'm still stuck on: the #666 is a big deal in "Revelations", but I haven't figured that one out yet, although, it is clear at the beginning of the movie that the focus is on the limo's license plate: 2GAT123. Throughout the movie, references are made to numbers, which are a big deal in the Bible, besides also being a Book in it. I'm pretty sure that the scary guy behind Winky's is the Beast/Satan. It seems that he is bound there for awhile, so the only way he can get any jollies is to send his little demons out to get the souls of the lost. The same demons that accompanied Betty on her trip to "The City of Angels". Did you get a load of Irene's scary mouth and the unhuma like way the two of them acted once they were in that limo? Quite the opposite of the sweet "real" senior citizens that were talking to Betty. Again: Evil walks in disguise. When the "Beast" puts the box in the bag and they run out, they were giddy with joy & couldn't wait to get to poor Betty. Yet, they did not touch her; she did herself in. They were also set up to be symbolic of Betty's "personal" demons that finally do her in.
It's all a big COSMIC joke on us.
Hello there! Great essays. Here are a few random thoughts I don't think I've seen on your page yet. These really are random thoughts, not an actual essay, though! Most of them have to do with the sexual/lust and spiritual aspects of some strands. These are only one way of looking at it, of course.
After lovemaking, Rita wakes up saying, "No hay banda." Band also has significance of wedding ring, and therefore long term commitment and exclusivity and security, to stretch it. "We can be lovers, but there will be no commitment." Also, she switches sexual preferences, so "no band" is a lack of committing to the lesbian lifestyle per se, not just to Betty. Plays on the cultural cliche, "I'm not looking for anything serious" type conversation just following a steamy sex scene, in the movies or in real life!
Joe shoots the vaccuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaner is a symbol of domesticity and one thinks of June Cleaver in her pearls, vacuuming. Betty had ALL the appearances of a June Cleaver except we have no reason to believe that she *ever* wanted marriage, children, or a life in the suburbs! Au contraire! Anyway, to me Hitman Joe is acting as an accessory to the murderous will of Diane and therefore, him shooting the VC is the same as her shooting it. It wasn't bad enough he shot the cleaning person, he had to shoot the cleaning tool too! One can't help thinking of the "vacuity" of Betty's real life in comparison with her fantasies, too. (He shoots the female office worker too---she's screaming, "Something BIT me, hard!" If she's a projection of Diane, what bit her could have been the Acting Bug, the Love Bug--and maybe the Jitterbug too. ;o))
Also, playing on both the vacuity and the fantasy vs. reality themes. In the Sierra Bonita apartment, she is the antithesis of domesticity. The necessities of daily life is not in her repertoire. Her robe is beyond filthy, none of her stuff is even unpacked (after three weeks?!), and, far from the world's greatest cup of espresso (which she would sip at the Adam/Camilla engagement party), she makes a pathetic, weak pot with Folgers. Champagne fantasies on a beer budget, except with coffee? Even the cup is the one you'd find in any Denny's or it's ilk--it is common as it can be. One can't help but think, "She needs a maid! Or a wife!" ;o)
Regarding the ashtrays and the fact no one is seen smoking: Dreams going up in smoke, the Emcee at Silencio vanishing in a puff of smoke, and the "ashes" we all are supposed to return to when we die.
Pursuing the hetero/homosexual theme one step more, the grandparents. Grandparents are notorious for nosing in on what the younger generations are doing ("When are you getting MARRIED? Give us great- grand-children!!" Etc). We all know the stereotypes. So them chasing her represents pressure from the "traditional family" heterosexual, marriage and children-focused, patri/matriarchs of society if not her own family. Also, as a starlet, she was seeking glamour, not wanting to face the eventual aging we all go through. Older folks represent that for the younger generation in general. "Die young, Stay pretty." She shoots herself after confronting them--or rather, them confronting her.
Regarding the grandparents again: One presents the most antiseptic version of one's life to one's grandparents, more than anyone else in one's life. One doesn't share one's sordid mental state, bad habits, morbid obsessions, or stark failures with one's grandparents. Ever heard, (or thought to yourself) "Can you imagine if Grandma found out about this? She'd just die!" Etc. Or, "I'd die if my (grand)parents found out (fill in the blank, something that would prove you weren't really the Best Version Of You they know 100% of the time)." The prospect of them coming over during the absolute depths of her despair, having participated in a murder, no shower in god knows how long, wearing a robe, place is a disaster, crying, hallucinating, and masturbating like a damned fool, might just be enough to traumatize her to the point of suicide! After all, last they saw her she was wearing her Miss Perfect mask, winning dance contests and all. Now look how far she's sunk, with no shred of human dignity left in sight. The exposure would be unbearable!
Furthermore re: the sexuality issue. "Pink" is a slang pornographic term for woman's genitalia. Also, "Winkie" is a slang term for male genitalia. They also rhyme, equating the two coffee shops as essentially, the same place. Also, Winking implies conspiritorial activity. Lynch vis-a-vis the audience? "Wink-wink, there's another story behind this story." Also Winkie rhymes with Twinkie. Several times i've heard young girl children dressed alike refer to each other as Twinkies, or twins. Think about how the treats are packaged---it means twins. Dopplegangers, as many have pointed out before. Pink and Winkie are funny, whimsical sounding, childish words and are also porn slang. Good words to illustrate the devastation of innocence and purity. All this making light of sex/sex acts, illustrated even more by the seductive scenes both Betty and Rita act out with other actors, contrasts jarringly with the seriousness with which Betty "marries" her self-will to her psychological and sexual posession of Rita at all costs.
And speaking of Twinkies, Twinsies, Best girlfriends, etc...did anyone else notice how child-like and...I don't know, *Friendly,* the interactions were between Rita and Betty before their lovemaking scene? After which point, everything exchanged between them became suddenly either extremely melancholy, humiliating, or ominous? It is as though they were cast out of the Eden of innocent love after making love, at which time the real world started to crack open the fantasy. Also Betty claims, "I'm in love with you," twice during foreplay. Come on. In love with a woman who literally has no identity at all. Talk about infatuation! What can you possibly be in love with? There has to be a "someone" in that equation, who still hasn't been identified yet. The love thing is a bit premature! Therefore, the sex too soon and love talk too soon, wrecks the future of the relationship, and indeed, wrecks the friendship. I'm sure we've all lived through this once or twice, LOL! It's a great indictment of the way we confuse love with lust, and friendship gets thrown to the dust, seen as not good enough by itself, uncomplicated by sex.
Prostitution: Yes, Laney/streetwalker does resemble Betty too much by physical type to be ignored. Little black book? Obvious reference to the black book of a Madam containing john's names. Heidi Fleiss, anyone? Remember the hoopla we heard about H'wood veritably bursting into flames if the contents of THAT little address book was ever leaked to the public? A sensitive document which indeed contains the history of the world--the World's Oldest Profession. One more on prostitution--notice how incredibly easy it is to get Betty (gay no less) to behave in an almost obscenely seductive manner with the other actor in order to land her first part. This is her first audition EVER and already she's practically performing tricks (pun intended) to titillate in order to get a role. Also, when first settling into Aunt Ruth's place she refers to studying her lines on "this big comfy couch," an obvious ref. to the Casting Couch as one other commentor pointed out. Initially, it's the other actor who makes the scene a seduction, but Betty takes it and really, really runs with it.
Also re: the black book. There is something called the Akashic Records in some spiritual traditions that records every single word, thought, and deed of everyone who's ever lived or will life. It can't be altered or blotted out in any way. History of the World, indeed!
Regarding that little meta-movie of the audition of Betty. Brilliant Lynch! The dialogue matches interestingly with the reality of what's gone on with Betty and Rita/Camilla. (paraphrasing) "What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here!...If you kill me, they'll put you in jail....I hate you! I hate us both!" Etcetera.
A few points about the spiritual/occult/religious aspects of the film:
Maybe Camilla and Diane are both deceased at the start of the movie and inhabiting the Astral Plane together (or limbo or purgatory if you want), trying to work out their karma before they can ascend to a peaceful afterlife. They are what's called "earth-bound spirits," who have left loose ends behind. I believe Camilla died in the car crash and it's her bewildered wandering ghost who makes its way into Aunt Ruth's house. There Diane (who is also a ghost, via her suicide) encounters her & they go round and round trying to undo the damage of their lives and remember who they really are (before Hollywood corrupted them, and their subsequent deaths). All other characters in that whole sequence would be what the ghosts' phantom creations; i.e. not real, but set up based on, or triggered subconsiously by, real events and characters, like a dream does. It is the two ghosts going back toe-to-toe with one another and sharing a mutually created fantasy as their souls are struggling to both discover (everything from the first sex scene on) and at the same time to avoid (everything from the camera hitting the pillow in the beginning to the "Silencio" uttered by Rita after sex) the truth about "what really happened (both to Betty and to Rita)."
I hear the final, "Silencio" as a command--a command to let the dead sleep. I see a parallel strongly in this film btw death and sleep (for obvious reasons) and one doesn't want to "wake the dead!" Also, "Silencio"--silence, is all that's left of the huge drama of Betty and Camilla---no one else really cares, life goes on, instead of applause, there is just silence at the end of their show. No applause, no standing ovation, no encore, no nada. Any actor's worst nightmare!! Yet falls into the lore of some spiritual traditions again---that we judge ourselves, and "neither criticism nor accolades" follow us into the afterlife---only our own asessment matters and we can't kid ourselves anymore with the props and denials of the material world.
Paradoxically, however, it is also the silence of judgement. After all, this being resembles nothing so much as a Judge up on her balcony there, yelling "Silence!" as if to quiet a defendant who--let's face it--doesn't have a chance. Something about this reminds me of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, shouting Off With Her Head! Anyway she is the silence of the commanding judge who will most certainly issue a negative decree, and also the silence of no response at all, either positive or negative (which in the acting world, is the worst damnation you can have, too).
In Hindu religion, blue is the color of spiritual wisdom and attainment. Many times you'll see statues, etc. of Hindu gods that are blue. For me this is the meaning of the color blue, the blue box, and the blue hair of the last figure. It's all about that "higher self" that pushes towards and that selfish denial-addicted ego running away from spiritual wisdom which eventually must be confronted by the soul either while living or otherwise. We can't run from that blue forever. Also wisdom is often referred to as keys. "Keys to unlocking the secrets of....(Bible, ancient wisdom, occult secrets, happiness, success." Once you have the *Key* to something you are it's master. Hence the blue key is the symbol of discerning the spiritual truths aside from the drama and fantasy. The blue key opens the empty blue box to show the black hole of the insatiable ego in all it's emptiness.
The Monster/Hobo is an astral being, representing the toxic ego self-centeredness of 1) Betty and 2) Hollywood in general. He comes out from the dumpster which is a metaphor for our subconscious and the "garbage"/psychological junk baggage we all have to cope with. He is the Guardian of the Threshold, the manifestation of our fears. He is at the same time personal to Betty and also collective to us all. He's the Skeleton in our Closet. Others have touched on this. Anyway we have to go through him to get to the Other Side (i.e. peaceful ---blue---afterlife) and to initiation into spiritual wisdom.
The number 16 recurs enough to be significant. In the Tarot, it refers to the Tower, which is perhaps the most intimidating card in the deck. It refers to false ego structures coming down. Shows a building being struck by lightening and people plunging/jumping to their deaths. It means that anything built on a shaky (morally speaking) foundation will be struck down by God/higher power/the Universe.
Guess that's enough for now. Thanks again. This is a fun Rubik's Cube of a movie!
I don't know if you still are doing anything with your MD threads, but TiVo recorded it for me and I watched it again recently. I've come up with an interesting theory.
I think that the relationship that Camilla had with Diane was purely friendly. Camilla and Diane met and became friends. Camilla helped get Diane some parts in some movies. Soon Diane idolized Camilla and put herself in a fantasy relationship with her. Diane's real love relationship was with the woman from apartment 12. Diane was projecting Camilla on to her more pedestrian love affair. Camilla never knew of Diane's love and idolization. That is why she may come off as being so cold to Diane. Diane was invited to the engagement anouncement simply as a friend. Camilla's lesbian love affair was with the blonde actress she kissed at the party. In Diane's fantasy, she put herself in the shoes of this mysterious woman.
When her real life love (on whom she projected Camilla) broke up with her, Diane started down a path of depression The engagement anouncement, however, sent her over the edge. She became severly depressed and vowed revenge on her unrequited love interest. She orders the hit on Camilla. The hit is carried out and the blue key is indicative of this. Everything spirals out of control until she takes here own life.
This is just my little idea. It is a little out there, but some things lead me to belive this:
1. The relationship between Diane and woman in apartment 12 (W12) is very strained--as if there is a lot of emotional baggage in the past. These two women were definately more than just neighbors.
2. I believe the only "real" scene that explicitly links Camilla and Diane are in Diane's apartment. I am suggesting that Camilla in these instances is actually the W12. The piano ashtray is in their apartment that they share. The reason W12 comes back to the apartment is to get her remaining items, just like any couple that breaks up. I think the story of switching apartments was divulged in the "fantasy" part of the movie.
3. In the "real" scenes of Diane and Camilla, Camilla looks flawless. Even when they are breaking up, Diane looks like a mess, while Camilla is flawless. I think this is because Diane is projecting her flawless image of Camilla on to W12.
Mulholland Drive is more than just a puzzle to be solved, in my opinion. Yes, you have put the pieces together to form a coherent whole, but in doing so, I think you are missing the point of the movie.
The essence of the movie is drama, tragedy. The point is that a young woman is driven to suicide. This is not something that can be understood in the abstract.
Though it is convenient to label the first part of the movie "fantasy" or "dream", the label does not make the reality go away. This part of the movie is more than just Diane's dream: It is her former life. It is the woman she once was -- the woman that Los Angeles corrupted and then destroyed. It is the woman she could be.
To dismiss the first part of the movie as mere "fantasy" is to deprive the tragedy of its base. We care about Diane because we care about Betty. Betty is Diane seen from the inside. Is the inside any less real than the outside?
The climax of the movie occurs in the Silencio cabaret. The intensity of the song causes the two protagonists to cry and even moves me almost to tears this morning, twelve hours after I heard it. In sorrow, the audience (us) and the two characters become one.
The singer becomes disembodied through the medium of the tape recorder. The machine steals and imprisons the singer's spirit, and then she dies. Similarly, Los Angeles has stolen Diane's spirit.
The movie is dedicated to a young woman who died at the age of 29. Is this the inspiration for the movie? Was this woman also a victim of the machine? Was she too given a blue box? -- a box of nothingness, nothingness to replace the person she once was?
The movie haunts us not because it leaves loose ends. It haunts us because it is about the life and death of the soul.
PS: It was nice reading your article. There was a review on CNN that said the movie makes no sense -- that Lynch was just playing a joke on the viewers. Your article refutes that claim.
DOES the movie really lose 90% of its audience immediately? I found the movie gripping throughout -- I was a little confused, but I never lost interest! The movie made a lot of EMOTIONAL or dramatic sense, the CNN review to the contrary, and because the plot was incomprehensible at first glance, we were left with nothing BUT emotion. If Lynch had given us a simple narrative, it would have been much easier to dismiss or compartmentalize the emotion -- we would stereotype the people as "characters in a story" and thus distance ourselves. We would come to the end of the story and then close the book and set it aside. But in Mulholland Drive, the story does not have a neat clean ending, so we end up caught in the story ourselves.
I've read your essay about Mulholland drive, and concerning the doubt about the hit man's role in Diane's dream, I'd take a guess saying that he's still the hit man in the dream. Perhaps he laughs with the other guy about the car accident because he's a hit man, death to him is not such a big deal, so he can laugh at the irony of that girl supposed to be assassinated and being not because of a car accident that, more ironically, rather killed who were gonna kill her. Moreover, we also see the hit man in another scene seeking for Rita when he asks a prostitute about her, something that enhances the feeling of persecution for Rita. These things give more strength to Betty's protective role in the fantasy, where Camilla/Rita is in the need of this protection and dependance; if Rita was not still in danger after the car crash, Betty wouldn't be so necessary, and her fantasy wouldn't be truly fulfilled. Here we see how Diane breaks the link between herself and the hit man, dissociating completely the person who wanted Camilla dead (Diane) and the person who loved her (Betty); something that could actually be evidence of a possible schizophrenia.
Well, i guess those are my speculations, but I wanted to point something else out:
1) Did anyone notice that all three, Diane, the prostitute and the waiter at Winkie's, had the same hairdo? Could that be something? Actually, could the prostitute be another person in Diane's schizophrenia? perhaps a glimpse of her degrading self (all decomposing, corrupt, cheap, etc) in contrast to the nice Betty, who, in terms of hairdos had a different one?
2) I would really like to hear an opinion about all, the lady and the silencio club, the box, the club itself and the key; since they're all blue. I don't think we have the need to ask about the blue color, since we know that the key given to Diane by the hit man was blue, and she took the color for the dream too, but what's the direct relationship between all these blue things?
I would like to speculate by beginning with the fact that this key was the symbol of Camilla's death, and so I would like to think that the other blue things are symbols of death as well; club silencio (silence) that needs no further relationship with death, and that is as well another symbol of the approaching end of Diane's dream; the blue box that is the symbol of the end of the dream once it's opened, and as someone already pointed out, a possible symbol of Camilla´s coffin; and, the lady with the blue hair... did anyone else notice that she kinda looked Latin, just as Camilla does? and that her wig looked just like that of Rita's, just that blue? With those things... we could speak of a decaying (cuz the lady looks old), transformed (since we know that the blonde wig was supposed to make Rita resemble Betty) but corrupted (the wig was blue, again symbolizing the resemblance point between Diane and Camilla, death; but also transformed because the mean Camilla was different from the lover she was to Diane) Rita.
Ok, just one more thing about this; if the lady with the blue wig was somehow supposed to be Rita, then Diane was not the only one to be divided in the dream (the prostitute and Betty), but Camilla also was divided into the good, sweet, innocent Rita and the old, ugly, related to death, silent and indifferent lady with the blue hair; just notice how Rita hugs and comforts Betty when she shivers while the lady is seen from afar, rigid, staring and indolent. Still, the lady with the blue wig had the last word (silencio), something that can tell us that anyway, Diane knew the impossibility of Camilla being for her; the last word belonged to the representations of reality in Diane's dream (not only the woman with the blue wig, but also when the box was finally opened and when the singing lady fell down letting us know she was lip-synching); the last word was for death (the blue color). The last word is, then, the way the director has to tells us that reality overcomes fantasy: both when Diane's dream is over and she dies, and when the movie is over for the audience. Not only reality overcomes fantasy (even when we all prefer fantasy over reality sometimes); death always overcomes life (damn...).
Thanks a lot for an excellent explanation of the movie, and for the open space to discuss and speculate more =)
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6 June 2004