Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive ★★★★½

No hay banda! It's all a tape. Il n'est pas de orquestra. It is... an illusion! ~ Bondar at Club Silencio

This magnificent movie will mess with your mind. Over a five-hour period on Saturday night, I watched this film carefully, read up about it on the Internet, and watched it again with frequent pauses and rewinds. I know I liked it. I think I get it. But one never knows for sure with David Lynch.


The mindplay starts even before the credits begin to roll. The opening jitterbug collage is obviously a flashback to the dance contest in Canada that set in motion the pursuit of an acting career for Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts). The overlaid translucent images of Diane flanked by elderly Irene and her male companion are more open to interpretation. Some have said these represent Diane's parents. I have a slightly different theory. But most certainly this use of the overlaid images is repeated again toward the end of the film with Rita/Camille (Laura Harring), so it is important. It definitely signals that we are entering a dreamlike state or, in my mind, the afterlife.

That's right. I know the common view of this story is that it is a dream and/or psychotic break on the part of Diane. We follow the perspective of Diane's head hitting the red pillow just before she imagines that Rita/Camille escaped death in the limo on Mulholland Drive. She sees herself as Betty arriving in Los Angeles (the "City of Angels") with Irene, a stranger she supposedly met on the plane. All that follows, up until the opening of the blue box, has been described by viewers as Diane dreaming on her bed. The "little people" are supposedly symbols of her psychosis.

But what if Diane's head hitting the pillow isn't her going to sleep? What if it is her dying of the self-inflicted gunshot? What if the entire "dream" is really the dreamlike mechanism by which the soul works through the meaning of a life just ended? What if the eerie way the camera floats behind the limo, passes over buildings and turns corners in rooms is Lynch's way of showing a disembodied soul? Couldn't Irene and her male companion be Diane's spirit guides? Our minds understand the world through symbols. Couldn't the soul's journey to final rest be the search for the meanings of all those symbols?

If the film is viewed through this filter, afterlife instead of dream, the meaning of Aunt Ruth's room (and her absence during Betty's stay because she's also dead) becomes one of a "halfway house" between life and death, not just for Diane but also for Camille, who most certainly was killed by the hired assassin. Also, the name of the theater club, "Silencio," could be the silence of the grave. Betty's uncontrollable shaking as the thunder rolls, which has been interpreted as her about to wake up, could be her first glimmer of understanding that she is dead. The passage through the blue box isn't waking; it is ascendance to a clearer understanding of her life and acts.

Consider this, too. As Rita and Betty get into a taxi on their way to the club, there's a piece of paper visible on a pole that says, "Hollywood is HELL!" And we should not dismiss the fact that the "blue-haired lady" in the private box at Silencio, who appears again at the very end, was not an actor. She was script supervisor Cori Glazer, as if to reinforce Shakespeare’s famous line, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts...."

I’m not saying that my interpretation is the right one, just a viable and perhaps interesting one that may give viewers a different perspective on a great film that is well worth watching again.

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