This film is almost impossible to peg down. I don’t think anyone can say that any interpretation of this film’s events and intents is possible; still, some truth is sure to be found in everyone’s ideas. These ones are mine, although they’re often built on the ideas of others. I will say in my defence, however, that I independently came to the “dream” conclusion before reading any criticism of the film.
I urge you to see the film before reading this. Part of the experience of Mulholland Dr., not unlike Memento, is the disorientation the director generates for the first-time viewer. Give this film a chance; I despise having to recommend such a difficult piece of work, but can’t stop myself from doing so to everyone I know. I can understand hating this film after seeing it, but just give it a chance to percolate through your consciousness before you write it off.
There’s been a lot of debate in recent months about the “dream explanation”, as it is often called. I don’t intend this document to serve as the only interpretation of the movie. It is certainly the one I subscribe to, and it is easily the most popular, but it doesn’t mean that it is correct or “the best”. I urge you to watch the film a couple times and attempt to satisfy yourself before you take anything I – or Salon or anyone else – have to say under serious consideration.
This is a basic outline of one interpretation of the logical sequence of events in this film. There are many other interpretations floating around, but this one incorporates popular and unpopular ideas about this film with some ideas of my own to fill in gaps and inconsistencies. If you want this film “explained” to you in a manner easy to understand, this will probably suffice.
Note that many feel that this movie is cheapened by trying to make it logical at all – no doubt that the movie does defy logic much of the time. If such reductionism offends you, you probably won’t enjoy this document, but it’s about the only way I know how to approach a movie like this. Other approaches have their merits (and love to look down on simple reductionism), but I would venture to guess that the vast majority of the public is most comfortable with this system.
The last thing I have to say in regards to this is that Mulholland Dr. is a very visual film in a medium that is largely visual, and a literary analysis will never really connect with all the things that Lynch touches on in the movie. Keep this in mind when reading this or watching the film; the visuals and music especially touch us on a level that words can’t explain.
This is a brief outline of the story in chronological order, after which I’ll discuss its structure and film chronology on a more shot-by-shot basis.
The story is about a woman named Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts, in one of the finest acting performances put to screen). She is a young blonde from Deep River, Ontario. After winning a jitterbug contest, she aspires to be an actress. A wealthy aunt in California, involved in the film industry in some way, dies and leaves Diane a considerable sum of money. She moves from Deep River to Hollywood to try to make her name as an actress.
Upon arrival, she finds out that it’s not going to be that easy. She possibly enters into a (lesbian) relationship with her neighbour that goes nowhere; another possibility is that she attempts to initiate a relationship with her that backfires. While auditioning for a film named “The Sylvia North Story”, directed by a man named Bob Brooker, she meets the actress who eventually wins the lead role, an attractive brunette by the name of Camilla Rhodes (Laura Elena Harring, a former Miss USA and an actual countess, amusingly).
The two of them fall in love and have a steamy relationship. Eventually, Camilla breaks off the relationship as she falls in love with the director of her current film project (in which Diane has a small role), Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux in a very funny performance). It’s a nasty breakup, with a lot of tears on each side. Camilla appears to try to maintain a friendship with Diane, but Diane is furious (although still in love with her).
Eventually, Diane is talked by Camilla into attending a (cast?) party. She has the limo stop on the middle of Mulholland Dr. and leads Diane up a back “shortcut” to the house of the director, Adam, possibly because she’s embarrassed to be seen with Diane at this point in their relationship. Adam greets them with drinks, and Diane is introduced to Adam’s mother, Coco (Ann Miller, a major film star from the 40’s).
They go inside and have dinner, where Diane relates her story to Coco and the others at the table, who obviously feel some pity for her, probably because of her hanger-on relationship with Camilla and her failure as an actress. Adam mentions that his ex-wife ran off with the pool man and he kept the house, and is clearly happy with the outcome. Camilla goes out of her way to make Diane jealous and make clear their relationship is over. She even goes so far as to kiss another woman, a plain-looking blonde, in front of Diane during the course of the party.
Adam and Camilla then announce their engagement. Enraged with jealousy, Diane pays a hit man named Joe (Mark Pellegrino) $50,000 to kill Camilla. Joe tells her that she will know that the contract has been carried out when she finds a blue key (that he shows her briefly), most likely on her coffee table.
Diane returns home and goes to sleep, during which she has an extremely intense dream (more on this later). Eventually, she is awoken by her neighbour (the possible ex-lover) knocking on the door. She wants some things, dishes and a lamp, to be returned to her. Diane allows her to grab the box full of her things, at which point the neighbour notices a piano-shaped ashtray on the coffee table and announces it is hers. In pointing this out, Diane notices the blue key sitting on the table. She tells her neighbour to take her ashtray and leave. As she leaves, she mentions to Diane that two detectives have been looking for her.
Diane then calmly goes over and brews a pot of coffee. She has a brief hallucination that Camilla has returned to life and her arms, but quickly realizes that Camilla is now dead. She takes her cup of coffee to the couch and sits down.
At this point, she daydreams and reminisces back over the events leading up to Camilla’s death. She’s startled from her reverie by an insistent knocking on the front door, most likely the police. Overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, she flees to the bedroom and shoots herself.
Okay, good enough you might say, a simple story, and that seems to cover the events of about 1/5 of the film. But what about the rest of it? This is, of course, the dream she has. We’ll move on to a semi-scene by scene analysis on the next page.
Dreams and Reality
The clues that Lynch leaves for this “dream” interpretation are abundant, but there are pieces that don’t fit, and other interpretations that work. Once again, this is just an attempt to render the film into a more logical framework since that’s the approach many of us are most comfortable with.
I don’t have the film in front of me, so I can’t say the order of the scenes is always going to be dead accurate, since I’m working from memory, but for the most part the mistakes I’ll make won’t be important ones. The crucial sequences are well established in my head after a dozen viewings. I’ll be sure to correct any mistakes next time I view the film.
The film opens with a scene of 50’s dancing and a beaming blonde woman staring out at the camera. Two elderly figures (Jeanne Bates, Dan J. Birnbaum) flank her and appear to be happy for her. This is reality, or at least Diane’s remembered reality, of winning the jitterbug contest. The elderly figures are probably her parents, or possibly her aunt and uncle or grandparents.
We then cut to a scene of a bedroom full of red colours. The camera POV moves across the sheets in a slow drift down into the pillow and blackness. This is reality as well; the POV is of Diane falling into the pillow in sleep. In the chronology of the reality, this point is after she has hired a hit man to kill Camilla, but before discovering the blue key and knowing that Camilla is dead.
We then cut to the Mulholland Dr. street sign and the opening credits, appearing over a shot of a slow-moving limo. This is the beginning of Diane’s complex dream, and will occupy approximately the next two hours of the film.
I want to make something clear right off with this. I do not think, and I beg the reader not to, that this is all just a cliché “It’s just a dream” story (even if you buy this interpretation). Almost any confusing movie can be explained through the deus ex machina of a dream. In this movie, the dream is the important part of the film, because Lynch encourages us not to just shrug our shoulders, but to try to figure out why Diane is dreaming these things. The reality doesn’t really matter except as the framework for the dream, in which Lynch articulates his underlying message. There are other important reasons behind Lynch’s decision as well, but I’ll save those for later.
Part One – Diane’s Dream
We essentially have three plotlines in this portion of the film, with some others making brief appearances.
The first is the story of Rita, an attractive brunette who has lost her memory after a failed assassination, and Betty, a perky blonde from Deep River, Ontario. Rita is Diane’s dream idealization of Camilla, and Betty of herself. They are both played by the same actresses that play the real Diane/Camilla.
The limo in the opening credits eventually comes to a halt, and the attractive brunette we see in the back seat announces with concern, “We don’t stop here.” The man driving the limo turns a gun on her and is about to kill her when two carfuls of drunk, racing kids plow into the limo and wreck it. The brunette is the only survivor. She stumbles in a daze down the hill into an apartment complex garden and passes out. Upon waking, she sees a red-headed woman heading out with suitcases, she sneaks into the apartment and passes out under the kitchen table as the red-headed woman locks up and leaves the apartment. This is Diane’s fantasy that Camilla has survived the hit man’s attack on her, as she is already feeling remorse for ordering the hit.
We then move to the second story, when we see a young blonde named Betty Elms arriving at LAX in the company of two kindly older folks (the same ones that appeared during the opening jitterbug shot). Betty is Diane’s dream idealization of herself, as mentioned; bright, hopeful and full of enthusiasm – perky is an understatement. The two older folks seem to be people she just met on the plane, who wish her luck and head off. We see them in a shot in the back of their limo, grinning maniacally at the camera. It’s a rather frightening shot, and our first hint in the film that something’s definitely not right. They seem to represent Diane’s parents, or at least her innocent beginnings in Deep River. They make a crucial appearance later, near the end of the film.
Betty arrives at the apartment complex where we know Rita is currently hiding. She meets the landlady, a woman by the name of Coco. Coco is Adam’s mother in reality, an aloof woman who pities Diane. In the dream, she’s been turned into the kindly landlord of the apartment complex. Betty is staying at her aunt’s place while her aunt is in Canada shooting a movie. Coco lets her into her aunt’s apartment, which is, of course, the apartment Rita is hiding in.
Betty stumbles upon Rita naked in the shower, and assumes that she is a friend of her aunt’s. She asks her name, and “Rita”, apparently at a loss, takes her name from a Gilda poster featuring Rita Hayworth. Rita falls asleep on the bed, during which time Betty finds out on the phone that her aunt doesn’t know this woman. Betty confronts her, at which point Rita breaks down and confesses that she’s lost all of her memory. All she can remember is a car accident.
Betty feels compassion for her, and wants to help her figure out who she is. They look in Rita’s purse, but instead of finding any ID, they find $50,000 in cash and a strange, futuristic blue key. This is, of course, the $50,000 Diane paid the hit man and the blue key of the hit man (turned more mysterious), reincorporated in the dream into something both of benefit to Rita/Camilla (the cash) and putting control over her destiny in her own hands through the blue key. This is part of Diane’s self-justification (Camilla is at fault for Diane wanting to kill her) combined with her wish that Camilla survives the hit – at least, that’s my best guess. I believe that in the mythology of the dream, the key also represents the key to Rita’s lost memories.
There is a shot of detectives (Robert Forster, Brent Briscoe) puzzling over the wreck at this point. They make only one other, very minor, appearance. This is likely partially a vestige from the show’s television roots (the cops are played by prominent actors) in part, but their standard cop-dialogue fits in nicely with Diane’s fantasy of Camilla having survived the attack.
There is another shot in which we see a man in a wheelchair (he is played by Michael J. Anderson, the midget from “Twin Peaks”, and there is argument over whether it’s just his head on a full-sized body, or whether the character is a midget. I think it’s a full-sized body) named Mr. Roque. He says, on the phone, to a man that we only see from the back (and that I can’t appear to find elsewhere in the film) that “The girl is still missing.” This man relays the message to a completely unidentified man, who in turn phones someone else. The last guy phones someone who doesn’t appear to be home. The ringing phone is clearly Diane’s phone in reality, as we see during the second portion of the film. This is reality intruding into the dream; perhaps her phone is ringing in reality and is creeping, but more likely, this is her tacit acknowledgement to herself of the part she’s played in the assassination of Camilla.
Monsters and Mobsters
There is then a very odd scene around this time, one which I feel might be key to the film. A somewhat geeky man is sitting in a “Winkie’s” diner with another man. The other man might be his therapist, but others have plausibly described them as a pair of cops or a pair of studio flunkies. He describes a dream to the therapist in which he says he was sitting in this diner. In the dream, he looks over his shoulder to the cash register and sees the therapist standing there looking afraid. The man with the dream is also afraid, and then he realizes why. He sees “through the walls” that there is a man, a monster, behind the diner who is “doing it all”. He says that he hopes never to see the face of the man outside of a dream. The therapist agrees they should go out back to set his mind at ease, and goes to pay the bill. The man looks over at the therapist standing at the register and realizes his dream is coming true. With dread, the two of them head out back and walk towards the back of the restaurant, inexorably drawn to the dumpster. Behind a cement wall surrounding the dumpster, the monster suddenly appears in the frame. The man who had the dream appears to drop of a heart attack, and the scene ends. We never see the therapist again, but the man with the dream makes one more brief appearance, and the monster makes two (maybe three) more that are of key importance.
This scene is shot in a different style than any other scene in the movie, a slowly wandering Steadicam that is rather disorienting. I won’t try to guess at this point what this scene and the monster represent, I’ll leave that for later.
We then get introduced to the two other storylines. One involves the hit man Joe (who appears the same in the dream as he does in reality) showing up at a long-haired man’s apartment after the botched assassination. The long-haired man finds something about an accident funny; we can only assume the fluke of the failed hit. Joe asks if a book the long-haired man has is “Ed’s famous black book”, and when the long-haired man replies in the affirmative, Joe kills him. He’s setting it up to look like suicide when the gun accidentally goes off, shooting a woman in the next apartment through the wall. He goes next door to take care of it and tries to strangle her. In the process of the struggle, he drags her back to the long-haired man’s apartment, and a janitor sees him. He talks the janitor into the room and kills both the woman and the janitor, then shoots the janitor’s vacuum cleaner, starts a fire, and sets off alarms. He flees the scene. We later see him asking a hooker if she knows if any “new brunette girls” have shown up on the street. That’s the end of his appearance in the dream.
It seems to me that she is fantasizing here that Joe, her hit man, is clearly incompetent, once again because she regrets having ordered the hit. Some think that it’s further manifestation of her guilt (her act has now caused the death of two innocent people) but I prefer the former explanation. The second scene is just more of her fantasy of people looking for Rita in the aftermath of her accident, and probably partially a dangling thread from the TV series again.
The last plotline is major, and it dovetails with the Betty/Rita storyline. I’ll describe it in full before I discuss it. Adam Kesher reappears in Diane’s dream as himself. He’s making a film named “The Sylvia North Story”. Note that this isn’t the film he was directing in reality, but the one on which Diane and Camilla first met. Two Mafia-style heavies come in and one of them (Dan Hedaya) tells him (and his producers) that he will cast an unknown actress named Camilla Rhodes in his film. They show him a picture, and it’s of the plain blonde that kisses Camilla at the engagement party. There is then an extended sequence in which the quieter Mafia type (Angelo Badalamenti, Lynch’s long-time composer) is served an espresso, which he spits out in disgust. Adam refuses to cast the part, beats up the Mafia limo with his golf club, and goes home.
This entire conversation is monitored by Mr. Roque, the midget in the wheelchair. The producers go up to ask what they should do, and are tacitly ordered to shut down the film. This is the last appearance of Mr. Roque.
Adam refuses to cast the part and goes home, being told by his assistant en route that the production has been shut down. Once he gets home, he finds his wife in bed with Gene (Billy Ray Cyrus in a very amusing cameo), the pool man. He flips out, dumps pink paint in his wife’s jewelry box, and is beaten up and humiliated by Gene. He leaves his house and hides out in a motel. Heavies try to find him (in the process beating up his wife and Gene) and eventually track him down, which the manager of the motel, Cookie, warns him about.
He leaves the motel and is phoned by his assistant again, who tells him he must meet with a cowboy at a corral at midnight. Amused and curious, he heads to the corral. The arrival of the cowboy is accompanied by the harsh flickering of a light turning on, a frequent symbol in Lynch films I’ll mention later. The cowboy essentially tells him that he either casts Camilla Rhodes in his film, or he will be killed.
This entire portion of the film is largely concerned with Diane’s justification for why she hasn’t done well in Hollywood. She fantasizes this bizarre and huge conspiracy behind the scenes. This conspiracy ordered the casting of Camilla Rhodes in “The Sylvia North Story”; she wants to believe that without some conspiracy, she would have been the clear choice. It’s also involved with humiliating Adam in her dream; he’s beaten, hunted, mocked and weak-willed, ultimately forced to do the bidding of these mysterious underworld figures.
We’ll return to the Betty/Rita plot at this point, which has been intertwined with the stories of the hit man and Adam during the first half of the dream section. Having discovered the money and key in Rita’s purse, the two are trying to figure out what to do when Rita has a memory creep through; Mulholland Drive. The two of them enter into a Nancy Drew-style mystery at this point. They hide the money and key in a hatbox in the closet, and set out to phone the police and find out of there was a car accident on Mulholland Drive.
They walk to the same Winkie’s we have already seen in the odd scene about the monster and use the payphone to phone the police anonymously. They discover that there was indeed an accident. They head inside Winkie’s to discuss it and have a cup of coffee, at which point Rita sees the name “Diane” on the nametag of the waitress. This triggers another memory – the name “Diane Selwyn”. They look her up in the phone book, find her name, and call her, but get no answer. The voice on the answering machine isn’t Rita’s (of course), but Betty suggests that it might be her roommate, and they should head over there in the morning and check it out. It’s worth noting that this set of scenes includes two hints to the nature of the film; Betty calls L.A. a “dream world”, and when they phone Diane, she says something to the effect of “It feels weird to be calling yourself” to Rita.
They’re interrupted by a knocking on the door at this point. Betty opens the door, and finds a crazed woman with long, tangled hair outside. The woman is ranting about something being “in trouble”, then wonders where Ruth (Betty’s aunt) is. Betty introduces herself, and tellingly, exchanges this dialogue: “My name is Betty Elms.” “No, it’s not. Not you in trouble.” and continues to rant. Coco eventually interrupts and takes the woman away, after giving Betty a script that’s been faxed for an audition the next day.
I have a suspicion that the crazed woman is another representation of the monster, as they look very similar (although according to the credits the actors are different). She is warning Betty of the danger Diane already knows; that Camilla is in danger.
In the morning, Betty rehearses her lines with Rita. Rita’s reading of the lines is horrible and stiff; another justification to Diane that Camilla is a bad actress and only won the Sylvia North role through this Hollywood conspiracy. It’s a badly written scene of a young girl ending a statutory rape relationship with her father’s best friend, and Betty delivers the lines routinely. Coco comes by at this point and spots Rita. She takes Betty aside and tells her that her aunt called and was concerned about this girl. Betty lies to Coco and said her aunt misinterpreted what she said on the phone, and that Rita is a friend just staying for a few days. Coco warns her that the crazed woman is often right in her prophecies, and that Betty should stay away from danger. Betty goes off to the audition, with the promise to pick Rita up after so they can head to Diane’s apartment.
We then get the audition scene, one of the best-filmed scenes in recent film memory. Betty shows up and is greeted by the producer of the film, the director – who is named Bob Brooker, the actual director of “The Sylvia North Story” in reality – and a talent agent (and all their assistants). The lead actor for the film, smarmy Woody Katz (Chad Everett, a soap opera/TV-movie fixture who looks like a cross between George Hamilton and Charlton Heston), is there to read with her. He is rather lewd while setting up the scene. When she starts reading the scene, it suddenly takes on an entirely different energy than we saw during her rehearsal with Rita; she delivers the lines in a steamy, erotic, passion-filled performance that leaves everyone in the room gasping for air. It’s a brilliantly acted scene on the part of Naomi Watts, and surely shows how Diane thinks or wishes she could act, not what she can actually do.
The talent agent, impressed with Betty but not with the film or the producers, takes her to meet an important young director. Here, the Adam story dovetails, and she is brought to the set of “The Sylvia North Story” during auditions. Adam and Betty lock eyes in a decidedly powerful way, but Adam has to turn his attention to the audition. After seeing one girl, Camilla Rhodes (the plain-blonde dream version) shows up. This is already after the meeting with the cowboy, and Adam casts Camilla as he is supposed to, much to the approval of his supervisors. Adam looks regretful, though, especially in the face of this beautiful new girl, and is about to talk to Betty, when she realizes the time and rushes out to meet Rita (which is her dream-motive, the real Diane’s motive for abandoning this part of the dream I’ll talk about later). This is the end of the Adam subplot in the dream, and from here until the end of the dream, Lynch focuses entirely on the Betty/Rita storyline.
Is This Real?
I’m just going to describe the rest before I discuss it, it gets complicated from here.
Betty and Rita show up at Diane’s apartment complex. The two cops are parked out front, and Rita instinctively wishes to avoid them so asks the cabbie to drive around back. They get Diane’s apartment number, #12, from the sign out front. They knock, get no answer, and are about to leave, when someone does answer. It’s not Diane, but a neighbour, who tells them that she switched apartments with Diane, who is now in #17. They begin to head off, but the neighbour wants to join them, mentioning that Diane has some of her things. The neighbour doesn’t recognize Rita, which tips them off that she’s not Diane (the assumption they’d been working with until this point). She’s about to go with them (to their chagrin, it appears), when a phone call calls her back into the house with the promise to catch up.
Rita and Betty knock at #17, but there’s no answer. Betty explores the windows and finds one open. With a grudging boost from Rita, she enters and opens the front door for Rita, holding her nose against an unpleasant smell. The two begin to explore the apartment, and find the figure of a woman on the bed inside. In horror, they circle the bed and confirm that she’s been dead for quite some time. The woman in bed is wearing a slip that leaves her decomposing legs bare, and has tangled blonde hair, but the face is unrecognizable (it’s worth noting that Naomi Watts doesn’t play the corpse). Rita begins to scream in horror just as the neighbour knocks at the door and is muffled by Betty. The neighbour gives up and leaves, and Betty and Rita burst out into the open in a dramatic and beautiful shot.
We then cut to Rita hacking at her hair hysterically with a pair of scissors. Betty stops her and tells her that she knows what Rita needs to do, and asks Rita to let Betty do it for her (a dialogue exchange that still piques my curiosity). We cut to Rita with short, blonde hair, a rough double of Betty at this point. She appears to be happy with the new disguise, and the two prepare for bed.
Betty is in bed and Rita says goodnight. Betty tells her she doesn’t need to leave it on in the house, at which point we realize Rita’s new hairdo is a wig. She then says that Rita doesn’t need to sleep on the couch, it’s a big bed. Rita drops her towel and reveals that she’s nude underneath, then slips under the sheets with Betty. She thanks her and kisses her on the forehead. Betty is responsive, moves to kiss her lips, and the two begin to kiss passionately. As they strip and have sex, Betty tells Rita that she loves her.
We then cut to the two asleep. Rita appears to be having a dream. “Silencio, silencio,” she repeats along with some other foreign words that translate roughly to “There is no band, there is no orchestra,” eventually waking Betty up. Rita tells her they need to go somewhere immediately, and the two get in a cab and head to a nightclub. The camera zooms in on the door after they enter, and we enter the most confusing and hotly debated portion of the film, the “Club Silencio” sequence.
Inside the club, we see an old-fashioned theatre hall. A small audience is scattered about the seats, and we can see a blue-haired woman in a luxury box beside the stage. The stage is small, floor-lit, with an old-fashioned microphone in the middle of the stage and a red curtain as the backdrop. Just as Betty and Rita take their seats, an MC pronounces in Spanish that there is no band. He engages in a speech in which he constantly repeats that everything they are seeing is a recording, demonstrating his point with a trumpet player who stops playing mid-note and spreads his arms as the music continues. He repeats that it is all illusion; it is all faked, hammering this theme into the audience’s heads in several languages.
He then intones, “Listen!”, and the stage is darkened as he holds his hands over his head, Nixon-style. Lightning flickers, we hear little but a low rumbling, but Betty enters into strange convulsions as he holds his position, appearing to stare right at Betty. Rita tries to calm her spasms. As soon as he drops his hands, Betty stops convulsing. He crosses his hands in front of his chest, grinning demonically at the camera, as he disappears into smoke.
The entire auditorium is filled with a wavery, blue light and an insistent buzzing, and Rita and Betty appear to be very bothered by this. It stops, and they stop clutching each other and calm down. Cookie, the manager from the motel, dressed in a blood-red suit, comes out and speaks Spanish, announcing a singer named Rebekah Del Rio (playing herself). She comes out and performs an absolutely gorgeous rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” a capella, in Spanish. Rita and Betty, drawn entirely into her performance, weep openly. As she reaches the climax of the song, she abruptly collapses as the voice plays on, making us realize that this is just a recording, as the MC warned.
Betty and Rita gradually stop crying as the song ends and Rebekah Del Rio is carried offstage. Betty reaches into a purse sitting on the seat beside her – it’s unclear whether it’s her purse or whether she just discovers it there, but she appears to be looking for a tissue. She finds a small blue box inside, with a keyhole that appears to fit the key in Rita’s purse back in the apartment.
We cut to the two of them walking up to the apartment. Betty is holding the bag with the blue box inside of it carefully and well in front of her, as if she’s afraid of it. They enter the apartment and head into the bedroom, where Betty puts the box on the bed as Rita turns to get the hat box. When she turns back, Betty is gone. She calls her name a couple times, then says “Donde estas?”, or “Where are you?” in Spanish. She turns back to the box, takes out her key, and inserts it into the keyhole. The lock rotates once, and she opens up the box, which is like a small safe. The camera view rushes inside the box and into blackness, and then we see the empty and open box hit the floor of the bedroom.
Betty’s aunt Ruth comes in from the other room having heard the box hit the floor, looks around, sees nothing (the box is now gone), and exits the room. The dream then really breaks down, as an image of the hallway in Diane’s apartment is superimposed over the hallway in Ruth’s apartment. We see Diane lying in bed in the same position as the dead Diane in the dream, and wearing the same outfit, but she appears to be alive. The cowboy appears at the door and says “Hey pretty girl, time to wake up.” We cut back to Diane in the bed and her legs are clearly decomposing, as they were when Rita and Betty found her. We cut to the cowboy leaving the doorway. An insistent knocking at a door overwhelms the soundtrack, and we fade to black.
When the picture fades back in, it’s of Diane’s apartment, dingy and drab, and she’s being woken up by a knocking at the door. She’s in the same position as the dead Diane in the dream, wearing the same outfit. The dream has ended.
“Club Silencio” analysis
This portion of the film (beginning with the discovery of Diane’s corpse) is the most confusing, or at least the second most confusing. I haven’t got it all sorted out, never will. Much of the “Club Silencio” sequence communicates Lynch’s primary message, and I’ll discuss that later, during the analysis of the deeper motives of the film, but I’ve barely begun cracking it. I think it might be just a surreal dream sequence to Diane, but to the film audience it’s something quite different.
The biggest problem I have with this is their discovery of Diane’s corpse. If you buy my breakdown of the events, this dream occurs before she kills herself. Why does she dream about her corpse in bed, in the same position we see her both asleep in, and later the position she is in when she shoots herself? I can rectify that, I think, and I’ll discuss a key difference in the two “Diane corpses” we see during the course of the film when we reach the appearance of the second corpse later. I think the significance of this is that it’s where Diane first begins to subconsciously contemplate suicide to escape from her guilt over what she’s done.
During this portion, the dream starts to break down. Betty appears to possibly fear talking with Adam (or possibly, as one reader has pointed out, she doesn’t like seeing the pseudo-Camilla), and runs from him as soon as he is about to talk to her. I think this, in part, shows Diane’s idealized devotion to Camilla; Betty is rejecting Adam and maybe even a lucrative part, in order to fulfill her commitment to Rita, as she feels Camilla should have done for her. I think it also might be key in that Adam’s appearance (or the pseudo-Camilla’s, or both together) in her dream, directly interacting with her dream self, is too much for her to handle after the dinner party; it threatens to wake her up, so she flees from the image within the dream.
I have a real problem figuring out the part in which Rita becomes a Betty look-alike. Is it just Lynch’s fascination with doppelgangers, or did Betty mean something deeper when she asked Rita to let her do “what she has to do” for her? On a simple level in the dream mythology, Rita is afraid and looking to disguise herself, but I think there’s more going on here.
Their love sequence, which was the focus of many critics, is a sexual fantasy of Diane’s. It’s Diane and Camilla, together again – except this time, Camilla is Rita, an amnesiac that Diane can fashion into whatever she wants her to be within the dream, and Diane is Betty, the woman she wishes she could be. It’s the ideal relationship for Diane, but it’s also too emotionally powerful, and probably triggers the surreal episode to follow and her rise into consciousness, which is complete when the neighbour knocking on the door wakes her up fully.
We then enter the surreal “Club Silencio” portion; analysis of the motives of this to come later. The blue key of reality is now fully realized in the dream when the box is discovered. In the mythology of the dream, the box contains Rita’s memory, which is made complete when the box is opened (and the dream ends). To Diane, the box once again symbolizes this evil deed which she’s done, and she’s once again trying to put the responsibility in Camilla’s hands; it is Rita, and not Betty, that opens the Pandora’s box, which is a dream representation of her death.
I can’t find any special significance behind the cowboy’s appearance as she wakes up. I can explain away the cowboy easily enough, but he, the blue box, and the “monster” give me the most trouble. I’m not satisfied with my explanation for the cowboy, but that will come later, with his last appearance in the film.
Part 2 – Diane’s Reality
Diane gets up, pulls on a robe, and slowly answers the door. Naomi Watts does an absolutely stunning transition in character during this portion; many people were additionally confused by the film when they didn’t realize that the same actress was on screen, that’s how complete and instantaneous her metamorphosis is. The film is drabber, duller, the soundtrack is more muted. These are all clues to what has transpired. This specific scene is the second of only three scenes in the film that are completely in reality and set in current time (the first was the pre-credit POV shot of Diane falling asleep).
She answers the door, and it’s her neighbour. The neighbour wants her dishes and lamp back. There is a definite tension here that suggests they may have had a relationship. As described in my opening summary of the narrative on page 2, Diane sees the key, has a brief fantasy that Camilla is alive again, and then enters into a flashback.
This flashback is our primary source of information about the reality of the situation, and it must be remembered that as a flashback, it is possibly coloured by Diane’s memory of the events. Therefore, there are moments in the flashback that seem surreal (such as the weird laughter during the engagement announcement), and we can’t take everything at entirely face value; still, I believe it’s a more accurate representation of reality than the dream portion.
First, the flashback is of Camilla and Diane topless and fooling around on the couch. They seem to be madly in love, but Camilla tells Diane that she wants to end it. Diane desperately insists it can’t be, and begins to sexually assault Camilla, who pushes her away forcibly. Diane asks if it’s “him”.
We then enter into what I think is a “sub-flashback”, or a flashback within the flashback, but many might disagree. In the sub-flashback, Camilla is acting in a scene directed by Adam while Diane, in costume but obviously a minor player, looks on. Adam is showing the lead actor how to kiss Camilla, and ends up calling for the lights to be killed as they kiss passionately, while Camilla glares at Betty out of the corner of her eye. That’s the end of the sub-flashback. If you don’t consider it a sub-flashback but just part of a single chronologically non-sequential flashback, it really doesn’t affect the interpretation.
The next scene is chronologically after their couch scene. Camilla is trying to talk to Diane and force her way into the apartment, but Diane insists that Camilla is just trying to make it easier on herself, and slams her out.
The next scene is slightly troubling and very memorable, and this is where we may enter an odd sub-flashback again (I believe we do). Diane, wearing the same outfit she wore while pushing Camilla away in the previous scene, masturbates grimly and unsuccessfully, crying miserably. We occasionally turn to her POV, in which Lynch uses an out-of-focus camera coming back in focus to suggest tears welling up and being blinked away. Suddenly the phone rings, and she turns to look at it, but doesn’t answer. It’s the exact same shot we saw of the ringing, unanswered phone in the first few minutes of the film.
Parties and Contracts
The scene changes, but the phone is still ringing. It’s sitting at a different angle now, and Diane answers when she hears Camilla on the answering machine. Camilla is asking her to come to the party, insisting it will be fun, and Diane reluctantly agrees.
The next shots mirror the opening shots from the film perfectly – the slow drive of the limo up Mulholland Drive, and the driver stopping, only this time it’s Diane who says “We don’t stop here”, and it’s not a hit but Camilla coming to meet her and take her up a “shortcut” to the house. I think this might be because she’s embarrassed to be seen with her at this point and doesn’t want to enter through the front. Adam and his mother, Coco, meet them outside with drinks, and Coco is introduced to Diane. They head inside for dinner.
The transition between the previous scene and the dinner scene, as well as a couple of transitions during the dinner scene, are done with the same out-of-focus technique he used for Diane’s POV during the masturbation scene, except these shots aren’t from Diane’s POV, but an objective one. I think you could make a plausible argument that the dinner party scene is a masturbatory sub-fantasy/flashback she’s having during the masturbation we have witnessed, but it doesn’t really matter, once again.
We learn almost all of our information about Diane during this scene – where she’s from, her story about her aunt, how Camilla and she met, “The Sylvia North Story”. Many of the images that appear in her dream are seen here, apparently to be incorporated into the dream later – she takes a sip of espresso and notices an odd-looking Italian man, whom she turns into the espresso-drinking Mafia heavy in the dream. She glimpses a man in a cowboy outfit walk by, briefly, and incorporates his character into her dreams as well, along with Coco’s. The plain blonde that Camilla kisses to humiliate Diane is incorporated in the dream as the talent less “Camilla Rhodes” ringer in Adam’s film.
Eventually, Adam and Camilla appear to be on the verge of announcing their engagement, although there is a manic sound to their laughter and a spooky feeling that give us the sense that this is an interpretation of, rather than an accurate document of the events that happened.
Just before they finish their announcement, we cut directly to the Winkie’s diner. Diane is hiring Joe, the hit man, to kill Camilla. The waitress comes over – the same actress as the one named Diane, who served Betty and Rita in the dream and triggered Rita’s memory. We can see the name on her nametag this time is “Betty”, so we now know where she came up with her dream-name. He agrees to do the job for $50,000, and she pays him the money and gives him Camilla’s picture. Joe shows her a blue house key and tells her that she will find this “where [he] told her” when the job was done (we assume he means on her coffee table, which may be a mistaken assumption, but seems reasonable). He is carrying a black book with him, later to be included as the book that he shot the long-haired guy over. She looks over at the cash register, and the man who had a dream from way back in the movie makes his reappearance, this time standing in the position his therapist was standing before. Diane asks Joe what the key opens, and he just laughs, as Lynch fades into the next scene.
This is where it gets really confusing. A Steadicam tracks back, under heavy red lighting, to the monster behind the dumpster. The monster now just appears to be a dirty homeless man. He is holding the blue box in his hands, swathed in smoke and flames. He sort of shrugs and puts the box in a dirty paper bag and drops it at his feet. We switch to a shot of the box in the bag, and eventually, two tiny little versions of the “kindly old couple” come stuttering out of the bag, laughing manically, and head cross town to terrorize Diane.
We come back to full reality at this point for the third of the three moments in the film. Diane snaps out of her reverie (notice her robe and the coffee cup and lack of piano ashtray, which reappeared in the flashbacks, to show us where this is chronologically), sees the key again, and starts to cry. A sudden banging on the door just makes her cry harder. We pan over to the bottom of the door, and find the two elderly people coming through the crack below the door (Diane doesn’t notice them). The lighting changes drastically, and we get lightning flickers like in the “Club Silencio” sequence. She cries harder at the sound of the hammering on the door, and we gradually hear a woman’s screams fading in on the soundtrack – hysterical screams.
All of a sudden, Diane gets up and bolts from the couch towards the bedroom, and reality ends for the last time as we switch to a hallucination. The two old people are now full size and are terrorizing her, cackling and drooling, as she runs into the bedroom screaming hysterically, leaps across the bed, grabs a gun out of the night table (it’s worth mentioning that the blue box can be seen in the drawer) and shoots herself in the mouth, ending in the same position as the dead Diane in the dream.
Many (including myself) feel that the frightening return of the old people is symbolic of her old life coming back to terrorize her. The kindly parental-role figures that were so supportive of the young, optimistic Betty have come to terrorize the evil Diane for her sins.
There’s one key difference here in their death positions, though; Diane is wearing her robe and it covers her legs entirely. Therefore, the other dead Dianes, who were wearing the clothing Diane was wearing while she had the extended dream, could have merely been her suicidal fantasies.
After her death, thick black smoke envelops the bed, as it enveloped the cars after the accident at the beginning of the film and the MC in the Club Silencio after Diane’s convulsions. The face of the “monster” appears again briefly in the smoke. Shots of the LA lightscape are shown, with Rita and Betty as the blonde semi-twins out on the town together superimposed over top as the soundtrack swells to a conclusion. This fades into the stage at the Club Silencio, where the blue, watery/smoky lighting effect is going full blast. The microphone is there, but nobody is on stage. The blue lighting effect stops, and we cut to the face of the blue-haired woman in the luxury box. She speaks a single word: “Silencio,” and the film fades to black.
So what does all this mean? Many have taken the position that the movie is just poor storytelling. They assert that he took a television pilot in it’s entirety, with dangling plot threads to set up a series and all, and tacked on a half-hour ending (starting at the first lesbian love scene) that is clumsy and artificial.
Obviously, I don’t feel this way, or I wouldn’t have bothered writing something like this. What do I think Lynch has tapped into here? I’m not entirely sure I can describe it, and the more time goes by, the more words I find to articulate what I think this film is talking about and what it makes me feel, and hope to update this interpretation regularly.
There are several popular Lynch themes to be found in the film, and there is a popular interpretation of Lynch’s intent behind the film. Themes such as the corruption of innocence and youth, sinister conspiracies, a mystical and surreal night club sequence and a mysterious and important stranger whose arrival in the film is heralded by electrical interference as a light turns on are good examples. These have been seen in other Lynch material – Blue Velvet and “Twin Peaks” most notably (both the excellent series and the miserably bad film). I understand it’s to be found quite a lot in Lost Highway as well, but I haven’t seen it, and I can’t recall Wild at Heart to save my life (except for the line about the jacket), so I’ll just leave the diehard Lynch fans to draw their own conclusions from these motifs.
The popular interpretation is that many feel that the film is a critique of the power structure of Hollywood – the “monster” is the dirty and corrupt side of Hollywood, and controls the entertainment world (the blue box is seen as representative of the film itself or the film or television industry in general in this interpretation). A secret and mysterious, corrupt conspiracy controls the film industry from empty rooms, and a bizarre hit man dressed as a cowboy enforces their reign of terror. Adam represents Lynch in the dream in this interpretation, a hapless but talented director subject to the whims of this bizarre conspiracy.
I don’t buy this, and it’s for a very simple and very good reason. Hollywood studios, since Eraserhead, have provided Lynch with tens of millions of dollars to make bizarre, difficult, disturbing and extremely personal films, with no significant interference. He films what he likes, writes what he likes, and casts those he likes. He has no reason to have a grudge against Hollywood; they’ve treated him extremely well. I don’t think he’s trying to take a catty potshot at the industry, a la Altman in The Player, it just doesn’t make sense.
There is an important theme in Lynch, and that’s his obsession with the conflagration of sound and image on screen. This is where we get into why this film is important in a historical context. This film does more to alter the way we perceive the combination of sound and image on film than any movie since 2001: A Space Odyssey, at least any that I’ve seen.
Notice the powerful effect he generates in two key sequences through the use of sound; the discovery by the man with the dream of the monster behind Winkie’s, and the discovery of Diane’s corpse by Betty and Rita. A low and insistent drone fills the score, putting us emotionally off-balance; the voices are muted entirely, or at best a low murmur in the background. The discovery of the monster, especially, is a powerful and frightening scene, and he does it with only the most bare (yet potent) of sonic clues. This just demonstrates how adept he is at this, rather than making any particular point (I think he’s using it here to suggest that mostly-silent dream state which is the “norm” in dreams).
This theme reaches its climax in the “Club Silencio” sequence. Here, in my opinion, Lynch is both vividly demonstrating the importance of that combination of sound and image, making an absolutely devastating and cruel statement about the art of acting (which is, I suspect, why Naomi Watts hates the man), and is emotionally manipulating us – unusually, though, he informs us at several points that he intends to manipulate us, but we fall for it anyway.
Who Needs Actors?
Immediately before the Silencio sequence, we have reached the climax of our emotional investment in the characters of Betty and Rita. Make no mistake; the first time watching this film, when you don’t know what’s coming, the first hour and a half merely feels like a typically Lynchian, off-beat and quirky mystery story. He does a very good job of making this portion of the film compelling and engrossing storytelling; even with his sudden jumps to other plot threads, some of which go nowhere, we care about Betty and Rita; we want to see them do well, we want to see Rita regain her memory, we want to see Betty do well in Hollywood (since we can clearly see how talented she is after the audition scene). We’re amused by and feel slightly sorry for Adam during this portion.
This portion of the film, unto itself, is some of the finest simple film work and storytelling Lynch has done in his entire career, and reminiscent of the man who gave us The Straight Story. The photography, sets and colours are lush and beautiful, the pace is languid and sultry, the score is impeccable (as usual) and generates stunning ranges in emotion for such minimalist work, the camera angles are unique but not off-putting, the acting is top-notch (although many find Naomi Watts’ performance as Betty slightly irritating until it begins to be contextualized later in the film), and the story is well-paced and interesting.
This emotional investment reaches a climax with their love scene. We are perhaps slightly surprised at this sudden turn of events, but we could see the relationship these two women were forming; their love scene is tender, romantic, erotic and even a little humourous. We’re happy for them. It’s an incredible love scene to find in today’s Hollywood, quite frankly; it seems shot by someone who remembers what movies were like when they were sexy, before the empty, exploitative and unexciting PG-13 “eroticism” of recent Hollywood films such as Coyote Ugly or American Pie, or even Kubrick’s disturbing and cold eroticism in Eyes Wide Shut. I found it quite refreshing.
Seconds after the conclusion of the sex scene, we have Rita intoning (in a foreign language), “Silence, silence, there is no band or orchestra”, and we embark on the surreal final moments of the dream. He’s told us straight up at that moment – “There is no band” – that this is false, it’s all an illusion, it’s all a recording, and it’s just an unknown man behind the scenes manipulating us all at his whim.
The MC at the Club Silencio reiterates this over and over again, in many languages. He demonstrates it with a trumpet player, and generates the correct surprise when the trumpet player stops playing, although it’s a minor surprise (more at how good the illusion is). We move forward to the performance by Rebekah del Rio.
The Spanish language performance of “Crying” is the high point of the film. It’s a breathtaking rendition, dripping with soul and energy, the heart of the performer immersed entirely in the performance. It moves Betty and Rita, and possibly the audience, to tears. It involves us so emotionally, and the performance is so convincing, that when the singer collapses and we realize that this, too, is just a recording, the effect is quite jarring and powerful.
Lynch has shown here what he is about to do with Betty and Rita – all the emotional investment we had made in their characters, and the performances of the actors playing them (more importantly) was for naught. It was just a conflagration of sound and image; it was all just an illusion.
The subtext here is more devastating. He is implying, or even directly saying, that the actors don’t matter to the audience’s emotional investment, but the director’s (or MC’s) manipulation of how we perceive the actors. The director (in one of several subtle nods to The Wizard of Oz) is behind the curtain and controls everything; actors are merely interchangeable signifiers used at the whim of the director. They are merely conduits for the art the director creates, but don’t create any art of their own. I’m not saying I agree with him, but I do believe this is his intent. It may well be that he doesn’t believe it himself, but it ties into another major theme of the film, discussed next.
I can’t come up with a plausible explanation for the short scene in which Betty goes into convulsions. Some say it’s a sign that the dream is breaking down and Diane is waking up. Just doesn’t jive for me. There’s always at least one bit that doesn’t jive with any interpretation, it seems.
Hollywood and Loose Ends
There is an indictment of Hollywood in this film, but it’s not for the reasons mentioned above. I also think that Lynch is making a commentary on Hollywood’s treatment of female talent. I find it slightly ironic in the face of how he has treated women in the past in his films, but suspect that this may be what he was trying to say with that treatment in earlier films; he just didn’t say it well enough until this one.
Women are treated like disposables in the film (and not just by men); Camilla disposes of Diane when her use for her is over; Diane disposes of the neighbour when she’s no longer interested in the relationship; the Hollywood “underground” disposes of all other actresses in order to further the career of an unknown, who will no doubt be disposed soon herself; Adam shrugs off his marriage with a laugh in reality; Woody Katz treats Betty like just another pretty young thing to hold close during rehearsal; Diane tries to turn Camilla into a masturbatory fantasy for her own purposes within the dream; ultimately, Diane disposes of Camilla in a very final way, and then herself.
Yes, that’s right, David Lynch, the man who gave you Isabella Rossellini naked and beaten on a suburban lawn, is saying that Hollywood should treat its female talent better. I’m not sure how I feel about this – I agree with him, yet feel he has been part of the problem in the past. I do think this film goes a very long ways towards making up for that.
What of the monster? What does he represent? The “man behind the curtain”, who is “doing it all” as the man with the dream at the beginning of the film has said? This is the best explanation I can offer, and I think it’s quite a unique one as far as I can tell: Does that mean that the monster represents Lynch himself?
I find that interpretation amusing and plausible, and it’s my favourite, but I think there are a hundred other interpretations that could be equally valid. This interpretation requires viewing the blue box as symbolic of either the film industry, or more likely, the film itself. The key to understanding the film, and the end of the director’s manipulation (within the mythology of the film) is provided when the key opens the blue box.
I can buy Lynch taking a shot at the television industry, though, another popular interpretation of the blue box/monster. They cancelled “Twin Peaks” very abruptly and with no chance to rectify any of the plot lines; we were left with the possibility that every major character in the story was dead. They shrugged their shoulders and rejected Mulholland Dr. itself, either as a filmed pilot (which some claim) but most likely at the script/pre-production stage (which more claim). I can see him being a little bitter at the television industry. That would probably put the monster into a role as the evil manipulators behind the scenes of the television industry, and the “blue screen/idiot box = blue box” idea that many have proposed isn’t without merit.
Many also believe that the monster represents Diane’s guilt, the evil deed she’s done, which is why he is in possession of the blue box that is analogous to the blue key that represents Camilla’s death. Works, but I find it doesn’t click for me.
There are many subtle nods to past Hollywood, and I think this film is a major tribute to Lynch’s influences. The casting of a major 40’s dance/film star, a 70’s/80’s soap opera and TV movie star, a respected television actor from the 60’s and 70’s, a talented but unknown Australian actress, a countess and ex-beauty queen, and a laughable icon of 90’s music is more than just coincidence. Homage abounds, from the homage to Bergman’s Persona in the shot of Rita and Betty in bed post-coitus, to the obvious tip of the hat to Tarantino in both the very funny bungling hit man scene and the central importance of a Tarantino-style diner. Obvious tips to Gilda, the poster that Rita takes her name from are there, too, as are the nods to The Wizard of Oz – both the “man behind the curtain” motif, and the incorporation of what she’s seen during the day into her dream (“And you were there, and you were there, and you were there, too.”).
The mystery of the first portion of the film is very film-noir influenced, and echoes of the sweet innocence of Nancy Drew as well. “A broad with amnesia finds $50,000 and a mysterious key in her purse,” sounds like the kind of thing Billy Wilder would’ve written in his notebook as the “gag”.
The final, enigmatic shots of the film are really the least confusing once we have this all behind us: The memory of Betty and Rita happy, superimposed over the lights of LA; the brief farewell appearance in the smoke of the monster; the blue-haired woman’s appearance in the Club Silencio. Diane has just shot herself; a brief, happy memory/fantasy of Betty and Rita rushes through her brain, the monster/director says farewell to the audience in a mournful glance, and as she dies, the blue-haired woman tells us that the rest is silence (homage to Shakespeare?).
Those Nagging Questions…
So. There’s one interpretation. I’m sure there are others, but I’ve put some energy into this one. No interpretation of this film can be entirely comprehensive, though; there’s always nagging little moments. Here’s some of mine, and some questions to engender further reflection.
· Is the cowboy just some odd figure she saw at the party and incorporated into her dream, or is there something more, as the Lynchian “electrical surge” cue indicates? Is there any importance to him telling Adam that he will see him once more if he does well, twice more if he does bad, and the fact that we see him twice more in the film? Or was that line just part of Betty’s invention?
· What is the significance of Betty’s convulsions in the Club Silencio?
· How does the “man with a dream” scene fit in? Did Diane just insert him into her dream after seeing him in the cafe? Why is it shot in a dramatically different style than the rest of the film?
· Does Diane know about the monster? Is it just her fantasy? Are the appearances of the monster that we see in her dream, or is this an underlying reality that we’re seeing glimpses of (the reality of a man named David Lynch making a film)?
· What evidence do we have, other than that they’re both played by Naomi Watts, that Betty and Diane are the same person? Is there any chance that this could be Camilla’s fantasy, not Diane’s?
· What evidence do we have that Camilla really does look like the actress who plays her, or is she just a more-beautiful idealization of Camillia in Diane’s mind? Is there any chance that Camilla could actually be the neighbour? The name on her apartment is the name of the film’s art director, so there’s no clue there.
· Did Diane and Camilla really have a relationship, or was Diane just jealous and angry over losing out on the role, combined with a crush? This requires interpreting all of the flashback material in the second part as (sexual?) fantasy instead of flashback (which also brings into question the relation of Diane’s past we hear at the dinner party), but it’s not an idea without merit.
· Is there a secondary significance to the dialogue exchange in which Betty tells Rita that she knows what Rita has to do, and asks Rita to let her do it for her?
· If the monster is David Lynch, and the crazed woman who is Ruth’s neighbour is also the monster, how is Lynch realized in that character of the woman?
I’m sure you’ll come up with your own questions.
I want to stress once again that this is only one interpretation.
I do think the “dream” structure leaves the fewest loose ends and makes the most logical sense, but logic may not be helpful for this film. It melds well with established dream theory, in that dreams are largely made up of impressions gathered throughout the day combined with deep-seated desires and fears coming through from the “deep river” (note the name of Betty/Diane’s home town) of the subconscious. Some dream theory suggests that all figures in a dream are manifestations of the dreamer’s id, ego and superego, which can lead to all kinds of interesting interpretations of the variety of trios we see in the film – to name a few, Betty/Rita/Adam, Adam/Wife/Gene the Pool Guy, Hitman/Hooker/Pimp, Hitman/Woman/Janitor, and Man with Dream/Psychiatrist/Monster works especially well – but I’m not well versed enough in the field to really comment. Freudians can have a ball with this film.
I also want to stress again that it doesn’t really matter. Some would argue that a film like this speaks for itself, and whether you understand it logically or not may not be important to you. It’s okay to just like it because you liked it. My words here, or anyone’s words on this film, are not gospel.
It’s worth noting that postmodernists can have a field day with this film, as it taps into some popular issues such as the tantamount importance of the signifying “dream language” of the first part and the irrelevance of the signified “reality” in the second; the fractured, discontinuous narrative; etc, etc. I’m not a “professional” film student, and I’m not sure I buy all that junk, so I’ve chosen to avoid discussing it; if it’s your kind of thing, you get to have a ball, too.
This film, quite simply, rocked my world. I’ll never look at films the same way again, I’ll never judge performances the same way again after what Lynch has done to me, and I’ll never hear films the same way again, either. This film has occupied every waking (and many sleeping) moment in my mind for weeks. I’ve revisited it many, many times, and look forward to continuing to do so in the future.