|While I believe that "Mulholland Drive" was an excellent film and offered
some of the best visual imagery of the year, there is no doubt that it left me
with many questions and few answers upon my first viewing. Since it was
released on DVD, I thought I would devote a column to (hopefully) untying
many of David Lynch's knots. Many people on the web have already
attempted to do this, I know, but this time the director's own "clues" will be
dissected. They can be found inside the DVD box, and are as follows:
|1. Pay attention in the beginning: 2 clues are revealed before the credits.
2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam is auditioning actresses for?
4. An accident is a terrible event... notice the location of the accident.
5. Who gives a key, and why?
6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
7. What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio?
8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
9. Notice the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkie's.
10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
|I will try to explain each clue as best I can, but remember, I am confident
there are dozens of different explanations -- which are probably all
different from the one intended by Mr. Lynch. So with that in mind...
|1. Pay attention in the beginning of the film: at least 2 clues are revealed
before the credits.
|I would be pretty hard to predict that the few minutes before the opening
credits would be so crucial the first time seeing the film, but they are. And
there are probably 3 clues, not just 2. But before I divulge them, let me cover
the surrounding plot premise for anyone who was really lost.
The first two hours of the film are, in a sense, a fantasy. They are a dream
created by Betty (actually Diane) to rationalize more horrific events in her life,
which we see in the last act of the film. In reality, Diane came to LA from
Canada in search of fame. During an audition, she met and fell in love with
Camilla (Rita in the dream), who ended up getting the part, marrying the
director, and becoming wealthy and famous. Feeling jealous and scorned,
Diane takes a hit out on her girlfriend -- but feels so racked with guilt and
remorse that she ends up killing herself as well. But right before she dies,
she imagines a saner world (the first part of the film) where Rita is the
helpless one (from amnesia), where Betty is a decent actress (the fantastic
audition), where the mob causes her to lose a movie role (through no fault of
her own), and where Lynch serves up several jabs at the Hollywood lifestyle.
Now the clues. We see a jitterbug dancers in a Gap commercial-esque
sequences that appears to have no initial relevance. We later learn that
Betty/Diane came to LA after winning a jitterbug contest in Deep River,
Ontario. To make this point more blunt, a semi-clue revealed at the same
time is a superimposition of Betty with a crown on at the end of the sequence.
The other clue is hard to make out if you aren't paying very close attention.
A woman writhing under bed covers is briefly shown; this is Diane imagining
her fantasy moments before the suicide.
For the purposes of this discussion, I will refer to Betty/Diane (played by
Naomi Watts) as Betty when referring to her in the dream and as Diane when
referring to her in reality. Ditto for Rita/Camilla (Laura Harring).
|2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
|I looked hard and didn't pick out many noticeable red lampshades. Even if I
had, I can't imagine what their significance would be. But I am fairly confident
that near the end of the film, when Camilla calls Diane to meet her at the
mansion, she is lit by light within a red lampshade. A still image of this scene
is also on the cover of the video/DVD box. I can only assume that a red
lampshade symbolizes passion, heat, or intensity -- and it is at the
subsequent dinner party where Diance becomes enraged enough to later want
|3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam is auditioning actresses for? It
is mentioned again?
|The film's title is "The Sylvia North Story." There's a definite similarity
between "Sylvia" and "Selwyn" (as in Diane Selwyn) to the Latin word "sylvan,"
meaning forest. The "Elms" of Betty Elms is also related -- perhaps
suggesting the woodsy nature of Canada, from where she came.
|4. An accident is a terrible event... notice the location of the accident.
|This appears to be a real easy clue that Lynch is handing us. The accident
occurs on "Mulholland Drive," a windy, mountainside road that travels from the
San Fernando Valley down into Greater LA and Hollywood. Metaphorically, the
road to fame is long, twisty, and dark with danger around every corner --
evidenced by the violent car wreck that begins the film.
Mulholland Drive is also a popular scenic route. Built in 1924, it was
sometimes referred to as the "road to the studios." The road to stardom is
indeed what our blonde protagonist was in search for throughout the movie.
|5. Who gives a key, and why?
|In one of the final scenes of the film, the man that Diane hires to kill Camilla
gives her a blue key -- which she is confused by. It confused me as well.
What I can make out is that the unlocking of Rita's mysterious box by a key
is the segway between the dream and reality. Likewise, the audience is
initially pulled into the cube, and then taken out. Pandora's Box -- a gateway
to evil and the truthful but terrible things Diane has done -- has been opened.
The audience will no longer be surrounded by Diane's fantasy but by actual
events which took place.
Perhaps the hitman gave Diane the key because his actions (attempting to
murder Camilla) are a gateway to her evil. She wants something horrible
done, and is allowing it to occur. Hence, she is being handed a "key" to a
darker side of her personality that eventually takes control.
|6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
|I am almost sure that these are the items Diane's neighbor left behind when
the two switched apartments. Remember at the end of the film when she
picks them up and remarks that "two detectives came by looking for you."
Obviously, the authorities had learned of the hit Diane had paid for, but had
come to the wrong apartment.
But back to the objects. In the fantasy portion of the film, Betty and Rita had
also stumbled upon the wrong apartment. When they snuck into the right
one, they saw a decomposing body in bed -- Diane envisioning what would
ultimately happen after the dream played itself out. She was imagining her
own death, and a more innocent figment of her personality (Betty) was
horrified at what she had discovered. The robe, ashtray, and coffee cup were
simple signs that what was being seen in the dream had a link to reality.
|7. What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio?
|The 'Silencio' sequence occurred just before we left Diane's imagination and
viewed the real events of her life. This timing was very appropriate, as the
unknowing audience was about to be shown that everything it had witnessed
for the past two hours was, in fact, a fantasy of the Betty/Diane character.
And what better place to end the dream than at a strange nightclub where
everything you see and hear is not to be believed. We are told several times
by the ringmaster that it's all fake. Don't believe what you see. Even the
Spanish performance of Roy Orbison's "Crying" (probably the most chilling
scene of the movie) had me convinced that the woman was actually singing.
Not so. This whole charade -- the acts at the club and the film's events up to
that point -- were warped creations (by Diane) and not real.
|8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
|To answer this question, we must acknowledge that there are two Camillas.
There is the real Camilla, who takes the form of Rita in the fantasy, and some
random actress Camilla, who takes the part in "The Sylvia North Story" that
Betty auditioned for. Keep in mind that when we dream, we often incorporate
random pieces of our everyday lives into our imaginations, even if they have
no significance. Thus the cowboy whom Diane actually only sees momentarily
from a distance makes a large showing in her dream. Additionally, the name
Camilla finds a place in the fantasy, albeit on a different character.
The real Camilla might have gotten the role Diane wanted due to talent,
although Diance clearly feels that she did so by sleeping with the director.
The Camilla of the film's first portion (a blonde Betty lookalike) received the
part becuase the mob wanted it that way. Remember the director throwing a
fit at the board meeting? He didn't want Camilla in his movie, but higher
powers (the bald wheelchair man) did.
Diane used this false belief as a rationalization for why she never became
famous in real life. Instead of properly blaming herself, she blames the mob,
the cowboy, and the bald wheelchair man for casting her aside. It wasn't her
fault, it was everybody else's. In her mind she was perfect, but couldn't
control the malicious acts of the others.
|9. Notice the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkie's.
|One of the beginning scenes with two men discussing nightmares and then
finding a dirty homeless man behind a dumpster is an allegory of the entire
film. The nervous man describes his dream and then confronts it, only to
discover that it is indeed true -- there was a "monster" at the back of the
restaurant. The same is true for Diane; her extended fantasy gradually
segues into horror before reality hits.
We see this scary bum again near the film's end as he "unleashes" the
elderly couple who preoceed to "attack" Diane. The couple, representing
innocence, are chasing a woman who has committed a vile act. Her innocence
has been lost, violently discharged within the evil dream (represented by the
man behind Winkie's) that comprises most of the film.
|10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
|We are told at the outset that she went to film a movie in Canada and is
letting Betty stay at her apartment. After she leaves we don't see her again
until the movie's second hour when the dream ends. I'm not quite sure where
we are supposed to think she is... Perhaps locked in a hotel room somewhere
trying to solve the rest of the mysteries surrounding "Mulholland Drive" -- Why
did the crazy woman knock on Betty and Rita's door? Who is Sylvia North?
What is with the cowboy's cryptic message? And why did Betty leave on the top
level of LAX when arrivals are on the bottom?
|I hope this analysis has been helpful in unlocking the film. I'm sure I'm not
alone in eagerly anticipating David Lynch's next mobius strip.
|by ANTHONY KUSICH