Mulholland Drive : LUSENET : The Art of Film : One Thread

As far as I'm concerned, Mulholland Drive is the most accurately realized evocation of romantic love I've ever encountered on film. It doesn't merely portray the process in dramatic terms, but actually imposes the delusional and delirious state of being in love on the viewer. All the attendant symptoms are given for the viewer to participate in: idealization, rationalization, and the projection of one's own traits on the empty vessel of the object of desire.


"I just came here from Deep River, Ontario, and now I'm in this… dream-place."

Yes, the first ninety minutes exist only in Betty's (actually Diane's) mental fantasy. In that world, her lover is a helpless amnesiac who depends on Betty for security and direction. Camilla, the actress that is being cast in Adam's film is a stranger. Conveniently, Adam is forced to cast her against his will, regardless of who deserves the role most (of course in her mind, it's super-actress Betty). The "black book" theft is there to affirm how thorough and ruthless Betty's hired gun will be in carrying out his job.

In spite of what many viewers and critics have said, there are no non-sequiturs, no loose ends in the script. If anything, Lynch exhibits a peculiarly meticulous rigor in accounting for every element.

The movie has taken root in my subconscious, as if the events were from my own life. In fact, I contemplate them in just that way. Just as the meanings in one's own life experience are not spelled out, the experience of watching the film begs interpretation. The movie forces you to keep playing it over and over in your mind as you try to decipher each moment. In a sense, I've watched this film multiple times: once in the theatre, and countlessly in my head. I've found this happening before with several of Lynch's films, most notably Lost Highway, Fire Walk With Me and Eraserhead. As time passes, the impact of the movie has only increased. Part of the reason is my trying to reconcile the jarring horror of the ending with the perfection of the first two thirds. I suspect that by giving the story such a "wrong" ending, Lynch succeeded in inflaming a passion to want justice (at least in my case). A very odd effect.

-- Peter Chung (, October 15, 2001


I've been dying to get into this forum since Peter tipped me off in the Flux forum... and today I drove two hours to Atlanta to see this. I had the great pleasure of knowing nothing about the film, save for the fact that it's set in Los Angeles. It's so rare that this happens for me, and how appropriate that I'm given a David Lynch film to play with in such a way. I too tried to bring along a hostage -- a good friend of mine who's very well-attuned to film analysis and philosophical thinking. When I showed him Aeon Flux, he instantly seemed to grasp the subtlety of the character relationships, but strangely enough, he's never seen a Lynch film before. I was eager to show him, but oh, well... later, I guess.

On the drive back home I had ample time to "re-view" the film, as Peter put it. My current analysis (I'm sure it will change upon future re-viewings) is that this is a story of sexual identity. I'm not surprised at this interpretation at this point in my life; I've identified myself as a homosexual since about the age of twelve, but lately I've been feeling the strangest urges to explore heterosexuality (unprecedented urges, for me). Okay, enough of the personal info... I only mention it to show the possible matrix for my ideas on this film. Take it as you will. Also, note that I've had little time to sit and think about the film logically and account for any gaps my theories don't fill in -- so far, I've primarily looked at this from an emotional standpoint, filtering it through my own life, as usual. I have to admit that I have a hard time with Lynch's films, though I love them; the series of events he depicts mystify me, but their emotional impact intrigues me and causes me to pick out my own symbols. I'm still learning to explore films in new ways.

So, perhaps this is a story of the difficulties of exploring a new sort of sexuality. Of course, Betty begins as the sweet, pure Canadian girl, and arrives in Los Angeles, a "city of sin", full of the "evils" of Hollywood (which could be seen as an extension of sexual "perversion" -- the sexual politics of casting a film, the overt sexuality of a Hollywood party, the lesbian innuendo that even waitresses at Denny's exude... okay, maybe I imagined that one.) She's soon corrupted by her new home, in part by her companion "Rita", and begins to fall for her. But, in a display of her latent discomfort (anger?) at the idea of a homosexual relationship, she's full of vicious emotion during the script reading (note that when the scene begins, we don't yet know it to be such). But when she's given the chance to try the scene again, and with the male it was intended for, she's more than willing to prove to herself that she is indeed a heterosexual (note the extreme change in tone -- but then, how could one not notice?) However, she eventually gives in to the idea (sparked by the trauma of encountering death, perhaps?), and embraces this new love. But there are still some "kinks" to work out, and thus the jarring second half of the film. The reappearance of the elderly couple is a reminder of her previous "innocence", haunting her. I realize that this theory is tenuous at best, but it was my first impression.

But there is then the aspect of dual identity, which led me to believe that perhaps these four persons (Betty, Rita, Diane and Camilla) are really only different aspects of one individual, working out mental problems in a physical realm. She seeks her lover's death because she seeks her own death, perhaps. This could be tied in to my previous theory -- an internal conflict over the nature of her sexuality, or perhaps over her sexual purity. Camilla/Rita is the sensual aspect of the individual, exuding allure with every move, and flaunting her promiscuity, and she needs to die. This too is a weak theory, but as I've been writing a story with aspects similar to these, it's been on my mind. Honestly, Peter, I find your analysis to be much more air-tight and appealing.

Miscellaneous bits:

The waitress reminded me of Betty/Diane... intentionally? She did bear both names. The man with the dream... I'm not sure how he fits in. The ashtray, turning in part from black to white. This reminds me of the black/white lodges in Twin Peaks, though I don't remember much about them. The latte scene -- I found it very funny. And this was another thing I noticed... I'm afraid that many typical moviegoers find Lynch's work funny because of its reputation for being unconventional. The audience's only reactions during the film were of laughter, especially at the conclusion; it was as if no one knew how to react. Some seens were funny, intentionally or not, but they even laughed during other scenes.

The Club Silencio scene I found very striking... It was one of several scenes in which I felt the movie was speaking to me directly, and I don't just mean emotionally. I've found this before in Lynch's work: for example, in Fire Walk with Me, there was the old woman and her grandson, speaking almost directly to the audience to explain something on several occasions. The cowboy in this film was doing so even more obviously, as was the club's host ("it's just a recording" -- this proves the existence of the fantasy). And of course, the song was amazing. Lynch has a habit of inserting musicians who play themselves (Julee Cruise in Twin Peaks), and I love the music he chooses. This scene reminded me very much of Fire Walk with Me, when Laura goes to the club near the end of the film and cries to Julee's tune. My impression of that was that Laura was crying in response to a sudden revelation of her own future, her coming death, and the sadness of it all... perhaps there is a similar root to this scene, as Peter suggested; Diane is lamenting the end of her fantasy, and fears what lies beyond it. But the scene in which the two find the body got me the most, especially when Rita flees from the apartment, her expression flying into the camera (it very much reminded me of Hitchcock, for some reason). Also, I too was reminded of Marylin Monroe at times, an obvious Hollywood image.

Phew... well, those are the first impressions. More to come later, I'm sure. I'd really like to see it again. Please let the criticisms fly, I'd love to work with them.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 21, 2001.

The older couple are Diane's guilt (they chase her to suicide in the end). They may be relatives or family members, it doesn't really matter. Note that in the beginning they seem to be trickers (slapping the knee in the cab and laughing, with that distinctive Lynchian uneasiness); this suggests that Diane (who is dreaming this) blames the failure of their old-time, old-movie (note the "wholesome" lighting from the beginning of the dream) values which prompted her to move to California to become an actress.

-- Mat Rebholz (, March 05, 2002.

Understanding a Lynch film is a lot like looking at one of those computer-generated 3D images (called Magic Eye, I think) where a coherent 3D image is embedded in a dense pattern of meaningless colors and shapes. Straining too hard by examining details will get you lost. Better to hold it at arm's length and shift focus to try to see the broader picture first. Everything gradually comes together in a carefully constructed composition.

In Mulholland Drive, the structure and plot are so simple that they're easy to overlook. The entire first two thirds of the film exist only in the mind of Diane Selwyn, a Hollywood bit actress in a flagging career. Diane's only channel of success seems to be her relationship with Camilla Rhodes who manages to help her get bit parts while she herself rides a path to stardom. Camilla's ambitions push her to abandon Diane (and in the process, cruelly humiliate her) while throwing herself at Adam, the hot young director in whose film both women are performing. Diane's desperate love for Camilla, the pain of rejection and the crushing defeat of her failed career cause her to retreat into an elaborate fantasy, which forms the opening ninety minutes or so of the film. This fantasy is conceived to rationalize unpleasant facts of Diane's reality, while depicting herself and her lover Camilla as sharing an idealized, perfect romance stripped of all jealousy, competition and even memory of the past.

In Diane's perfect vision of her life, she recasts herself as Betty from Deep River, Ontario-- wholesome yet fearless, bursting with talent, ready and able to attain instant stardom at her leisure. In this version of the world, Camilla Rhodes, her professional rival for the starring role in her prospective film debut, is a total stranger, and therefore not threatening to her emotionally. That Adam has cast Camilla for the role is, in Diane's twisted rationale, not because Betty doesn't deserve it better, but because he is being absolutely forced to choose against his will by shady and dangerous underworld figures. Of course, if he were free to choose the best actress... well the choice would be obvious. One doesn't need to read into these mafia characters much more than this.

Diane's lover shows up as Rita, a helpless, amnesiac fugitive in need of shelter, guidance and protection. Betty, conveniently occupying a clean, cozy garden apartment lent to her by her out- of-town aunt, is perfectly equipped to act as Rita's savior. Rita's plight is entirely dependent on Betty's faith, virtue and generosity. Betty proves her trust by lying to Coco about Rita to throw off Coco's suspicions. Betty even makes career sacrifices for Rita's benefit, drawing their bond tighter still. To top it off, because of some mysterious danger to Rita, Betty even gets Rita to take on Betty's physical appearance (the blond wig; her manner of dress). And when in gratitude and a need for affection, Rita slides naked into Betty's bed, well let's just say that romantic fantasy doesn't get any lovelier.

In Betty's perfect world, the pathetic loser woman named Diane Selwyn no longer exists. She's been destroyed by the dark forces of the evil movie underworld, the same forces that threatened to kill Rita, and which the two of them together will heroically oppose.

The dream, like all dreams that are too good to be true, must end. The dream's climax, in which they witness a heart-rending performance of Roy Orbison's "Crying" is one of those moments better left uninterpreted through mere words. The sense of dread and overbearing sorrow conveyed there is enough. If you took a movie camera and shot footage inside a breaking heart, it might look something like this.

The rest of the film lifts the veil from the dreamer's eyes and delineates painfully and meticulously the sad reality of Diane's shabby existence. I think all of this is self explanatory. There is no actual "switch" taking place between Betty and Diane nor between Rita and Camilla. Betty and Rita never existed but in the Hollywood dream-land of Diane's wishes. Even the name Betty, it turns out, was borrowed from a waitress' name tag. As for Diane's actual entry into Hollywood, we learn she'd won some obscure dance contest long ago and far away.

Coco, the kindly landlady, was likewise borrowed from an encounter with Adam's mother. The limousine ride, the unexpected stop on Mulholland Drive, the blue key and other elements are also mirrored from their sources in Diane's experience. I'm guessing that the Cowboy, a curious, if fleeting, presence glimpsed peripherally at Adam's house by Diane, was equally embellished into something more complex and sinister in the course of the dream. (As in "what the hell is that guy doing here? Must be some explanation… hmmm.") On another level, his obvious artifice and age cast him as a ghost of the Old Hollywood, in other words, the Hollywood Order. He is the Godfather of the moviemaking tradition: icon of unspeakable corruption, maudlin taste, and utter phoniness.

Unfortunately, I find the turn in Diane's character at the point where she hires the killer to murder Camilla utterly false in relation to the romanticism of her earlier state. One might argue that because dream-Betty was never real, that Diane's true nature cannot be deduced from Betty's. For most people, reacting to being jilted by a lover does not drive one to plot their murder in a cold, deliberate way. If the murder had been a crime of passion, for which Diane later became overcome by regret and guilt leading to suicide, I could still regard her as a tragic figure. As it is, Lynch has made her into a monster, for which I feel betrayed after such a carefully built up case for my empathy. In light of her murderous intent, the purity of her love is also thrown into question. It becomes the kind of utterly selfish "love" that O. J. Simpson kept insisting he had for his wife Nicole. A "love" so possessive that it has no interest in the object of desire's happiness in and of itself.

I feel unfair in complaining since the film is otherwise in all respects, astonishing in ambition and execution. But it's because of this that I wish Mr. Lynch had allowed Diane to conceive of a revenge more fitting to her imagination. I can certainly imagine more interesting ways of humiliating or otherwise assaulting Camilla without resorting to the crudeness of a gunshot from a hired killer. I'm guessing that Lynch's reason might be that the more sordid the reality, the more hopelessly romantic would Betty's dream-land become.

As for the theft of the precious "black book" by Camilla's eventual killer, the point of the scene is not in the object, but in the killer's method. In Diane's fantasy, the killer's ruthless and thorough accomplishment of his job-- killing all witnesses and leaving no trace-- affirms to her that he (and she) will get away with it. In other words, it's to illustrate her confidence in the hitman's ability. The contents of the black book are irrelevant.

-- Peter Chung (, October 16, 2001.

I guess the head hitting the pillow in the beginning should've clued me in...

Two minor points: one, the first 90 minutes were shot long before David Lynch had any idea how his story would end. He said so himself. The character of Diane hadn't been written yet (though Lynch may have been setting himself up for it - I won't try to second-guess his motives). I still feel that it stands on it's own, as great satire of Hollywood... of course, it also works within the larger context of the movie.

Second, there was some continuity between the dream/real world - Adam's wife slept with the pool man in both. I don't know if he was thrown out or not ("I got the house, and she got the pool boy!") - perhaps that detail was Betty's anger manifesting itself. I still don't know about the Cowboy; honestly, I'll have to think about that.

Other than these, Peter, I tend to agree with you. I almost wish you hadn't posted, though; a rich film like this is so open to interpretation, and as you've said yourself, explaining "what it's about" is the quickest way to kill people's speculation.

-- Inukko (, October 16, 2001.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your input (hell, I was the one who asked all these questions). However, you seem to dismiss all other interpretations but your own. That's unnerving, coming from someone who values subjectivity.

I'd like to continue thinking about this movie - in my own way, outside of the lines you've drawn. I'll consider what you said as well.

-- Inukko (, October 17, 2001.


The only interpretations that I would vehemently dismiss are the numerous ones I've encountered in print (including those of certain critics who should know better) which conclude, in effect, that the film's story is nonsensical and just another exercise in gratuitous weirdness without logic. Mind you, some of these reviews are positive in spite of declaring that there is no coherence to the events in the film. They say things like "don't try to make sense of it, just enjoy the flow of surreal imagery for its own sake." (Check out's entries, if you haven't already)

The problem with this view is that it is, yes-- dismissive in itself against the idea that there can exist a form of film language that operates alternatively to the conventional, literal-minded narrative formulas. Also, they deny the credit that Lynch deserves for taking great pains to compose an intricate, beautiful, emotionally gripping, and deeply meaningful film experience. He is one of the few filmmakers who has shown true dedication to the evolution of film as an artform.

I want to make clear also that I do not disagree with your suggestions that the movie is intended also as a scathing satirical attack on Hollywood or that it explores the theme of corruption. I'm only proposing a reading of the film which was most resonant with me, and that is its inducement into the state of consciousness like that of being in love. I used qualifiers in my analysis such as "I'm guessing...", "I wish...", etc. because I'm only going by impressions of my viewing. I'd deny ever being the final authority on David Lynch's creative process, and I don't think I've claimed such a thing. I do feel a strong artistic bond to Mr. Lynch, though, as I recognize in his methods many strategies which I employ myself. There are many points when, while watching his films where I've thought "wow, he's doing exactly what I would have done there", or more often, "damn, I wish I'd thought of that..."

-- Peter Chung (, October 17, 2001.

Here's the link for collected print reviews:


-- Peter Chung (, October 17, 2001.

There's a great film from the 70's by Alain Resnais called "Providence" which employs the same structural devices I see being used in Mulholland Drive. If anything, that earlier film is formally denser in that it cross-references events in not two, but four alternate realities. It doesn't deliver quite the emotional punch of Lynch's film, though. Few films come to mind that do.

You can find "Providence" in most well-stocked video rental shops. It's in English, but might still be classified as "foreign". It stars Dirk Bogard, John Gielgud and Ellen Burstyn, all of whom give energetic and nuanced performances. Highly recommended.

-- Peter Chung (, October 17, 2001.

Well, I for one am glad you put your spin on this movie Peter. I am dying to see it now, and thankfully I can go in with a 'map' this time. I'm still trying to get over the psyche-ache I got from Lost Highway, (which was great but too much for my little brain or something)..I'm still working on it. BTW: prob irrelevant, but am I the only one who noticed the names Diane and Camilla? What are the chances of THAT having any other meaning?

-- Barbara e. (, October 18, 2001.

AAAAAGH! BARB!! What are you doing here? Get out now, anyone who hasn't seen the film! You're ruining a precious filmgoing experience by knowing ANYTHING about this film beforehand..

-- Peter Chung (, October 18, 2001.

Ha ha. Fear not. I'm quite sure if Lynch's name is on it I will not be any more enlightened than if I had never been here.

-- Barbara e. (, October 18, 2001.

Peter; (I'm not looking up)and I will be seeing this movie tonight. From the reviews I've read prior to your advice I would like to say that I wish to recommend a book to you, an easy read, you might find it interesting. It could easily be a Lynch film,it has all the elements. The name of the book is "A Cast of killers" and it is the true story about the death of William Desmond Taylor based on the investigation into his death by King Vidor. It is not done in a fictional and entertaining style but just reports the facts surrounding his mysterious demise, yet remains in my mind still. Hollywood is a strange mecca.

-- Barbara e. (, October 19, 2001.

Saw it today (the only thing I got accomplished.) Two audience reactions stand out in my mind: when the cowboy walked randomly by towards the end, the entire audience busted out laughing in this collective moment of "Heeeey! It's the COWBOY!" and at the very end when there's ten seconds or so of black silence before the credits where everyone fidgeted madly but no one moved, afraid of missing anything. I can't believe those executive types liked Twin Peaks but not the first part of this. What the hell was up with that moss man?

Well, I'm going to see it again tomorrow and this time I'm bringing a hostage.

-- Frostbite (, October 19, 2001.

This movie did enabled me to engage in the delusional state of being in love with a beautiful girl (and one who put me in mind of the perfect choice for Aeon Flux). Rita was appealing as the vulnerable girl with the big eyes and sleek hair. Also, I thought this movie was scary at times with the music and the camera creating the feeling the walls were closing in on me. The scene in Diane Selwin's house when they moved silently in the dark to the bedroom and that gruesome discovery, particularly. That part was the most intense for me. I didn't understand the elderly couple's role in this. Was she losing her mind due to her guilt? Did anyone notice when the two 'blonde' girls at the end were shown Rita/Camilla looked like M. Monroe? Was this a comment on which one was the Hollywood success? It was really a great movie.

-- Barbara e. (, October 20, 2001.

Barb, there were scenes in the film that I found positively traumatic (which also describes my experience as a whole). I'm resisting the temptation to go out and see it again right now partly for that reason. I'm thrilled that I've found a film that can still do that to me.

While I don't mean to pry, I'm very intrigued by the response by hetero female viewers. While the point of view of the relationship is definitely Betty's, Betty herself is idealized in such a way that she embodies the sum of my desires as well (as a viewer / voyeur, but also in that I wanted to be like her). Their relationship is a perfect balance of the traits which engage a romantic response. Rita, the vulnerable, childlike innocent who tugs at the sense of pity and the desire to protect and nurture. Betty, the feisty, faithful, naturally gifted acheiver whom we admire and look up to as a role model. It doesn't hurt that they're physically both stunners. (Taken together, their complementary looks only serve to amplify the other's beauty.) Then seeing such a perfect bond shattered and sullied so completely... traumatic.

By the way, the L.A. Weekly does something to make up for past transgressions in its current issue's cover story.

David Lynch Interview

-- Peter Chung (, October 20, 2001.

It isn't hard to explain the reaction of women to women. It happened today I had a patient who actually looked similiar to the blonde in this picture. She had a surgery to remove an ovarian tumor with the results regarding the malignancy still pending. She is only 23. I worked with her closely all morning helping her through her tender and frightening postoperative phase. She was scared and looked up to me as a person that could help her,and I did. It is hard not to feel a warmth and a bond for a girl like that. Of course you keep things on a professional level. Doctor's feel this as well but nurses work intimately with patients. I think women have a great ability to feel very close to another woman emotionally. It may not be sexual but I think women respond better sexually when there is an emotional bond. Men don't always give that to us and yet it is very important to a woman's makeup to nurture love and trust. That is why this picture made some sense to me, I COULD understand the reactions of Betty to Rita. She was so alone in such a bad place.

-- Barbara e. (, October 20, 2001.

That first scene in Diane's house - brrr.

-- Inukko (, October 20, 2001.

It's very empowering to have that kind of complete control over an object of desire who needs you desperately. They can't abandon you or make you feel insecure. It's the dream love situation because you hold all the cards. And of course Betty is such a saintly person that she would never hurt anyone in that position, only give her the protection she needs. And while I personally don't lust after the sight of women's bodies, the romance between the two women causes not one moment of cognitive dissonance.

I saw it again today (I couldn't get ahold of my hostage. He was out with his family or something.) The ending makes MUCH more sense now that I realize the blue key (the second one) serves as a device to show what chronological order the final scenes take place in. The beginning of the story is the filming at the studio and then the party. Incidentally, I think Diane and Camilla have done the nasty, but it kind of implies that Camilla indulges in casual sex all the time (she kisses that random woman right in front of Adam.) Basically, it meant nothing to Camilla and everything to Diane. So then Diane does this "I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright/ Who art black as hell and dark as night" thing and has Camilla killed. When the blue key is on the coffee table, it means Camilla is dead. Diane is so consumed with misery and guilt that she creates this fantasy where she kills herself and Camilla miraculously escapes the murder. I think the reason Lynch has her arrange Camilla's death is because it ties to the beginning of the film where Rita is about to be killed. It even creates an element of hope that she's still alive.

I agree the Silencio club scene is heart rendering. Is this Betty/Diane remembering the fact that Rita/Camilla isn't hers?

-- Frostbite (, October 21, 2001.

Did I type heart "rendering"? Anyway, it makes it a bit less traumatic that Camilla uses Diane and Diane punishes herself while imagining Camilla escapes.

I still don't get the moss man.

-- Frostbite (, October 21, 2001.

Whoops... in case you didn't notice it (heh), my long response was posted to the top of the page. Forgot to reset my email address, it's a problem with being the administrator here. Anyway, more impressions I had forgotten:

I don't quite know what to say about this, but I was particularly affected by the masturbation scene (wow, that's one sentence I never expected to type...) I'm not quite sure why, but I just had to mention that. There's something about the desperation of it which compelled me.

Additionally, I got the feeling at one point in the film that it felt like a television series, albeit taken a few steps further... and I think it would have made a great one. I was surprised to find, after just now reading several reviews, that it was originally intended as such.

I think one of the reasons I love Lynch's work so much is because I feel kindred to him in some way, perhaps not as you do, Peter, but in that I can understand his need to work out similar themes in all of his films. Some reviewers have mentioned this aspect, and I've definitely noticed it myself. As an amateur writer, and most certainly a struggling and frustrated one at that, I've been alternately annoyed/excited about the fact that a number of common themes continually show up in my work, unable to die no matter how much I try to work them out. I've told my friends that for me, my own art is a form of masturbation in a way, working out my frustrations to their agonizing ends through repetitive re-exploration. At times, this makes me feel like my work is meaningless and even too painful to create, but then I see a work by someone who (from my perspective, anyhow) is going through something similar, has been going through it for decades, and even makes a living from it... and then I don't feel so bad. Maybe it can be art, after all.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 21, 2001.

Very interesting theories, Matthew! I'd like to draw a clearer distinction between the reality of Diane's existence and the "persona" of Betty (so for instance, Diane and Camilla couldn't be the same person) but the emotional and symbolic ramifications of what you're saying make sense (hehe, excuse my grammar). I don't know where Diane stands re/her homosexuality... it seems like less of an issue than that Camilla couldn't be hers. When Betty throws herself into a love scene, it could be her sheer jealousy at Camilla acting itself out. And she seemed pretty comfortable with sex, anyway (one could also read "sexual innocence" as "no sexual hangups whatsoever").

I liked that there was a definite shift in tone in the second half; like so many real dreams, the mood can change from innocuous to extremely dark without any warning. I've noticed this in certain anime titles as well... it's something I'd like to see more of.

One thing that I particularly dug about this, and Lost Highway, was the way Lynch played around with identity (sexual and otherwise). While I'd consider myself an individualist, I do feel that most of what we call identity is arbitrary and accidental; based on the circumstances of one's birth such as gender, race, nationality, as well as the moral values bred by one's own environment. So the deconstruction of fictional characters appeals to me greatly. Also, I don't believe in the concept of death. I think we've got eternity to play around in, and we can make it either highly pleasurable, or highly painful for us, depending on our attitude. Peter wrote about Lost Highway: "it makes me wonder if I've lived other lives, and if so, could I live differently this time" (paraphrasing) LH is, to me, a terrific argument for self-determination - the ability to become a truly responsible person. This ties into my feelings re: Mulholland Drive as well; I feel that the box represents Diane's identity somehow. Rita is pulled in and never returns; she was never real to begin with, only a construct of Diane's imagination. That the "moss man" (love that description BTW, Frost) is holding her box at the end suggests to me the chaotic nature of personal identity - the disheveled, homeless man could represent Chaos. Perhaps the men in the diner are a projection of Diane's own fear of losing herself?

As for the Cowboy, I think he might have been the lucid part of Diane - the only one who realizes that he's a character in a dream. That's his "secret knowledge", and why he pays one final visit to Diane - it's her own sanity saying "goodbye, it's been nice knowing you".

At least, that's my current take on things ^_^

-- Inukko (, October 22, 2001.

Mat, I'd go further and say that the greatest art is always the product of struggling with the kind of self-doubt and pain that you mention. So if you're suffering these doubts, you're probably doing something right.

I, for one, want to thank you for making this forum available and for the frankness with which you express yourself. (Although I find the comparison of your creative process with masturbation a bit strange-- "agonizing ends"? Hmmmm...)

I, too, found Diane's masturbation scene very harrowing, especially as the viewer is only made aware gradually that that is what's happening. One of those traumatic moments I mentioned. Your interpretation of the film (the awakening of an uncomfortable sexual identity) is fascinating in that it's one that would not have occurred to me.

And in spite of what you say about my own analysis being "air- tight", I rather doubt that my reading was Lynch's original intent (again, not that that matters). As we know, the story was to have been serialized over a longer running time. The version of the story that ended up in the movie seems to rely on the dream's end to get out of resolving characters and premises that were brought up. As I've said, I think David Lynch did a meticulous job of connecting all the elements into a coherent whole, even though I'm still left feeling that the ending, though logical, doesn't feel emotionally true to the rest of the film. I suspect it was a solution that came of expediency.

I received a copy of the script for the original T.V. pilot episode from a friend, and find that the hitman character (named Joe in the script) seems to play a more significant role. So who knows, the black book probably did figure into things more (as in allowing Joe to contact Betty/Diane). My friend even suggested a plot thread which would place more responsibility for Camilla's murder on Joe rather than on Diane, a possibilty that relieved me greatly:

"My guess is there was more in the script about Joe (killer) and Diane. It seemed they might have known each other already and may have been pretty good 'street friends'. I could see a scene that takes place before the party, but after the hints of deception from Camilla. Such a scene could take place in the restaurant where Diane bemoans her relationship to Joe over coffee, and where he might respond 'you should just have me kill the bitch', which she registers but dismisses. This is then sitting in her and the audiences' mind when the party later takes place. Then one might determine it's not really her idea, he planted it and it took root during the party. Possibly other motives could be set in motion where Joe is in dire need of money, and knows how prone to suggestion Diane is, using her rocky relationship as a means to grow some business."

But to add to the confusion, the script also makes less likely that Betty and Diane Selwyn are the same person inhabiting alternate realities. That would mean that Diane is truly dead, therefore she wouldn't be hiring Joe. Of course, all this is pure speculation. The detectives also played a bigger part in the script, suggesting that Rita's amnesia was intended to be a real mystery, and not just a fantasy concocted by Diane.

Now I'm going to have to stop this obsessing over this movie and get back to work.

And Paul, yeah, I saw "Waking Life" at the Nuart. Well… you know how it was. It's too bad, I did have some hopes for it. The audience seemed to like it though.

-- Peter Chung (, October 22, 2001.

Thanks for the support, Peter, I appreciate it.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 22, 2001.

Well I'm not sure why but the night I saw this movie caused me to have a very sensual dream. I 'woke up' in the dream, finding myself as Rita and lying on a bed in that same luxurious 1940ish cottage in the movie. However the wall in front of the bed was all windows, ceiling to floor with a glass door leading outside to a deck overlooking a gorgeous beach. Betty was nestled next to me, and waking. I stood up, walked to the door, dropped a silken teddy, (colored in rich blacks and blues) and stepped out onto the white sand. Betty smiled. I then walked out to the water, which was in a long lazy low tide and was tinged lavender with the most exquisite foam I have ever seen on a surf. I dove in and glided with that foam, bubbling warmly around my skin as I swam only a few inches over the sand in it, body surfing easily in and out of the waves. After a few moments of this I stood up and walked back to an sleepy smiling Betty, waiting for me perched on a dark wooden fence bordering the deck. The two of us walked back into the bedroom. No lie guys. It was intensely beautiful.

-- Barbara e. (, October 22, 2001.

Barb, WOW.

Mat, Waitwaitwaitwaitwait. You're near Atlanta? You didn't happen to see it at Phipps Plaza, did you?

-- Frostbite (, October 22, 2001.

Why, yes I did, Frostbite... do you live nearby?

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 23, 2001.

Okay, now that I've had the common sense to take a look at your email address... it's obvious you do.

I'm having a Twin Peaks moment... did we go to the same showing?!

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 23, 2001.

I haven't been able to post for the last few days. I was there Friday at 4:00 and Saturday at 7:00. If you were there at the latter, I was the short girl with the curly hair who switched seats twice, then dashed out to get a Coke as I developed an inexplicable horrible taste in my mouth, THEN dashed out again to go wee wee before finally settling down for the last hour.

-- Frostbite (, October 25, 2001.

Yes, David Lynch seems not to have heard of the typical 90 hour format for movies. This movie is still replaying in my head. Lately I am focusing on the fact that Diane's dream is possibly how she prefers to see herself. Not how she is. I know this is maybe how we dream sometimes, but it is more accurately how we fantasize about ourselves; we like to see ourselves in a loveable light. I don't think this is wrong, it helps us to have a comfort zone with our own self image. It may even be healthy. Since he deliberately exposed us to an image of these girls as the most optimistic view of their characters we 'fell in love' with both of them. Then he shattered it with what he tried to expose as 'reality'. Peter hit it on the head, it is not a typical response to run out and hire a hit man simply because you were jilted or cheated out of your 'dreams'. Oooooh what Aeon Flux might've done instead, I shuddered when I read he could think of more interesting ways to humiliate someone. you might be better off with a bullet, no? Some people were never meant to be together.

-- Barbara e. (, October 25, 2001.

Ah, I was there sunday, so I guess it wasn't a Lynch moment after all.

Barb, what an interesting dream you had... I so rarely dream of characters in that way.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 27, 2001.

Mat I also once dreamed of being Aeon, but I'm not sure that has ever really stopped. Mat and Frostbite: How unusual to have been in the same theatre two consecutive days. The odds of two people from this forum doing that must be staggering.

-- Barbara e. (, October 27, 2001.

Well, don't be surprised if we run into each other someday too, Barb... I'm probably going to be moving back to Phoenix next summer.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 28, 2001.

Hey, Mat, what say we meet up next Friday or Saturday and watch it together? Then we could get some almond caramel pretzels (those things are AWESOME) and exchange theories.

-- Frostbite (, October 28, 2001.

Hey, sounds good Frostbite! I just happen to have both next friday and saturday off. Let me know when a good time for you is and I'll plan on it, I have no plans, so you can pick whatever time's good for you. I've been wanting to see it again, it'll be interesting to discuss it in person.

I shall meet everyone on this forum!!! Barb is next...

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 28, 2001.

Mat, why in the world would you ever leave a place that has a summer temperature under 3 digits? Also, dual-report next week on Mullholland Drive? Heck, two of the most brilliant minds on that 'other' forum have to come up with some kind of new twists.

-- Barbara e. (, October 28, 2001.

Well, I grew up in Arizona, so I actually miss it, believe it or not. I can't wait to go back. And the humidity is much better there (read: non-existent) than here in Georgia. And yes, I'm sure Frostbite and I will report on whatever crazy collaborative theories we come up with in person.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 28, 2001.

Let me know when you're in town! Although any collaborative efforts with me about Lynch's scripts may cause you to head back to Atlanta in a fugue state.

-- Barbara e. (, October 28, 2001.

Great! Meet me at the ticket booth, Saturday at 3:45.

-- Frostbite (, October 29, 2001.

You know, this will be the first social thing I've done besides group homework or laundry since.... um.... August, I think.

-- Frostbite (, October 29, 2001.

There WAS this thing where the whole floor went to a strip club but, alas, I missed that.

-- Frostbite (, October 29, 2001.

Barb, nothing could get me to return to Georgia. Nothing. :)

Cool, I'll be there, the tall, skinny guy with brown hair and a mustache. I'll be wearing blue except for a shiny red shirt.

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 30, 2001.

Oh, and I'm glad to give you something social to do, but I'm probably not quite as fun as a strip club...

-- Mat Rebholz (, October 30, 2001.

Oh yeah, physical discription. Um.... I'll be GLITTERY. You can't miss me.

-- Frostbite (, October 30, 2001.

Guh. I know I have a habit of turning posts into diaries, but here we go: School has made me officially Mentally Exhausted. You know that kid in the Far Side comic who goes "May I be excused? My brains is full."? Right now I know just how he feels. I think I'll spend Friday playing Pac Man, so to give the noodle a rest before the movie.

-- Frostbite (, November 01, 2001.

Okay, just got back from the "collaborative viewing". Frostbite, don't worry about making this forum your diary, I've only done it myself maybe a dozen times. It was nice to meet you, too, let's do it again sometime, hopefully for a little longer.

All I can really add after seeing this film again is that I tend to agree with Peter's view on the events of the film. Maybe I was swayed by your thoughts, Peter, I don't know... but seeing it now, everything seems to click. My previous, sexually-oriented interpretation doesn't seem so relevant anymore... I suppose I was just having one of those days, and I had stuff on my mind. Still, I suppose one could still interpret there to be themes of sexual confusion, but it'd be pure speculation and probably not too relevant.

The audience was having even more fun with the movie than last time; they were much more blatantly taking it as a joke. There was a lot more laughter... and at one point near the end, the movie suddenly stopped, and someone even asked out loud "Is this part of the movie?" It was then, in the minute or so before they got it started back up, that I heard people chatting amongst themselves about it. Apparently some of them were interested in exploring the story; others just seemed confused and laughed about it to those around them. I think it's funny that this sort of thing happened at a Lynch film... it's almost like being interrupted while committing some indecent or criminal act. Your concentration is broken, and suddenly you're no longer in the "dream world", but thrown into the present, sitting with a bunch of people you don't know, and the lights are on, and you're forced to contemplate the events of the story so far. I don't know if this is good or bad... it's like waking from a dream and being able to remember its events, but then being unable to get back to bed. I was happy to overhear some people discussing the film on the way out, with apparently sincere interest. Maybe there are more people out there than we realize that do find this stuff intriguing...

-- Mat Rebholz (, November 03, 2001.

After the film let out when I went, many people were discussing it eagerly. In fact, it was a little funny to hear the differences in interpretation of the film. They were completely different from one to another. For a while I didn't even realize it was a dream she had, and if I hadn't read that here I wouldn't have known that. The interesting thing about the film to me was it's obsessive nature with the two characters. I find that to be the most appealing part of it.

-- Barbara e. (, November 03, 2001.

Mat, forgot to say one thing great about Arizona is the D-backs. But of course you know it now.

-- Barbara e. (, November 04, 2001.

First Introspective thought after The Meeting: Mat's really a *much* better listener than I am. I should probably work on that. Second thought: That was fun! We had a sandwich, chatted about all sorts of random shit, I told a few lame jokes, and there weren't many uncomfortable pauses. An afternoon well spent (although we only spent about 20 minutes actually talking.)

There wasn't as much discussion as I expected, cuz we floundered around aimlessly for the right words a lot. It's a hard movie to talk about. But on a purely emotional level that I can't really explain, the movie makes more sense now. "A love story in the city of dreams" indeed. The most suprising thing I noticed was that I got really bored during the first two thirds, though the ending seemed better than ever.

-- Frostbite (, November 05, 2001.

Well I, for one, have a much easier time expressing myself in writing then in person... and the added awkwardness of meeting someone from the Internet in person doesn't make it any easier, so all in all some difficulty was to be expected.

But I agree, there's something great about this movie that is simply intuitively felt. This is probably natural, since Lynch's works are (depending on how one sees things) either completely illogical or follow a logic all their own (for Mulholland Drive, I believe the latter... there is a very definite logic to this movie that I've never seen in another of his films, and on the second viewing I definitely "got it"). So maybe it's best just to be wordless... or maybe I'm just making an excuse... hmm.

As for scenes which continue to haunt me most... one popped into my head today at work, without warning. It was the actress Camilla (the blonde one from the dream world) singing that sixties tune for Adam... there's something frightening about it, and really appealing at the same time. There are many other images that get me, but this gets me the most for some reason...

-- Mat Rebholz (, November 05, 2001.

She was kind of bad. She did the big no-no of grasping at her skirt nervously.

-- Frostbite (, November 06, 2001.

The more I roll this dreamy dream over in my head, the more it seems like the first part is more than just a fantasy. It seems almost as though, in some magical parallel universe, it really DID happen. But at the same time... it really didn't. In other words, I'm leaning in the direction of the supernatural.

-- Frostbite (, November 14, 2001.

The supernatural almost always seems to be present in Lynch's works, from what I've seen... this one is no exception. The cowboy is something like a "spirit guide", in my opinion, whether simply a symbol created by Diane's mind or some sort of being who can tread both fantasy and reality (though I tend to believe the former). The freaky little man from Lost Highway, Rene's ghost, and possibly Dick Laurent, are definitely supernatural beings. And today I just watched Fire Walk With Me again after a long while, and that work seems to be his most supernatural work yet (so much so that I'm still trying to work with it -- expect a new topic on this film soon, once I gather my thoughts).

Anyway, I'd agree with you in a way, Frostbite, by saying that one simply can't differentiate fantasy and reality in a Lynch film. It's not so much that it's another world rather than a dream, but that the "dream worlds" and the "real" world are one continuum (which I don't believe is too far from the truth of our own lives). Symbols and fabrications permeate human reality to such a degree that each individual's experiences become a universe unto themselves. Lynch appears to have demonstrated that he's aware of this, consciously or otherwise.

-- Mat Rebholz (, November 14, 2001.

Yesterday while surfing, I came across this interview with Naomi Watts, the actress who plays Betty/Diane. It was posted by someone on another message board where people were discussing the film. Apparently, either David Lynch did explain the script's logic to his actors, or Naomi Watts performed her part with the "dream" interpretation in mind.

(Source unknown, but it appears authentic.)


Q. Do you think Betty is Diane's alter ego?

For me, Diane is the reality-based character. That is the truth of the situation. Things are so awful in her life, in this rock bottom place, this horrid state of dementia, that she creates Betty as how she would have liked it to have been. Betty was optimistic and hopeful and pretty and peppy and sweet and everyone loves her and she's in control of Rita. Rita doesn't know who she is and Betty loves this power and this control she has over Rita. So that's the wish, the dream, the fantasy, the projection, whatever you want to call it. It's the reverse when we're talking about Diane and Carmela.

Q. What spurs Diane to create this elaborate fantasy about Rita?

Because it's an unrequited love story. Carmela is a movie star, she's beautiful, a femme fatale, the directors are in love with her, everyone's in love with her. She's a powerful, strong woman. Carmela pulls her friend Diane into her life for a minute but then cuts her off and stops reciprocating any friendship. [That plunges] Diane into this massive psychosis that she can't get out of, and then the worst happens.

Q. It seemed as if Lynch was setting up a relationship in the "Betty" world between you and Adam (the intense Hollywood movie director played by Justin Theroux), but then that shifts into a relationship between you and Rita. Conversely, in the "Diane" world, Adam and Carmela wind up together. How do you think Adam figures into your relationships in Mulholland Drive?

Adam is basically someone who pulls Carmela away from me. Diane is a narcissist, so she sees Adam in the "Betty" world [as being] in love with her. They have a moment. And I think again because she's so in awe of Carmela's life, she just represents everything that Diane wants and doesn't have. So she basically tries to change it all around. That's when she creates Justin's character, Adam, as being someone that wants her, instead of Carmela. I think it's just an obstacle in the way of her love affair with Carmela.

Q. During the "Betty" reality, can you describe what goes through Betty when she's having her sexually charged (and quite disturbing) audition scene with a much older actor?

This whole other character emerges. It comes out of left field, but we've had hints that Betty is not all that good and pretty and perky and sweet and innocent. There is going to be some kind of transformation, and that's where we learn more about her. We see her come alive and undergo a change. The way Betty is set up [in the beginning] seems almost like a cardboard cutout. I thought when I first read the script, "Oh my God, it's so one-dimensional -- she should be on the side of a cereal box in 1952!" But there were moments of release, like when she pulls the [substantial amount of] money out of Rita's purse you think, "Is this person gonna call the police right now? No." You see the fear register on her face but then there's an excitement, too. Then we see her in the audition scene, and it's the same thing. We get a hint that there's a whole other layer about to reveal itself. Again, that's Diane's projection of her complexities, and who she is and who she wishes to be. But then there's this whole other truth coming through.

-- Peter Chung (, November 19, 2001.

This whole good blonde/bad blonde is reminds me of Vertigo. Hitchcock's 'good' blonde (Kim Novak) you thought you knew and loved same as Lynch's Betty (Naomi Watts) you thought you knew and loved. Both were more complex than the first person so carefully presented by the directors. Instead of Jimmy Stewart finding out the truth about his blonde, in Mullholland Drive the audience did. But what a dreamboat Novak was, you got the impression her character would rather have been that 'good' person, but what about Diane? I ended up not liking her once I caught on. The audience and Stewart 'mulled' over the blonde Novak played and her controversial inner self. Both girls chose murder, one for love the other for money. It's interesting that Lynch's character chose to murder the one she 'loved', whereas Hitchcock's character murdered cooly for the payoff. Murdering the one you love seems to be the 'better' of the two, (if murder can be excused), yet I liked Hitchcock's character better. Diane just seemed to be too wrapped up in herself and the murder due to sour grapes. Was that dream girl who she WISHED to be or who she BELIEVED herself to really be? I think Diane was as deluded as Norman Bates. Hmm, I worked Psycho into this board after all...

-- Barbara e. (, November 19, 2001.

Surfing! Hmmm...

-- Barbara e. (, November 25, 2001.

My interpretation (to be taken with a pinch of salt)

The homeless person behind the wall is the evil, the cowboy is good. They each have a pair of old people to help them who mysteriously look the same. The good old people are the ones at the beginning, the bad ones are the ones at the end.

Betty enters Los Angeles and the good and evil spirits descide to fight over her. The cowboy gets his servants to her first and so she starts off good. Evil's main power source is though Coffee. When the young guy drinks coffee he see's the evil and dies. Rita, has some other backstory and is really an amnesiac. When they goto Winkies and she drinks the coffee the Evil spirit is able to access her and plant the memory of Diane Selwyn. Adam is evil too (he wears black) and so the cowboy has to ensure that Betty isn't given the part (and goes over to the evil side). Since the evil ones plans have been thwarted he releases the spirits of the now dead Camilla and Diane, who inhabit Betty and Rita's bodies after leaving the house (hense the double vision). This leads to them having the love that Camilla and Diane had. Rita realises whats happening and the run to club Silensio before the evil can catch them (hense the camera running behind them).

Club Silencio is neutral ground, and they find a blue box that they can use to escape the evil one. They take it home and hide in the box, Rita goes back to who she was and Betty wakes up in Diane's house. Unfortunately Betty makes a dreadful mistake and drinks coffee, immeadiatly the evil one plants loads of memories in her mind making her think she's had the women she loves killed.

We then see that Evil has a blue box too, and he releases his minions. They provide the final nail in the coffin and Betty kills herself. Evil wins

-- Roland Warren (, March 04, 2002.

Only one flaw in that argument: David Lynch loves coffee.

Then again, maybe he wanted to make a cautionary tale about the addictive properties of the evil bean? I can see it now: Coffee Madness...

-- Inukko (, March 04, 2002.

That's pretty innovative. I for one couldn't come up with any ideas on the older couple, that you see them as doubles with double agendas is really creative.

-- Barbara e. (, March 04, 2002.

Grrr... I responded to this, but forgot to change my address, so it went to the top of the page. Check up there under my first long posting, please.

-- Mat Rebholz (, March 05, 2002.

I was wondering if Rita was in fact based on anyone in reality in the Hollywood scene? I just saw a cable tv bio on Claudia Jennings. She was a beautiful blonde and a total nymphomaniac. She attained 'acting' roles using her liberal attitude towards sex and her beauty, but even many women liked her. In fact one woman said she 'heard' her having sex and she was pretty wild. I had the impression perhaps this woman was not in the other room. She was a famous musicians girlfriend, Bobbie Hart, but was familiar with more beds than a hotel maid. Hugh Heffner said she told him 'you were the first person I made love with', (bet he hadn't heard that one in a while), laughter is good. She also loved wild Hollywood parties and drugs, and died young. Wonder if David Lynch was thinking of her.

-- Barbara e. (, March 22, 2002.

In fact, She is, thoughd be damned to find her in the Hollywood scene.

-- etson (, February 04, 2003.

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