Man, I'm enjoying this.
Please don't think I'm shooting down your interpretation, it's awesome, but if you'll allow me I'd like to point you to the moments which, for me, completely confirm the popular "Diane is dreaming" explanation. I also want to explain why I think this explanation has a HUGE amount of meaning.
I don't know if the timing is the same on the Region A Blu-Ray or Region 1 DVD, but on my Region B Blu-Ray, what I believe to be the most important scene in the film occurs at 1h56
. Once everything has fallen apart, and characters have disappeared one after another, and here's where I think it's incredibly revealing.
First off, the movie fades between Diane's room and Betty's room a couple of times. The cowboy walks into Diane's room and says "Time to wake up". While this is happening, watch the way the film fades in and out from black, it almost "blinks". The way it fades in and out of Betty's room to Diane's and the way Diane's room fades in and out from black uncannily resembles the way we gradually open and close our eyes as we wake up from a dream. The repeated knocking at the door woke her up. The glitzy, glammy Hollywood feel of the film totally disappears after this point.
Her neighbour was the cause of the knocking. When she comes in, one of the biggest clues of the movie is shown. Her neighbour reclaims her PIANO ASHTRAY. It's a very unusual ashtray for a reason. So you notice it. She has a quick vision of Camilla being back in the room (she's starting to see things, she's going mad) and after that passes she makes a coffee. "Pay attention to the ashtray, the gown and the coffee cup" was one of Lynch's 10 clues. Once she walks over to the couch, the GOWN becomes a pair of cut-offs, the COFFEE CUP becomes a glass of booze, and the PIANO ASHTRAY is back on the table where it was before. The camera lingers on the all important ashtray, because this is the movie's way of saying "THIS HAPPENED BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM!" From now until the gown and coffee cup return and the ashtray disappears, is what happened before the dream began. Although there are time skips, everything here happens in chronological order.
We witness Diane and Camilla's breakup, Diane's building jealousy, and her hiring of the hitman.
Now, it's often said that every face a person sees in a dream is a face they've seen before in real life, though not necessarily given to that same person in the dream. Also, as we all know, Dreams are often formed from your recent memories, things you've seen and thought about a lot recently manifest in your dreams, the things that are "on your mind". See, during this flashback, we see all of the faces, images and events that influence her dream. I won't go into it too far because there are SO MANY things here which get translated into dream elements, but I can give a few good examples.
- Many of the faces she sees in the restaurant become the characters in her dream, the film makes a point even of things like a cowboy walking past, and it shows Diane looking around at people
- She sees the name Betty at Winkie's, and does a double take, an "I like that name" moment
- She hands Camilla's photo to the hitman and says "THIS IS THE GIRL", the words which then repeatedly coming up in her dream, the words which haunt her for the rest of her (very short) life.
- The hitman uses a blue key as his signifier. "What's it open?", Diane asks, amusing the hitman. She's curious as to why he chooses a blue key and so she starts imagining things for it to open.
Diane gives the money her aunt left to her to the hitman (hence why she had to switch apartments with her neighbour due to having no money). The deed is done, and the man behind winkies, Diane's regret, the darkest side of herself, her version of Lost Highway's mystery man, is created, holding this imaginary device. Notice the red light here, which seems to be associated with the mind in a lot of Lynch's stuff, so I think this is inside of her head at that moment. He sends the little old couple out to get her, I think they're a vision based on her madness, they showed up at the beginning as talent show judges, so I think she sort of blames them for setting her expectations to high and getting her into this whole mess by urging her to go to Hollywood, so her crazed hallucinations take on their form.
Also, notice that in the bag with the blue box there is some meat and a loose ringpull. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing meat means death, and a loose ringpull could mean that something has been opened and can't be closed again.
Next thing we see, the blue key is on the table (it's done, no turning back), the PIANO ASHTRAY IS GONE, the COFFEE CUP is back, and Diane is wearing the GOWN. This means the flashback is over and we're back to present day. Diane looks distraught, the key is there, she knows it's been done. The knocking starts up at the door again. Possibly the two detectives mentioned earlier. She's going mad and seeing things again. The old people are haunting her (the appearance of Camilla for a brief moment earlier established that she's hallucinating) and she ends it all. A quick glare from the man behind Winkies, "you did this to yourself". Her last thoughts are of her and Rita/her version of Camilla together in the spotlight, all she ever wanted.
I also don't think this "dream" does much of anything to alleviate Diane's guilt. The casting conspiracy etc. shifts blame away from Rita, not Diane. I could be forgetting or missing something, but I'm not aware of anything in the dream that would actually assuage Diane's guilt. Whereas there's a long list of things that would assuage Rita's guilt.
The casting conspiracy is Diane's excuse for why she doesn't get any roles but one "Camilla Rhodes" keeps getting them. She sees Angelo Badalamenti's character glare at her in the restaurant before the dream occurs (and he just has this "mafia" look to him. Just from looking at him you think "mafia" although that's likely not the case) around the same time she tells Coco that the director "didn't think so much of [her]". She's not ready to admit she's not a good enough actress (hence why in her dream/fantasy she blows people's minds with her acting), so her subconscious pieces together an excuse.
I suppose the "dream" itself (that she's helping Rita etc.) could alleviate Diane's guilt, but there's not much internal detail supporting that sentiment. What is supposedly Diane's dream is filled with so much content that has so little to do with Diane's guilt.
No guilt is being alleviated as such. Diane's regret is slowly coming after her (in the form of the man behind Winkies), her dream is full of denial and excuses, the man behind Winkies and Club Silencio are her guilt taking form in the dream coming after her, having been shoved into a corner. Dreams often work like this, where a repressed emotion or memory becomes personified and comes to haunt you or tell you the truth.
I think we should also consider that "Diane's guilt" is a lot more complex than that. It might even be more heartbrokenness and depression than guilt.
Completely agreed, much of the dream comes from her broken heart, and her desire to "own" and "control" Camilla (this is why I didn't answer your first question, I'm dealing with that one in here also). This is why, in her dream/fantasy, Camilla ("Rita") is lost, weak, and needs her. She wants Camilla to need her the way she needs Camilla. Camilla was having fun, but Diane loved Camilla deeply.
It seems that the real imperative (supported by the bulk of the narrative) is to fix Camilla's broken situation, to right that wrong in a practical and meaningful way.
I agree, but for me, there's good reason why this would be the case in Diane's dream. Here are a few things I have always taken from this film regarding why some of the sub-plots happen:
- In the dream, the hitman is terrible at his job. He completely screws up an assassination, leaving a huge mess. I saw this as Diane unconsciously hoping that perhaps he won't/didn't succeed in killing Camilla
- In reality, the director is the one who is taking her beloved Camilla away from her. In the dream, he goes through the worst day of his life. Getting what Diane has decided he deserves
- Dan sits at Winkies, terrified of the thing living behind there. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is where Diane made her decision that lead to all of this, and it's the centre-point of everything. The phrase "This is the girl", the blue key, the name Betty, everything hinges on what happened at Winkie's, and so, inside of her mind, something horrible is there, which she hopes she never sees again. The memory of what she has done, the guilt, the regret, the fear. It's right there at Winkie's. Having the man Dan dreams about actually appear there is also a good way of establishing that this is, indeed, inside of a dream
If it's all Diane's dream, why would Diane disappear at the point of Rita's self-actualization? It would be very hard to convince me that we're still in "Diane's dream" at that point.
Don't forget that Rita then also disappears, leaving only Aunt Ruth to walk in to an empty room. At this point Rita also is wearing the blonde wig, she's become a part of Betty/Diane. Also, consider this quote from psychiatrist Jaques Lacan:
Suppose you're dreaming about yourself disguised as your desired self/other and you open a box with a key to find only darkness, your dream will collapse, and you'll wake up to find your real self.
Interestingly that lends a bit towards your theory too, since ina way Rita is "disguised" as Betty at that point, but Betty is Diane "disguised" as her desired self, and Rita is her "disguised" as her desired other. I wonder if perhaps in putting on Betty's wig etc., her "disguise" is actually coming off.
Finally, I think I have a problem with just how much of the film is just a dream if you adopt the conventional "Diane's dream" theory. It's kind of silly and, for me, massively less meaningful.
See, for me, the dream gives the film SO much meaning. It's not Dallas, the dream is in the form a real life dream would be. A dream in the real world shapes from a person's desires, experiences and innermost being. Through this dream, we get to learn who Diane is on the inside, who she wishes to be, what she desires and who she would be if the universe would allow her. We get to know the character more intimately than any character I can think of in any other movie, and we get to see just how much she adores and needs Camilla, that although her acting career is everything to her, once "Rita" shows up, she just obsesses over her, getting to know her and find out who she is. Camilla is all she ever wanted. Although her relationship with Camilla in the real world was somewhat one-sided, in the dream we get to see just how in love with her she is, and it makes the truth all the more heartbreaking, I often well up at the end of the film ever since I concluded that this was it's story.
What content in the film would even be outside of Diane's dream?
Everything between the PoV shot of the pillow and "Hey pretty girl, time to wake up" is the dream/fantasy, everything else is for real, but as I mentioned above, everything from the point where the coffee cup and robe vanish and the ashtray reappears, to the point where the ashtray is gone again and the cup and robe return, is set BEFORE the dream begins. It's actually pretty linear, it's all chronological except for one linear flashback at the end there.
I want to answer a few more of your questions but I need to find the time to, lol.
Imagine an edit of the movie where the flashback I mentioned above is moved to before the title (but after the jitterbug contest opening), but everything else is in the same order. In fact, if you get the time, watch everything after the ashtray reappears up until the blue key on the table, then rewind the film and watch it from the beginning, and then when the ashtray reappears this time, skip to when the blue key is on the table, that's what I strongly believe to be the chronological order of the film. Watch it that way and it makes one hell of a lot of sense.