Mulholland Dr. Explanation?

Started by Xeditor, April 23, 2003, 05:04:36 PM

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Jeremy Blackman

Quote from: SamFZGames on February 07, 2014, 11:22:14 AMI'll go through the film again and take a look at those shots though, because for the most part I'm really confident about my interpretation of MD

I'm pretty sure about your interpretation too. I don't think Rita sleeping/dreaming invalidates it. Is it possible that part of my theory could exist within yours? That Diane imagines herself as benevolent Betty revealing the truth to Rita through these dream infusions?

An alternative is a little more complex. Diane, dreaming, is trying to resolve two potential realities (the kind of thing that happens in dreams). The conspiracy dream as it takes shape is at first a way for her to falsely alleviate (what she believes should be) Rita's guilt, but then Diane (dreaming) beings to buy into it until she is fully immersed in her dream.

The first (simpler) idea seems more likely, though.

Quote from: SamFZGames on February 07, 2014, 11:22:14 AMNotice how in the dream version of the auditions, he stares longingly at Betty, like he wanted to cast her but has been forced to cast Camilla Rhodes instead by the mafia.

I think at best, he's seen Diane before and he's like "weird, that's not Diane, but it looks like Diane... am I seeing things?" I don't see that as a look of longing or even explicit recognition, though. I read that as him seeing a ghost or a fleeting presence of some kind, as if the film is giving us a hint about Betty's non-existence. Alternatively, it could also be an "ooh, who's that?" reaction, which would certainly play into Betty's fantasy. But to me it still reads more like muted curiosity.

Here's my screenshot of that moment:


Interesting! I'd always seen that shot as "I really wanted to cast her for my film...", look how his eyebrows raise in the middle, a sort of sad look, I think it also supports Diane's "I am an amazing actor, I'm not getting the roles for BS reasons" thoughts. HOWEVER, I think she's not yet auditioned, and storms off when she hears him say "This is the girl", I'm not sure. I just always have seen that stare as a "But I wanted HER in my film..." stare of disappointment and longing.


I'm so glad you guys put all this effort into examining the film, because after seeing it at least 5 times (including one tonight) I don't feel any closer to piecing together the "meaning" of what's happening at the end on my own standing. Everything I've made sense of is basically through osmosis of reading and considering what's been written in this thread. Tonight I went in blind, not reading Lynch's clues or having any particular theory in mind, and I'm just as baffled as the first time. I'm less frustrated by not being able to understand it and kind of just amazed that a film can still leave me with so many different questions after all these years.


This is an excerpt from a Vulture chat with Justin Theroux, where he talks briefly about Mulholland Dr.

In a fantastic New Yorker article from 1999 about ABC's baffling decision not to pick up David Lynch's Mulholland Drive pilot, you're quoted as saying, "I realized that the show is incidental to the ads [on network TV]." Could you contrast that experience with HBO?
Well, there's so many differences. It goes way beyond just being able to say fuck or have sex or violence or whatever. It goes across the boards. HBO's incredibly good at it. It's hard to explain, but when we were shooting The Leftovers, you really get the sense that you're shooting a ten-hour movie as opposed to relying on cliffhangers. You don't have to rely on going out on a commercial break and coming back with whatever. There's a lot less corporate pressure and no "Why is everyone driving Dodges?" I think there's certain obligations a network has to its sponsors that a cable show or Netflix is not beholden to. They can take risks. I mean, even something as simple as smoking on our show is something most networks have a ban on. HBO doesn't do that, obviously. And it enables you to tell a truthful story, because if eventually you start veering away from what happens in real life, you then are not telling a truthful story. As it relates to Mulholland Drive, that was originally a pilot for ABC, and I remember there were all kind of notes coming down from the network as we were making that, because my character smoked. And they kept saying, "Well, Justin can't smoke in the show." And David, in a wonderfully naïve kind of way, was like, "But people smoke!" That was his answer to it, you know. And then they said, "Justin can smoke but must reference trying to quit." [David said], "He's not trying to quit. Why would he say that?" And then they were like, "Justin can smoke but must have a cough, like a hacking cough."

That's amazing.
Yeah. So eventually, those kind of notes start to inform the actual content. The other one of interest was I remember they were violently opposed to a shot of dog shit, and I think David's response was, "Bring me one person — and it could be anyone from age 3 to 100 — who has not seen dog shit, and I will cut my shot of dog shit." And he's just absolutely right. So all those pressures are relieved when you're doing something for cable. And there's also not the pressure to produce so many of them, which I think inevitably makes the quality skyrocket, because if you're trying to write 23 of anything in a year, you're just eventually going to go on autopilot, I imagine.

Full chat:


those are the true horror stories.
it's amazing the increasingly stupid ways gatekeepers try to force some sort of creative input into a project, and how much energy is wasted in dumb battles over things like wether a character smokes or not. that's why so many films and tv shows end up in mediocrity, people get tired of battling over nonsense and just do whatever and give up.


Quote from: Jeremy Blackman on January 29, 2014, 12:00:20 PM
The "Diane's dream" explanation makes sense at first, but it really breaks down for me when I start to think it through. It seems to leave many more loose ends.

Under this theory, why is so much of the film about Betty helping Rita find her identity? Why does she go through all of that in such a knowing way, giving Rita a few potent glimpses of Diane, pointing out the "Diane" nametag? Is this all misdirection by the film? Why does Betty clearly know so much, if this is just her delusional dream?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

There are just so many problems with it for me. Why is Rita clearly dreaming within it? Rita dreams the Winkie's scene and the first conspiracy scene before Betty even arrives. From that very first time that Rita falls asleep, it's screamingly obvious that this is Rita's dream. And yet Diane's dream envelops all of that? It's just kind of dumb. What content in the film would even be outside of Diane's dream?

Hi All, noob here. Looking forward to being part of this community. Mullholland Dr. is one of my all time favorite movies and I have seen in many times.

While you have a unique and interesting interpretation, I think it is way over complicated.  Lynch has stated that one half of the film is a dream (but he won't say which half) and that it has a pretty straightforward structure. That plus his 10 clues seem to clearly indicate it is Diane's dream followed by a non-chronological sequence of reality. We see her go to sleep on her bed, then see her wake up, even with the cowboy telling her it's time to wake up.  All of the symbols and people in the dream can be interpreted and debated, but the structure is clear.

I think the reason Betty spends so much of the film helping Rita find her identity is very simple: it was filmed as a TV pilot and that was the main mystery. Since one of the main themes of the film is identity (how you see yourself, how others see you, how you can change identity by being an actor, or wearing a wig, etc). it works for me.

The dream is not assuaging Diane's guilt, it is letting her escape it by imagining that Camillla somehow escaped the hitmen. Have you ever had something horrible happen, like a death, and then gone to sleep and dreamed that person was still alive or that event had not happened? Only to wake up and suddenly remember that it really did? It's like that.  Diane's life went horribly wrong. She didn't have the talent she imagined she did and she was chewed up by Hollywood, as so many people are.  Diane's humiliation by Camilla pushed her over the edge and she had her murdered. The police were tracking her down. That's a lot to have on your conscience and sleep would be the only way to temporarily escape.

The casting conspiracy was her mind dealing with her own rejection by believing that actors were hired by a bizarre sinister network of people, not by talent.  And once again, this is all from a plot that Lynch retrofitted, but it works fine for me because it is dream logic.

The dream starts to break down in Club Silencio. Betty has her perfect fantasy connection with Rita and then reality starts to seep in. The flashes, Betty convulsing and of course the emcee stating "there is no band'. It's not real, just like a movie or a recording. Or a dream.

Betty disappears first because Diane doesn't want the box (reality) to be opened. Her ideal image of Betty is gone, broken down by the impending reality of waking up. But she is still desperately holding onto Rita. I don't think Rita has any self-actualization, she is just there to open the box because it must be opened at that point. Diane is waking up. I don't understand the appearance of Aunt Ruth at that point however.

I'm not sure why you think Rita is dreaming the Winkie's scene. That seems to clearly be part of Diane's dream. The character who drops dead upon seeing the bum was in Winkie's when Diane hired the hit man, I don't think there is any more significance to him than that. The more important thing is the bum in the alley, who represents death or the evil which took place at Winkies (Diane ordering the hit). I read somewhere that the original character was supposed to be a female prostitute and was going to figure as an important character in the proposed series. I see no reason to think it is Rita's dream just because she passes out and then wakes up in a later scene. There is no transition or device to indicate she is dreaming, whereas there are very clear transitions at the beginning and end of Diane's dream.  I think you are reading way more than was intended. And once again it was shot as a straightforward scene in the pilot, not with Rita having a dream in mind.

At any rate, this is a great discussion. I'm looking forward to reading a lot more in this forum.


Quote from: DBeyond on April 25, 2013, 09:23:36 AM
Well I happened to re-watch the film and, basically, I think Lynch really fooled us by a LONG SHOT.

In the end of INLAND EMPIRE, in the mansion with the crippled lady that says "Sweeeeet", LEHarring (Camilla) appears. I always though, isn't that funny ? Because Naomi Watts (Diane) should be there too, or even alone.  I always thought this because of the explanations most people had, that it was all about Diane and etc...

I think Lynch in a way told us: you guys are wrong.

[Please note, this is only my impression of what most people thought about the movie, me included - if for you it was always about Camilla, great, good fortune to you]

It's pretty simple actually and in a way it's in the 10 clues the man gave. He may be a joker but he's always VERY HONEST, I really think he has a strict artistic integrity - which is rare nowadays, I think, I believe.

But lets put this in topics and keep it simple, what I noticed in this watch of the film:

- Rita/Camilla speaks SPANISH. Notice the dinner conversation (in the end of the film) at Adam's House. When they say something in spanish "luigi something" (when referring to the film The Sylvia North Story). Notice that CLub Silencio is SPANISH and that RDRio sings a Roy Orbison song IN SPANISH. Also note the guy from the Hotel, where Adam goes after the pink paint incident, speaks SPANISH "Oye Carnal" (he says) and he also reappears at Club Silencio.

- Lynch said in one of the clues, most people didn't saw this (I think): 6 - Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
   The ROBE, notice the ROBE when Betty goes to tell Rita that her Aunt doesn't know her! The ROBE HAS PINK PAINT ON IT!!
  The coffee cup appears at Winkies and at the apartment, but more on this part later. Also notice in the 2nd Restaurant(Pinky's) the GIANT SLOGAN "MADE SPECIAL TO PINKY's" (Lynch does a shot of this, full size, you can't miss this) In fact it appears before the scene where the BLUE VAN appears for the 2nd time, and the sign is saying "FOR PINKY'S ONLY"

- Note that when Rita's sleeping in the beg of the film, beneath the table where aunt Ruth picks up the keys. Is the first appearance of the hobo lady. To me this is Camilla and this is why in the end of the film she lets the "old people loose".

- Notice that Rita, doesn't KNOW who she is.

- Notice that Rita wears a blonde wig and then Look's EXACTLY like Diane/Betty and she ENTERS the Blue Box wearing that wig, and surprise, surprise she wakes up being Diane :)

For me this is evidence that the film is about Camilla (mainly).

Notice also that DEAD PEOPLE don't Dream. So Diane didn't really shot herself, Camilla did AND Diane was so upset/depressed/unbalanced about this that she RELIVED what Camilla went though in way...

So you guys are right, the beg is Diane Dream, in fact everything is Diane S. dream. She never wakes up, she just finds the rabbit hole(blue box) in it.

- That's why the DEAD BODY has a dark dress (like Rita after the accident, running in the street in the beg of the film) and has DARK HAIR.

- The Cowboy is like the Mystery Man in Lost Highway, a walker of worlds (inside the MIND) a sort of conscience if you like.

Lynch mentions the robe (the one Diane puts on after waking from her dream) the coffee cup and the ashtray to help you order the reality scenes chronologically. All of the clues are to help you determine what is the dream, what is reality and in what order.

Diane is not dead when she has the dream. She is very much alive and we witness her shooting herself after the dream. Finding the dead body in the dream is premonition. Diane knows she is going to kill herself, at least on a subconscious level.

The bum is only present in Diane's mind (first in the dream, then the beginning of her hallucination as she loses her mind and shoots herself) never in reality.

I completely disagree that the movie is about Camilla. She is a minor character (in reality) and a shallow and mean spirited one. This is about Diane coming to Hollywood and getting chewed up and spit out by the harsh realities of the movie business. Its a very sad story and not that far off from what does happen to a lot of aspiring actors. They don't kill their lovers per se, but very few make it and most are treated badly and end up broken.

I think you could be right about the cowboy, although he is shown very briefly as a real character at the dinner party.

Jeremy Blackman

Welcome to the site!  :yabbse-thumbup:

Yeah, I agree with your criticisms. That was definitely a case of me overcomplicating things. SamFZGames convinced me (here, I think) and I no longer believe in my original theory.

Quote from: litemakrI'm not sure why you think Rita is dreaming the Winkie's scene. That seems to clearly be part of Diane's dream. The character who drops dead upon seeing the bum was in Winkie's when Diane hired the hit man, I don't think there is any more significance to him than that. The more important thing is the bum in the alley, who represents death or evil. I read somewhere that the original character was supposed to be a female prostitute and was going to figure as an important character in the proposed series. I see no reason to think it is Rita's dream just because she passes out and then wakes up in a later scene. There is no transition or device to indicate she is dreaming, whereas there are very clear transitions at the beginning and end of Diane's dream.

To be fair, I think I was onto something there, and it still doesn't totally add up for me. There is in fact a transition/device to indicate that Rita is dreaming. The Winkie's scene is bookended by identical shots of Rita sleeping.

In fact, there are FIVE bookend shots of Rita sleeping throughout that entire section of the movie, just to remind us that she is sleeping between each dreamlike sequence.

I have screencaps here: