Monday, October 10, 2011

Mulholland Dr.

By s. Monday, October 10, 2011 , , , , , , , ,
(147 min, 2001)
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux

Dream a little dream of me...
A lucid dream is a dream in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming. When the dreamer is lucid, he or she can actively participate in and often manipulate the imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can seem extremely real and vivid depending on a person's level of self-awareness during the lucid dream.*


Dreams are elusive. We often forget what they were about, we have difficulties remembering even the tiniest details. For a filmaker to present the dream universe with sound, music and cinematography is enough of a chalange, but to do that with plot structure and the construction of entire story, to show the logic of a dream by using dialogues, objects and symbols - that's a true craft and the most beautiful of arts. I've only saw three movies in my life that achieved that - Cameron Crowe's „Vanilla Sky” and Ingmar Bergman's „Wild Strawberries”. Third one is David Lynch's „Mulholland Drive”.

I often read about the movie before I see it. Before watching MD I've read almost everything I could find about it – I knew that David Lynch's films require massive preparation before watching them. And „Mulholland Drive” is one of very few movies that loses absolutely nothing once you know the plot, the ending, all the twist and turns. Because seeing it unravel on a screen is such a unique, fascinating expierience that even tough the movie was horribly disturbing, even scaring, I will come back to it many times.

The story is incredibly simple – Diane Selwyn' lover Camilla leaves her and annouces her engagement to a movie director. Both Diane and Camilla are actresses, Diane being unsuccesful one. Diane feels manipulated and brokenhearted and she hires a hitman to kill Camilla. She goes to sleep – her dream lasts for first 4/5 of the movie. After she wakes up she sees a blue key, a sign from the hitmen that Camilla has been killed. Diane, consumed by her guilt kills herself.

What I've just written in few sentences is something most people who saw „Mulholland Drive” doesn't even understand. Why? Because movie starts with a dream and then it goes back to reality and the parallels Lynch used in both worlds are simply mindblowing.

The first shot of the film is the pillow. Something falls on it. It's Diane who is falling asleep.

Then we see the contest which she won and that's why she could come to Hollywood. In the dream Diane changes her identity and her name – she is Betty – she is good, kind, naive, innocent....just the way Diane probably was when she still had dreams, long time ago when she first came to town to pursuit her dream of becoming a famous actress.

In her imaginary world Diane pictures Camilla as a woman who lost her memory and takes the name Rita from a movie poster. Rita needs Betty, she trusts her, she is too scared and lost to manipulate her as she did in real world. They fall in love and are happy, Betty is the one who has control, who is stronger, she feels safe and makes Rita feel the same.

The director who is engaged to Camilla in real world is punished in Diane's dream. She pictures him as a complete loser, whose wife is cheating on him, who is weak, scared and his decisions are forced by mob – he is no artist, he directs his movie not how he would want – because he is being manipulated and he is too afraid to do something about it.

The girl who kisses Camilla during the party is the girl who steals Betty's role in the dream – she is the one the mob favourises and Diane sees her as something fake and evil. Her name in the dream is Camilla Rhodes, because in reality it was Camilla who got the part, not Diane.

In the reality Diane is a failed actress, in her dream everyone adores her and admire her acting. Diane justifies her failure by the fact that the mob is behind everything.

In her dream Diane sees her own corpse – Betty and Rita visit Diane's apartment and find her rotting body – it is the kind of premonition – maybe Diane's consiousness predicted she soon will kill herself. Or maybe it was that dream that suggested Diane to commit suicide.

The man who is killed by his own fear in Diane's dream is the man she saw in the cafe, when she was talking to the hitman. She probably fears he might have heard her when she was ordering the assasination and that's why in her dream she killed hm off quickly.

Petrifying bum behind the „Winkies”reflects the fear that consumes Diane, the guit that is swallowing her. He is the representation of all negative emotions that attack the person who sees him.

The cowboy resembles reason – If Diane did well she was to see him once, if she did bad – twice. We see him two times when he wakes sleeping girl. She did bad. She ordered the murder.

The old couple that laugh maliciously in the dream sequence represents the past life of Diane, all of her memories – many things in the movie suggest that Diane was the victim of sexual abuse – I've read countless theories about the painting that appears many times in the movie – the painting of Beatrice Cenci, who was known for being a victim of such abuse. The old couple comes out later on in the movie, from the bag, held by the bum – The fear and the guilt embodied unleashes all the horrible, haunting memories – when they finally hit Diane in the end of the movie, when she cannot escape from them, because they are so overwhelming and they are combined with her guilt and current fragility she commits suicide.
Another thing that suggests deep mental trauma and sexual abuse is the audition sequence in Diane's dream – when she played the scene with Rita she behaved normally – when she played it wih much older man she was seductive and very provocative.

The hitman that Diane hired to kill Camilla in reality in her dream becomes very clumsy – this is because Diane doesn't really want him to succeed, she doesn't want to lose Camilla. That is why in the dream the hitman has so much trouble with getting the book with his orders.

Very important elements – blue box and blue key are the clues for much bigger theme. The blue key in the reality is the sign Camila was killed. Diane, most likely, went behind the Winkies to get it. She saw the bum – she was scared by him, later on she 'borrowed' his persona to use it in her dream as something horrifying. It was at that moment that her fear also brought the memories (old couple getting out of the paper bag). In her dream the key opens the blue box, found in club Silencio. It shows to dreaming Diane that everything is made up. It holds the crushing guilt – the realization she killed Camilla.

In Club Silencio Diane realizes that she is dreaming – she starts to shake violently, suddenly she finds a blue box. First she disappears, then Rita disappears. Then we see Aunt Ruth, person seen in the beginning of the dream – Diane desperatly tries to 'rewind' her dream. She doesn't want to wake up.

The fact that the dream has such a firm structure, yet at times it switches to different settings and scenes seemingly not connected to each other can be explained that Diane, whilst dreaming is slipping in and out of her consiousness – sometimes she is aware that she is dreaming – those are the moments she is with Rita, happy. At times she loses control over her dream – Winkies scene, Club Silencio.

Club Silencio is the equivalent of other supernatural places from Lynch's movies – eg. the lodges from Twin Peaks and Lost Highway. It is a place that connects both worlds – it is not entirely in the dream, but also not entirely in the reality. Interesting thing is that apparantly one of the people sitting in the club is Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks,

When Diane shoots herself in the mouth she falls on the bed. The smoke from the gun surrounds her and for the moment it looks like a stage at the Club Silencio. Then we see the outline of Bum's face which fades into Diane's face – the person that was defeated by her fear, guilt, weakness.

The story shown in the film is enough to keep anyone interested. But there is even more than that in Mulholland Drive – beautiful music composed as always by Angelo Badalamenti – particuliary the piece called 'Love Theme' – heard during love sequence and most beautiful shot in the movie, when Camilla and Diane are going up the hill to the party – is the most haunting and stunning piece of film music I've heard in quite a while.

The sound is incredible – David Lynch actually added a lot of sounds to make the atmosphere darker and to express the feelings of characters - In the opening scene of the film, the dark-haired woman stumbles off Mulholland Drive, silently it suggests she is clumsy. After Lynch added "a hint of the steam [from the wreck] and the screaming kids", however, it transformed Laura Elena Harring from clumsy to terrified**

Naomi Watts's performance is hands down the best performance given by an actress in a leading role I've seen in all my life. Never had I seen the performance that varies so much throughout the movie, yet still remains plausible and gripping – at the beginning of the movie Watts's plays innocent Betty – witty, joyful, naive, with her lovely smile and detective-like curiosity. Then, abruptly, when Diane wakes up Watts's performance switches severely – she presents broken woman, deeply depressed, destroyed by the reality of her life. That role, so brave at certain times in the movie, shines so bright that Academy must indeed be blind. Watts's performance in this film is worth all the awards in the world.

Laura Harring plays Camilla/Rita, she is incredibly beautiful and she does good job at playing, at first very lost and confused person and the reality-part of the movie, strong, very manipulative woman – I was very impressed that the actress managed to show the nature of Camilla/Diane relationship in just few scenes. The rest of the cast is quite good, but the centre of the movie is of course Betty/Diane.

Mulholland Drive is an exhausting, fascinating and inspiring work of art. It is more than just a movie – it is an experience. It is also a very beautiful, but incredibly tragic love story that takes place in the city where so many dreams died and so many innocent were lost.


Big thanks to good people on board for the film
This piece was written with huge help of the material gathered on
* from
** from


  1. Absolutely amazing film, watched it a couple of weeks ago and it went straight into my top 5 all time.

  2. This movie is the hymn to failure. A train ride of regret and downward spirals. There is no easy (if any) escape for those that gave up in their lives. Only hell awaits the weak. Lana Del Rey recently published a music video called "Summertime Sadness" which really reminds me of "Mulholland Dr.". Anyway; thanks, Sati, for your tribute to one of David's better creations.

  3. Loved your review of this amazing movie - one of my all-time favorites. The more I watch it and read about it the more is revealed and the more I appreciate it. I also completely agree with you about Naomi Watts - just a spectacular performance. You're a very good movie critic.