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A Multi-Layered Analysis of Mulholland Dr. (by Alan Shaw)

Basic Narrative  | Background & Motivation  | Diane Selwyn Story | Symbolism & Metaphor  | Scene by Scene Analysis  | Lynch's 10 Clues  | Conclusion

Internal and External Structures

To begin with, I think it is important to note that this film has both an internal structure and an external structure. The internal structure is the most complex, and it involves the way that the movie provides material that refers back to itself, creating overlapping dramatic constructions that can be linked together like puzzle pieces into a coherent whole. Some call this Lynch's Mobius Strip in reference to a strange object that is a strip that loops back on itself with a 180 degree twist in one of the ends. The end of the movie is connected to the beginning of the movie with some type of twist that you must figure out. With this type of structure, you cannot really understand one fundamental part of the movie without the other, however they each follow different logical paths that meet up in more than one strange way. For instance, in Mulholland Drive there are three opening sequences to the fantasy portion of the movie that make very distinct and very dramatic connections to scenes near the end in the reality portion of the movie. These different connections work together to help us understand the movie's internal structure. The scenes that I am referring to are: the accident scene, the scene with the two men at the diner, and the scene with the chain phone call. I will explain their connection to scenes near the end of the movie at a later point below, but it is important to understand that to view the movie this way, you must have a theory about what type of puzzle pieces are involved in this movie. And, as it turns out, I think you must have a particular view of the external structure of the movie to develop a consistent theory about the puzzle pieces that make up its internal structure.

The external structure involves primarily how the movie paces itself and how it references other works. In some cases the parallels with other works provide a type of superstructure within which the internal dynamics can be placed, and then independently developed. Clearly, Lynch references his own past works in this film. Yet, since those references are so deeply integrated into the whole film, I believe that they are best seen as features of the internal structure. However, his references to the works of other artist are more instructive concerning what I am calling the external structure. The work of Stanley Kubrick is involved with his meticulous set designs, and his focus on surrealism, the nature of obsession and non-linear story lines. There are also examples of both Ingmar Bergman's and Federico Fellini's existentialist use of dream sequences and flashbacks, along with their explorations of violence, sexuality and humor. We also see hints of Akira Kurosawa and his intellectual spiritualism and artistry. And we find Krzysztof Kieslowski's use of the doppelganger and color themes to examine the psyche and intellectual moralism. Indeed, there are also many other artists and films to which Lynch pays homage, but I believe Bergman is one who bears mentioning a second time to honor the importance that his focus on the struggle with duality in the psyche has become in Lynch's work. His pivotal film, "Persona," lays the foundation upon which Lynch builds the idea that you can answer questions about your own identity by exploring another individual's projected persona. Moreover, there is the character Elisabeth Vogler in Bergman's "Persona," and she is one more possible source for the name Betty, the protagonist in the fantasy portion of Lynch's film. And yet, even the influence of Bergman is still secondary to that of a particular historic film that has had perhaps the deepest of impacts on Lynch. As far as the broad outline of the superstructure to Lynch's film goes, no other work is more influential to Mulholland Drive than Victor Fleming's movie, "The Wizard of Oz.

The Importance of the Wizard of Oz to the External Structure

The Conflict and Color Symbolism at the Core of the Internal Structure

Diane's is a conflicted soul. One part of her loves Camilla. One part of her hates Camilla. One part of her is trying to love herself. One part of her is trying to become a different person because she hates herself. One part of her came to Hollywood to become an actress. One part of her came to Hollywood to become a star. One part of her is an innocent girl. One part of her is a wayward woman. One part of her is full of life, while another part of her is focused on death. With the severity of the inner struggles she is dealing with, Hollywood does not turn out to be a very positive experience. Although her aunt was probably a positive force in her life, the aunt's success became something unattainable to Diane because the aunt was not around to help guide Diane, and because Diane did not leave Deep River with a sufficiently healthy image of herself. Diane's poor self-image led to a desperate and obsessive quality in her relationship to Camilla precisely because Camilla was a part of the Hollywood image-making machinery that Diane believed could recast her into a different, more appealing person. The tragedy in this is that the Hollywood enterprise doesn't deal with reality, and so it could never help Diane with issues that were more than just skin deep. Yet even in Hollywood, real people did exist in Diane's life who were not so explicitly connected to the show-business world and who may have been willing to offer authentic love to Diane, as I will explain in the conclusion. Yet Diane spurned them to her own misfortune.

I believe this becomes clear when you follow the logic of the structure and symbolic language of the film. I have already outlined how the Oz story line provides an outer framework for this story. The inner framework of Lynch's film make's it crystal clear that Hollywood and Oz are very different places, just as Dorothy and Diane have very different outcomes. In Oz there were real allies of Dorothy who really cared about her and loved her. But in Hollywood, most of the people around Diane were more concerned with image and what they could get from her. Hollywood's primary focus on women as sex objects created different types and categories of women. Diane was seen as the pink-type, where the color of pink represents a girlish type of sexuality. Women like Camilla were seen as the red-type, where red is a more hot and womanly form of female sexuality. Yet, the red image has to be tempered with black or white to make women more glamorous, sophisticated and less slutty in their sexuality. The red-light district is a common term for the place where prostitution flourishes, and as such, red by itself can send the wrong message, which is important to remember when we see a red lampshade. And pink is also often tempered with black, white or even blue to take some of the edge off of its girlishness and present a little more maturity. The primary difference between Dorothy and Diane initially is that Dorothy was happy with her girlish and innocent image, while a part of Diane was actively attempting to reject her pinkish qualities.

In this description of the context that Diane found herself in and the tensions that were at work within her, I am making the case that Lynch puts a heavy emphasis on using color to help tell his story. If you interpret the colors correctly, portions of the plot are revealed to you that would otherwise be missed. It becomes clear just how important decoding the color symbolism is when you observe how the distinctions between the use of red and pink are so critical. For example, our initial introduction to Diane is in her Betty persona, where she is wearing a pinkish top that she has on throughout many subsequent scenes. Early in the film there is a continuing contrast being made between this color of hers and the red and black that Rita wears. In a scene that represents the morning after the first day in her fantasy, she is wearing a very ordinary looking bathrobe that has the same pinkish color, while Rita is wearing a fancy red and black bathrobe. Pink is clearly the color of the Betty persona, but we see a different dynamic when Diane is in the room with the red lampshade. As I alluded to before, there is a red-light district connotation to the red lampshade that I believe is meant to indicate a situation involving prostitution, with a telephone being present to further explain that the context is a call girl business. To bolster the evidence for this interpretation, I believe Lynch intentionally chose to make Diane's bed sheets red because she is the one involved in the prostitution. And all throughout the film telephones are conspicuous, whether by site or by their ringing sound, because they are there as symbols of the call girl business.

Yet, due to Diane's pink image it is difficult to believe that she would engage in prostitution, and Lynch understands that we will have this difficulty, so he adds stronger clues to help us see how this follows from the nature of her internal struggle. In an early scene that comes after Lynch has established that Diane has a pink persona, we see a prominent sign for a hotdog establishment called "Pink's." It follows that the name "Pink's" is intended to represent to us Diane's girlish, almost Dorothy-like sexuality. However, the full message on the sign says "Made Special For" and then there is a hotdog and then the word "Pink's." The hotdog, also called a wiener, is a clear phallic symbol, and therefore we are seeing a more ominous message. The message is that Diane's pink personality has been used for something very sexual.

If this sign is not enough to bring that message home, then what immediately follows it should be. We see three people walking away from the general direction of the sign, one of whom is clearly a prostitute who looks like a doppelganger of Diane, especially because of the color and style of her hair. And what is right behind her as she walks away from the Pink's establishment? It is a long red pole or rod that is being carried by a man that has been conspicuously placed into the scene. The way the rod hangs down and the way it is pointing to her behind make it another clear phallic symbol, indicating that some man has engaged in some sexual activity with Diane that has led her away from her pink persona and into prostitution. This is a color narrative that describes an initial state of pink that is then left behind during a movement toward a red state that involves prostitution. There is even another red lampshade in this scene in the store window the prostitute is walking by while coming around the corner. The scene ends with the prostitute getting into a blue van, which confirms that a major change has taken place. This will be clearer below when I explain what the color blue symbolizes. In the absence of the color narrative, only the hit man in that scene appears to have any connection with the rest of the story, yet both the prostitute and the pimp dressed in black next to her are vital clues to Diane's inner battle. We will discuss both of these characters in more depth in the scene by scene analysis below, but it is important to note that without an understanding of the meaning of the color symbolism you cannot completely decode this subtext.

The Importance of the Broken Home as the Source of Diane's Inner Struggle

This becomes even clearer when you follow the logic of the sequence of the scenes, which I shall do more thoroughly below. But in this case let us let us examine what immediately follows the scene at Pink's. The next scene begins with Betty in her pinkish top saying, "That money … you don't know where it came from?" There is more to this dialogue which refers to other plot lines, but it is important that Betty begins with those words. We had just witnessed a scene with a prostitute and now we are being asked if we know where the money has come from. One answer that we find out later is that Diane is the source of the money. Another answer that comes from recognizing the connection between the two scenes is that the money is the result of prostitution. These two answers are not in contradiction to one another if we accept the multiple symbolic references to Diane's involvement in prostitution, references that continue throughout the fantasy potion of the film. But Lynch leads us deeper into understanding the cause of Diane's movement from being pink to being a prostitute by examining Diane's struggle with a broken home in the subsequent scene, a scene that is also rich in color symbolism.

In the next scene we find Diane's Adam person under distress, announcing repeatedly that he is "going home." Adam represents the part of Diane that is supposed to be in control of the direction in which her life is going. We know this because he is the primary director in the fantasy, and since the name Adam means "man," his name could be taken to mean "The Man," as in the head guy. But in Diane's conflicted mind, the part of her that is supposed to be in control gets challenged immediately. The challenges made to Adam's control cause Adam/Diane to wish that he/she could somehow go back home. In playing this idea out, Adam/Diane is forced to examine what life was like for Diane at home, even though the fantasy's story line projects Diane's truth onto the broken home story in Adam's real life.

Before we get to Adam/Diane's home we go back to a scene with Betty and Rita, and Betty asks, "I wonder where you were going?" And Rita answers, "Mulholland Drive." That is in fact where Adam's home was and it is also where a great big accident happened that changed everything. In this context I believe the accident becomes a metaphor for a terrible thing that happened in real life to Diane when she was still a girl. And what was the terrible thing? It is revealed when Adam gets home. He discovers a terrible infidelity. In his real life it was between his wife, Lorraine, and Gene, the pool man. But what does this mean in Diane's life. The first clue is that Lorraine is a blonde, and this means she may have some connection to Diane. But who does the pool man represent who had sex with her. The next clue is that Adam takes the family jewels and pours pink paint all over them. The "family jewels" is a slang term for the testicles of the man of the family, and pink paint represents Diane's innocent sexuality. So, by pouring pink paint over the family jewels Adam is showing us that it was the father figure who had sex with Diane. When you place this idea into the context of the infidelity that Adam has discovered, we can deduce that what Adam is told when he comes into the bedroom may have been what Diane was told when the incest was discovered. Because of that dialogue we can assume that Diane was probably blamed for what happened by her mother figure and told to keep it quiet by the father figure. "Now you've done it," Lorraine says. "Just forget you ever saw it. It's better that way," says Gene. I believe that Adam's subsequent beating and nosebleed is a metaphor for Diane's lost virginity.

Lorraine, the person caught in the infidelity, is also the person indignant about the actions of Adam in the situation. I believe that this is because Lorraine is a very complex symbol, alternating between representing Diane in her guilt and representing Diane's mother figure in her indignation. Her blonde hair is longer than Diane's and so, although I believe that a relationship to Diane is being indicated, Lorraine is not like other blonde doppelgangers in the film who have short blonde hair. The longer hair is probably indicative of greater age, like the mother figure. And I believe that there is more color symbolism involved. Black and blue come up in many contexts, as I will describe more fully in the next section. For this reason, I believe that Lorraine's black underwear indicates that she represents a person with power in Diane's life, again, like the mother figure. But when Lorraine puts on a blue dress, the symbolism changes. The blue dress tells us that Diane is experiencing a terrible transition from innocence to a more victimized and traumatic state. Lynch reinforces this interpretation by having the pink paint splatter on both Adam and Lorraine because they both were affected by the trauma suffered by the pinkish Diane in different ways. But the pink paint stays on Adam for quite awhile to indicate that the experience left a mark on Diane that would not go away. This color narrative tells us that Diane was forever scared by a traumatic incident involving incest as a child. However this is not the only evidence of this event in Diane's history. Other clues make reference to it as well, but the fact of the matter is that the color narrative shows us this information once we have learned how to read Lynch's language of symbolism.

Incest between a father figure and a daughter puts the child in a difficult spot of being both the daughter and the alternative to the spouse for the father figure, creating a potential conflict with the mother figure. That's why I believe Lorraine is such a complicated symbolic character. The terrible middle ground between daughter and mother figure after the incest occurs makes the abuse even more devastating because if the trust between the two of them is lost, then the daughter loses both parental figures. A child is supposed to find a source of unconditional love in her parents, but when this is denied to the child she may be led to believe that she must earn love from others by somehow selling herself. There was only one person who could have saved Diane from this mindset, and that was Diane's aunt. Diane's aunt appears to have been her one source of comfort and love during her childhood, but unlike Dorothy during her fantasy, Diane cannot go back to her aunt because she is dead. Diane has only her dubious grandparents in the end. Diane's grandparents have a cheerful pretense in the beginning of her fantasy but they are soon shown as ominous figures whom she quickly separates from before even leaving the airport. The sinister smiles on their faces as they are driven off are not dissimilar to the scowls on their faces at the end of the movie when their connection to the incest theme is more obvious because a bed is involved, although it is still only an implicit connection. And this is not the first of Lynch's films to deal implicitly with the issue of incest. Most notably because of the parallels involved is the film "Blue Velvet." In that film we find a character whose name is Dorothy Vallens. The Dorothy of that film lives in the Deep River apartments, similar to the way our Diane is from Deep River, Ontario. And while living in Deep River, Dorothy Vallens also suffers through sexual abuse, and her abuser wants her to call him "Daddy."

Other Important Color Symbols

Even without references to Lynch's other films, one can read a story within the story of Mulholland Drive. However, reading it requires that we take any potential symbolic device within this film very seriously. The way this is done is by examining multiple instances of whatever we believe may be a symbol, and then trying to determine if there is a connection between those different instances. By doing this I have determined that pure red does not always indicate prostitution. At other times red can indicate danger or death, especially when red lights are flashing in a way similar to police lights or ambulance lights as in the aftermath of the accident scene or the scene with the bum just before the end of the movie. And red can indicate tension or drama when connected to a stage or curtains as in the Club Silencio scene. Moreover, when red is a hair color it is connected to Diane's Aunt Ruth, who is herself associated with being successful in Hollywood. It is an important symbol, because it is involved in some of Diane's deepest pain. The successfulness that Diane's aunt represented was what brought Diane to Hollywood in the first place, yet it was a prize that continued to elude her at every turn. And just as red haired characters are symbolic of the aunt and everything she represented, more than one major brunette character is connected to Camilla, while blondes are often important representations of Diane's life circumstances. However, there are some exceptions to these rules.

Black is not always used simply to temper the color red or the color pink. When characters appear in completely black outfits they are generally powerful people. They exercise excessive influence over others and as such they tend to have questionable motives. The strength of these types of influences suggests that they represent powerful inner forces in Diane's psyche that are trying to sway her in one direction or another. However, they can also represent outer forces in her life that, through temptation or coercion, have persuaded her to submit to them in the past and present.

Pink, red, and black have a powerful thematic import throughout the film, especially when they involve clothing. On the other hand, other colors are more neutral although they cannot be completely discounted. When gray or dingy white is worn by Diane near the end of the movie, it is a sign that she has lost both her girlish and her womanly sexual persona. In essence, she is fading out of the Hollywood scene. Unfortunately, she turns out to be unable to embrace a life without any connection to that glitter and glamour that is personified by Camilla.

The Critical Importance of Blue and the Concept of a Transitional Object

The last color symbol that I think is essential to the subtext of the film is the color blue. It is perhaps the most difficult one to interpret because it isn't connected to a single image or state that Diane is experiencing at any one time. Instead it is involved in the movement from one state to another. Duality is a critical element in Mulholland Drive, and it is important to understand that there is always the possibility of transition between connected twofold expressions throughout the film. From pink to red, from life to death, from truth to fantasy, from rationality to insanity, in each case we see the appearance of some type of vehicle for shifting in the domain between the realms. Movement in that domain is called a "blueshift" in the science of optics when you are going from a lower energy state to a higher state. Perhaps this is why Lynch uses the color blue to symbolize fundamental transitions in Diane's inner and external reality. But another reason may be that the domain between states is one of mystery and the surreal. It is where things like illusion can reign, and so it is where Hollywood finds its center. And from Lynch's point of view, one could argue that the essential color of Hollywood's mystique is blue. Just think about the cinematic technique of the blue screen. Or think about the blue glow of the neon lights that Lynch loves to show with the city as a backdrop. Or consider the blue shimmer in electricity that Lynch alludes to as Hollywood's power source.

To Lynch, I believe that blue is a color that is all around us when we are in that middle ground between day and night. Dan, the man who collapsed in the early scene behind the Winkie's, whose name sounds a lot like Diane, described it thusly, "It's not day or night. It's kinda half night." That's where blue is and that is where the mysterious is found. Near the beginning of the movie, when Betty is leaving the airport, she has blue luggage. I believe that this luggage is there to represent Diane's transition into this surreal fantasy because the luggage is blue and it represents a container just like the blue box that will transition her out of her fantasy much later. The two older people in that scene, who I believe represent memories of Diane's grandparents, enter the fantasy with Betty, but they are quickly transitioned out of the fantasy with a different blue transitional object. The object, which we see in front of the limousine that takes them from the airport, is a blue van that the limousine is following, which again is like a big blue box. That being the case, the next time we see them coming into Diane's world they must transition into it again using another transitional object. And in this last case they come in through the blue box itself. However this time they are anything but sweet and encouraging, as we learn that they are associated with the beast behind the Winkie's and that there is something sinister in their nature.

In the Club Silencio scene near the end of the fantasy, we see a number of different types of blue transitional objects. I believe this is because Diane is being transitioned from the fabrications of her fantasy into the harsh truths of her real life in stages that lead to her ultimate reawakening. But the transitions do not get completed at the club. The magician at the club leads the first transition by revealing the illusive nature of the fantasy, and then initiating a routine where blue light and electricity transmit a truth to Diane about her childhood abuse. This truth that Diane confronts is related to why Betty begins shaking with uncontrollable spasms, and I will discuss how I interpret those spasms in the scene by scene analysis below. Next comes the blue smoke, which serves as a transitional exit for the magician, and so he disappears. The focus then turns to the woman with blue hair.

The woman, who is a special type of transitional guide because of her blue hair, was first visible to us just before the magician began his blue lightning and blue smoke number. Then once the magician is gone and after the smoke has cleared and the blue lights have faded back to the normal lighting, we see her prominently again. I interpret this to mean that the truth she is there to guide Diane through is related to what the magician was doing, but it goes beyond that into a completely new revelation. In fact, this second truth is more of a consequence of the magician's truth and it concerns one of the reasons why a theater scene was necessary to impart this truth. As far as the magician was concerned, the theater is involved in his message because it is a place where entertainment happens that is filled with illusion, but his lesson might also have been pulled off in a movie studio. But the lady with the blue hair needs an old theater with a box seat that overhangs the stage to impart her particular truth. This is because her truth involves death, and in particular death by assassination. It was in a box seat like this, in a theater like this, that Abraham Lincoln, who had a prominent mole in the same place as the woman with the blue hair, was assassinated.

To really understand this connection, we must remember that Diane's fantasy starts off with a scene that involves the attempted assassination of Rita. Rita survives that assassination because of an accident that was lucky for her, but her left ear is wounded and bloodied because her pearl earring was torn off. These details are significant due to the fact that Lincoln was shot right behind his left ear, and the gun was a small Derringer which some reports maintain had a white pearl handle. Moreover, the limousine that Rita was in at the time of the assassination attempt and accident was a Lincoln, even though the detectives who later investigate the scene call it a "Caddy." Other movies of Lynch also make veiled references to Lincoln's assassination as an important symbol of murder and its horrific consequences, like the movie "Blue Velvet" where Lynch's use of the color blue is also sublime. In Blue Velvet, Lincoln Street continuously plays a conspicuous role, and the insane antagonist is Frank Booth who drives a black Ford. This is a clear connection to the fact that Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in D.C. Furthermore, the horror of Frank Booth's murderous ways are revealed to us by the fact that he cuts off the ear of one of his victims, pointing to the symbolic importance of the ear due to its involvement with Lincoln's assassination, as I mentioned above.

Like the magician before her, the woman with the blue hair shows up to uncover a reality that Diane has repressed. Camilla, like Lincoln, did not survive the assassination attempt. So the implication is that Rita's miraculous survival is just yet another misleading illusion. I describe in the scene by scene analysis below how the song that follows explores this even further, and it all ultimately leads to Betty's discovery of the blue box within her purse. Like the other issues that require more space to discuss, I shall also describe the truth of the blue box in more detail below. But clearly it involves the reason that Diane needed to come to the fantasy world, and it also explains why she must leave it as well. Diane's confrontation with the truth is not as rosy as Dorothy's and so the blue haired lady is a grim guide, and since she is a messenger of death, we shall meet her again at the end of the movie.

This leads us to the issue of the symbolic importance of blue as it regards to the mystical key and box within Diane's fantasy. It is important to note that the key and box represent a transitional object, but in this case they are a two-part transitional object. As a two-part object, they must be brought together for any resolution of the transition. I believe the fact that Diane had two blue suitcases when she came out of the airport at the beginning of her fantasy is connected to this issue because that was a two-part transitional object as well. Diane's fundamental tension involves her need to bring together conflicting components of her psyche. This struggle is expressed as the duality of Betty and Rita while she is in the fantasy, so the suitcases stay in the picture until her Betty and Rita personas finally meet. Her attempt to resolve the struggle in her mind and merge the two is an attempt at repairing the insecure self-image inside of her that led to her obsession with Camilla and ultimately to her murderous act of revenge. Again, we will explore this more thoroughly later when I will address why the Betty persona disappears when the two-part transitional object of the box and the key get close to one another, and why Rita disappears when they finally are completely connected together. Yet at this point it is important to note that Diane attempts to use Betty and Rita in the fantasy to recast the truth about her relationship to Camilla, and this attempt fails once the blue transitional objects expose what she is trying to repress. This in turn makes it clear that the rift within her psyche is still in place, and that the essential quest of her fantasy was a failure.

The Importance of the Structure of the Fantasy and Reality Narratives

Before I begin the scene by scene discussion I think it is important to state something explicitly, because some reviewers disagree on the issue, and it is a very important determining factor in how the film is interpreted. I believe that the fantasy portion of the film is filled with fabricated but symbolic details that have illusive connections to real events, while the flashbacks in the reality portion of the film might be emotionally colored at times, but they are filled with very accurate details. The fantasy sequence begins when Diane goes to bed in the opening scene, and it ends when she gets out of the bed after the Cowboy has told her that it is time to wake up. Some reviewers question how reliable Diane's flashbacks are after the fantasy portion of the film is over because it is clear that her mind is unstable at that point. However, I think that it is important to the flow and consistency of the film to few these flashbacks as reality. I believe that Lynch is pointing out to us that there are connections between Diane's truth and fantasy that involve bizarre Mobius style twists as I described above. So even if the truth can seem stranger than Diane's fiction at times, its purpose is to become a guide for us that can help us return to that fiction and examine it in more depth. This means that I believe that Diane did in fact hire a hit man to kill Camilla, a person that she loved like no other. And that event was so traumatic that it inevitably destroyed her mental and emotional stability. Is it any wonder then that she is the one who had that "God-awful feeling?" And is it any wonder that she can no longer think of herself in the way that she used to, or that her mind attempts to reestablish her lost self-image by deconstructing the various aspects of her psyche and then putting everything back together again?

There are four main arguments against the veracity of the reality sequences that I feel can be resolved with reasonable considerations. The first argument claims that Diane could not have hired a hit man as she remembers doing in the reality portion of the film. This is because some reviewers assume that Diane moved from Apartment #12 to Apartment #17 after Camilla's murder to hide from the police. And since she also remembers meeting Camilla in Apartment #17, they assume this proves she could not have done both, so neither probably happened. But at no time is it stated that she moved from #12 to #17 after the murder. In fact, the neighbor who switched from #17 to #12 acts like she knows why the switch was made, yet this neighbor knows nothing about a murder. In the fantasy, when the neighbor says she switched apartments with Diane she seems to be thinking about the reason with some concern, and then she looks at Rita with an unfavorable emotion in her eyes. Later, in the reality portion of the film, the neighbor looks at Diane in a sad and concerned manner when she mentions that it has been three weeks since the switch. What was the reason the neighbor believed the switch was made? We are never told explicitly, but we are given numerous clues about it, which I will discuss in the conclusion.

Does it really make sense that someone on the run from the police would really think she could get away by moving five doors down? No, I believe the police were looking to interview her about the murder because she was one of Camilla's known friends. I don't believe they necessarily thought of her as a suspect, although Diane certainly must have been afraid that they did suspect her. Yet, Diane did not move from #12 to #17 because of her fear, since, as her flashbacks show us, Camilla was still alive after the switch and she even visited Diane in #17. The flashbacks also show us that Camilla broke up with her during a visit to #17 and later called Diane at #17 to invite her to the fateful party at Adam's house.

A different but related argument that some make against the veracity of the flashback scenes is that some say three weeks was not enough time for everything she remembered to have happened. But I believe that this type of argument is missing the point and it is a misreading of the scenes as well. It is precisely because things proceeded so quickly after the breakup that Diane never had a chance to cool down and think things through before turning to the hit man. But the timeline is not unrealistic anyway. The flashback of Diane watching Adam kiss Camilla during a rehearsal could have happened months before the move from #12 to #17, so it does not play a part in this issue. And the different flashbacks about the argument between Diane and Camilla in #17, including when Diane throws Camilla out and when she masturbates afterward, could have all happened on the same day. So the flashbacks that concern what happened after the apartment switch represent just a few important days in the three-week period following the switch. One day, perhaps right after the switch, Camilla visited Diane at #17, and they argued and broke up after making out at first. Later, Diane goes to a party at Adam's house after she gets a call inviting her from Camilla, who then calls a second time when she hesitates. Certainly the party could have been planned long before this period and Camilla's invitation to Diane could have been something of a last minute thought on Camilla's part. Then soon after the disaster of the party, Diane talks to the hit man once, maybe over the phone, before then meeting him while she is still angry at Camilla. This could easily have happened even within one week in my opinion, but for the sake of argument, lets just say that it took two weeks. Then two days later Diane finds the key, and she begins to get emotionally unstable. The next day, detectives who want to interview Camilla's friends stop by DeRosa's apartment looking for Diane, and all she tells them is that Diane doesn't live there anymore. Then DeRosa sees Diane walking by her apartment the next day, and she tells Diane about the detectives. DeRosa might also have told Diane that she wanted to get her stuff from Diane at that point. But Diane was probably a little panicky after being told about the police, and so she could have told DeRosa she would have to get her stuff at another time. Then for three days, Diane goes off the deep end, hiding in her apartment, not answering the phones or the door. During this time she falls into a deep sleep and has the dream. On the third day she awakens and finally opens the door when DeRosa is knocking. That's when they have the following dialogue:

DeRosa: Where have you been?
Diane: What do you want?
DeRosa: My lamp and dishes.
(there is a pause as Diane doesn't answer)
DeRosa: Come on, Diane, it's been three weeks.
Diane: (sighs and lets her in) I put your dishes in that box.

DeRosa's mention about "three weeks" does not mean it has been three weeks since they have talked about the visit of the detectives, it only means it has been three weeks since the apartment switch. In Diane's dream, DeRosa tells Betty and Rita that she has been trying to get her stuff from Diane, and right before that DeRosa says, "But she hasn't been around for a few days." The dream seems accurate here because of the mention about DeRosa wanting to get her stuff from Diane. So it seems reasonable to assume that Diane and her talked just a "few days" before Diane had her dream. And within this scenario it is easy to see how three weeks was plenty of time for all of the sad events to have happened that are referred to in the flashbacks. In fact, it could easily have happened in less time.

When we take these issues seriously, we can understand why Diane's fantasy involves a death occurring in #17, and not #12. She is living in #17 when her fantasy begins, and she already knows that Camilla is dead and she has already begun contemplating suicide. And we can understand why that death seems to have affected Rita in the fantasy more than it affected Betty. Just as at the beginning of the fantasy, the death of the person that the Rita persona is connected to is was what preoccupied Diane's mind. In my view, the body that Betty and Rita discover in the fantasy doesn't look like Diane, but it looks more like a combination of Diane and Camilla, because it has a little longer and a little darker hair than Diane's. And the screenplay says that the holes in the bed around the body are shotgun holes. I discuss this further in the scene by scene analysis, but it clearly requires that a real murder took place for this to make the most sense. And if there was a real murder, then the other events in the flashback to Winkie's really happened.

The second major argument against the accuracy of Diane's flashbacks in the reality portion of the film concerns what happens in the scene right after Diane's neighbor leaves a little bit after Diane has awakened from her fantasy. When she is about to make coffee she clearly hallucinates that Camilla has returned to her. Some feel that this should not be seen as a reliable flashback because clearly Camilla did not return to her. But I don't agree. This hallucination is the first in a series of flashbacks she is just about to have at this point in the film. The first thing these flashbacks deal with is Camilla coming over, making out with Diane, and then the two of them breaking up. Camilla certainly could have been standing right where we see her in the flashback at some point during her real visit to Diane. And this may have logically proceeded the moment the two of them went to the couch. So I see no reason why Diane's initial vision of Camilla cannot be seen as just the entry of Diane into the longer set of flashbacks of real encounters that she had experienced. So because this just represented her first flashback, although it is only a partial flashback, I believe that there is nothing in it that suggests that her memories are inaccurate.

Another contentious flashback is the one where Adam kisses Camilla in a car on a movie set. The scene ends with Adam shouting, "Kill the lights." But some have argued that he would not have said that in reality because it indicates he wants to go on making out with Camilla with the lights off in the presence of other actors and the stage hands who are dealing with the lights. However, I believe that Adam considers his order to be a part of his explanation and demonstration of what is supposed to happen at that moment in the scene. The lights would go off to end the scene, and then they would come back on immediately thereafter.

The last major objection that I have encountered is to the scene where another woman kisses Camilla. Some have argued that Adam would never have put up with another woman kissing Camilla, his fiancé, in the party scene when he had recently broken up with his last wife over her indiscretions. However, the double toast right before that scene makes it clear that Adam has been made aware of Camilla's bisexual past before that kiss, and yet he still allows Camilla to invite her old girlfriend (or girlfriends) to his party. I think that we are supposed to believe that he is not as threatened by her relationship with other women as he would be if she were kissing another man. And he probably sees the kiss the same way that Diane sees the kiss, as just another implicit way for Camilla to say to Diane that their relationship is really over. If he knows of Diane's adoration of Camilla, as it seems logical that he might, then it would seem likely that he would understand the reason that Camilla would feel the need to send Diane that message. And the look Camilla gives Diane after the kiss certainly seems to communicate that message.

In my view, the logic behind the fantasy and reality portions of the movie are completely sound, but you must pay close attention to the dialogue and to certain specific issues in their context to unravel the meaning. By seeing these two portions of the film as distinctive fantasy and reality sequences, we are given the keys necessary to unlock the truth of her past and present life, and to learn how Lynch views the inevitable tragedy.

The Loss of Diane's Aunt and the Loss of The Sylvia North Story

For instance, by understanding Diane's emotional response to her aunt we can understand what moving into 1612 Havenhurst meant to Diane. Diane's dream had always included becoming a success like her aunt had become. We don't really know if Diane was right about the aunt's level of success, but we do know that Diane never achieved whatever she thought was at that level. We see this first represented in Diane's mind by the fact that Camilla got to Aunt Ruth's place first. Then we get plenty of clues that tell us that Camilla's life fits more into Diane's idea of what her aunt's success was like than did her own life. For instance, Camilla is given the name Rita after Rita Hayworth, who had been honored with a picture in the aunt's home. Rita Hayworth was an extremely glamorous and successful actress that had red hair in most of her movies, so Rita Hayworth represents one of those red haired symbols of the aunt's success. Yet, in reality, Rita Hayworth's hair was naturally black and her ethnic identity Hispanic, just like Camilla, so Diane was unlikely to ever measure up to that standard the way Rita/Camilla did. Another clue to which of the two women actually lived up to the mantle of the aunt's glory is expressed in a robe that Diane's aunt left to Diane. It was almost regal and it was clearly meant for Diane/Betty, but only Camilla/Rita wears it. Diane/Betty is never able to put it on. When you look at these clues you begin to see that Diane envied Camilla because she was enjoying the success that Diane had wanted and had been dreaming of since her days in Deep River. But for some period of time Diane had probably ignored the negative feelings associated with this issue because of her love for Camilla. Later, after bringing about Camilla's death, Diane's mind cannot deny any longer that she was jealous of her. It is in teasing apart what this rivalry meant that we begin to understand that there are complex issues involved in what she was describing as her love for Camilla.

The last symbolic construction that I will mention before beginning the scene by scene analysis is the movie within a movie called "The Sylvia North Story." Once you realize that everything in her fantasy is really about Diane in one way or another, it should not be too hard to accept that that is also the case with "The Sylvia North Story." As far as I can tell, there has never been an actual film made called "The Sylvia North Story." But interestingly enough, in 1965, during the possible time period of the songs sung during the audition, there was a movie called "Sylvia." The title character's full name was Sylvia West, and the movie recounts how the title character was raped by her step-father at the age of 14, and how she became a prostitute when she was older. She survived her ordeals while she was a prostitute through her close friendships with other women, and she ultimately leaves prostitution and goes on to become a successful poet. Except for the ending, the story is amazingly like the life story of Diane, who you could say was the Sylvia who came from the north. Thus, we get Sylvia North.

Another connection between Diane and Sylvia North is found through the etymology of Diane's last name, Selwyn, and the name Sylvia. Selwyn comes from a Latin word meaning "of the woods," while Sylvia comes from the Latin for "forest maiden." And not only that, the last name of Betty, Diane's chief persona in the fantasy, is "Elm," another reference that has something to do with the woods. Then, of course, Diane's first name is associated with Diana, the ancient Roman Goddess of the forest and of the moon. And in Roman legends, Camilla was one of Diana's favorite warrior princesses. Furthermore, when we review the scene where Betty auditions for "The Sylvia North Story," we find a character whose name is "Woody," which further emphasizes this connection. From all of this it should be clear that there is a strong connection between Diane Selwyn's name and Sylvia North's name, and that there is some context that connects them involving the woods. When I come to Betty's audition for "The Sylvia North Story" during the scene by scene analysis I will discuss more fully what the references to wood imply.

Other reviewers have found parallels to the name Sylvia from other films, and there may be some truth to that because Sylvia North may be a composite character to Lynch. But I think it is clear from the context of her fantasy that "The Sylvia North Story" is about Diane Selwyn's life. When she was offered a chance to audition for the lead of this movie in real life, I believe she really wanted it because she identified with the character so deeply. Yet the part was given to Camilla, almost as if the image-over-substance Hollywood dream machine was saying that Camilla would make a better Diane than Diane herself. Diane was clearly hurt by losing the part, but she was also intrigued by how Camilla played the role. This mixture of competitiveness and fascination with a woman who literally encourages Diane to recast her life in Camilla's image led to an obsession on Diane's part that was based on an unhealthy self-image and an inaccurate understanding of Camilla's motivations.

To such a difficult situation, Lynch then adds the complicating fact that Diane had feelings for Camilla's boyfriend, Adam. Since he was a director, both Camilla and Diane were probably interested in having him pay attention to them and show interest in their careers. But he only had eyes for Camilla. Yet, deep down it seems that Diane entertained thoughts of him choosing her over Camilla. Perhaps her interest in him was not sexual if Diane was unable to love men as some have argued, unlike Camilla. But whether or not there was a sexual interest, any claims of love between Diane and Camilla could not help but be poisoned by their dual Hollywood aspirations. So the question becomes how much of Diane's obsession with Camilla was love, and how much of it was a fixation on Camilla's rising Hollywood stardom? I believe that the symbolism answers this question by the end of the fantasy, and Diane does not like the answer that she gets. The truth is illusive, but I believe the answer lies within the Mulholland Drive's symbolism, and it provides an important lesson for those who are drawn to the blue glow of Hollywood's beacon.

As we go into the scene by scene analysis, remember that duality plays an important role in this film. So anytime something is done, said or seen twice or more, you should assume that it represents an issue that is especially important. Another important issue to consider is Lynch's emphasis on the point of view of the dreamer. Rather than thinking of the fantasy as the retelling of a story of Diane's past, we need to think of the fantasy as Diane rethinking the past by reliving it from multiple points of view. The different points of view are personified as characters that work together or are in conflict with one another. Diane has deeply conflicted issues going on inside of her, not the least of which is the question about why she hired a hit man to kill someone that she loved, and what she thinks about herself in the aftermath of that event. To survive the conflict within her, she's trying to keep alive the connection to her past innocence and her future aspirations. So, of course, there are personas representing both of these central parts to her identity. Yet, as we shall see in the fantasy, it is in the persona of Diane's childhood innocence that she places her greatest hope. It is the hope that Diane can still find the refuge that she sought in the past by returning to the guiltless image and personality that her aunt so greatly loved and adored.

The crisis that the fantasy is addressing concerns Diane's inner struggles with her own life experiences and her various conflicting responses to them, even when it appears to be about someone or something else. For instance, when the Rita/Camilla persona has amnesia, many reviewers assume that this is because in recovering her memory Diane wants to explore issues concerning who Camilla was in real life and why Diane was in love with her. However, when Betty and Rita began to investigate who Rita was, all Rita can remember are things about Diane's life, such as the disastrous trip up Mulholland Drive that Camilla never really took and the name "Diane Selwyn." These clues lead to an understanding about what happened to Diane, not to Camilla. And when a person named Dan is in Winkie's talking to his therapist, some believed that he was talking about his own dream, when he was referring to Diane's dream within her dream. In fact, I believe that Dan's death that occurs when he sees what is behind the diner, mirrors a type of death Diane experienced when she went behind the diner for reasons I discuss in the analysis of that scene. Furthermore, "Dan's" name is a play on the name Diane, just as I believe the name "Ryan" is chosen because it rhymes with Diane. The Ryan Entertainment company is just a fancy name for Diane's vivid imagination. And even when Adam from the fantasy confronts an infidelity that the real Adam faced in his home, we are shown how Diane associates this with the infidelity that she was involved in during her childhood, as I explained above when I discussed the metaphor of the family jewels. This is all just to say that to understand Diane's fantasy, you have to accept that deep down it is really all about Diane.

Scene by Scene Analysis