What I Watched
- Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: at least two clues are revealed before the credits.
- Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
- Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?
- An accident is a terrible event…notice the location of the accident.
- Who gives a key, and why?
- Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
- What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio?
- Did talent alone help Camilla?
- Notice the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkies.
- Where is Aunt Ruth?
I haven’t take then time to figure out all the clues, but some of them are pretty easy: one of the clues before the credits is the first-person-perspective shot of somebody lying down to sleep; the red lampshade appears first next to the phone that isn’t answered in the sequence of phone calls between the conspirators against Rita, and later when Diane receives the phone call from Camilla about the party; Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for The Sylvia North Story, which is the film where Diane and Camilla met; Rita’s accident is at the same place Camilla meets Diane to bring her to the party; etc. The most common interpretation of the movie seems to be that the first part (before the cowboy tells Diane to wake up) is Diane’s dream after learning that the hit man she hired has killed Camilla, and the second part is Diane’s descent to insanity mixed with memories or hallucinations of events leading up to her decision to have Camilla killed. Many of Lynch’s clues do suggest this interpretation, but I but I’ve never been convinced. The second part seems more believable—not only because “there’s an overwhelming tendency, amongst critics and other analytical folk, to privilege the ’sordid’ over the ’sentimental’” but also because it doesn’t have strange conspirators controlling everything behind the scenes—of course, the conspirators are all still there, but they’re presumably regular folks whom Diane incorporates into her fantasies. But does verisimilitude have any place in a movie like this?
Then there’s the man behind Winkies, Silencio, the blue key and the blue box. In one of the comments threads for one of David Fiore’s many posts on Mulholland Dr. at Motime like the Present, a fellow named Charles points out something about Silencio I hadn’t known:
Lynch plays on an old joke of his, and one of his most memorable scenes, by doing himself one better: he has del Rio playing herself, lipsyncing to her own song, a Spanish cover of Orbison. This joke loses much of its humor if (1) you fail to recognize the reality of del Rio, an actual person, (2) its connection to the very real oeuvre of Lynch and (3) how its reality might differ from the rest of the film.
Mulholland Dr. is actually the only Lynch movie I’ve seen, so I can’t follow the joke (it’s apparently something to do with Blue Velvet), but I note that it reinforces the central theme of Silencio. Rebeka del Rio lip-synching to a recording of herself—it’s indistinguishable from reality, but it’s fake. The movie is full of juxtapositions of obvious fakes and perfectly realistic fakes: Betty’s jokey rehearsal with Rita and her real rehearsal with Jimmy Katz; Adam Kesher’s unenthusiastic approval of Camilla Rhodes and his “love at first sight” moment with Betty; Naomi Watts’s bubbly Nancy Drew acting in the first part and her almost show-offy naturalistic despair in the second.
Backing up a bit—the two parts of the movie, the dream and the reality according to the standard interpretation. Like I said, I’ve never been convinced by the standard interpretation, but I do think there are distinct levels of reality (fictional reality, I mean) at play. The reality narrative seems more real than the dream narrative (insofar as one fiction can be more real than another), if only because it’s more sensible to extrapolate a fantastic dream from a hallucinatory reality than vice versa. But there are complications—the theme of obviously fake things and other fake things that look real in comparison, for one. For another, there’s the reversal of causality: the dream is caused by the reality, but their relationship is obfuscated by the presentation of the dream before the reality. As I watch the movie, I think, “Diane’s car ride along Mulholland Dr. is just like Rita’s”; it’s only upon consideration, after the movie, that I see clearly how causality runs backwards through the movie. It’s Diane who wakes up at the end of the dream, so it’s presumably Diane who goes to sleep at the very beginning of the movie. But when she wakes up, it’s like one of those unsettling dreams about waking up from a dream. The reality is more real than the dream, but it’s nothing like firm ground for us to stand on. But maybe that’s the best we have.
The dream and the reality are both stories Diane/Betty tells herself; the difference is that she’s in control of the former (for a while), while the latter crashes messily into other peoples’ stories. Now we’re going way back in Peiratikos history to creation of self through narrative. We create and know ourselves through stories, but the problem with being the authors of our own life stories is that we’re also characters in other people’s life stories.
I completely forgot to talk about the man behind Winkies and the blue box. Maybe later, maybe later.