Friday, July 6, 2012

Exploring Lynchian Dream - an explanation for Mulholland Dr.

Spoiler Alert: This post is full of spoilers!! Do not read further if you have not seen the movie yet.

Eerie visuals and music, violence, bizarre characterizations, multiple identities, dream imagery are some common elements one can often find in the movies directed by David Lynch. He is well known for movies which often mystify the audiences. This is the fascinating aspect of the director who succeeds in presenting a fairly simple plot in his own unique style of filmmaking. 

One of the best works of Lynch is Mulholland drive, a surrealistic, neo-noir psychological thriller about a failed actress. The movie stars Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Thoreaux in lead roles.

What is the plot about?
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Diane Selwyn, after winning a dance contest shifts to LA from Canada, aspiring to be a successful movie star one day.  Her aunt Ruth had died leaving her a sum of $50000. Later, she befriends actress Camilla Rhodes on the set of movie Sylvia North Story which she had a small role. There starts a steamy, sexual affair between the two. Diane gets deeply attached to Camilla, but not the latter, who wants to break her affair with Diane because of her newly found affair with director Adam Kesher. So she invites Diane to the party hosted by Adam where he announces his plan to marry Camilla. Enraged by this, Diane hires a hitman to kill her lover.

Afterwards, in her apartment, Diane before going to bed thinks of her past, and goes to deep sleep and starts dreaming, which we see for the first two hours in the movie. Upon waking up, she gets haunted by the images of Camilla, and there she hears the door knocking down by someone, probably the police. Out of guilt, and unwilling to get caught, she shoots herself to death.

Exploring Lynchian dream
What we see in the dream are just unfulfilled and unaccomplished things Diane wanted to achieve. In her own dream she enters a fantasy world to see things as how she wanted to be. 
  • Though she hired an assassin to kill Camilla, she wanted her not be murdered. So in the dream, Camilla escapes from the gunmen in the limo. Camilla is in fact Rita in the dream.
  • The dream counterpart Betty is seen as a happy, charming and well talented which is difficult for Diane.
  • She always wanted to be together with Camilla except that it didn’t happen. So in the dream, Betty and Rita spend their time together most of the time.

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Diane - Dream vs Real
  • The gunman hired to eliminate Camilla is seen in her dream as inefficient so that Diane hopes at least in her dream he does not carry out the job properly which she hired him for.
  • When she is talking to the assassin, she sees the waitress’ name to be Betty which becomes her name in dream
  • The $50000 she pays the assassin becomes the money in Rita’s purse.
  • Almost all good acting roles were given to Camilla leaving Diane nothing, which makes her to visualize that the roles given to her were because of some external force, say the mobsters. In reality, there are no mobsters.
  • Right from the beginning, Diane hates Kesher because she sees him as the reason for her breakup. So she wanted to give Adam a tough day, some sort of punishment in the form his wife’s affair with a pool boy.
  • Diane has never performed well in her career. So she incorporates that irrespective of Betty’s well performed audition, she is refused the role because of the conspiracies of mobsters.
  • Diane tells the assassin showing Camilla’s photo “This is the girl”, which becomes the words of mobsters insisting Adam to tell in the dream.
  • Adam’s mother becomes the old lady running Betty’s mansion. When Betty first meets her, she tells “Call me Coco as everyone does”, just like she tells when Diane is introduced at the party.
  • The cowboy who threatens Adam and the mob in the dream were guests at the party hosted by Adam. The limo which we see Rita is sitting inside is the same one in which Diane arrives to the party.
  • A red lampshade and an ashtray are shown placed at the table in the beginning, moments before Betty arrives to LA in her dream. The same is shown again when Camilla calls Diane for party.
  • The dead body that two girls saw in the dream is Diane’s guilt which will lead her to death, like seeing one’s own dead body in his/her apartment.

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Red Lampshade, Telephone and Ashtray shown in dream
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Red Lampshade shown in real when Diane answers Camilla's phone call
 In this way, Diane incorporated the events, persons and places into her fantasy.

Back to reality again…

How long one can dream? It has to end, right? It ends as soon as the duo returns from Club Silencio.

Like the man on stage repeatedly tells the audience that everything you see here is just an illusion, we are also revealed that nothing is real though it appears to be. What we have seen so far are just imaginations of Diane, the unsuccessful blonde.

The charming Betty disappeared just like that. Now Diane is all alone to face reality. She wakes up when her ex-roommate pays a visit to collect her remaining. When leaving she tells Diane that there were two detectives came by, looking for her. The remaining events of the movie are what mentioned already in the outline, shown as flashbacks. At last, Diane’s pathetic life ends when she shoots herself to death, to escape from haunting and horrifying past. 

Most people feel that the movie is a disturbing, haunting and messy that it is quite difficult to understand. But paying close attention and if necessary, a re-watch with reading explanations like this will make it clear. There are also many in-depth analyses available in the internet, and also the director’s own clues are available in DVD commentatory. I hope the above points are sufficient to untie Lynch’s knots.

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