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They live inside a dream.

Posted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:33 am
by wowdavidwow
I’ve loved Twin Peaks for many years, but I only recently watched Mulholland Drive, Wild At Heart, and Inland Empire for the first time. I realize that I’m a bit late to the party, but I hope that others are still discussing these films.

Based on internet message boards, the widespread interpretation of MD seems to be that the beginning of the film portrays Diane’s dream, while the final (roughly) half hour shows Diane’s true reality. I appreciate and respect the opinions of others, but I will squarely state that the popular opinion of MD is wrong. I remember reading somewhere that Lynch stated that half of the film is a dream. Can anyone find this exact quote? I believe that the entire film takes place within Diane’s dream. If Lynch said “half the film,” he was teasing his audience. Half the film is a dream and so is the other half. We know that Lynch loves The Wizard of Oz. I bet his premise for MD was, “What if Dorothy only believed she had woken up, but instead dreamt of a slightly less bizarre version of Oz?”

I also believe that Laura Harring’s character (Rita/Camilla) does not exist in reality. When she first chose the name, a poster reads, “There NEVER was a woman like Gilda! Rita HAYWORTH as Gilda.” The Rita/Camilla character is Diane’s mind’s amalgamation of herself as an ideal Hollywood actress and an idealization of her ex-lover, LJ DeRosa. If this name sounds unfamiliar, check the directory for “APT. NO. 17.” Both appearances of DeRosa (played by Joanna Stein) suggest that she had been seeing Diane. When Betty and Rita knock on DeRosa’s door, she gives them a subtle facial expression of restrained jealousy. DeRosa even volunteers to accompany them, probably in order make her ex-lover understand that she is unfazed by beautiful newcomers in Diane’s life. If the connection between DeRosa and Rita were not obvious enough, both women have Spanish names, dark hair, distinctive eye browns, and large breasts. In the scene in which DeRosa picks up a box of dishes and a lamp, Lynch stages the shot so that DeRosa displays cleavage when she bends over. This shot could have been staged from a different angle, but it wasn’t. Rita/Camilla’s large breasts are indeed a plot point because they are shown to the audience several times throughout the film. They would absolutely be a sore topic in the dejected mind of a person who had just been dumped. I found it funny that DeRosa’s mention of “two detectives” could simultaneously be cops and the Betty/Rita duo.

Let’s examine a few names. According to Wikipedia, “Selwyn” is an Anglo Saxon name that means “friend in the house.” In other words, the defining element of Diane Selwyn is that she is someone’s roommate. In Spanish “DeRosa” translates to “of pink.” Betty is the only character who wears a bright pink shirt throughout much of the film. Diane Selwyn and LJ DeRosa belong to each other. If my Spanish translation is wrong, and “DeRosa” actually means “of red,” one can make the case that the name links LJ DeRosa to Rita/Camilla, a woman who often wears red.

If Rita/Camilla does not exist, Diane’s rejection by an average-looking woman instead of a gorgeous movie star seems sadder and more realistic. Based on Diane and Rita/Camilla’s conversation on the couch, the real world DeRosa left Diane for “him.” While some would assume that “him” refers to Adam, I don’t believe it’s that simple. “Him” could really be any man or men in general. Diane might have walked in on her DeRosa with a man, but even if she had not physically done this in reality, Diane’s dreaming mind painted the picture (excuse the pun). The sympathetic Adam character seems more like another manifestation of Diane throughout his conflict with the tyrannical movie industry. Adam becomes a manifestation of DeRosa’s new lover in Diane’s second dream.

Speaking of Diane’s second dream, the dinner party was among the most surreal scenes in the entire film. I can’t interpret this scene as anything but a dream. A surreal trek towards the stars with her perfect lover was followed by an escalation of Diane’s insecurities. She was a third wheel in a toast “to love,” she caused Adam’s mother to stall a huge dinner party, she exposed her small town Jitterbug contest origin, she differentiated “sort of led to acting” with “wanting to act”, she explained that a director “didn’t think so much of me”, she witnessed Camilla kiss another woman, and she had a front row seat to a cartoonish engagement announcement. And then of course, The Cowboy appears. Do people really believe that this scene takes place in reality?

If you go along with my assumption that Rita/Camilla does not exist, you may be wondering about the hit that Betty supposedly takes out on Camilla. Because the end of the film is a dream, it is likely that no hit occurs in reality. I believe that Diane’s mind is convincing itself, “I wish she (DeRosa) were dead.” Granted, the diner hitman is less ridiculous than the mobsters. It still seems more like a dream that a downtrodden wannabe actress has $50,000 to assassinate her ex-roommate and receives a mysterious blue key. The hitman (probably another manifestation of the blonde, blue-eyed Diane) was looking for a black book containing “the history of the world in phone numbers [37:48]” In reality a little black book could have been how Diane discovered that DeRosa was seeing someone else. If Rita/Camilla does not exist, Diane’s hit does not kill DeRosa. At [1:59:05], Lynch specifically shows us that DeRosa is alive after the blue key appears on Diane’s table. In reality finding a key on a living room table can mean that a significant other has made a breakup official. Diane’s finding an apartment key means that her relationship with DeRosa is officially dead.

There are many clues that suggest the final (roughly) half hour take place inside a dream and that Rita/Camilla does not exist. I’ll mention a few more clues here, but the full list would take so much more space. Examples of switching (i.e. names, hairstyles, and apartments) are plentiful. Before Diane makes coffee, she begins a conversation with Camilla. We can agree that Camilla is not actually in the room, but amidst the shots going from one actress to another, Lynch gives us a shot of Diane standing where Camilla is expected. This shot could have been an empty room, but the staging instead suggests that Camilla has in fact been Diane the entire time. In his “10 Clues” Lynch says to “notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.” He’s pointing out that objects in Diane’s dreamscape do not stay consistent. Slightly after the robe, ashtray, and coffee cup, Diane’s phone begins ringing off-screen. She walks into the next room, and is wearing completely different clothes. One could argue that the events in this section of the film portray a non-chronological reality, but why present a ringing phone in one shot to have the same phone answered in the next shot? Diane is clearly still dreaming.

In describing his dream, diner customer Dan mentions that, “It’s the second one I’ve had, but they’re both the same.” Lynch is telling us that both sections of MD are two distinct dreams about the same story. Diane’s second dream may seem more realistic, but the entire film takes place within her dreaming mind. In Club Silencio we witness a series of trick musicians, and are told, “It’s ALL recorded.” Immediately after the musicians, we are deceived into believing that a trick vocalist is actually singing. Like Dan’s dialogue and the entirety of MD, Club Silencio shows us the same trick done twice.

A major implication of the entirety of MD being a dream is that Diane probably did not commit suicide in a literal sense. When she opens her drawer, there is a bright blue object next to the gun. This cannot be a coincidence. Diane possesses the blue box within her second dream just as Betty/Rita/Camilla possessed the blue box within her first dream. She symbolically shoots herself because she wishes that her life was over. The gun’s smoke does not appear realistic at all, but looks like part of an illusion or movie set. We see a similar smoke effect behind the bum at [2:18:38]. Immediately after the gunshot, we see the bum behind Winkie’s, who happens to posses the blue box. The bum is Diane. In reality (which the audience is never shown) Diane may have literally become a homeless bum. If she did not literally lose her home, an emotionally broken Diane may feel that her life as a beautiful aspiring actress is over. Her self-image has fallen victim to her broken heart and broken dreams. She may have even become a prostitute in reality. The film ends in Club Silencio, a place that has repeatedly reminded us that the things we witness aren’t real. In other words, Diane’s suicide was not real. No hay suicidio. “It’s ALL recorded.” The notion that Diane’s suicide is symbolic does not make MD less depressing. Diane’s self-image is now that of a repulsive monster. Her life in reality (which the audience is never shown) may be worse than death. Not knowing what fate befell Diane Selwyn is terrifying.

Speaking of the blue box, there are two main details we should consider. The first is that it’s blue: perhaps Lynch’s code for mystery incarnate. Blue is mystical and unknowable. Check out Blue Velvet or the Blue Rose Cases in Twin Peaks. The second detail is that it’s a box. Like Pandora’s box, all boxes conceal their contents and beg to be opened. I can’t help but compare Diane’s blue box to a box held by Dune’s Gaius Helen Mohiam. Lynch loves mining his other films for meaning, and Mohiam explicitly tells us what is inside Diane’s box: “Pain.” Lynch’s seventh out of ten clues asks, “What is felt, realized, and gathered at the club Silencio?” The answer is “Pain.” The blue box appears in that scene because it is a container of pain.

Rita mentions that Aunt Ruth has “pretty red hair”. Another character with distinctive red hair is casting agent, Linney James. James guides Betty to a director “a head above the rest,” where she is destined to begin her fairytale acting career. In Diane’s dreaming mind, Aunt Ruth and Linney James play the role of a fairy godmother. Both characters (though you can make a case that they are the same character) provide Betty/Diane with conveniences (i.e. an ideal LA apartment, money, an introduction to the perfect director). Betty’s running away from The Sylvia North Story audition seems like a scene out of Cinderella. Could the mysterious red lamps have anything to do with the two redheads in MD?

The Sylvia North Story could be a reference to Sylvia Plath, a clinically depressed poet who committed suicide in 1963. While this name may foreshadow Diane’s symbolic suicide, we should remember that Diane did not get the part of the lead. This detail may suggest that in reality Diane did not end her life like Sylvia Plath. We can’t know for sure if the fictitious Sylvia North is anything like Sylvia Plath. Their names are similar enough to make the connection though. At the very least, Diane could have auditioned for the part of a suicidal character and imagined a scene from The Sylvia North Story in her second dream.

The old couple is first seen in the pre-credits jitterbug scene. While they seem relatively unimportant and not worth naming, Betty explicitly calls the woman “Irene.” One of my favorite theories about Fire Walk With Me is that the first thirty minutes take place within Cooper’s dream instead of reality. In reference to a waitress named Irene in FWWM, another character says, “Now, Irene is her name and it is night. Don’t go any further with it. There’s nothing good about it.” The character is referencing song lyrics from Goodnight Irene. Without delving further into FWWM, the name “Irene” is Lynch’s code for being inside a dream world. If you’re interested in this FWWM theory, search for it in John Thorne’s The Essential Wrapped In Plastic.

I believe that the old couple represents an older generation of well-wishers that Diane sought to make proud. They don’t necessarily have to be specific relatives in her reality. They are introduced as strangers who will “be watching for you on the big screen [0:19:10].” As that aspiration dissipates for Diane, the expectations of the older generation become a burden in her dreaming mind. The old couple’s appearance under Diane’s door, within her apartment, and inside the blue box suggest that the burden of her Hollywood aspirations has gotten dangerously out of control. LA has done this to so many people. If Diane’s suicide was solely caused by her guilt over killing Rita/Camilla, she would have been pushed over the edge by something that resembled Rita/Camilla or DeRosa. Instead Diane’s suicide (which I believe is symbolic) seems to be the breaking point of a wide-eyed small town girl who could not find success in LA.

My original notion is that Diane does not awaken at [1:56:50]. Many viewers believe that the Cowboy’s, “Hey pretty girl. Time to wake up.” caused Diane to awaken and face reality. Although The Cowboy calls to her, it does not look like Diane responds. In fact, the Cowboy is shown in two shots, the second of which seems to suggest that he disappointedly gives up on trying to awaken her. This idea may be a bit of a stretch, but in this scene we are shown two shots of the Cowboy. “You will see me one more time if you do good. You’ll see me two more times if you do bad [1:09:04].” Diane does not obey the Cowboy, and he appears twice in this scene. Is this idea idea a stretch?

Thanks for reading. If you care to discuss Mulholland Drive, I’d love to hear what you think about my ideas.

Re: They live inside a dream.

Posted: Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:11 am
by Dead Dog
I, too, have toyed with the idea that Rita may be a stand-in for the more plain looking ex-roommate. I don't know if I'm with you 100% on your analysis, but I think you're onto something and appreciated a fresh take, if nothing else, as I'm also a little weary of the now popular theory that it's as simple as "the first two-thirds is a fantasy, the final act is reality". I don't think it's that cut and dry, but it's close enough to satisfy inquisitive minds.

Re: They live inside a dream.

Posted: Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:39 am
by wowdavidwow
To quote the film directly, "It is all an illusion." How much more explicit does the explanation have to be?

Re: They live inside a dream.

Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:16 am
by djerdap
wowdavidwow wrote:To quote the film directly, "It is all an illusion." How much more explicit does the explanation have to be?


Yes, but that happens before the supposed reality of the film takes place.

Re: RE: Re: They live inside a dream.

Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 4:12 am
by Specialagentjeffries
djerdap wrote:
wowdavidwow wrote:To quote the film directly, "It is all an illusion." How much more explicit does the explanation have to be?


Yes, but that happens before the supposed reality of the film takes place.

I agree with you Djerdap.
I really feel numerous clues in the movie indicate that the first part (till the blue box is opened for the first time) is Diane Selwyn's dream after having killed Camilla Rhodes.

I even believe that the old silver haired woman (Irene in her dream) is in fact Aunt Ruth in reality.
She gave her the money (as said in the dinner party at Adam Kesher's house) that Betty uses to get Camilla killed. That's why, imho, she sees her and her husband torment her in the end (but it's in her head) while the 2 cops talked about by her neighbour knock on the door to question her about the murder.

That's my theory but everyone's is valid.

Re: They live inside a dream.

Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 5:28 pm
by wowdavidwow
Don't stay so rigidly focused on the plot alone. Think about the main theme of the film. Besides being obsessed with The Wizard of Oz, Lynch has referenced Judy Garland herself, a Hollywood starlet who fell from grace. The notion that a wide-eyed young lady can be utterly corrupted by LA is the core of Mulholland Drive. Like a magic trick, the mysteries within mysteries (i.e. the surface-level plot) obfuscate the true story - the tragedy of Diane.

I laid out so much evidence in my initial explanation. At Winkie's Diner, Dan tells us in plain English that he had two dreams that are about the same thing. Only the lighting was different. He's describing Mulholland Drive. The host at Club Silencio gives us Dan's explanation in both English and in Spanish. The first act is all an illusion and the second act is all an illusion. Lynch is practically telegraphing the way we should interpret the film.

The "supposed reality" is Diane's second dream. Very little about it seems real, the least of which are the gun smoke and the blue box in Diane's drawer.

Re: RE: Re: They live inside a dream.

Posted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:03 am
by Specialagentjeffries
Well, your point of view is interesting.
For myself, i don't feel too rigid about the plot. I'm just following the clues put delibarately by the author in the movie.
I just find the "reality part" absolutely makes sense, once you put the scenes in the right order.
The only things that are dreamlike in it is the scene with the tramp opening the blue box and the moment Diane is dead (the smoke). But those things happen in Lynchverse even when no one is dreaming.

The beauty of this "reality" part of the story is that it gives a really bittersweet and poignant tone to the dream (wich is cheerful for the most part) Diane has after having killed Camilla.