Three questions about MD

Discussion of Mulholland Drive

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Black Rose
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Three questions about MD

Postby Black Rose » Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:18 am

Mulholland Drive is my most favorite film ever.

I've read quite a bit of discussion and speculation about the film, but there are a few assertions that I've seen made that I'm not on board with--yet.

1. I have seen the assertion made that there is a pregnancy/abortion plot.

2. I have seen the assertion made that there is an incest/molestation plot.

3. I have seen the assertion made that Diane is Rita.

I think these are all interesting assertions, and if these assertions are true, it opens a new window into the film.

So what are the direct arguments to be made for any of these things to be the case? (And "Lynch does it in all his films" will not be considered a valid argument.)

Thanks!
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby gavriloP » Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:19 am

This abuse idea might hold water. It isn't maybe essential but it explains the end and also Diane's behaviour.

There are not so much proof but it is interesting. First of all that acting scene on audition feels very real (but it of course is also showing the power of acting). Then there is this painting on aunt Ruthie's apartment:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrice_Cenci

But this too can be seen as feminist thing too...

And finally the end: when the blue key that tells us that Diane had really done the bad thing and Camilla was dead, it opens her blue box of deepest secrets and mysteries. And that secret is the elderly couple who are her relatives (as is seen on imposed jitterbug winning scenes). They really seem to torment her and drive her to suicide. Why is that? Well, if we assume they have abused her, they have become her inner demons. They are her adversaries and at the same time reason for her failures. They disgraced her. And now she has sunken on the level of her demons. After killing Camilla she is no better than them and it is too much to Diane.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby Simbabbad » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:06 pm

You know, among his "mystery movies", Mulholland Drive is his straightest. In general Lynch doesn't really hide stuff all that much IMO, his films aren't designed to be confusing.

The first part of the film starts with a long shot of a pillow, then when the shift occurs later in the film, we see Diane waking up. So, the second part shows who Diane really is, and what really happened, and the first half, the person she wished she were and how she wished things had turned out. That's what makes it so moving, how bright and pure and naive her dream is and how corrupted and in shambles she is.

So :

1) I don't see where abortion would fit. There is no allusion to it at all in the film and it's a lesbian love story, so I don't see where this would come from.

2) Incest with whom ? One of the two women can't be the mother of the other, the film very carefully shows one sided love from one woman to another and nothing else, I don't see how it'd fit. It's really clear in the film.

3) The film very carefully tells us Diane dreamed she was the better Betty. There's even a shot showing us where she got the name from (a waitress). In fact, the second part very very carefully tries to tie up everything in part 1 to something else in part 2 to explain how it makes sense as a positive dream in part 1 compared to negative things in reality in part 2 : the woman she loves is helpless and can't go away from her since she lost her memory, she's reduced to a pretty object, people she hated/feared in part 2 are ridiculed in part 1 (the director, the killer), she dreams she's an awesome actress when in fact she's terrible, etc.

It's quite a simple film, no need to complicate things.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby gavriloP » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:53 am

Simbabbad wrote:You know, among his "mystery movies", Mulholland Drive is his straightest. In general Lynch doesn't really hide stuff all that much IMO, his films aren't designed to be confusing.

I agree. And I don't see that the possible abuse angle makes any real difference to the movie as whole. It just might give Diane character more depth. And it would explain the ending.


Simbabbad wrote:2) Incest with whom ? One of the two women can't be the mother of the other, the film very carefully shows one sided love from one woman to another and nothing else, I don't see how it'd fit. It's really clear in the film.


If Diane was abused when she was young by those relatives who we see in the very beginning and who are also seen in the dream at the airport, it would explain why these two come out of the blue box to harass her. Diane kills herself because she got Camilla killed, that is certain, but this would explain why these "demons" manifest to her home (they are only in her mind of course).

That blue box contained her secret. Maybe she behaved like she did because of that.

I don't want to complicate these movies, it lead to neverending circles, but this one has certain charm. It is an added plus.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby Simbabbad » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:19 pm

I think it's needlessly convoluted.

I don't think those old people abused her, it's never ever hinted at. I'd rather guess that, like the people she meets at the beginning, they are positive people : either they represent the nice dream she had of her as a nicer, cleaner, more energetic and successful person - a nice dream that turned sour compared with reality and she can't bear the difference any more ; either they're relatives, her parents, grandparents, her aunt/uncle, and they represent her shame and remorse and most of all, her guilt.

So either they're some sort of moral authority, or her better part tormenting herself for what she just did, or it's her pretty dream that comes back to haunt her because of the atrocity she just did. All three are the same thing, really.

gavriloP wrote:I don't want to complicate these movies, it lead to neverending circles, but this one has certain charm. It is an added plus.

Myself when I first saw it, I thought she had the dream from the first part while she dies after she shot herself. I thought it was a dream made while dying, some desperate attempt to fix things up. And Club Silencio is when her consciousness finally fades away, and when the blue box eats her, she dies.

Eventually, it's probably wrong, after watching it again I saw a few things that don't fit and friends showed me my interpretation was unlikely, but I like it. I like how it explains the rotting corpse (which is probably just remorse from her contract with the killer in real life).
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby gavriloP » Fri Sep 11, 2009 3:45 am

Simbabbad wrote:I think it's needlessly convoluted.

I don't think those old people abused her, it's never ever hinted at. I'd rather guess that, like the people she meets at the beginning, they are positive people : either they represent the nice dream she had of her as a nicer, cleaner, more energetic and successful person - a nice dream that turned sour compared with reality and she can't bear the difference any more ; either they're relatives, her parents, grandparents, her aunt/uncle, and they represent her shame and remorse and most of all, her guilt.

So either they're some sort of moral authority, or her better part tormenting herself for what she just did, or it's her pretty dream that comes back to haunt her because of the atrocity she just did. All three are the same thing, really.



This is exactly how I interpretated them until recently. What made me wonder before was that eerie "frozen" grin they had in the taxi and also the pure disturbing nature they had in the end (you know those grapsping hands and the whole feeling that was quite similar to Polanski's Repulsion). I hadn't thought about that Cenci painting and to me that acting scene was just that, good acting. This abuse theme is also something that lurks behind most of Lynch's films (if one wants to see them that way), so it rang a bell.

Like I said it doesn't change anything in the movie. It just explains some tidbits.

And about your interpretation about the dream (that it is kind of memento mori moment). This is Lynch's method, to leave stuff intentionally open for different views. The fact that she dies in same position as she sleeps (and dreams) is making it ambiquous.

The ashtray tells us time and if we believe in it then the dream was just a dream and she woke up. And then it would also suggest that her death is the ultimate end.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby Simbabbad » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:50 am

gavriloP wrote:What made me wonder before was that eerie "frozen" grin they had in the taxi and also the pure disturbing nature they had in the end (you know those grapsping hands and the whole feeling that was quite similar to Polanski's Repulsion).

To me the grin at the beginning is quite straight : they simply seem too happy, in an unnatural way. Something is wrong. But then we forget about it.

And indeed we find out eventually that they were : the first half was "too happy", since it's Diane that makes her terrible life turn better through dream. But it's fake, forced, unnatural, and eventually disturbing. Like that smile on their face. It's simply an early clue that something sinister hides behind all the energy and love and good acting of Betty, IMO.

And in the end, I think it's just some acting and cinematography to illustrate Betty being chased by the good person she wished she were, and by her guilt.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby garethw » Fri Sep 11, 2009 11:46 am

Although I don't think any of them are central to the story, the "abuse" angle seems to be hinted at through several mechanisms (the Cenci portrait, the audition). I'm pretty sure it's intentional - if you look back on Lynch's work, child abuse is an almost constant theme. Whether or not you consider that an "valid argument", it's pertinent.

The more tangential aspects of the film are what make it really dear to me. It's intricate, complex and nuanced. I don't think the allusions are crucial to understanding the film, but they make it endlessly interesting to watch and appreciate.

PS. I *love* your site, Simbabbad!
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby Simbabbad » Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:56 pm

Well, let's remember "Mulholland Drive" was first supposed to be the pilot of a series... so David Lynch probably had tons of ideas about who the characters were and what they lived through and what was supposed to happen to them. So maybe he did think of something like that, consciously or not, and left it there even though it didn't have time to resurface since playtime got cut to a movie length and not a series length any more. There is little doubt he had to hold back.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression the discussion wasn't worth having or the point was totally irrelevant. There are things I'm not sure how to interpret in "Mulholland Drive", even though the bulk of the movie is clear, and the "series pilot turned into a movie" format does leave a lot of things to guess. Diane does seem to be a very troubled person, and her failure at Hollywood and her losing her love to a movie director seems to be a bit short explanation to the state we find her in and the terrible decision she makes. Drug abuse ? Troubled past ? Fragile psychology ? We'll never know.

Yet, the Cenci picture was shot when the project was still a series pilot. What would it mean ? Maybe it was supposed to be about aunt Ruthie ? Or Betty's uncle, or her father ? Maybe it was about Coco ? Maybe it was about another character, or maybe Lynch just found it was a pretty picture, or like with Frank Silva he felt it was interesting without knowing yet what to do with it and in the end it doesn't lead anywhere, or maybe it was there in the natural set before they shot anything and they left it there ?

On the whole, I admit I'm a bit reluctant to find too much "hidden things" in David Lynch. Many theories go way too wild IMO, like Lost Highway being Renee's dream all along, or "Mulholland Drive" being about Dan being a gay man and the whole film being his dream after he passes out. I'm against the (alas popular) idea that Lynch's films are "Rorschach blots", pretty objects that anybody can understand in any way : on the whole Lynch's films have a clear structure and a very clear plot that's supposed to be understood. And the way Lynch works makes details sometimes just be details. Let's remember the Black Lodge became the Red Room shortly before Lynch shot the last episode, or how BOB started by accident. Let's remember the Red Room was just some inspiration Lynch had while putting his hands on a hot car and it's only very later that they wrote it so that it made sense, to become one of the major moments of cinema and a very meaningful place in "Fire Walk with Me".

Now, I understand the conversation has turned into interesting side aspects of characters, and the way "Mulholland Drive" was shot does leave things open. Still, I'm a bit annoyed when I read "I have seen the assertion made that Diane is Rita." No, just no. "Mulholland Drive", like many other Lynch films, is filled with strong, clear hints about what's going on, and Diane dreams that she is Betty.

Oops, I see I've gone a bit longer than I thought :) ! In a nutshell, I didn't want to give the impression I was against speculating on characters and trying to find meanings, it's just that I think it happens too often against the main, clear storyline - even though it isn't the case here. We see not enough of Diane and speculating on her character is interesting.

Thanks a lot, garethw. I'm currently hard at work to improve the site and add more text content, a bigger Red Room with more surprises, and I plan on making "Rabbits" parts and maybe INLAND EMPIRE.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby Buck's Student » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:27 am

I don't think David hides what's really going on, ever. With M Drive, he has the usual bizarre side parts that may have some hidden meaning, but the main idea is apparent.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby garethw » Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:26 pm

Well-argued, Simbabbad.

You kind of skirt a question that occurred to me recently.

The predominant theory of Betty's story being a dream is fairly well-supported in the material filmed for the pilot. Assuming this is what was intended, was it always intended thus? Would it have been a protracted arc? Would viewers feel cheated if it was revealed that "it was all just a dream"? Some people criticize the feature for that - would a whole season of a recurring TV show really have annoyed viewers?


PS - Nice! Looking forward to the "Rabbits" material in particular - I can imagine that with your skills you'll do an awesome job of weaving it into the grand tapestry. (BTW, I assume that music that was there in the Log Lady scene was a just a place-holder? Didn't recognize it; don't even know if it's still there.)
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby gavriloP » Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:26 pm

Hey Simbabbad, great stuff! I can truly relate to your words about Lynch! And I think that this Cenci painting was originally there a) because Lynch probably likes it and b) it can also be seen as feminist thing, you know something that strong independent woman can use as a symbol.

One thing I think is clear. When we have blue box and blue key that goes with it, it is safe to assume that is a metaphor for secret and mystery. Just thinking about Lynch's use of blue in Blue Velvet, blue smoke of Lost Highway and especially Cordon Cole's Blue Rose Cases. They are usually sad secrets and mysteries, world of blue. And we know that this old couple that might just represent failure to Betty comes from that box. I just think that this abuse angle makes the original story more coherent and clear. Like I said, it doesn't actually change anything.

I agree that the net is full of crazy interpretations and I think most of them really miss the point. But if they are making sense to people who make them, more power to them ;) I am more down-to-earth when it comes analyzing Lynch.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby garethw » Mon Sep 14, 2009 10:25 pm

Buck's Student wrote:I don't think David hides what's really going on, ever. With M Drive, he has the usual bizarre side parts that may have some hidden meaning, but the main idea is apparent.


Is that true?

I've heard him quoted as saying that he's never read a single interpretation of Eraserhead that matches his.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby Simbabbad » Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:30 am

garethw : From what we know, the idea the pilot is Diane's dream wasn't intended at all in when it was shot.

It's something Lynch came up with after Canal + bought the rights to the 2 hour pilot and made him sign to add half an hour (only !) to turn it into a movie. Lynch said he was delighted at first, but when he ended up being in front of his typewriter/Mac and had to actually write that ending, he was all "how the Hell am I suppose to wrap up all of this" ?

Then suddenly he got the dream idea, kind of like he had the idea of the Red Room, and it all fit from there.

I really like Mulholland Drive a lot, even though it's not among my favourite Lynch films... but I do think it's simply remarkable how he was able to beautifully make sense of everything from the pilot without cutting anything from it. And with an ending that is only 1/4th of the rest !!!

But still, when one analyses Mulholland Drive, this is something to keep in mind. The dream "trick" allowed him to really make sense of turning a pilot, which is supposed to introduce a lot of characters and mysteries and plots and subplot and last for at least a dozen of episodes, into a normal length movie. But none of what was shot in the first 2 hour part was supposed to apply to Diane.

(about my site : at first I didn't understand what you meant by "log lady scene" then I understood you were talking about the Roadhouse scene. that scene wasn't intended to show the Log Lady scene, in fact, it takes place the day before the Teresa Bank murder : you meet Leo in the Roadhouse, then Leo drops by the Pink Room to meet drug dealers and then go to Montana. you go with him to meet Teresa at the Pink Room but you're late. the music at the background of the Roadhouse is some music from a Julee Cruise song.)

garethw wrote:
Buck's Student wrote:I don't think David hides what's really going on, ever. With M Drive, he has the usual bizarre side parts that may have some hidden meaning, but the main idea is apparent.

Is that true?

I've heard him quoted as saying that he's never read a single interpretation of Eraserhead that matches his.

Maybe it's because it's a movie that doesn't need to be interpreted :-) and people go too much overboard with it ! After all Eraserhead has a standard structure, and all in all a "normal" way of filming : we follow Henry, and when he's not on screen, it's dreams/daydreams he has.

To me Eraserhead is a bit like Lost Highway : it's a man with a specific way to think and relate to others and to reality, that ends up being trapped by domestic forces (a girlfriend and a baby, for Fred Madison it was couple issues with his wife). Because of the way he works, that entrapment and pathological context becomes so dangerous for him that he ends up killing.
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Re: Three questions about MD

Postby garethw » Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:49 am

Simbabbad wrote:garethw : From what we know, the idea the pilot is Diane's dream wasn't intended at all in when it was shot.


I think you misunderstood the premise of my question.

My assertion is that there are many clues to the first part being a dream in the first part. It suggests to me that it was always intended.

Simbabbad wrote:the music at the background of the Roadhouse is some music from a Julee Cruise song.)


Ahh. I was thrown because it's the only non-source music used. :)

Simbabbad wrote:Maybe it's because it's a movie that doesn't need to be interpreted :-) ...

To me Eraserhead is a bit like Lost Highway : it's a man with a specific way to think and relate to others and to reality, that ends up being trapped by domestic forces (a girlfriend and a baby, for Fred Madison it was couple issues with his wife). Because of the way he works, that entrapment and pathological context becomes so dangerous for him that he ends up killing.


To me, that's an interpretation. :)

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