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Customer Review

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery in the City of Dreams, January 26, 2006
This review is from: Mulholland Dr. (DVD)
Mulholland Drive can best be classified as a mystery. The ending of the movie, which forces the viewer to abandon the idea that the plot is a traditional mystery story, allows one to realize that the mystery runs still deeper--that we must look beneath the surface of events instead of taking them at face value. It is simply a great mystery film. The scenes, as well, are routinely well done--never superfluous. Two men uncover a nightmarish secret behind Winkies in a suspensful scene; the director Adam Kesher meets up with a mysterious man named simply "The Cowboy", who delivers chilling dialogue. On top of that, the film is filled with humor. The mobster with a hatred for bad espresso is particularly hilarious. And only David Lynch could make a gruesome triple homicide by an inept hitman so funny. The acting is also very good. Naomi Watts' performance is wonderful.

Part of the joy of watching this movie is figuring out what happened. The thrill of finally piecing together all the characters and events, and finally understanding how they all fit together, is one of the main things that makes Mulholland Drive so enjoyable to watch over and over. It is the type of movie that needs to be seen more than once to be appreciated, along the lines of movies like Memento.

With that said, I must warn the reader that I will be giving away vital clues and interpretations of the movie in the following review. Do not read further if you have not seen the movie. See the movie, come up with your own conclusions, and then read the reviews, looking for stuff you missed. That is truly the best way to watch the film, and to spoil the interpretation is to spoil the main draw of the movie.

Now, what happens in Mulholland Drive is that Diane Selwyn is having a dream prior to killing herself. In reality, she has had a short affair with Camilla, and she becomes embittered when Camilla gets a high profile role in Adam Kesher's movie and subsequently falls in love with him. She feels inadequate as an actress, and the viewer can sense her anguish as she watches Camilla and Adam announce their upcoming marriage. Angry and depressed, Diane hires a hitman to kill Camilla. He kills her, and Diane suddenly feels overwhelmed with guilt. She eventually commits suicide after waking from a dream in which she had attempted to hide her guilt and her flaws, only to have the dream collapse in a realization that it is in fact a dream, a misrepresentation, and that the reality is all-too terrible.

All these events, which are the reality, occur in short flashes of scenes at the end of the movie. The sustained narrative at the beginning is actually Diane's dream. The dream is Diane's attempt to rationalize her inadequacies and flaws, to forget her mistakes, and which ultimately gives voice to her regret and guilt.

Diane becomes Betty. Camilla becomes "Rita". And in the dream Camilla and Diane are reunited as Betty and Rita.

Everything is different in the dream. The hitman never manages to assassinate Rita (Camilla). Rita falls in love with Betty, even needs her, unlike in reality. Adam Kesher, a brash, young director who stole Camilla away in reality, becomes subject to all kinds of tortures--the mob casts his movie for him, his wife cheats on him with the pool boy, and he loses all his money. Betty, an idealized version of Diane, is naturally a great actress. In reality, Diane can only get secondary roles. A further rationalization of her acting flaws is given in the idea that the mob controls the movie production--the selection of the actress is not based on talent, but a threat of violence.

The whole idea of acting is also foreshadowing the fact that everything is a dream...nothing is real. The whole beginning narrative is only an act, a dream; it is not reality.

Now, David Lynch doesn't spell out this interpretation in big, bold letters. The viewer has to figure out that the main narrative is a dream on his or her own. But there is much foreshadowing. Following the opening scene depicting the jitterbug contest, we see the camera switch over to the first person perspective of someone breathing heavily and lying down to bed. The word "dream" is mentioned constantly throughout the film. Betty is living in the "city of dreams". The two men in Winkie's are brought there by a "dream" of something terrible there. The irony, of course, is that the men are the "dream" and the "reality" was the nightmare. Diane hires the hitman at Winkies. When the man finds a terrible, nightmarish homeless man behind the building, he is coming face to face with reality--with Diane's inner guilt. The most obvious clue that all was a dream, however, is the fact that Diane is shown waking up after the opening of the blue box.

The scene at club Silencio is also full of symbolism and foreshadowing. All is an illusion there. Everyone is acting, lip-synching to a recording. It is here that Betty finds the box that Rita's key can unlock--the box that, when opened, reveals the truth and unravels the dream. The spectacle they witness at the club, of the woman collapsing whilst her voice continues singing its terrible song, causes the dream to lose its consistency...the dreamer begins to realize that it is indeed a dream, an illusion.

Rita is obviously supposed to represent Camilla. But as the dream progresses, Rita more and more comes to represent Diane. Rita symbolizes Diane's inability to know herself...she has amnesia, has no idea who she really is--just as Betty has no idea who she really is, that she is just an act, a fake misrepresentation of Diane. When Betty and Rita fall in love, it at first represents Diane's wish to have Camilla love her...but eventually it symbolizes Diane's wish to love herself, to forgive herself for what she has done, to accept her flaws and inadequacies. This is why, as the movie progresses, Rita dons a blonde wig, like Diane and Betty. This is why, at the opening of the box, it is Rita who opens it, while Betty disappears. Betty is no longer needed; she is seen to be a false representation...the dreamer is too close to realizing the dream isn't reality, that all is illusion. It is Rita who doesn't know who she is, just as it is Diane who doesn't realize she is not actually Betty. And then the box opens, and all is clear. Rita is Diane...Betty is merely an idealized figment of the imagination.

All of the scenes only add to these themes. They are either manifestations of Diane's need to idealize herself, to explain her inadequacies--or they are manifestations of Diane's inner turmoil, her guilt and her fears.

We have all desired to rationalize our faults, to see ourselves as good, to forgive our own mistakes. Diane's emotions are universal, and the depiction of her descent into suicide, of her regret and her fears, magnified extraordinarily once the viewer figures out all the subtle aspects of the dream, is absolutely heart-rending.

Mulholland Drive is a great film, and I'd recommend it to anyone willing to sit and think about a film, to tackle an unconventional mystery whose solution is wonderfully satisfying.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 8, 2007 1:53:50 AM PDT
Chet Fakir says:
Finally, someone nails it! Good review. I like how the dream section of the movie is told in a linear style while the final third of the movie, the reality section, is not presented as a sequential narrative but in choppy and oftimes sureal vignettes as Diane deteriorates into madness and guilt.
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