David Lynch’s bizarre nonsensical film Mulholland Drive is an interesting viewing experience to say the least. I was warned going in that one does not simple understand the contents of Mulholland Drive upon the first viewing and that even on the nth time there still something new to notice. Here are my speculations, theories, and interpretations without any outside knowledge or opinions. This means that these are probably completely ill-informed but like poetry is there really any wrong interpretations. This is going to include spoilers and I would advise to go watch the film beforehand so consider yourself warned.
Early in the film we meet a man that communicates to a police officer at a diner a nightmare he has. In his nightmare, he sits in the diner with the police man witnessing from the other side of the diner in which the man goes to the back of the diner and appears in front of him a terrifying face. What does this mean? Well, little is known about both the men in this scene but we do learn about the face that makes two appearances. In the second, the face who is the grimy witch creature is seen sitting by a fire next to a shopping cart and a brown paper bag that appears to not be empty. In my opinion, the film centers around the dreams that fail out on Mulholland Drive which is located near Hollywood. The face encompasses the fear of failure. The terrifying face is depicted as being poor with the aforementioned shopping cart and paper bag which looks similar to ones given out at a liquor store. Is the visage frightening because in the literal sense it is being recognized on some else or is it the fear that the face of failure has become your own? Diane encounters the face creature at the end of the film after it is revealed that her life is not some fictitious adventure or luxurious as we are led to believe but instead is rather depressing. The closing scenes reveal that Diane is most likely suffering from Schizophrenia or some similar mental illness. The majority of the movie is the life she probably had aspired for when moving out under the palm trees of Mulholland drive and the ending is showing the despair of the life she actually got. The face in the grand scheme of things is used to represent fear and that fear is later interpreted to get across the fear of poverty, and failure.
Making Ends Meet
The opening sequence of Mulholland Drive is only rivaled by that of Nocturnal Animals for probably having the most jarring opening to a film. The film begins with dancers across the screen in an open space and formless multiplying in and out to a mesmerizing effect. It would only make sense that the film’s other bookend would equally have to be bizarre. The film ends with Diane being haunted by a hallucination of her grandparents who slip through the cracks in the door and loom towards here as her house becomes a haunted house with fog machine and strobe light included. Sounds like a bunch of nonsense, right? Well, not necessarily. At one point Diane admits her break out into the city was caused by her winning a jitterbug competition that her grandparents pushed/encouraged her into doing. It’s an understatement that the opening scene has energy which I think the point is to get across the fact that this was where it all started. It’s starts out fun and with much excitement as a dreamlike sequence that translates the formless enjoyment of dance and passion. The scene might be meant to represent the enjoyment of the beginning the child-like wonderment of having a dream of doing something you enjoy before it’s stricken down by the stress of reality. By the end the dream becomes a nightmare as Diane succumbs to the horror of her grandparents. I think this could mean a couple things one being that she blames her grandparents for her unfortunate situation feeling that she was unaware of the consequences of pursuing a life spent on dreams. Another being the guilt she felt to never living up to her perceived potential, as the grandparents will frightening seem as though they are teasing with pride and probably built her up to be something she just could not achieve.
A glaring motif is that of the numerous telephones that are littered around what seems like every corner of the film. While not true for every case it is surprising that there is very little answering of the phones and I believe that this is because they are symbolic of some sort of communication or lack thereof. Are they represented by the fact that maybe Diane has become disconnected from the rest of the world and maybe even reality itself? This is the best that I can think of either that or not targeted at Diane specifically the entire town isolated in their own social reality constructed by everyone’s thoughts of self-importance.
Camilla Rhodes Casting is About Marriage
One of the subplots of the film features a director named Adam who is forced by the producers and higher ups of the film to cast an actress named Camilla Rhodes. Adam seems to hit it off with a girl who auditioned prior but continues auditioning and seemingly begrudgingly tells them that “this is the girl”. This is more a theory and wild speculation but it is revealed that Rita is actually Camilla Rhodes and is going to get married to the director. Could the director being forced to cast Camilla in Diane’s fantasy be symbolic of him settling for Camilla. The director is certainly portrayed as some sort of hotshot and has a hot script that six of the top actresses are interested in. This could be the director expressing his affinity for the bachelor’s life or his inability to feel commitment after his last marriage ended with him ending with an achy breaky heart. Another possible stipulation to this theory is that we are seeing the story through Diane’s eyes who through brief meeting with Adam is clearly seen to have some romantic inclination towards Adam. Diane is seen breaking down in tears after sitting there as Adam and Camilla announce their marriage that could validate the fact that through her eyes Adam just settled for Camilla when he could have had any girl he wanted including herself.
Dreams of Concealed Emotions
More of an interpretation but it’s very clear that Mulholland Drive possess a dream-like quality to it. I propose that in the films universe the emotions we often conceal or hide away are fully expressed here. Adam is understandable upset after the meeting with his higher ups ends with him losing the battle regarding the casting choice. While upset the rational person would more than likely hide their anger behind a face of content. This does not happen as Adam takes a golf club and smashes it numerous times into a car windshield. Another example of this would be when Rita and Betty are listening to “Llorando” which translate into crying for you non-Spanish speakers out there. This scene includes Rita and Betty balling their eyes out this being because while most of us project ourselves into the emotion of a song we still do not physically display that emotion unless severely personally reflective of it. I think these fits of raw emotion is to do just that, unmask the raw emotion instead of concealing it away.
The Blue Box/ The Blue Key
Admittedly this one alludes me for the most part. I can see the blue box being symbolic to Pandora’s box and the opening of chaos. This especially makes sense with after it being opened the reveal of the evil inside the world that truly plagues Diane’s world. The key however not only opens the box but also is given to Diane by the hit man whom she hires to hit Camilla Rhodes. Is this saying that the key is what opened the chaos of Diane’s world. I guess I have a crackpot theory but I don’t know how much I believe it myself. Diane hires the hit man to kill Camilla but unfortunately, he makes a mistake. In the scene, we set the hit man take out a writer we see that he is accustom to things not going so smoothly. In his effort, he ends up killing multiple others in a comedy of errors. Another error in the film is when Betty and Rita attempt to meet Diane who Rita somehow recognizes. However, in finding the apartment that supposedly was supposed to belong to Diane is answered by a stranger who vaguely looks like Rita. Is it possible for it to be true that Diane gave the hit man the wrong apartment number and in another error of his instead of killing Camilla killed an innocent random person? Him killing an innocent bystander leaves Diane with blood on her hands without solving her Camilla problem and that’s the key to her insanity hence opening the Pandora’s box. In one sequence, we see the corpse in the position they found it on the bed, Camilla sleeping in that same position, what appears to be Camilla now the dead girl, then Camilla appearing normal with finally Diane sleeping in the position. This could be interpreted that the intention was to for Camilla to be dead but instead the opposite occurred with Diane finding herself dead in a metaphorical sense. This might be a stretch but most theories are and the pieces do fall together and it’s Mulholland Drive anything makes sense. But hey that’s just a theory and overly convoluted artsy David Lynch masterpiece blind interpretation film theory.
Mulholland Drive is nothing short of a dream and has become one of the famous films of auteur director David Lynch. I have only seen the movie once and these are initial thoughts and ideas I was able to come to. If you for some reason did not heed my warning of spoilers, you’re probably the most confused you’ve ever been in your life but I greatly recommend this film for experiencing the dream-esque cinema at its finest. If you don’t mind feel free to take some time to leave your own thoughts and interpretations in the comments as it would be interesting to have a pool of different ideas on the film as I believe there is no right answer with this film. Mulholland Drive is a cryptic film that I certainly hope to some revisit this film with a better understanding of what exactly this film is. Have I given you something new to think about, if so maybe it’s time to go back and give this film a revisit of your own.