In the wake of David Lynch's announcement of a return to Twin Peaks, I thought I would rewatch an amazing Lynch film that still intrigues me: Mulholland Drive. I wrote about Drive in 2007 after watching it twice in two days, both tv edit and original cut. I focused more on the mood and atmosphere of that film. Drive was part of the genre of "what is real" films that flooded theaters in the late '90s and early '00s. It is also a mysterious film with a fantastic, David Lynch mood that really draws people in. I will gladly listen to any interpretation of it. Is it all real, is it half dream, half real, is it a Mobius Strip, is it back to back dreams, et cetera because there is something for every interpretation. Tis the season for scary movies, so let's walk with sweet Betty and sexy Rita down Mulholland Drive.
Drive is an unwanted television pilot Lynch filmed that he eventually slapped on roughly forty five minutes of story and released as a film. That could go horribly wrong, but Lynch turned the busted play into a touchdown. I personally love anything that will make me think a week after experiencing it, and here I am a decade later, still intrigued by it. The film is rewatchable because of the multiple ways of interpreting it, and for Lynch's storytelling combined with interesting visuals (and a Roy Orbison song as always). The blue box, the use of red, the female protagonists' make up and costuming conveying mood or status, the "cowboy", and the evil being behind the Winkies diner. Who or what is that thing? The mood is wonderful and tense. Not all Hollywood productions have to be Aaron Sorkin or Kevin Smith verbal diarrhea fests. Lynch creates a world centered in Los Angeles, that while a completely canned Hollywood product, feels a bit dirtier, sleazier and more real than the facade we are presented with daily. We know something is wrong with Brian Singer but it is unconfirmed what exactly it is but we kind of know, yet Hollywood wants to tell us he's just an awesome guy who likes to make superhero movies. Drive wants to show you the scenes of Singer with even younger men and even worse drugs, that still produces a product that people will eat by the gallon.
So what are the theories on what exactly we are seeing?
1. All Real - Time moves forward.
2. All Real - Time is jumbled.
3. Mobius Strip
4. All Dream
5. Betty/Rita dream, Diane/Camilla real
6. Two dreams back to back
7. Pre-Blue Key inserted into Blue Box is an afterlife way station for Diane, Post-Blue Key inserted into Blue Box is the reality that creates her suicide
8. And many more...
I am open to all interpretations. All have some support with the film, so you could talk me into each of them. I will listen. I have a preferred theory, but here's a back up. "It is all real." The first part of the film is post-hit attempt, but the second part of the film is what led up to the hit. Camilla makes her way to the apartment complex that her mother in law runs, and hides out in an apartment. She takes the name Rita from the poster. Betty is a hallucination from her concussion. Check when Betty has scenes on her own; they are prefaced by Rita falling asleep. Betty is the chipper newbie Camilla envisioned Diane was. She remembers Diane and goes to find her. She finds her body dead from suicide. She figures it out at Club Silencio. The film after the zoom into the blue box is Rita snapping out of her temporary amnesia and piecing it all together.
That kind of makes sense from a straightforward human point of view. That is not Lynch though; it's not his style to be straightforward. Had this been a series, the first part would have been real and story lines would have unfolded from there. Had HBO picked this up and used it as the hour long drama in between Sopranos season, we would have watched and Lynch, learning his lesson from Twin Peaks, would not have killed the golden goose so early and left Rita a mysterious and dangerous person to be around for seasons. So what is it about? Here is my pet theory.
Diane gets confirmation of the murder of Camilla from the box behind Winkies, has snorted some ungodly amount of drugs and passed out in her bed. The Betty/Rita portion of the film is Diane remembering her arrival in LA, and her whirlwind romance with Camilla. People love to get high to forget or go to a happy place. The darkness is too much for her drugged out, dreaming mind. The weird parts get mashed in that tie into the hit she later arranges on Camilla is her guilt piercing through to invade her dream. In real life, she secretly hates Camilla for the big break she got in the The Sylvia North Story. In real life, she sees Melissa George's character kissing Camilla at the dinner party and is hurt and jealous. Bingo, the "this is the girl" forced selection for the Sylvia North role in the dream is named Camilla Rhodes but Melissa George is playing her. This is why the unibrow goober is so afraid of the man behind Winkies. In real life, Winkies man is playing with the blue box that Diane found, which fit her key and horrified her. In the dream, Rita/Camilla is completely dependent on Betty/Diane for everything. In the dream, she needs Betty/Diane, the only name she can think of is Diane's, and she is a magnet for evil putting good, naïve Betty/Diane in trouble. When Diane wakes up, we see a series of events that build up to her putting the hit on Camilla, and then in guilt over being an utter failure and killing the one thing good in LA that she found, loved and lost, she kills herself.
The horror, besides evil being behind the Winkies diner, is in the dirt that goes on daily and how deep that dirt is beneath the very thin layer of *Hollywood* in the lives of players big and small. The mob is not dead in America, well at least the Jewish Mafia that runs Hollywood is not dead. They will go to any ends to get their way, and they will necessarily have a toolbox full of weapons to use for different circumstances. The horror is that love can fill you with every emotion, including ones that lead to murder. You can only properly know hate once you know love. You will hate someone who wrecks your love, whether an interloper or the object of your desire simply rejecting you. Lynch is very explicit in his discussions of Drive to say this is a love story. Diane is told when you find this (the blue key), you will know it is done. She finds the key, but to what? It would gnaw at her, and she may doubt the scruffy looking hit man. She'd ask, and he'd tell her where the key goes. She'd find that box, the real box, behind the Winkies. What is in there? I don't know, but if someone doubted I did a hit, I'd leave proof behind where only they could find it. That realization of what is done being final could send someone already on the edge to suicide. The old couple (perhaps the grandparents who raised her) being the final demons chasing Diane are the same old folks who wished her well in her dream as "Betty" arriving in Los Angeles. This is your life Diane, and it was one horror show.