Mulholland Dr.

Thanks to @DaveyMac and this article ( he posted in the True Detective Maybe Tomorrow thread, along with all the other Lynch talk in that thread, I've been thinking about this film a lot in the last week. So I started a MD thread of it's very own.

To be honest, I never saw the child abuse of Diane. I heard the theory before, but I didn't understand where it came from.

Then it all clicked when a commenter mentioned it in that Hulk article. That person referenced the audition dialogue as the evidence and it makes perfect sense now.

Here is the dialogue:


Get out... Get out before I call my dad.
He trusts you... you're his best friend.
This will be the end of everything.

What about you? What will your dad think
about you?

Stop... just stop! That's what you said
from the beginning. If I tell what
happened... they'll arrest you and put
you in jail, so get out of here before...

Before what?
Before I kill you.

What also makes sense is that a person with a history of sexual abuse (or really any traumatic event) will play the episode out in her head over and over again either consciously or subconsciously. In this case, we see her play this out twice in her dream - first while practicing with Rita and the second time in the actual audition as she turns the table and acts more dominantly. It's pretty damn creepy and terrifying to think about.

That brings me to who was the possible abuser, I think the two old people who walk Diane/Betty out of the airport are the possible abusers. We know they were with her when she won the jitterbug contest. Then we see Diane/Betty with them at the airport being very caring and parental with her. Then we see them in their own car acting extremely creepy and sinister. So we know they are actually from Diane's past and her subconsciousness is revealing them to her as having a sinister side to their bubbly caring nature at the surface.

Furthermore, the next time we see them is when they crawl out of the blue box at the end, which was possessed by the dumpster man. If the blue box is the portal back to consciousness for Diane and the dumpster man represents the horror and immense guilt of Diane's crimes, then these two old people crawling out of this reality portal are the sexual abusers revealing themselves to Diane at her most vulnerable moment since the abuse happened. These ghosts chasing after her compounded with having to confront her own crimes is what forces her to finally commit suicide. It's upsetting to even write these words. But that's how I view the film now.

Vulture put out this interesting piece last Halloween season and I agree with it. This is a legit horror film.


  • aberry89aberry89 California
    edited July 2015
    You might be interested in this six part, in depth review of Mulholland - it's really fantastic.

  • @AntManBee Thanks for starting this thread and for the mention! I love thinking and talking about "Mulholland Drive" and it's great to have a thread going. I kind of felt bad constantly flooding the TD thread with MD stuff.

    This is one of my favorite movies ever. I first saw it in college and it was one of the most intense, unnerving experiences I'd ever had watching a movie. More so than any horror film. Speaking of which, I remember seeing the Vulture article a while back, and I totally agree. Anyway, I was floored after my first viewing and had no idea what I had just watched or why it affected me so much. It took me ages to crack and that included lots of views and lots of reading online, but even when I had no clue what was going on, I still found it incredibly satisfying to experience on a pure visceral level and, I think it's one of the those films that can be enjoyed even if you have no idea what's going on.

    To comment on the abuse stuff, I'm still not entirely sold on that interpretation. I actually think that the abuse interpretation is mentioned in the other essay that was posted in the TD thread. I re-read the Hulk essay today to get a refresher and I don't think he mentions anything about abuse. I certainly get the abuse interpretation, though especially in the dialog from the audition scene. Since it's all playing out in her dream the dialog could certainly be related to something she experienced in her youth. 

    However, for me I don't think it's entirely clear whether or not the older couple abused her or not. Another interpretation, which is the one that Hulk subscribes to is that the creepy smiling elderly couple is a manifestation of "all her positive dreams that never came close to becoming true. They are the ones that propagate the 'great lie' of being able to make it in Hollywood." That's basically the view that I have always had. Especially at the beginning of the film in the car when they keep the creepy smiles on after Betty exits the car.To me, it's kind of welcoming the viewer to the falseness of Hollywood. With this interpretation she might never have been abused as a kid. The stuff with the jitterbug at the beginning could be showing that in the small town where she came from she was hot stuff and the elderly parental figures could have just been over the top with their praise and encouragement, which led her to leave the small town behind and head to where dreams are made in Hollywood. The dialog in the audition scene could just be reminiscent of dialog she's auditioned for countless times. 

    Either way, I don't know that whether she was abused or not would change the overall arc of the film. I think each interpretation just adds its own layers to the whole thing. Which is great.

    @aberry89 I haven't seen this and am keen to check it out. Thanks for posting the link!

  • aberry89 said:


    You might be interested in this six part, in depth review of Mulholland - it's really fantastic.

    @aberry89 Thanks. I'm putting it on now.
  • @DaveyMac Cool, man. I right there with ya. I could go on and on thinking and talking about this. It's very much like 2001 in how extremely and densely visual it is. I pick up something new every time I watch 2001 and it's the same with this.

    I really like the child abuse theory mainly because it makes Diane a much more empathetic person. I can much more easily forgive her for what she did than if I don't think of her as a victim of child abuse. It also makes the old people even scarier and more horrific. But I can definitely buy into yours and Hulk's reading of it as well. That's why this film is so awesome.

    And you're right, it was mentioned in that essay Firewalker posted. That whole site is really cool. It's so much fun to explore. I hadn't read that essay before though.
  • This is a very interesting interview Lynch did back when the film was showed at Cannes in 2001. The interviewer asks him at one point if he had any difficulty portraying a gay love affair between two women and Lynch replied that love between two women is the same as love between a man and a woman. It's just love.

    That got me thinking how different this movie would have been if Diane was actually a man. It would certainly eliminate the notion of Betty's desire to transform Rita into herself or the wish to merge herself with the Rita persona.

  • DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
    edited July 2015
    @AntManBee That's really interesting about the way the child abuse theory affects the way you view Diane's character in terms of empathy and forgiveness. I guess I've always empathized with the Diane character without ever reading any previous child abuse into it. 

    Of course I've never been a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood and I've certainly never ordered an ex-lover killed, but I can really relate to the base emotions that Diane is going through, even though I've never experienced any of them on the same level as her. The realization that she may not be as talented as she thought and also the failure to achieve her dreams, jealousy over unrequited love, and terrible guilt over a horrible knee-jerk decision that can't be undone. That last one is actually a major fear of mine. Some of my worst nightmares have had me committing some horrible act that basically destroys the rest of my life. But then I get to wake up relieved that it was all just a terrible dream. 

    As opposed to Diane, who wakes up from her dream only to see that the blue key is still there reminding her that what she did was all too real and that it can't be undone. That is terrifying to me and thus I have no problem empathizing with her. I've also never felt the need to forgive her or find her redeemable, as a viewer. I think that's a cool way to view it though, especially since she clearly doesn't end up forgiving herself. Really interesting reading your perspective on it.

    Also, thanks for posting that interview. I hadn't seen that one and the stuff about Love is interesting indeed. It definitely would have been a very different movie if Diane were a man. 

    Here's another good interview from the Japanese DVD release. Lynch talks a bit about why he doesn't like it when people have seen the film and then want him to translate it back into words by explaining it to them. There's also some really interesting ideas here where Lynch compares people's expectations/experiences of films to their experiences with music.

    Sorry for the epic post here, but I also wanted to say I totally agree on 2001. I think we talked about it in the Kubrick thread, but I just recently re-watched that film and found so much to love in it that I hadn't gotten before. 
  • @DaveyMac Hey can you post that link again? I don't think it copied over.

    You're right about empathizing with Diane. I have empathized with her before as you noted. I think realizing how the abuse could work in this was really jarring to me and made me see this in a whole new terrifying way.

    Also, what do you make of the idea that Diane was a prostitute? I think that comes out of the fact she envisions the hitman talking to a prostitute who resembles her. That same theory also says she was a waitress like the one at Winkies. Her name was Diane in the dream, then Betty when we see her actually in the diner. I'm not sure I buy that one.
  • @AntManBee Sure. Here's the link again. I was having a bit of difficulty trying to get the youtube frame to show up in the comment box. How do you do that?

    Yeah I've never really bought into the prostitute idea for some reason. Though I can't discount it either. It's just one of those pieces that has never really caught my interest as there's really not much else in the film that points in that direction. At least that I can remember.

    As to the waitress idea, I could certainly buy her being a waitress while she's waiting for her big break, and I interpreted things that way the first few times I watched it, but now I just don't see it. There's no other evidence in the movie that she's a waitress. I actually prefer the idea of the waitress' name tag being one of those random details that sticks in your subconscious and makes it into your dreams. I also like the interpretation that in that moment she wishes she could just be anyone else instead of Diane Selwyn. Maybe a bit of a stretch, but I like it better than just her being a waitress.

  • Ah never mind on the comment box question I had. Looks like it embedded fine just now. 
  • @DaveyMac Damn, that link is not available in the U.S. for whatever reason.

    I agree with you about the take on Diane wanting to be anybody else at that moment. That's a good one.
  • trippy said:

    3)  Wait... is there a different actress playing this person now?

    This is testament to how amazing Naomi Watts is in this film.
  • kingbee67kingbee67 Los Angeles Ca.
    trippy said:

    Its been a long time since I saw it but what I remember about mulholland drive in no particular order

    1)  Huh?
    2)  Wait.... what?
    3)  Wait... is there a different actress playing this person now?
    4)  Lesbian sex
    5)  Whats going on now?
    6)  Is that the Achy Braky heart dude?

    Amen to that. I Forgot most of the stuff that happened. I don't think I wanna watch this movie again, just because I don't think I would get anything satisfying from see it again.

  • edited July 2015
    Chorus from Billy Ray's "Achy Breaky Heart":

    But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
    I just don't think it'd understand
    And if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
    He might blow up and kill this man

    Aside from the surface level humor, I think Lynch chose Cyrus because his best known hit song spoke to one of the main themes of the film. Instead of moving on from an unloving and abusive relationship, Diane chose to kill and die for love once it was more than painfully clear that Camilla not only didn't love Diane but took pleasure in her suffering.

    Lynch also ties the country singer Cyrus to the Cowboy. Aside from the association of country music with cowboys, both characters speak using the same voice of her grandfather or a hidden authority in Diane's life. This voice is in favor of repressing Diane's likely incestuous underage encounters and letting go of her obsession with Camilla and the guilt of killing her. The adultery scene makes sense if the indignation and condescending dialogue as well as possibly the violence from the culprits where delivered to a female child (pink paint on jewelry) who was caught with a man by his girlfriend or wife. I think it is very interesting that Betty says, "Let's hide it," immediately after the scene.

    The Cowboy foretold the disastrous effect Diane's decision would have on her existence if she did not forget and/or move on. At the end of her dream, the Cowboy appeared once at the door of a living Diane's bedroom with a smile and the creepy line, "Hey pretty girl, time to wake up." Diane didn't let go because we next see a corpse in the bed with a less than pleased Cowboy exiting the doorway. I believe these scenes represent a death within Diane whereas she was "alive" before the abuse but was "dead" afterward. Her dream was a last ditch effort for survival but the pain and guilt were too much for her to overcome.
  • Wow @firewalker601 There's some real good stuff here to digest. I really like the takes on Cyrus and the cowboy.

    I think it was that Hulk article that suggested cowboys are historically characters in classic Hollywood westerns that always tend to "lay down the law". That's what this cowboy essentially does to Adam as well as to the dreaming Diane. Very interesting.
  • @AntManBee Man that's a bummer that you can't access the interview from the U.S. It's usually me in Japan that can't access U.S. content. 

    Here's a couple of excerpts from the interview that I found interesting. One is part of his answer when they ask him what the theme of the movie is. He basically says he's not going to talk about that and gives a few different reasons. This is just a part of a much longer answer:

    "Some films maybe have a theme. But even if it has a theme it might be a different theme for different people who see it. So it's better to let people conjure up their own ideas having seen, experienced the film."

    This next little excerpt comes from when the interviewer asked him to elaborate on why the film is difficult to interpret or understand. Of course Lynch doesn't provide any details on the film in his answer, but I really like what he has to say. I took out a bunch of the 'uhs' and 'ums' to make it easier to read.

    "It's a lot like music. Music they say is an abstraction. It is very far away from words. And film is a thing that people, uh...they want to have an easy understanding of a film, whereas with music, they don't have that problem. There's not an intellectual thing going on. It's just an experience. But film has those same elements of just experience. Plus, film can say abstractions that can be intuited. So you use your intuition and then an understanding comes inside you and I think people should trust the understanding that comes from the experience.

    Now, it might be hard to take what's inside of you and tell your friend in words what that is. It's like a dream sometimes you tell your friend a dream and you can see in the face that they don't understand. The words fail you. But still you know inside. So it's not that difficult to understand if you trust your inner feeling."  

    It's a bummer you can't see the whole interview. There's some other good nuggets in there as well. I actually looked for a non-region blocked one, but no luck. 
  • DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
    edited July 2015
    @firewalker601 Interesting analysis of Billy Ray and the Cowboy. I've never really looked that closely at the abuse angle before you brought it up in these threads along with @AntManBee and I totally get the textual support for it, but I've just never really felt it when watching the movie. I guess the way the the scenes are played just never struck me as involving abuse or repressed childhood memories. That's one thing that's great about this movie is that we can see the same material and have very different experiences with it.

    I'm curious what you mean about the Cowboy and Billy Ray having the same voice as the grandfather/hidden authority. I'm not quite following what you're saying there. 

    I'm basically regurgitating the Hulk essay here, but I've always really liked the interpretation of the Cowboy as being the traditional figure to lay down the law. "If you see me one more time, you've done good. If you see me two more times, you've done bad." The second time you see him (first is the creepy line, "Wake up little girl.") is right after she sees the blonde woman kissing Camilla at the party and the Cowboy walks by. I like the idea of this being the moment she starts thinking about having Camilla killed and seeing Cowboy here lets us know she's done bad. 

    In any case, I've really enjoyed reading both your analyses and the previous essay you posted in the TD thread. I think I had actually read that essay ages ago and also perused other areas of the website. 

  • DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
    edited July 2015
    Sorry to do three posts in a row, but coincidentally, after doing all this "Mulholland Drive" talk, I logged into Facebook this morning to see Criterion announcing that they are doing a "Mulholland Drive" release. I don't know if you guys are into The Criterion Collection, but they do some of the best blu-ray releases. It's a 4K remastered version under Lynch's supervision and includes all-new interviews with David Lynch, cast members, and the composer. It's also got older interviews, footage on-set as well as special booklet. The release is slated for October 27, which is perfect timing for Halloween. 

  • @DaveyMac Hey don't worry about the consecutive posts. The more the merrier :)

    A friend of mine hipped me to the new Criterion release yesterday. Looks like it's time to buy that Blu-Ray player. I need the new Twin Peaks box set anyway.

    Those excepts you posted from the Lynch interview were great. I love that he remained cryptic after the release. It annoys me that people want some kind of explanation from him. I heard someone on another podcast whining about that yesterday. Fuck that. That's why half the psychosphere on the web is made up of MD interpretations. In fact, I get annoyed by showrunners and film makers who feel they do need to offer explanations of their work.
  • @DaveyMac Both the Cowboy and Billy Ray, among other Diane personas, are speaking to Adam with an authoritative and commanding voice. Within the context of both bedroom scenes and the corral scene and within the theme of memory repression, they are telling another part of Diane's psyche to do good by burying the memories. It is possible that an adult woman in Diane's real life expressed these words or ideas, but it isn't supported by the audition scene. An adult man telling a little girl this is highly suspect. Someone in a parental role would likely only say those things to a child.

    The moment that Diane sees the Cowboy at the party is a flashback of a real event in Diane's life so I don't think it is relevant to his foretelling especially as it happened before her dream. I think the key to viewing him at the door to Diane's bedroom as two sightings is the state of Diane's body (alive and then dead) and the happy and possibly disappointed facial expressions the Cowboy is seen with. 

    The implication is that between these two scenes, Diane was figuratively killed. The "pretty girl" dialogue is consistent with what an adult would say to a child. The fact that this happened in her bed suggests, along with other clues in her dream, that what happened was sexual in nature. 

    The ingenious thing about this is Lynch is hiding these implications from Diane as well as the audience.
  • DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
    edited July 2015
    @firewalker601 Thanks for the explanation. I get what you were saying now. Also, I had forgotten that there was a cut to Diane's dead corpse before the cowboy exits the room. For some reason I had remembered it just being her sleeping and him telling her to wake up and then him closing the door and leaving. You've got a really interesting take there with the state of Diane's body and the Cowboy's expressions.

    I still think, though, that it's possible to interpret the two shots of the Cowboy in her doorway as just one sighting and not two, because of how quickly and seamlessly the scene plays out. I think the majority of viewers on a first or second viewing would probably count both doorway shots as a combined first sighting and the party as the second sighting. Not that that means anything for analysis purposes, but I think Lynch would have been aware of the way audiences would have perceived it in editing the film. I get that the time we see him at the party happened before the dream, and I get why you're saying that it doesn't count as the second sighting. For me, though, I've always just seen the Cowboy's "See me one more time. See me two more times" line as a meta device for the audience that doesn't need to necessarily line up chronologically with both the dream and Diane's actual life. 

    Regardless of how it can be interpreted, though, I think the moment we see the Cowboy at the party is so cool, because that is such a powerful emotional moment for Diane and her subconscious happens to pick out the Cowboy in that moment and uses him has a key figure in her dream.Just like the guy at the counter in Winkies who witnesses her taking the hit out on Camilla becomes a big part of her dream as well.

    I think there's a lot of sense in the support you've laid out for the abuse interpretation, but even after reading your comments as well as the essay you posted, I still think there's room for the more straightforward interpretation that the only things Diane is trying to keep buried are her guilt in having Camilla killed and also the shame in moving out to Hollywood and failing to fulfill her dreams. 

    I also like the idea of her being a genuinely innocent, naive person winning the jitterbug contest being bathed in the hometown spotlight, thinking she is going to make all her dreams come true in Hollywood. Only to have Hollywood crush her and turn her into a monster. I also love the bookends where she's bathed in spotlight at the jitterbug contest at the beginning with her (I guess) grandparents and a similar bathed in spotlight shot of Diane and blonde version of Camilla superimposed over LA near the end of the film. It's certainly simpler than the abuse interpretation, but for some reason I find it more compelling and more satisfying, maybe just because that's how I've always viewed and experienced the film. 

    Still, I'm really looking forward to a re-watch with all of the stuff you've brought up in mind and try to look at it from a different angle. Thanks again for the explanation. Really interesting stuff that I hadn't really considered before!
  • Thanks @DaveyMac. The analysis I posted opened my eyes to many things I think I initially missed or wrote off. For example, the Betty persona wore clothes and hairstyles/hair accessories fit for a kid and initially had the innocence to match. This representation of a part of Diane can tie into the theme of her compromising herself for her dream and for Camilla as well as the theory of the childhood abuse. The abundance of layers and possibilities is what I probably love the most about the movie.

    My take on her downfall is that her Hollywood ambitions led to her obsession with Camilla, but Diane likely would not have experienced the apparent deep depression and psychotic break if she never tangled with someone like Camilla. She would have been unhappy if she received a small number of acting jobs or none at all though. I agree that the Hollywood system is an important part of the story.

    I am not sure if the Betty version of Diane existed in Hollywood, but her low self-esteem and corruptibility got the better of her eventually. I'm leaning towards the idea that Diane was already compromised before she arrived. The horror stories of Hollywood usually don't involve actors with positive childhoods.
  • DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
    edited July 2015
    @firewalker601 I totally agree that one of the great things about the movie is the abundance of possibilities and layers. I basically pull something new from it or change some of my perceptions every time I see it. I also love that David Lynch encourages people to come up with their own ideas and interpretations and that he will never say exactly what he thinks is going on.

    I think about the only concrete thing he's said about it is that he thinks of it as a love story, which I think really supports what you said about her not really having that psychotic break without her love/obsession with Camilla. She really is the key to the whole thing regardless of what Diane's life was before she came to Hollywood.

    A little bit of unrelated sidenote here, but has anyone seen "Sunset Boulevard?" I know Lynch is a fan and, aside from the title, paid homage to it a couple of times in "MD". It's a much more straightforward film, but there are a few thematic similarities and I'd definitely recommend it. One of the great all-time openings/endings in cinema.
  • @DaveyMac Yes, Sunset Blvd. is huge when it comes to viewing Mulholland Dr. Heck, there's even a young aspiring script writer named Betty. Love that movie.

    Yeah, the stuff about the cowboy waking Diane up that @firewalker601 points out is very interesting. I myself was skeptical of counting the cowboy's party appearance as #2. Counting two bedroom appearances really works for me. But again, I can view it either way.

    My question is, when we see her in bed as a corpse, should we read that as Betty's death? I know she disappears after they return from Club Silencio, but I feel we can look at the corpse as Betty's demise with Diane now finally waking up to her miserable life.
  • edited July 2015
    @DaveyMac I don't think that I have seen that one yet. I will have to check it out.

    @AntManBee It can be read several ways and likely has several complimentary meanings, but I think of it now mostly as the final confirmation that Diane has failed or will fail in correcting her life. Diane would likely have survived if she kicked Rita out of the apartment and/or called the police and chose herself, the real Diane, to be the star of Adam's movie. It would be a damning action, if Diane really was a victim of abuse, to choose to add sex appeal to the audition to pursue her Hollywood goals (I think it is great that Lynch showed us how Betty should have played the scene). I think the dream features many missteps which reveal her self betrayals, obsession, and low self esteem.

    I believe that Betty disappeared because the performance at the club revealed her to be a false personification of innocence. Or perhaps after the truth is revealed, Diane has rejected her innocence and/or lost all hope in reclaiming it.
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