Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mulholland Drive - Analysis of the Movie - part 1: Introduction and plot synopsis


[Image at left from the Wikipedia 'Mulholland Drive (film)' page; "Mulholland",[a] licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.]

Welcome to the analysis of Mulholland Drive. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis.

Mulholland Drive (stylized onscreen as Mulholland Dr.) is a 2001 American neo-noir mystery film written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux. It tells the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Watts), newly arrived in Los Angeles, California, who meets and befriends an amnesic woman (Harring) hiding in an apartment that belongs to Betty's aunt. The story includes several other seemingly unrelated vignettes that eventually connect in various ways, as well as some surreal and darkly comic scenes and images that relate to the cryptic narrative. The events of almost the first two hours of the film comprise a dream, and are shown in a fragmented fashion. The remainder of the film depicts a combination of fantasy and reality. As we will see, some of movie's events are shown out of chronological order.

A dark-haired woman (Harring) escapes her own murder, surviving a car accident on Mulholland Drive. Injured and in shock, she descends into Los Angeles and sneaks into an apartment that an older, red-headed woman has just vacated.

The dark-haired woman sleeps while hiding in the recently-vacated apartment.

In a diner called Winkie's, a man tells his companion about a nightmare in which he dreamed there was a horrible figure behind the diner. When the two men go out back of Winkie's to investigate, the figure appears, causing the man with the nightmare to collapse in fright.

Top left: The two men conversing in Winkie's. Top right: The two men go out back of the diner, to investigate the nightmares (of the man on the right) about a horrible figure located there. Above left: While the two men are in the area behind the diner, this frightening figure appears from behind a wall. Above right: The man who had dreamed of the figure, collapses upon seeing it.

An aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Watts) arrives at her aunt's apartment and finds the dark-haired woman mentioned above, confused, not knowing her own name. The dark-haired woman assumes the name "Rita" after seeing a poster for the film Gilda (1946), starring Rita Hayworth.

Betty Elms (on right) attempts to comfort 'Rita'.

A Hollywood director named Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) has his film commandeered by two men, who insist he cast an unknown actress named Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George) as the lead in his film.

Adam Kesher, seated at far left, has his film commandeered by the two men seated at far right.

A bungling hit man kills three people, in the process of stealing a black book.

The hit man has just shot the first of three people.

To help Rita remember her identity, Betty looks in Rita's purse, in which are found a large amount of money and an unusual blue key.

The blue key found in Rita's purse.

After Adam Kesher resists the commandeering of his film, he returns home to find his wife having an affair and is thrown out of his house.

Adam (standing at far right) finds his wife in bed with another man.

Betty and Rita go to Winkie's and are served by a waitress named Diane, which causes Rita to remember the name "Diane Selwyn." They find a 'D. Selwyn' in the phone book and call her, but she does not answer.

Above left: Rita and Betty in Winkie's. Above right: Rita and Betty listen to a recorded message, after Betty has dialed a number listed under 'D. Selwyn' in the phone book.

Adam learns that his bank has closed his line of credit and he is broke. He meets with a mysterious figure called the 'Cowboy', who urges him to cast Camilla Rhodes for his own good.

Adam meets with the Cowboy.

Betty goes to an audition, where her performance is highly praised.

Betty auditioning.

A casting agent takes Betty to the set of a film called The Sylvia North Story, directed by Adam, where Camilla Rhodes gives an audition and Adam declares, "This is the girl." Betty smiles shyly as she locks eyes with Adam, but she flees before she can meet him, saying that she is late to meet a friend.

The blond Camilla Rhodes, auditioning for The Sylvia North Story.

Betty and Rita go to 'D. Selwyn's apartment, and Betty enters it through a window when no one answers the door. Betty then opens the front door to let Rita in. In the apartment's bedroom, they find the body of a dead woman.

With Rita's assistance, Betty enter's 'D. Selwyn's apartment.

Terrified, Betty and Rita return to their apartment, where Rita disguises herself with a blond wig. The two women have sex that night and awake at 2 a.m., when Rita insists they go somewhere. Betty agrees.

The two women arrive by cab at Rita's desired destination, a theater called Club Silencio. On stage at the theater, a man speaks mainly in English, but also in Spanish and French; a woman begins singing, then collapses, although her vocals continue.

A man on stage in Club Silencio, explains that there is no orchestra in the club - any music the audience hears there is taped - it is an "illusion".

Betty finds a blue box in her purse that matches Rita's key. Upon returning to the apartment, Rita retrieves the key and finds that Betty has disappeared. Rita unlocks the box, and it falls to the floor with a thump.

The blue box found in Rita's purse.

The older red-headed woman investigates the sound from the blue box falling, but nothing is there. The Cowboy appears in the doorway of Diane Selwyn's bedroom saying, "Hey, pretty girl. Time to wake up." At this point, elements of the narrative seem to change. Diane Selwyn (played by Watts) wakes up in her bed, after having dreamed the events described above. She looks exactly like Betty, but is portrayed as a failed actress in a deep depression. Camilla Rhodes is now played by Harring.

On Camilla's invitation, Diane attends a party at Adam's house on Mulholland Drive. Her limousine stops before they reach the house and Camilla escorts her using a shortcut.

Camilla guides Diane along a shortcut to the Mulholland Drive party.

At the party, Adam appears to be in love with Camilla. Over dinner, Diane states that she came to Hollywood when her aunt died, and she met Camilla at an audition for The Sylvia North Story. Another woman (played by George) kisses Camilla and they turn and smile at Diane. Adam and Camilla prepare to make an important announcement, and dissolve into laughter and kiss while Diane watches, crying.

Adam and Camilla kiss each other at the party.

Diane meets with the hit man at Winkie's, where she gives him Camilla's photo and a large amount of money, and they are served by a waitress named Betty. The hit man tells Diane that when the job is done, she will find a blue key. Diane looks up and sees the man who had the nightmare standing at the counter. Diane asks the hit man what, if anything, the key opens, but the hit man just laughs.

Above left: Diane and the hit man in Winkie's. Above right: Diane passes this picture of Camilla to the hit man.

Back at her apartment, with the key on a table in front of her, Diane is terrorized by hallucinations. She runs screaming to her bed, where she shoots herself. A blue-haired woman at Club Silencio says, "Silencio".[b]

Diane sitting in her apartment, at the movie's ending.

a. Poster for Mulholland Drive: The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, or the publisher or creator of the film.
b. Wikipedia, 'Mulholland Drive (film)'. Web, n.d. URL =

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