The first time I watched “Mulholland Drive [Dr.] (2001)” was before starting MoviesDrop, I had no idea about this kind of movies, I was not even able to watch Hollywood English movies properly without subtitles. I completed the movie though, but I didn’t feel anything, I was just confused, maybe I slept or went out, just my routine life. But a few years later, when I was a mature cinema lover, I came to know about David Lynch and rewatched this movie online. I was mindfucked and once again confused, but this time, I was able to decrypt the film, slowly. Now that I have a blog, I decided to share my views/insights about this mind-bending movie; these are my own opinions, I tried to present them casually, just like the way I talk with a fellow movie freak friend, that is you.
This is a review + movie explanation article, so obviously, it’s full of spoilers. This is my interpretation. So, kindly avoid this article if you haven’t watched this movie. Okay? There are some things you need to understand about this movie. There are two worlds in this movie, a dream world, and a real-world (reality).
- In the dream world, Naomi Watts is Betty and Laura Harring is Rita.
- In the reality, Naomi Watts is Diane Selwyn, and Laura Harring is Camilla Rhodes.
So whenever I say ‘Betty’ or ‘Rita,’ we are talking about the dream world, and whenever I say ‘Diane Selwyn’ or ‘Camilla Rhodes’, we are talking about the reality.
You should understand this very well because if you are confused with the character names, then it’ll be difficult to visualize their scenes. At the end of this movie, two main things will happen, which you might not realize:
- Diane Selwyn hires a hitman to murder Camilla Rhodes, and he murders her successfully.
- Diane Selwyn, at one point, cornered by the police (detectives), feels guilty about what she did to her friend/lover and commits suicide.
Analyzing all the points I mentioned above, I want to finalize/start by saying that the ‘dream’ part in the movie begins after Diane Selwyn kills herself… her last few minutes, forms into a dream, this film. I checked Reddit, Quora, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, even saw some videos on YouTube. Some folks even told me most of the scenes in this movie are just flashbacks (drug) of Diane Selwyn, well, that looks interesting as well, right? Let’s discuss this right away!
Mulholland Drive [Dr.] (2001) – Movie Explanation!
Mulholland Drive (2001) is a neo-noir mystery/crime film starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux. It is written and directed by David Lynch. You can experience Nonlinear narrative style during this movie.
Naomi Watts (Betty) – Dream
In this dream world, Betty is a charming young girl, who aspires to become a Hollywood star. She visits Los Angeles for her audition and stays in her somewhat wealthy aunt’s house. Meanwhile, Rita is someone who manages to sneak into her aunt’s house before her arrival, apparently, she met with an accident and lost her memory (amnesia), she doesn’t remember who she is, not even her name, so she came up with a fake name by seeing Rita Hayworth’s Gilda movie poster.
Initially, Betty thinks Rita is her aunt’s friend and later realized that she isn’t. Then they both became good friends, and Betty tries her best to help/figure out Rita’s real identity. That’s all. This is the plot of Betty’s dream world. In this world, Betty is taking care of Rita, and she is the smart one here, everybody likes her, even the auditions went well, they applauded for her performance, last but not least, even the director Adam Kesher eyed her frequently. She is living the life she wants to live. But, wait, I told you this is all a dream right? Why is this a dream? Let’s start with the reality.
Naomi Watts (Diane Selwyn) – Reality
In reality, Naomi Watts is not Betty; she is Diane Selwyn. Her aunt died. She is from Canada but moved to Los Angeles to become a star actress, thanks to the Jitterbug contest. She tried many auditions, but unfortunately, the directors were not pleased with her. Her friend/lover Camilla Rhodes (Laura Harring) grabbed the lead role in a film (The Sylvia North Story) Diane badly wanted to be a part of. Slowly, Camilla became a star, and Diane became a side actress (with Camilla’s generous help), doing small-small roles for a living. But, even though, all these things were troubling her, Diane was happy that she was in a relationship (lesbian) with Camilla. But, at one point, Camilla revealed that they should not continue this relationship, and they need to break up. Diane quickly realized that she is in love with Kesher, the director.
Camilla invites Diane to her Engagement-announcement-dinner party, and she soon realizes that this is the end of everything, she can no longer digest the popularity and fame of her ex-lover. She becomes lonely, no jobs, no proper place to stay, addicted to drugs, and at one point, finally, arranges money to murder her ex-friend/lover. The hitman, being a professional, does his job successfully and soon Diane realizes that Camilla Rhodes is dead. Diane is already a prime suspect in this, and you can even remember her neighbor’s words – “Ah, by the way, those two detectives came by again, looking for you.” Being a drug addict and fucked up girl, Diane couldn’t withstand this pain/feeling, she is cornered everywhere. And at the end, she ended her life as well, she shot herself. The ‘dream’ part begins right after Naomi Watts (Diane Selwyn) dies, we want to think like this.
I guess I managed to explain what actually happened in simple words. But, that’s not the end of this review, because this is David Lynch’s movie, fortunately.
Decrypting The Dream World – Naomi Watts (Diane Selwyn / Betty)
In reality, Diane Selwyn (not Betty) is a struggling actress. She is not even recognized by anyone in this field; she’s pretty and talented, yet, nobody in the industry recognized her for her talent. Her Hollywood dream is over. Her best friend Camilla Rhodes (not Rita) grabs the role for a movie she dreamt of starring. Everybody appreciates Camilla’s performance in that movie as well. Diane is both happy and sad for this.
She kinda feels like a burden whenever Camilla gives her an opportunity to play some small roles in some of her films. Meanwhile, Camilla Rhodes and Director Keshar are in a relationship. Diane realizes this soon and figures out that she is a loser in both her career & relationship. She becomes a drug addict; she lives alone… she is kinda messed up.
This is the reason, why, in her dream, she wanted to live in a perfect world in which she is recognized for her acting passion and her love towards Camilla Rhodes. She is a brilliant artist, a good actress, and that helped her to visualize everything perfectly. The dream world (or the flashback) is the twist here.
Comparing Dream And Reality – One By One!
Diane Selwyn grabbed the characters (and objects) in her real-world life and used them in her dream world. Each and every character… they all have a meaning for whatever is happening. There are plenty of clues in this movie, which are yet to decrypted.
Why Mulholland Drive (Dr.) Name?
This is the place where Camilla Rhodes stopped the car and took Diane Selwyn to attend her ‘engagement’ dinner party. This is the place where Diane realized that she lost her life in both her career and relationship. This is the place (lane) where, in her dream, wanted to keep the accident scene, so that she can remove everything from Camilla’s memory and they can once again reunite, live together happily. This car crash is a metaphor. This Mulholland Drive (Hollywood Hills) is a metaphor.
Diane recreated her own version of this scene, in which Camilla loses her memory, and becomes a newborn baby. She is not even interested in knowing her true identity; she just wants to be with Diane, that’s all. This accident scene happens at Mulholland Drive, the birthplace of Camilla Rhodes and the death place of Diane Selwyn.
What’s The Purpose Of This Old Couple?
During Betty’s introduction at the airport, you can see her along with an old couple. They were caring, friendly and wanted the best for Betty. But, right after that, you can see the old couple laughing mysteriously, something like a sinister laugh. As if, they did something successfully, like a master plan.
Popular theories suggest that these two folks present Adam Kesher and Camilla Rhodes. Even I agree with this, these two people, they acted as they cared for Betty, but at the end, it’s not something they really meant.
In the dream world, a guy (1) explains a sequence from *his dream* to his friend/colleague (guy 2) and tells that, at the end of the diner, he saw a horrible monster (bum). They both go there to verify and shockingly finds the horrible creature there, thus making that guy faint. Trust me, this scene is fucking scary and unexpected!
In the real world, Winkie’s is the place where Diane Selwyn meets the hitman and gives the money to murder Camilla Rhodes. This is what happens in the real-life. There Diane encounters a waitress named Betty; this is the name she used for her character in her dream world. Similarly, in the dream world, we come across a waitress named Diane as well. The ‘Bum’ monster is the representation of results triggered by the discussion in Winkie’s.
This Is The Girl.
You might have heard this dialogue more than four times in this movie, and there is a reason for this. Diane Selwyn is a failure in Hollywood. She wants to justify her current situation by dreaming/involving scenes where mobsters and other influential folks in Hollywood, grabbed her true position, by giving the role to some other undeserving girl.
In the dream, the mobster, and the cowboy says “This is the Girl.” like a threat to the director, and finally, he realizes his condition and says “This is the Girl.” at the end as well.
In reality, Diane shows the photo of Camilla Rhodes to the hitman and says “This is the Girl.” This indicates that the ‘girl’ in the previous references was Camilla Rhodes all along. Diane thinks Camilla reached her stardom by various influential and cunning tactics.
What’s The Role Of The Cowboy?
If you remember this dialogue, “You will see me one more time if you do good. You will see me two more times if you do bad.” Then, you can understand that we saw the cowboy ‘once’ in the dream and ‘twice’ in reality.
So that means, Diane Selwyn did something bad, which is nothing but murdering Camilla Rhodes. She wanted to have the cowboy character in her dream to make her realize what she is capable of doing. You can check the conversation between the cowboy and the director as well.
Who Is Louise Bonner?
In the dream world, we come across this person called “Louise Bonner” who looks like a crystal gazer kinda lady, someone with psychic powers maybe? Occult? She knocks Betty’s door and says something like “Someone is in trouble.” Which someone is that? When Betty introduces herself as “Betty,” Louise says “No, it’s not. That’s not what she said. Someone is in trouble.” So we can assume that *someone* is Diane Selwyn and not Betty here.
Betty Elms: [opens door] Yes? May I help you?
Louise Bonner: Someone is in trouble. Who are you? What are you doing in Ruth’s apartment?
Betty Elms: She’s letting me stay here. I’m her niece. My name’s Betty.
Louise Bonner: No, it’s not. That’s not what she said. Someone is in trouble. Something bad is happening!
The Possessive And Jealous Diane Selwyn
In the dream world, Betty actually likes/loves director Adam Kesher. Maybe, she knew who he is, or maybe she came to know about him during the shooting for “The Sylvia North Story.” But, they both seem to like each other instantly, that eye glance explained a short-quick-craze between them.
But, unfortunately, that’s all a dream. In the real-world, the original Diane Selwyn is no one but a junior artist, a side actress, getting minor roles in the films starring her friend/lover Camilla Rhodes.
In real life, Camilla is a star, and she doesn’t care much about her relationship with Diane. In this scene, she kisses a woman (who is supposedly the Camilla Rhodes in the dream world), we don’t know her name, but she played a major role in Diane’s dream world.
Adam Kesher and Camilla Rhodes are going to get married; this dinner party is to announce their engagement. If you take a look at Diane, you can understand that nothing in this world hurts her more than this. This party invite was a surprise to her, and this engagement announcement is a bonus to her wound.
Representation Of Keys
Somehow the ‘Keys’ shown in this movie were disturbing for me, I wanted to analyze them further. In the dream world, we can see Betty’s Aunt taking the keys first. After that, Coco (Mrs. Lenoix) gives the same keys to Betty for occupying. She was so excited to see the house. Is this the key for Betty to enter her dream life? If you remember this dialogue by Betty…
“I couldn’t afford a place like this in a million years… unless, of course, I’m discovered and become a movie star.”
We have a Blue Key in both the dream and real-world. In reality, the hitman shows a blue key to Diane Selwyn and tells her that she’ll find this key in the place discussed after the job is done. When she asks “What’s it open?”, he just smiles. In the dream world, we’ll find a strange blue key in Rita’s purse along with some money. But again, the same question, what’s it open? In the Club Silencio, Betty finds a Blue Box in her purse (after the magical shaking?), and when they reach their house, Rita tries to open the Blue Box with her Blue Key and during that time Betty vanishes. That’s the end of Betty in the dream world. That’s the end of her dream.
What’s Inside The Blue Box?
This is another strange question which is confusing everyone here. We know the blue key will open the blue box, but, what’s inside the fucking box? In layman’s terms, this blue box is nothing but Diane Selwyn’s Pandora’s box. In the real-world, the hitman refused to answer what the key will open, so Diane created a Blue Box for herself in her dreams and hid it away. This Blue Box contains Diane’s dark truths, her regrets, crimes, possessiveness, pains, sorrows, loneliness, etc.
Club Silencio is a theater where Betty and Rita visit after 2 AM. In her sleep, Rita murmurs something like Silencio and No hay banda; then she requests Betty to go for a drive outside. When they enter the theater, the emcee tells something about “Illusion,” like, there is no band, but yet we can hear the band music. Then he says it’s recorded, just a tape, just an illusion. By this, he says that whatever we witnessed, it’s just an illusion for us, it’s not real.
Bondar: No hay banda! There is no band! Il n’est pas de orquestra! This is all… a tape-recording. No hay banda! And yet we hear a band. If we want to hear a clarinette… listen.
Bondar: [the sounds responding to his every hand motion] Un trombon “à coulisse”. Un trombon “con sordina”. Sient le son du trombon in sourdine. Hear le son… and mute it… drop it. It’s all recorded. No hay banda! It’s all a tape. Il n’est pas de orquestra. It is… an illusion!
When all this is over, we can see both Betty and Rita crying over something. Maybe they realized it’s all a fake world?
Unusually Strange Characters
There are two unique characters in this movie who were bugging me for years. One is the Bum (from Winkie’s), and another one is this strange person with Blue hair (from Silencio). Okay, so the Bum character is more like a devil or angel depending on the person. It’s played by a female actress. At the end of the movie, you can see Bum holding the Blue Box.
For this scene, David Lynch said “This is your box. It belongs to you. And then I want you to look at it, study your box, and then just drop it into the bag.” to the artist while shooting.
The Blue-Haired Lady is another interesting character in this movie, we can see her at the Silencio theater, she just sits alone at a separate ‘Box’ above the theater. She ends the movie saying Silencio (Silence). When I checked the subtitles, I realized ‘Silencio’ is next dialogue after ‘What’s it open?’ by Diane Selwyn. Is there a connection? Does the Blue-Haired Lady and Bum Monster present good/evil, angel/demon, god/devil, etc.?
This is the final scene where everything collapses for Diane Selwyn. Camilla Rhodes blocks her in the Mulholland Drive and takes her to a party in Adam Kesher’s house. Diane was surprised to see him there, and soon she realizes that this is not going to end well. Kesher introduces his mom to Diane, who is none other than our Coco. Remember “Call me Coco. Everybody else does.”? Along with Coco, you can also see the Espresso Mobster and the Cowboy in this party. They just appear for a few seconds.
One thing, which is very clear via this party is, both (Coco and Diane) of them hate Camilla, and I guess by the way Coco reacted to the engagement announcement explains it. Coco also behaves friendly with Diane and shows genuine concern. All these happen in the real-world. Coco is, of course, the only friendly person she has in her life I guess, that’s why she created a dream world in which Coco is a caring landlady. So, that’s it. The end of this party, that kiss scene, Diane Selwyn decides that she doesn’t want Camilla Rhodes alive anymore.
Is Camilla Rhodes Dead? YES!
At the end of this movie (real-world), you might have seen a conversation between the hitman and Diane Selwyn at Winkie’s. If you look at Diane, you can use, that she is pretty fucked up. The way she speaks, her dress, the kind of tone she uses, and when the hitman asks her again whether he can proceed with the hit, she tells him she wants this “More than anything in this world.” And he tells her “When it’s finished, you’ll find this (Blue Key) where I told you.” Coming back to Diane’s house, we can find the blue key in her table, this scene happens right after she wakes up… after Rita (Dream world) opens the Blue Box.
More than this, her neighbor said “…those two detectives came by again, looking for you.” This clearly indicates something wrong happened and she is one of the prime suspects (note the word *again*). Still not satisfied? After all this, the messed up Diane looks back and says “Camilla! You’ve come back!” We can see Camila’s illusional figure there. Slowly, Diane realizes that she just imagines this and her ex-friend/lover is indeed dead. And finally, before committing suicide, Diane looks at the blue key in the table, with a guilty feeling…
Is Diane Selwyn Dead? Well, YES!
Okay, so, let’s talk about the *final* Diane Selwyn here. She is a failed actress, probably broke after the hitman’s fee, she doesn’t have any relationships (her aunt died, her neighbor is unfriendly, etc.), she is a drug addict, blah blah. Last but not least, she obviously becomes one of the prime suspects for Camilla’s murder. The detectives were constantly looking out for her, and at the end of the movie, according to the door banging sounds, Diane is cornered by the police. She is afraid of the police + guilty of the crimes she committed. The result? She shoots herself using a pistol in her drawer. In the dream world, we can find a dead body (rotten state) of a young girl in the same apartment. That’s the end of this movie, hopefully.
David Lynch initially wanted to make it as a Television series, but the executives disapproved the proposal after getting confused by his version. He then tweaked it a bit and made it compatible with a feature film. According to Lynch, Mulholland Drive [Dr.] (2001) is a “A love story in the city of dreams”.
This Is A Film By David Lynch
Almost 3000+ words, I wouldn’t have gone this far if it’s not David Lynch’s movie. See, this is not a completely mindfucked confusing movie, maybe after watching it one more time (with subtitles, perhaps), we’ll understand this much better. But what makes this movie special is the kind of connections he used, the desired dream world of a depressed girl. I’m sure I missed plenty in this article, I just thought of mentioning the key ones, but I’ll definitely update this post after discussing with some of my friends… I’m still researching. This is my small analysis.
Ending this article with Diane Selwyn aka Betty’s quote – “I’d rather be known as a great actress than a movie star.” Congrats! You are a great actress indeed. Feel free to share your views!
Kind note: Just in case you read this article, and you haven’t watched this movie yet, then don’t worry, it’ll be a different experience to watch the film now. You can check out Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, even maybe YouTube, if you have no other option, I’m sure you’ll find a way to download.