Sunday, October 30, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 6: Depiction of alchemical processes


From Manhunter: Will Graham catches his breath as his surroundings come back into focus, after his encounter with his psychological shadow, Hannibal Lecktor. The encounter with the shadow is associated with the alchemical stage known as the nigredo.

In early Greek alchemy, the nigredo stage was identified with chaos (below is a basic description of alchemy and the nigredo). Chaos is associated with creation in Genesis, where "[T]he earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." [Gen. 1:2, New International Version]

Alchemy is an ancient tradition, the primary objective of which was the creation of the mythical "philosopher's stone," which was said to be capable of turning base metals into gold or silver, and also act as an elixir of life that would confer youth and immortality upon its user. The philosopher's stone is created by the alchemical method known as The Magnum Opus or The Great Work. Often expressed as a series of color changes or chemical processes, the instructions for creating the philosopher's stone are varied.[a] The Great Work originally had four stages:

1) nigredo, a blackening or melanosis
2) albedo, a whitening or leucosis
3) citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis
4) rubedo, a reddening, purpling, or iosis

After the 15th century, many writers tended to compress citrinitas into rubedo and consider only three stages. However, it is in citrinitas that the chemical wedding takes place, generating the Philosophical Mercury without which the philosopher's stone, triumph of the Work, could never be accomplished.

In the framework of psychological development, and especially within the context of Jungian psychology, these four alchemical steps are taken as analogous to the process of attaining individuation.[b] Let us examine the four steps in greater detail.

1. Nigredo, or blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher's stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter. In psychology, Carl Jung (a student of alchemy) interpreted nigredo as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development.[c]

Mann's depiction of the Holy Spirit moving over the waters in some of his movies, is connected with the nigredo, insofar as they both have to do with chaos. Also, the nigredo is associated with the encounter with the psychological shadow; Hannibal Lecktor represents Graham's shadow, and as indicated above (next to the screencap), Will's encounter with Lecktor and the events immediately following it, comprise a nigredo for Will.

2. Albedo - following the harrowing, chaotic nigredo, it is necessary for purification provided by the albedo which is literally referred to as ablutio; the washing away of impurities by aqua vitae. Jung equated the albedo with unconscious contrasexual soul images; the anima in men and animus in women. It is a phase where insight into shadow projections are realized, and inflated ego and unneeded conceptualizations are removed from the psyche.[d]

3. Citrinitas literally referred to "transmutation of silver into gold" or "yellowing of the lunar consciousness", and in alchemical philosophy stood for the dawning of the "solar light" inherent in one's being, and that the reflective "lunar or soul light" was no longer necessary. In Jungian terms, citrinitas is the wise old man (or woman) archetype.[e]

4. Rubedo is a Latin word meaning "redness." In an archetypal schema, rubedo would represent the Self archetype, and would be the culmination of the four stages. The Self manifests itself in "wholeness," a point in which a person discovers his or her true nature.[f]

Later in this analysis, we will see more on the topic of Mann's depiction of alchemical stages in some of his films.

a. Wikipedia, 'Philosopher's stone'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Magnum opus (alchemy)'. Web, n.d. URL =
c. Wikipedia, 'Nigredo'. Web, n.d. URL =
d. Wikipedia, 'Albedo (alchemy)'. Web, n.d. URL =
e. Wikipedia, 'Citrinitas'. Web, n.d. URL =
f. Wikipedia, 'Rubedo'. Web, n.d. URL =


Friday, October 28, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 5: Depiction of timelessness


From Thief: There is a 'contraction' in time while Frank and his men are breaking into the Bank of California vault. This contraction is indicated by the fact that it takes the men much less time to work their way into the vault, than was earlier predicted by Frank. Metaphorically speaking, the men are here in a realm in which time is not experienced in its ordinary sense.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 4: Breath and the Holy Spirit


In part 3, depictions of movement of the Holy Spirit in some of Michael Mann's movies were discussed. In the bible's Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 20-23, a correspondence is drawn between breath, and the Holy Spirit:

20. [T]hen the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
22. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
23. "If you received the sins of any, they are forgiven them. ..."

[New Revised Standard Version; emphasis not in original.]

The topic of breathing, and/or things related to it, come up in at least two of Mann's movies:

One of the characters in Thief, Okla, develops angina while he is in prison. The full name for angina is angina pectoris, which, translated from the Latin, means "a strangling feeling in the chest." Later, Okla dies from the disease.

From Thief: Okla in his hospital bed.

In Heat, Waingro gasps for breath just before he dies. In Mann's audio commentary to the movie, he says that when Waingro escapes from Neil early in the movie, he (Waingro) "is like a contagion in the air."

From Heat: Waingro.

Also in Heat, Neil tells Vincent, during their conversation in the deli, about a recurring dream he has in which he is drowning. Neil says, "I have to wake myself up and start breathing again, or else I'll die in my sleep."


Monday, October 24, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 3: Depiction of the Holy Spirit moving


Above left - from The Keep: Glaeken Trismegistus travels by boat toward Romania. We note that there's no engine noise in this scene, and the sails are not raised, but the ship is still moving through the water at a good speed. Above right - from Heat: Neil looks out the large window of his Malibu beach house. Left - from Thief: Frank (left) sits with a fisherman on a jetty in a lake.

We are to interpret each of the above three scenes, as depictions of the Holy Spirit moving over the waters as told at the beginning of the biblical book of Genesis. For the majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (prior English language usage: the Holy Ghost from Old English gast, "spirit") is the third person of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[a]

Genesis 1:1-8 read as follows [New International Version]:

1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. 6. And God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water." 7. So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8. God called the vault "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

a. Wikipedia, 'Holy Spirit in Christianity'. Web, n.d. URL =


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 9: The meaning of the blue box


Rita has opened the blue box. Note the 'staircase' shape of the inside top of the box. Swiss Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz has said, "Such round or square structures usually symbolize the Self, to which the ego must submit to fulfill the process of individuation."[a] Note that when the box is closed, the staircase structure is turned upside down, or inverted, indicating inversion of the Self. In Part 1 ("The Sexual Aberrations") of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Sigmund Freud referred to the practice of homosexuality as "inversion."

According to Wikipedia, the Self in Jungian theory is one of the archetypes. It signifies the coherent whole, unified consciousness and unconscious of a person - "the totality of the psyche."[b] The Self, according to Jung, is realized as the product of individuation, which in Jungian view is the process of integrating one's personality. For Jung, the Self is symbolised by the circle (especially when divided in four quadrants), the square, or the mandala.

What distinguishes Jungian psychology is the idea that there are two centers of the personality. The ego is the center of consciousness, whereas the Self is the center of the total personality, which includes consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is both the whole and the center. While the ego is a self-contained little circle off the center contained within the whole, the Self can be understood as the greater circle.[c]

In our movie, Betty represents Diane's ego and Rita her unconscious. The fact that Betty seems to have disappeared while Rita's opening the blue box, symbolizes the ego submitting to the Self, as mentioned above. The circle near the outside edge of the top of the box (see screencap above) symbolizes the aforementioned off-center circle of the ego. The box as a whole acts as the 'container' for Diane's Self, the totality of her psyche.

a. Man and His Symbols. Ed. with introduction Carl G. Jung. London: Aldus Books, 1964. p. 166.
b. Josepf L. Henderson, "Ancient Myths and Modern Man" in Man and His Symbols, p. 120.
c. Wikipedia, 'Self in Jungian psychology'. Web, n.d. URL =


Friday, October 21, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 8: The reason Diane wants Camilla dead


Above left: The hairy-armed man gets the "girl is still missing" message from another man who talked to Mr. Roque, then he calls Diane's number. Above right: The phone then rings at Diane's place. As described in part 6 of the analysis, there are actually two separate calls to the phone beside the red lampshade. The first, chronologically speaking, is when Camilla calls Diane to tell her to go to 6980 Mulholland Drive. The second call (again, chronologically), which is the one from the man with the yellow phone, has as its purpose to let Diane know to go ahead and go to the audition Adam is staging, so that she can get the role that she believed (prior to the hit) was going to go to Camilla. The point is, the reason Diane wanted Camilla dead was so that she could get the role in Adam's movie. The fact that there are quite a few cigarettes in the ash tray by the phone, and that they look like the kind the hit man smokes (brown filters, as opposed to Adam's white filters), suggests that there has been some kind of working relationship going on between himself and Diane.

The hit man's cigarettes have brown filters (click image to enlarge).

The fact is that the hit man and Diane had already discussed the possibility of a hit prior to their Winkie's meeting. After the hairy-armed man is done talking to Diane, she must think that Camilla is dead.

Above left: Later in the movie, Diane has a dream that she is escorted to the set of The Sylvia North Story by some people in the entertainment business. The reality is that she got a call from the man with the yellow phone, as described above, and then later showed up on Adam's set. Note that her expression upon seeing Adam is highly similar to a 'love at first sight' look. This indicates that the real 'love story' of the movie is not one between Betty and Rita (Diane and Camilla), but is instead one between Betty and Adam (although it is one-sided, on Diane's part). Above right: Adam looks over and sees Betty (Diane). He is in the process of staging auditions for his movie, and Betty (again, Diane) hopes he will let her audition. Note that his cigarette has a white filter.

Above left: This blond woman is shown auditioning under the name 'Camilla Rhodes' in Diane's dream; Roque and others performed behind-the-scenes manipulations to make sure this girl got the part in Adam's movie. In reality, Diane had hoped that Camilla wouldn't show up for her audition due to her already being dead, but that the hit was bungled, and (the real) Camilla did go on to get the role - Camilla is represented by the blond woman in the dream. What must have happened was that the hit man kidnapped Camilla, but then she escaped before he could kill her. In fact, this is what is being represented in Diane's dream of the accident and 'Rita's' escape - Diane's knowledge that Camilla somehow escaped the hit man's clutches. Above right: The blue-haired woman says, "Silencio" ('silence'), after Diane shoots herself at the end of the movie. This indicates that now that Diane's dead, she's no longer haunted by the 'voices' from her past, such as those of her abusive parents.

We see that the reality of the movie is that Diane Selwyn was a call-girl 'on the mend', trying to stop drinking but suffering severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. She saved up enough money from working (money which was later dreamed of as having come from a small inheritance from a relative), so that she could have her some-time friend, Camilla Rhodes, killed in order to get a role in a movie; but, the attempt failed. Another reason Diane wanted Camilla dead was because she believed that Camilla had, at various times, been condescending toward her, such as at the Mulholland Drive party. She also believed Camilla was taunting her, as evidenced by her flashbacks of Camilla and Adam kissing at the party and while on Adam's set.

Above left: Camilla and Adam kissing while on Adam's set. Above right: Diane got the idea for being 'Betty' in her dream-life, from having seen the waitress's name tag while conversing with the hit man at the diner.

When Betty sees a tag with the name 'Diane' on it (above left), in her dream of being at Winkie's with Rita, this is an indication that she (Diane) must have actually worked as a waitress or other food service worker at some point or another, such as at the Pink's hot dog eatery that the prostitute, hit man, and pimp were shown exiting (above right).

Some of the people Diane saw at the Mulholland Drive party, as well as what she believed she saw happen there, became the source for much of her later dream-life as Betty: Adam's mother (top left) became the landlady for Havenhurst; another woman she saw there became the Camilla Rhodes 'double' (top right - the blond woman); a man she saw in a cowboy hat (above left - indicated by the black arrow) became the mysterious Cowboy of the dream; another man (above right) became one of the Castigliane brothers (the man drinking espresso).

The pool-man who punched Adam came from Adam saying at the party (of his recent divorce), "I got the pool, and she got the pool-man." All the bad things that happen to Adam in the dream, such as his wife cheating on him, his picture getting shut down, the fact that people are looking for him, and his credit going bad, are Diane's dream-revenge for his not having given her the role she desired. Diane's 'idea' for her lesbian fantasies must have had its source in seeing the blond woman kiss Camilla, though in all likelihood it was just a peck on the cheek from a friend, not the 'romantic' kiss that Diane felt it to be.

Diane's dream of Adam's encounter with the Cowboy lets us know that her own subconscious is attempting to 'speak' directly to her in her dream; that's why the Cowboy speaks very frankly, and is so particular about getting Adam to listen - it's really an attempt by Diane's subconscious to get her own attention. Accordingly, when the Cowboy tells Adam that he will have done good if he sees the Cowboy one more time, but that he will have done badly if he sees him twice more, it's really Diane's subconscious saying this to herself. Later, it turns out that she 'sees' the Cowboy twice more in her dream: the first time is when the Cowboy knocks on her door and says it's time to wake up, and we see Diane's sleeping body in its normal physical state; the second time is immediately after this, when the Cowboy is shown standing in the bedroom doorway looking at Diane's partially decomposed body (the two scenes are separated by a fade-to-black).

Above left: Bob Brooker. Above right: Betty's audition for Brooker, during which she kisses a much older man.

The actual movie Diane hoped to appear in was in all likelihood not even a mainstream movie - she only dreamed that this was the case later. One of the main purposes of the scene with Betty's (Diane's) audition for Brooker is to convey to us the fact that Diane had, at some point early in her life, experienced sexual abuse from a friend of her father.

Diane's knowledge that the hit man (Joe) is a bungler is represented in her dream by his escapades in another man's office (killing three people, shooting the vacuum cleaner, etc.).

The hit man (Joe) has just shot the long-haired man (Ed).

The accident discussed by the hit man and the long-haired man (and first brought up by the latter) must represent some auto accident that he (Joe) and Diane both have knowledge of; but, it must not be one in which Camilla escapes from Joe. The reason for this is that Joe leaves the blue key for Diane (behind Winkie's, where she can pick it up), so he thinks he has her fooled into believing that Camilla has been killed, and therefore he wouldn't have told her about such an accident. Later in the movie than this dream (but earlier chronologically), Joe is shown with the black book at the Winkie's meeting with Diane. The reason he's already in possession of it at this meeting is because, as stated above, he and Diane had already discussed the possibility of doing a hit on Camilla prior to the meeting. Recall that the long-haired man referred to the black book as, "the history of the world in phone numbers." This implies that the book contained contact information for influential people in the movie business, and was thus to be used to help Diane get the movie role she was seeking.

Diane must have encountered someone while staying at the Sierra Bonita apartments, possibly a homeless man or woman, who sensed that something was wrong in her life, and this person became Louise Bonner in the dream, and was also part of the source for the person behind Winkie's. As discussed in part 7 of the analysis, Dan, the man in Winkie's who said he'd dreamed there was a person behind the restaurant, was in reality Diane's psychotherapist. It was actually Diane herself who had had dreams of the person behind the restaurant. The red-haired woman ('Aunt Ruth') is based on the girl Diane switched apartments with at Sierra Bonita (L.J. DeRosa).

Diane's whole dream-fantasy eventually 'collapses', as represented by the collapse of the singer in Club Silencio (above left screencap). In the end, after Diane has awoken and has an encounter with DeRosa, she is later shown staring at the blue key on the coffee table in her apartment (above right). It is at this point that the realization of all that she's done sets in, and she also realizes she's been a complete failure. The detectives who have been waiting outside her apartment complex come knocking on her door, and she then hallucinates, seeing the couple that raised her, and kills herself.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 7: 'Dan' is Diane's psychotherapist


Near the beginning of the movie in Winkie's, Dan (facing us) and Herb (sitting across from him) discuss Dan's dream about the person behind the restaurant. This scene actually depicts a dream of Diane, in which Dan represents Diane, and Herb, who is speaking to Dan in a condescending manner, is Dan's psychotherapist. In reality, however, Dan is Diane's psychotherapist. This dream represents the fulfillment of Diane's wish that her therapist, Dan, undergo the same condescension which she has been suffering under him.

At a much later point in the movie than the scene with Herb and Dan, but earlier chronologically, Diane is in the same Winkie's she dreamed about (above left), making an arrangement with a hit man to do away with Camilla. This scene depicts reality, not a dream. The blue key the hit man is holding, and which is later left for Diane, is a key to the back door of the blue van we saw earlier in the movie parked near Pink's (above right). The back of the van looks like it has been broken into, or hit in a accident, so the hit man doesn't need the blue key anymore, since the lock is broken. Thus, it's available for him to give to Diane.

While Diane is arranging things with the hit man, she happens to look over and see her psychotherapist standing at the register. The therapist, who just happens to be in Winkie's at the same time the hit's being arranged, overhears the conversation, and he realizes that his patient (or former patient), Diane, plans to have an actress killed. The therapist then notifies the police of the planned hit, and the police start looking for Diane. Note the chronology of events here: Diane saw the therapist in Winkie's, then later, she had the dream about him.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 6: David Lynch's second clue


As stated in part 2 of the analysis, the second of director David Lynch's ten clues to unlocking the movie is, notice appearances of the red lampshade. The red lampshade, which is located somewhere where Diane is staying or living, is shown twice in the movie.

Top left: Mr Roque initiates the call chain by telling the person on the other end of the phone, "The girl is still missing." Top right: A man in a sleazy-looking place gets Roque's message via another man, then he hangs up and calls another number. The manner in which he dials the number, i.e., just 2 or 3 digits are dialed, indicates that he's in the same building or complex as the person whom he's calling. Above left: The phone by the red lampshade rings. However, we don't know who is being called until later in the movie. Later in the movie: Above right: We hear the phone ringing, and see the red lampshade again; then, Diane answers the phone. What the audience is supposed to realize is that it's the man with the yellow phone who's calling Diane, to tell her to go to the audition for the movie Adam is staging. Earlier (chronologically), Camilla called Diane on this same phone, to tell her that a car was waiting to take her to 6980 Mulholland Drive, where a party was being held.

Urban areas where prostitutes walk the streets are known as red-light districts. Therefore, the red symbolism indicates that Diane is, or formerly was, a prostitute or call-girl.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 5: Rita's relationship to Diane (aka 'Betty')


Top left and right: At the beginning of the movie during the opening credits, the audience is shown the woman who later assumes the name 'Rita', travelling in a limousine on Mulholland Drive at night. Note the license plate number - '2GAT123' (you can click on the image to enlarge it). Above left: Near the end of the movie, Diane is being driven in a limousine on Mulholland Drive at night. Diane is headed to the party at Adam's house. The license plate number of this limousine is the same as that of the car that carried Rita. Above right: We're shown the 'Mulholland Drive' sign during both of the driving scenes depicted above. The point is that the trip we're shown first is a representation of the second one - in reality, only one car trip on Mulholland Drive takes place in the movie, that in which Diane is being driven. At some later point in time, Diane has a dream in which she re-experiences the trip as a different woman. (The scenes are presented to the audience in reverse temporal order.) Ultimately, what's being suggested is that Rita is, in addition to being a representation of Camilla, a representation of some part or aspect of Diane herself.

Recall that when Rita opens the blue box gathered at Club Silencio and then looks inside of it, she is 'sucked into' it, and then it falls onto the floor. We said part 4 that the box represents Diane's subconscious (i.e., her unconscious), and/or her past. Thus, this blue box scene is another indication that there's some relationship between Rita and Diane.

The blue box lies on the floor, after Rita seems to have disappeared inside of it.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 4: David Lynch's first clue (cont'd)


Recall that the first of David Lynch's ten clues to unlocking the meaning of the movie is: Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: At least two clues are revealed before the credits. We went over one of those clues in part 3, and here in part 4, we'll look at another one.

This screencap taken from the opening of the movie, shows Diane's (Betty's) idealized image of her upbringing. The older couple looks too old to be Diane's biological parents, so they must be her grandparents or other relatives who raised her. Diane dreams that, as Betty, she met the couple on a flight from Canada to L.A. - this suggests that the couple was in some sense 'unfamiliar' to her. Also note that she calls the older woman by her first name (Irene), another indication that these two are not Diane's true (i.e., biological) parents. The point is, Diane comes from a broken home, and here she's imagining the couple who raised her as being supportive of her.

Much later in the movie, the couple who raised Diane appears to emerge in miniature from the blue box, which here represents Diane's past and/or her subconscious. The couple has 'come back' to haunt Diane's thoughts.

At the end of Mulholland Drive, Diane hallucinates and thinks she sees the man and woman who raised her, standing right in from of her. The fact that they're now menacing her indicates that she's re-experiencing them as the abusive parents they were in reality.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 3: Lynch's first clue: the opening scene


Shortly before the opening credits for the movie, we're shown images of people doing a dance known as the jitterbug.

As listed in part 2 of this analysis, David Lynch's first of ten clues to unlocking the meaning of the movie is: Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: At least two clues are revealed before the credits. As noted in the caption to the screencap above, the opening images of the movie show several people jitterbugging. The jitterbug was an exuberant ballroom dance popular in the 1930s and ’40s, which originated in the United States and was spread internationally by the U.S. armed forces during World War II.[a] It is related to swing dancing. As described below, the fact that the dancers in the opening sequence are doing the jitterbug, is one of the two clues Lynch mentions

According to Tamara and Erin Stevens, the authors of the book Swing Dancing, "The origin of the word 'Jitterbug', used as a Swing dance term, may actually be impossible to trace. The old English etymology of 'jitter' comes from 'chitter', meaning a tremulous sound, or quaver, of the voice. 'Chyttering' referred to quivering, as in shaking or shivering in the cold (Hensleigh Wedgwood, 1878, 147). In American English, 'jitter' also refers to shaking and quivering, but it is often suggested that the word stems from a compound form of the two words: 'gin' and 'bitters', and that it refers to the condition of 'the whiskey jitters' - the tremors and twitching of an alcoholic's craving for alcohol...Bandleader Cab Calloway gives himself credit for coining the word, 'jitterbug', during the mid-1930's, before it was a Swing dance term...[His] 'Jitterbug' song of 1934 refers to a man who drinks heavily at night and wakes up with the jitters every morning. And while there's no mention of dancing in that song, Calloway's 1935 short film, Jitterbug Party, does create a sense of association between the word 'jitterbug', and social Swing dancing."[b]

Medically speaking, alcoholics who suffer from the 'jitters' are actually suffering from a condition called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens (Latin for "shaking frenzy", also referred to as The DTs, "the horrors," "jazz hands," "giving the invisible man a handshake", "spirit fingers" or "the shakes.") is an acute episode of delirium (see below) that is usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol, first described in 1813. Benzodiazepines are the treatment of choice for delirium tremens (DT).[c]

Delirium or acute confusional state is a common and severe neuropsychiatric syndrome with core features of acute onset and fluctuating course, attentional deficits and generalized severe disorganization of behavior. It typically involves other cognitive deficits, changes in arousal (hyperactive, hypoactive, or mixed), perceptual deficits, altered sleep-wake cycle, and psychotic features such as hallucinations and delusions.[d] Diane suffers from an altered sleep-wake cycle, and she also experiences hallucinations (e.g., she 'sees' the older couple in her apartment at the end of the movie).

Above left: Diane's altered sleep-wake cycle is bound up with her excessive caffeine intake. Above right: Diane is hallucinating when she sees the older couple - the man and woman who raised her - emerge in miniature from the blue box.

Rita (aka Camilla; wearing black dress and blond wig) tries to comfort Betty (aka Diane), who begins shaking while in Club Silencio. Diane is experiencing delirium tremens due to alcohol withdrawal.

Continuing with delirium tremens from above, the main symptoms of DT are confusion, diarrhea, insomnia, disorientation and agitation and other signs of severe autonomic instability. These symptoms may appear suddenly but can develop 2–3 days after cessation of drinking heavily with its highest peak/ intensity on the fourth or fifth day.[e] Also, these symptoms are typically worse at night. Recall that it's 2 o'clock in the morning when Rita and Betty awake, then go to Club Silencio, where Betty starts shaking uncontrollably (see screencap at above).

Other common symptoms include intense perceptual disturbance such as visions of insects, snakes, or rats. These may be hallucinations, or illusions related to the environment, e.g., patterns on the wallpaper or in the peripheral vision that the patient falsely perceives as resembling the morphology of an insect.[f] Lynch is depicting Diane as not having all of the symptoms of DT: We're not shown anything to do with insects. However, as mentioned above, Diane is being portrayed as seeing people who aren't there.

Delirium tremens usually includes extremely intense feelings of "impending doom." Severe anxiety and feelings of imminent death are symptomatic of DT.[g] Recall that Betty (aka Diane) effectively 'sees herself' dead at one point in the movie.

This dead body that Rita and Betty see, in apartment number 17 at Sierra Bonita, is ostensibly that of Diane.

Withdrawal from sedative-hypnotics other than alcohol, such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates, can also result in seizures, delirium tremens, and death if not properly managed. Withdrawal from other drugs which are not sedative-hypnotics such as caffeine, cocaine, etc. does not have major medical complications, and is not life-threatening. Withdrawal reactions as a result of physical dependence on alcohol is the most dangerous and can be fatal. It often creates a full blown effect which is physically evident through shivering, palpitations, sweating and in some cases, convulsions and death if not treated.

When caused by alcohol, DT occurs only in patients with a history of alcoholism. Occurrence of a similar syndrome due to benzodiazepines does not require as long a period of consistent intake of such drugs.[h]

Speaking generally, Diane suffers from alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

The actual scenario being depicted in the movie is one in which a young woman named Diane Selwyn has hopes of becoming a Hollywood actress, but these hopes are dashed when she doesn't get a movie role she had sought. Her illusory and dream-based experience of life as 'Betty' is, to a great extent, caused by the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Her symptoms include hallucinations, confusion, agitation, shaking, altered sleep-wake cycle, nausea (at the Mulholland Drive party), and sense of imminent death. Note that it's implicit here that Diane abruptly stopped using alcohol just a short time prior to the movie's beginning.

a. 'jitterbug'. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. URL =
b. Stevens, Tamara and Erin Stevens. Swing Dancing (The American Dance Floor). Greenwood, 2011. Google Books, p. 112. URL =
c. Wikipedia, 'Delirium tremens'. Web, n.d. URL =
d. Wikipedia, 'Delirium'. Web, n.d. URL =
e. Wikipedia, 'Delirium tremens'. Web, n.d. URL =
f. Ibid.
g. Ibid.
h. Ibid.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 2: David Lynch's ten clues


Lynch in 2007. [Image from the Wikipedia 'David Lynch' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

Contained within the original DVD release of Mulholland Drive is a card titled "David Lynch's 10 Clues to Unlocking This Thriller." The clues are:[a]
  1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: At least two clues are revealed before the credits.
  2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
  3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?
  4. An accident is a terrible event — notice the location of the accident.
  5. Who gives a key, and why?
  6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
  7. What is felt, realized, and gathered at the Club Silencio?
  8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
  9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkie's.
  10. Where is Aunt Ruth?

a. Wikipedia, 'Mulholland Drive (film)'. Web, n.d. URL =


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