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 =

Michael Mann analysis - part 10: Prisons create career criminals


From Thief: Shown at left is the diner conversation scene, during which Jessie asks Frank about the first time he went to prison. Frank's response: "I stole forty dollars. It started out with a two-year bit, paroled in six months...right away, I got into this problem with these two guys - they tried to turn me out. So I picked up nine more on a manslaughter beef, some other things. I was twenty when I went in, thirty-one when I come out..." Recall that Frank learned how to break into safes from Okla while he was in prison: "[Okla is] a master thief, a master, and a great man. He was like a father. He taught me everything I know about what I do."

From Public Enemies: John Dillinger in the process of robbing a bank. Michael Mann, from the audio commentary to the movie: "Dillinger, in a way, became the poster boy for the notion that criminals are made, not born...that criminality may have to do with personal characteristics, but also with circumstances, with environment, with things that happen to you in your life. In Dillinger's case, this is a young guy who's wild, who gets drunk, who holds up a grocery store and steals fifty dollars, and is sent to ten years in a state penitentiary. And...prison made him a criminal."


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 19: Jungian numbers and the quaternity


In Jung, a mandala is the "symbol of the center, the goal, or the [Self] as psychic totality; self-representation of a psychic process of centering; production of a new center of personality. This is symbolically represented by the circle, the square, or the quaternity, by symmetrical arrangements of the number four and its multiples."[a] A disturbed mandala is "Any form that deviates from the circle, square, or equal-armed cross, or whose basic number is not four or its multiples."[a] Top left: Adam's view while driving to his meeting with the Cowboy. Note that the lights from the street lamps each consist of (equal-armed) crosses (click image to enlarge). In accordance with the foregoing from Jung, each cross can be taken to be a type of mandala, indicating that the scene which is about to transpire (Adam's encounter with the Cowboy), has to do with attaining psycic totality (i.e., psychological wholeness).[b] Top right: A short while before Adam leaves for his meeting with the Cowboy, the hotel manager, Cookie, speaks briefly with him. There are three persons involved in the Cowboy scenario itself: Adam, Cynthia (above left - the woman who tells Adam. by phone, that he is supposed to meet with the Cowboy), and the Cowboy himself (above right, speaking with Adam). The grouping of three represents a disturbed mandala, indicating a problem in the dreamer's (Diane's) individuation process (i.e., a problem with her attempt to attain wholeness). If Cookie had actually been involved in the scenario (e.g., if he had known that Adam was going to meet with the Cowboy), there would have been four persons involved in the scenario, representing a full quaternity; thus, Cookie is the 'missing person' who is needed to form a grouping of four.

Later in the movie, we again see cross-shaped lights when Betty and Rita flag down a cab to take them to Club Silencio. This indicates that the club scenario itself has to do with attaining psychological wholeness.

The same man who played Cookie is now the emcee at Club Silencio (top left). The club scenario involves five significant persons: the emcee, Rita and Betty (top right), the magician (the man performing onstage - above left), and Rebekah Del Rio (the singer, above right). The emcee's sole job is to introduce Del Rio. By "significant" as used here, is meant that these are the only five persons who actually speak during the scenario: Betty and Rita (the scenario begins with Rita saying "silencio" in her sleep, while her and Betty are at home just prior to going to the club), and the other three persons just mentioned. (A blue-haired lady in the club, not pictured here, doesn't speak until the very end of the movie.) This grouping of five is similar to the grouping of three depicted earlier, in that it is 'off by one' from a proper quaternity. Thus, it too indicates a problem or abnormality with Diane's individuation process. Note that the man who played Cookie earlier is now the 'extra person' - the magician himself could just as well have introduced Del Rio.

a. Jung, C.G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé. Trans. Richard and Clara Winston. Vintage Books, 1989. Glossary, "Mandala". Google Books. URL =
b. "Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:...[T]he wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions."(--Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Google Books, p. 212, URL =

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 18: Diane's animus: Adam and the Cowboy


In Jungian psychology, the animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious masculine psychological qualities that a female possesses. It is an archetype of the collective unconscious and not an aggregate of father, brothers, uncles, or teachers, though these aspects of the personal unconscious can influence for good or ill the person. Jung postulated that women have a host of animus images.[a]

Adam and the Cowboy taken together, comprise a kind of 'split animus' within Diane. Adam is the more 'intellectual' of the pair of men, and the fact that he wears black clothing throughout the movie symbolizes that Diane's intellect, has been 'cross-contaminated' with contents from her psychological shadow. In Jungian psychology, the shadow is an unconscious complex defined as the repressed, suppressed or disowned qualities of the conscious self.[b] Recall that in Diane's dream, Adam beat up the Castigliane brothers' limousine with a golf club; this indicates that Diane's shadow consists, in part, of an instinct tending toward violence. One reason we don't see Diane herself actually commit any violence during the movie, is because she represses or suppresses this instinct.

The Cowboy represents the more conventionally masculine of the two images of Diane's animus, and he also represents that part of Diane's animus that serves as mediator between her unconscious and conscious mind, and that can act a a guide. When the Cowboy speaks to Adam in Diane's dream, he is, in reality, speaking to Diane while she's in her dreaming state, and he is attempting to get Diane's intellect to listen to her unconscious.

a. Wikipedia, 'Anima and animus'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Analytical psychology'. Web, n.d. URL =


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 17: The meaning of the color pink


Various shades of pink are used in the movie, to indicate Diane's various 'personas'. Top left: Betty, wearing a dark pinkish sweater, represents Diane's 'aspiring actress' persona. Top right: The sign for the Pink's eatery that the prostitute, hit man, and pimp are shown exiting, indicates the presence of Diane's call-girl persona. Above left: The waitress in Winkie's, who is wearing a very light pink shirt, represents Diane's 'ordinary-job-persona'; or, we could call it her 'call-girl-on-the-mend' persona. (Recall that we said earlier that Diane had worked at Winkie's at some point). Above right: Lorraine, with pink paint stains on her dress, represents Diane's 'revenge-persona' - that part of Diane that wanted to get revenge on Adam.

Above left: All three women in the first group auditioning for The Sylvia North Story , are each wearing at least one article of pink clothing. Above right: The second person to audition, the Camilla Rhodes 'double', is wearing pink clothing and has blond hair. Taken together with the women at left and with the pink symbolism as described above (i.e., each appearance of the color pink being one of Diane's personas), this represents Diane's dream-wish that she was effectively the only one auditioning for the role. However, as discussed earlier in the analysis, the fact that the blond woman is named Camilla Rhodes is the indication that the real Camilla did go on to audition for, and get, the role, after she escaped from the hit man whom Diane hired.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 16: Clue no. 6 (cont'd)


In this post we continue with Lynch's 6th clue to interpreting the movie: Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.

We went over the significance of the 'piano' ashtray in part 15 of the analysis. Shown in the above left screencap is a different ashtray, the one near Diane's phone. Earlier in the analysis, we discussed the fact that the cigarettes in this ashtray appear to be the same kind the hit man smokes. Their presence indicates that he and Diane had already discussed the hit to be done on Camilla prior to their meeting in Winkie's. It has also been discussed how the man with the yellow phone (the hairy-armed man, above right screencap) appeared to be calling the phone near the ashtray, from inside the same building as that in which this phone (the one near the ashtray) is located. What must be the case is that the phone and ashtray shown here are in a room in a 'sleazy' hotel or rooming house, out of which Diane plies her trade as a call-girl. Normally, when the hairy-armed man calls it is to let her know to meet with a given client who is requesting her services; but in this instance, he's calling to let her know to go to the audition Adam is staging. When Diane later dreams of Adam being in a sleazy hotel room, the room he's in is Diane's dream-representation of her own room as shown here. As mentioned earlier, Diane's dream of bad things happening to Adam is a form of dream-revenge for his not giving her the role she desired, and for what appears to Diane to be his romantic involvement with Camilla, which causes Diane to be jealous, since she's in love with Adam.

We went over the significance of Diane's pink and white robes in part 15. In the screencap at left, Rita is shown wearing a robe that is somewhat more 'regal'-looking than Betty's simple pink robe. The idea here is that the part of Diane that Betty represents (her persona), sees Rita as a 'movie queen' of sorts. Since this is what Diane herself desires to be, and since Rita represents Diane's subconscious (in addition to representing Camilla), the fact that Rita's wearing this robe here not only signifies Diane's desire to be a famous actress, but it also tells us something about the esteem in which Diane holds Camilla, insofar as status as an actress - she sees Camilla as being 'above' herself in this regard. In short, Diane sees Camilla as the actress she herself desires to be.

Above left: This man, a client of Diane (as a call girl), happens to see and recognize her at the Mulholland Drive party. This gives Diane a sickening feeling, especially since he's staring at her. Above right: Notice the foam floating on top of Diane's coffee.

Having seen the client at the party, along with the sickening feeling and the sight of the foam, combine in Diane's dream to yield the 'espresso man', Luigi Castigliane, who becomes nauseous and spits out his drink at the business meeting with Adam and the others.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 9: More on alchemy in 'Collateral'


In part 6 of the analysis we observed that the first stage of alchemy's Great Work, the nigredo ("the blackening"), is characterized by chaos. It is also associated with the encounter with one's psychological shadow, melancholia, and putrefaction and decomposition. The scenario in Mann's Collateral is that cab driver Max Durocher experiences four nigredos. The first occurs when hit man Vincent's first victim, Ramone Ayala, falls out of a window down several stories and lands, dead, on the top of Max's cab. This is a chaotic scene, and thus represents a nigredo. Max's second nigredo occurs while Vincent is performing his hit on Sylvester Clarke. While Vincent is in Clarke's condo, Max is sitting outside in his cab waiting, with his hands tied (by Vincent) to the steering wheel. When Max shouts for help, two young hoodlums respond, and one of them steals Vincent's briefcase from the back seat. When Vincent shows up, he shoots the two men dead. There is chaos during the entire sequence of events. Max suffers a panic attack after Vincent's third hit, jazz club owner Daniel Baker, is shot point blank in the head. This scene, too, is chaotic. Finally, there is complete chaos and pandemonium in the nightclub, Club Fever, before, during, and after the execution of gangster Peter Lim.

From Collateral - Max's four nigredos: Top left: Ramone Alaya falls onto the top of Max's taxi after being shot by Vincent. Top right: Max is harangued by some armed hoodlums, who end up being shot by Vincent. Above left: Vincent shoots jazz club owner Daniel Baker, immediately after which Max has a panic attack. Above right: Pandemonium in Club Fever.

Since Max defeats Vincent before Vincent can kill Annie Farrell, his intended fifth and final hit, there are four nigredos being depicted in the movie corresponding to Vincent's four hits.


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