Mulholland Drive – Ending Explained & Film Analysis

Mulholland Drive – Movie Meaning Explained

David Lynch is not one of those directors who offer the viewer simple stories that even children can understand. The complexity of his cinematic language is almost legendary, as is the beauty of the visuals. A prime example of Lynch’s signature style is Mulholland Drive, which is as beautiful as it is mysterious. In principle, it can be viewed as an exciting surreal hallucination, but it is much more interesting to reveal all the mysteries hidden in the plot, using the famous Lynch clues .

Mulholland Drive - Movie Explanation

What is special about the director’s concept?

Before analyzing the film, it is necessary to recall an important feature of the artistic world of David Lynch, namely the concept of a double world. In the director’s films, the action almost always takes place in two worlds. One of them is invariably real, ordinary, understandable; but the second can be very different, from the dark underworld in “Blue Velvet” to another dimension of the Black Lodge in “Twin Peaks”. Reality alone is clearly not enough for Lynch. In Mulholland Drive, the second world is the world of dreams, perhaps partially lucid. Every episode of the film, from Rita’s trip in the limousine on the Mulholland Highway to her visit to the Silencio Club, takes place in a dream world.

Who has a dream and what does it mean?

Dayana, an unlucky actress and rejected lover, has a long, vivid and exciting dream. Her romance with Camilla Rhodes is over, her ex-girlfriend is going to marry director Adam Kesher. Dayana is not needed by anyone, she is seized with rage and despair. In real life, she becomes depressed and orders the murder of Camilla. Dayana’s frayed nerves cannot stand overstrain, and her psyche obligingly throws her a lifeline – a kind of sleep therapy.

Mulholland Drive - Movie Explanation

The dream world is the world that Dayana would like to live in. In it, she not only has a different name – Betty, but also a completely different, happy fate. Each episode of the dream is an attempt by Diana’s subconscious to “replay” events that took place in real life, including an affair with Camilla, who appears under the name of Rita.

What is the meaning of Rita and Betty’s relationship in a dream?

Betty and Rita’s relationship is the mirror image of Diana and Camilla’s true relationship. In reality, Camilla is a successful actress, and the loser Dayana depends on her. In a dream, the opposite is true – a strong, energetic, successful Betty helps Rita, who has lost her memory, who is helpless without her. In reality, Camilla rejected Dayana, in a dream she surrenders to her. Camilla’s dreamed double – Rita – is also in danger, but if in reality Dayana herself became the source of danger, then in a dream her double – Betty – wants to save her friend. From this we can conclude that Dayana not only continues to love Camille, but deep down she repents of her murder.

Rita and Betty's relationship at Mulholland Drive

What does the scene with a man dying of fear mean?

A man named Dan talks about his dream in the same cafe, in which, as it turns out later, Dayana “ordered” her mistress to the killer, and dies of horror when she sees something around the corner. Dan is a projection of Diana’s feelings, who turned her life into a nightmare and who will face death.

What’s going on with Adam Kesher?

Mulholland Drive - Movie Explanation

Director Adam Kesher, to whom Camilla is leaving, is Dayana’s main rival, and it is not surprising that in his sleep he gets it to the fullest. First, the mafia imposes on him an actress named Camilla Rhodes. She doesn’t look like the real Camilla, but it doesn’t matter: Diana’s subconscious is convinced that her former lover could only succeed in this way. He is later thrown out of the studio and out of his own house, and falls to the bottom. In a dream, the enemy is punished in full, while Diana / Betty wins the hearts of directors and producers with her unique acting talent. To highlight the fullness of the triumph, Dayana’s subconscious makes Kesher fall in love with Betty at first sight.

What is the meaning of Joe’s murders?

The role of this character in a dream and in reality is the same – it is a killer who must deal with Camilla / Rita. But if in reality Dayana hires him herself, then in a dream she has nothing to do with him. Diana is afraid of Jo, and the episode in which he kills three people reflects her repressed feelings.

What does the key mean?

The key itself is an extremely symbolic subject, and in this case it has at least two interpretations. The first comes from the generally accepted semantics of the symbol and allows us to consider this thing as a key between the worlds. The second is due to the plot: the key is a sign that Diana’s “order” is fulfilled and Camilla is dead. In this interpretation, the key is a symbol of death.

What does the key mean in Mulholland Drive

Whose corpse do Betty and Rita find?

The most common explanation is that Betty sees the corpse of Dayana, that is, herself, subconsciously anticipating the proximity of her own death. However, the corpse is not very similar to Dayana / Betty, which suggests that this is a symbolic image of death: perhaps the death of Camille, possibly both girls.

What does Club Silencio mean?

The club is a place between worlds, and everything that happens in it is just an illusion (this is clearly seen in the performance of Rebecca del Rio). At the same time, it is a metaphor that reflects the director’s thought about the illusory and unreliable nature of our being, which runs like a red thread through all his films. Betty is destined to realize that everything that happened to her was only a dream, a deception of the senses.

Mulholland Drive - Movie Explanation

What happens to Dayana after awakening?

A neighbor wakes Diana to collect her things. Dayana sees the key on the table – a symbol of Camilla’s death, then for a moment herself, and then, having brewed coffee, recollects. The viewer sees how the romance between the girls ended, hears Diana’s story about her life at Camilla’s party, and witnesses how Dayana ordered her ex-lover to the killer Joe. Remembering everything, Dayana says goodbye to life, unable to cope with the nightmare she has generated.
Dayana upon awakening, explained by Mulholland Dry

What do the last frames mean?

To understand the shots in which Dayana and Camilla – more precisely, their shadows – shine and smile against the backdrop of the Los Angeles lights, it is enough to recall the finale of the prequel to Twin Peaks – the movie Fire Follow Me, where we see the same smiling the shadow of Laura Palmer, whose soul received forgiveness and cleansing. In the same way, the souls of Dayana and Camilla, having got rid of earthly dirt and sins, before flying to other worlds, met and soared over the city. And then there was “Silencio”, that is, silence: the souls left the Earth, having gone into immortality, there is no longer Diana or Camilla.

What are the alternative interpretations of the film?

In addition to the above, there are at least two other interpretations of the plot. According to the first, the dream is not being dreamed by Dayana, but by Camilla, who is still alive. According to the second, there are no dreams at all, but there are two parallel realities in which very similar girls live. Lynch would not be a cult postmodern filmmaker if his work could be interpreted unambiguously.

The viewer is invited to find his own meaning and offer his own version of events, thus acting as a co-creator of the film. Just as everyone sees their dreams, it can be said that each viewer has their own “Mulholland Drive”. Or, as one Chinese poet wrote for many centuries: “Last night I dreamed that I was a butterfly, and now I do not know whether I am a person who dreamed that he is a butterfly, or whether I am a butterfly dreaming that she is a person.

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