Mulholland Drive Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The Upside Down World of Mulholland Drive (2001): What Really Happened in Lynch’s Film. The Meaning Of The Film Mulholland Drive, Deciphering & Explaining The Plot, Psychological Analysis, Tips For The Viewer

Country: France, USA

Genre: detective, drama, thriller

Year of production: 2001

Director: David Lynch

Cast: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller, Mark Pelegrinno

“Mulholland Drive” (Mulholland Dr.) from director David Lynch resembles a surreal delirium that originated in an inflamed brain. Unrelated events flash on the screen, which, however, are connected in a storyline. It is not surprising that after the premiere of the film in 2001, along with DVD copies, there was a manual where the director revealed the meaning of the film “Mulholland Drive”.

The clue and meaning of “Mulholland Drive” is that the plot of the film is an illusion that takes place in the dream of the main character. She experienced severe mental trauma and a painful break in relations with her girlfriend-lover. And reality comes at the end, when the director reveals the backstory.

The beauty of Lynch’s work lies in the fact that despite all the phantasmagoria of what is happening, the ending is fully revealed. The main thing is to choose the right key. Considering that we don’t have a manual now, let’s arrange a small psychological analysis of the picture.

What is the movie about

Let’s start the review with a brief description of the plot. A dark-haired girl is driving down Mulholland Drive, escorted by two men. Suddenly, the car stops and the driver points a gun at the girl. The murder is prevented by another car crashing into the car. The stranger survives and leaves the suburban highway towards the city, clutching a handbag in her hands. Here she stumbles upon a house whose owner is leaving somewhere. The girl climbs inside and is clearly going to sit here for a while.

Mulholland Drive

Two friends are sitting in the Winkys cafe, and one tells the other about the terrible dreams that are associated with this place. The guys go outside and see a scary man behind the restaurant who scares one of them to death.

Two guys are laughing at a funny joke in the office. Then one of them takes out a gun and kills his interlocutor in order to take possession of a black notebook. Along the way, the killer kills two more random people, shoots at a vacuum cleaner, which provokes a circuit in the alarm system and retreats under the howl of a siren.

Young Betty arrives to conquer Hollywood at the invitation of her aunt, who has gone to film in Canada. She must settle in her apartment and here she discovers a black-haired stranger. The girl introduces herself as Rita, taking a name from a random poster. She tells Betty about the car accident and says she doesn’t remember her own name. The young actress decides to help her new friend and offers to look for answers in her purse. Inside, the girls discover bundles of dollars and a blue triangular key. They decide to deal with the situation.

Agree that there are more questions than answers. The director offers the viewer a famously whipped psychological cocktail, which is unlikely to be sorted out the first time. Therefore, we will make a brief analysis of the plot, and give an explanation for each of the actions that seem to be unrelated. The highlight is that the hidden meaning of the film is fully revealed and, having Easter eggs in your hands, you can get incredible pleasure from watching the film again.

Plot transcript

Explanation of the film is provided by David Lynch himself. He recommends paying attention to details and claims that at least two clues appear on screen before the credits. Here we see an incendiary Jitterbug dance performed by smiling couples and a red pillow. What’s the point of this? Read on for a detailed analysis of the psychological thriller Mulholland Drive.

What is the movie about

The director’s idea is that the plot that flashes on the screen immediately after the credits is an illusion that occurs in the dream of the heroine. She went through a painful breakup with her lover friend. The pillow is a reference to the dream, a hint for the viewer.

In general, events unfold in an upside down world. The main character’s name is Diana Salvin. She wins a dance competition, receives a small inheritance from her deceased aunt, and sets off to conquer Hollywood. Here she gets to the casting for director Bob Brooker, who is going to shoot the film “The Story of Sylvia North”. And he meets another contender for the main role – Camilla Rhodes.

Diana SalvinFrame from the film. The main character is Diana Salvin.

The director approves Camille for the role, finding Diana not talented and artistic enough. However, Camilla does not abandon her freshly baked girlfriend, pulling her along, helping to get roles in films in which she herself is filming. Friendship between the girls develops into love, but soon Camilla offers to break this connection.

The fact is that at the time of the events of the film, Diane and Camille are filming with director Adam Kesher, and the latter begins to have an affair with the guy. It is difficult for Diana to survive this breakup, but soon she receives an invitation to a party from her friend. A car pulls up behind her, taking the girl along Mulholland Drive. The car stops in the middle of the track, and Camille meets Diana, promising her a surprise. Here, the girl is most likely counting on a resumption of relations, but once in Adam’s house, she finds out that Camille and Kesher are going to get married. This becomes the last straw. Diana hires a hitman.

She gives the hired killer a photo of Camille from one of the castings, and says the phrase: “This is that girl.” The killer takes the money and shows the customer the blue key, saying that when the job is done, she will find this key where he says.

Melissa GeorgeFrame from the film. Melissa George as Camille.

Dream and reality

Everything that happens in the film is a dream. Reality comes only at the end, when the director fully reveals the backstory. All the characters that flash on the screen are people that Diana met. At the same time, she projects onto her dream images the pain and fear that she had to endure in reality. As a result, her imagination creates an illusory world where events are turned upside down, turning into a spectacular psychological thriller.

Here the heroine becomes the antipode of the loser who was abandoned by her mistress. In a dream, she can become successful, as she dreamed, having flown to Los Angeles. However, her personal demons penetrate even here, reminding of the crime she committed.

Rita and Betty

Everything is simple here. Rita is Camilla Rhodes, but the heroine’s imagination again distorts her image. In life, Camille has achieved success. She became a sought-after actress, marries a famous director. Therefore, in Diana’s dream, Camilla transforms into Rita – a girl with a lot of problems, who has lost her memory and is completely dependent on her. At the same time, even in this nightmare, Diana cares about her former passion, which indicates that the feelings on her part were really sincere.

Betty is Diana herself. She saw this name on the waitress’s badge when she ordered the murder of her friend. In a dream, she becomes who she dreamed of being. She flies to Los Angeles, under the patronage of her aunt, goes to the casting, which passes with brilliance to the enthusiastic exclamations of the director and casting director. Note that the person she went to see is Bob Brooker. He is pleased with the new actress, but Betty Diana is taken away by a woman who says that this director was released 20 years ago, and she will now take her to the real master of big cinema.

Thus, Diana’s dream takes revenge on the director who did not give her the lead role. Perhaps if Brooker had chosen her right away, this story would have had a very different ending.

Laura HarringFrame from the film. Laura Harring as Rita.


This is a strange fellow who sits in a cafe and tells a friend about bad dreams. In his interpretation, the friend is standing at the counter, although everyone is sitting, and is afraid. Dan also feels a strong fear, the cause of which lies in the scary man behind the restaurant. A friend goes to pay, and a picture appears on the screen, as in Dan’s dreams. Friends go behind the restaurant, and really see a creepy person peeking around the corner.

Perhaps, in the concept of the director, Dan is the embodiment of the fear of Diana herself. Having got rid of Dan, she destroys her own fears, discarding all doubts and hesitations. However, the inspired image is also real – she caught a glimpse of this guy in a cafe when she talked with the killer. Perhaps it was at that moment that the girl experienced fear and uncertainty about exactly how she was doing.

Patrick FischlerFrame from the film. Patrick Fischler as Dan.

Mister Rock

Most likely, this image in Diana’s dream personifies the entire film business as a whole. Mr. Rock appears in a wheelchair, with clearly visible defects in appearance. At the same time, he does not lead in any way, but simply observes the actions of his subordinates, fencing himself off from everyone with a glass partition. This is the ugly world of show business, where everything is decided by money and connections.

Michael J. AndersonFrame from the film. Michael J. Anderson and the role of Mr. Rock.


This is the very real director Adam Kesher, who actually broke Diana’s life by having an affair with Camilla.

In a dream, his own life collapses. He loses money, filming is suspended, but everything can be returned if he approves “that girl” for the role. It should be noted here that it is to him that Betty is taken after a successful casting with a failed director. Here, she and Kesher exchange long and promising looks, which clearly points to a possible romance.

However, Betty runs away, saying that she promised to help her friend. Probably, this is what Diane would have done in real life, without exchanging true love for a career. By the way, the film that Kesher is making is called The Story of Sylvia North. It was with the casting for the main role in this picture that the relationship between Camilla and Diana began.

Adam KesherFrame from the film. Justin Theroux as Adam Kesher.


This is a killer, both in a dream and in reality. In the world of dreams, he is looking for Rita, commissioned by influential people. In reality, he kills Camille on Diana’s orders. Here, both worlds are intertwined in the girl’s imagination, with the only difference being that in a dream, Joe does not find his victim.

killer joe and the blue keyFrame from the film. Killer Joe.

blue key

This is a kind of symbol of death. In reality, this is a sign from the killer that the job is done, in a dream it is the key to a strange blue cube, which stores emptiness and darkness. In both cases, the key fulfills its function: after its appearance, the love story ends forever, and one of the girls disappears.

Whose body do the girls find

Considering that the corpse lies in Diana’s room, it is logical to assume that it is herself. The girl subconsciously understands that after the death of Camilla she will not be either. She is ready for death and cannot come to terms with the pain of loss. Therefore, a dream can be called prophetic. But at the same time, the body on the bed does not look like her, so it is possible that, according to the meaning of the film, this is a faceless victim, symbolizing both heroines.

Silencio Club

A kind of purgatory where a dream begins to become a reality. Here the words are repeatedly repeated that all this is an illusion, nothing of this actually exists. Betty begins to shake from what she sees – it is Diana’s brain that understands that the illusory world is collapsing, and her dreams are shattered into pieces. There will be nothing more. Here she finds a blue box with emptiness – a kind of Pandora’s box.

The meaning of the ending

The meaning of the film can be explained as follows: each person has his own Mulholland Drive. Diana wanted to conquer Hollywood, but faced a harsh reality. She lost everything, even a loved one, because Camilla traded her for fame. A dream is an unfulfilled dream, where everything happens in a completely different way. In reality, Diana orders the murder of her ex-girlfriend and commits suicide herself. Her illusion is over and there is silence.

Diana's dream in a thrillerFrame from the film. Diana and Rita

Alternative versions

There are other explanations for the ending. Firstly, there is an opinion that Lynch did not know exactly how to end this story, so the film simply does not have a logical ending. This is a looped psychological thriller where everything rolls in a circle of life.

Secondly, Camille-Rita could be one of the incarnations of Diana on the screen. It is possible that she is just an unsuccessful actress who has gone crazy and all events take place in her inflamed brain, where dream and reality are mixed up: castings, directors, mafia.

Thirdly, the dream could belong to Camilla, who learned that her former lover had shot herself in the head with a revolver. And the rest is just dreams associated with her profession.

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