Under the Silver Lake Ending Explained & Film Analysis

Are there secret messages, conspiracies really? According to the main character Sam, they still exist, and they will lead him to the solution of the disappearance of the girl Sarah, whom he met last night, by chance or not, who disappeared the very next morning.

I will say right away: Under Silver Lake is a very strange work and it will deceive you all the time. Either at first the tape pretends to be a detective with a search for secrets, then it instantly turns into a horror. But in the end, it’s hard to say what it was like at all. Everywhere there is all sorts of crap that you definitely won’t be able to figure out the first time.

The film gives so much information that during the viewing it may seem that the creators are a little too clever. We are shown a naked woman in an owl mask, but they do not really explain who she is and why she kills people. There is also no answer to what the mysterious figure that was chasing Sam on the way home was, and this is almost completely the case here. But most of all I have complaints about the finale, it turned out to be chaotic and somehow ordinary. After all that has happened, the viewer expects to see something so extraordinarily extraordinary that will be imprinted in his memory for a long time. Although the authors tried to bring everything to its logical conclusion, in the end they got a dissonance, because the denouement does not correspond in any way to what happened on the screen before.

But what definitely does not raise any questions is the acting of Andrew Garfield, who, in my opinion, was able to step back from the role of Spider-Man. He shoots in about one picture a year and produces truly unusual performances. Recall at least Desmond Doss in his performance in the military drama For reasons of conscience . In my opinion, it deserves a separate Oscar.

In the background, there are actors who take part mainly in independent copyright projects. Riley Keough, Riki Lindhome, Topher Grace – these names will not tell you much, and their characters do not appear in the frame all that often. For the small amount of time allotted to them, they do not have time to be remembered, after all, everything revolves around Sam and his paranoid desire to find answers to all his questions.

The film is replete with nudity and lewd moments. I would advise people under the age of 18 to refrain from viewing, but to be honest, who has ever stopped this. Also in the tape there are a huge number of references to pop culture and secret meanings, which only the most meticulous viewers can understand.

I am sincerely offended that Under Silver Lake passed by a large number of people. This is an original and original movie, which only at first glance seems to be complete nonsense. Behind all this absurdity lies a philosophical implication that the director was not afraid to convey to the ordinary viewer, albeit in such an extremely unusual form, and for this David Mitchell (The Myth of the American Party, It, 2014) should be thanked.

After watching I was very impressed. For a long time I have not watched anything like this with an absolutely stubborn, in a good way, plot that could only happen in the United States. Residents of the states have long waged a conspiracy war against their government in the hope of extorting secret information from them. Area 51 is a clear confirmation of this.

It’s up to you to watch this movie or not, but if you really want something unusual, then Under Silver Lake satisfies this request 100%. Just don’t try to think about the current events and history in general, otherwise you risk “breaking your brain” and being disappointed.

In my opinion, the film deliberately mocks the viewer, showing that sometimes there is no system in artistic images and details, there is no convenient key-answer, and the conclusions may turn out to be correct by chance.
The film is very postmodern, but it’s amazing how good it is. It’s a pity there are few movie essays on it, mostly some attempts at parsing and deconstruction, doomed to failure in advance.

The film is in the top 5 of my favorites, I’m waiting for something new from Mitchell. I didn’t do any parsing, but of course I guess that there is something to disassemble.

In fact, I can’t even say why I love the film, since childhood I have loved secrets, secret materials and the like. I like Lynch. I like this atmosphere (probably surreal), but alas, so far the level of my erudition does not even allow me to give any arguments why the film is good.
Yes, and it’s good that the movie is niche, it was rated as it should at film festivals, so there shouldn’t be any problems with further funding.

“Under Silver Lake” is a unique movie that goes beyond any estimates and judgments. It will not leave you indifferent: you will either love it or hate it with all your heart. And it is also a real headache for any studio and producer, so the appearance of such a film in the world can be called a real miracle, and all the circumstances are a mystery.

Riddles and ciphers.

“We crave secrets because there aren’t any left.”

If you try to answer the question of what Under the Silver Lake is, then the following definition comes to mind: this is a film about people who are passionate about the search for deep meanings, who laugh at the very idea of ​​such searches. It is difficult to describe in words how this film is overloaded with all sorts of references, riddles, ciphers and secrets – there are simply an unimaginable number of them. But something else is important – solving all these puzzles will not lead you anywhere. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much time and effort you put in, you can’t change the fact that Under the Silver Lake is all about mysteries for the sake of mysteries. And only the most attentive and erudite cinephiles, geeks and cipher lovers will be able to solve them.


“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Cipher example.

In the opening scene in the cafe (see gallery above), we see the inscription on the shop window: BEWARE THE DOG KILLER. The camera then pans into the room, and we have visitors in front of us, one of whom is wearing an animal t-shirt. If we take the first letter from the name of each animal and try to make a sentence out of them, we get the following: BWAR DOG KILR.

The most obvious and significant reference to other films appears first in David Robert Mitchell’s film, the reference to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The hero of “Rear Window” is captured by his apartment in New York because of a broken leg and, from idleness, watches his neighbors from the window through binoculars. So does Garfield’s character in Under the Silver Lake. This reference, as it were, hints to the viewer that he should carefully observe everything that happens next – literally through binoculars – and not miss the encrypted messages left by the authors of the picture.

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Alfred Hitchcock will remind himself more than once in Mitchell’s film. A Rear Window poster adorns the character Garfield’s bedroom, and a plaster cast of Rear Window star Grace Kelly’s face will be on display in Under Silver Lake’s comic book writer’s apartment. In addition to everything, Sam will be in the cemetery right in front of the grave of the famous director.

Sam’s bored appearance and the presence of the character of a half-naked hippie neighbor are also important references – to Robert Altman’s film noir detective The Long Goodbye. In it, the private detective Philip Marlowe was so inert that, on the contrary, he did not show any attention to the half-naked hippie outside his window. Also, the cat left the detective, and he himself was constantly pursued by dogs. If everything is clear with the theme of dogs in “Under Silver Lake” – it follows the viewer on the heels, then with cats, not everything is so obvious. The fact is that Garfield’s character is marked by a skunk, a twilight animal that is awake mainly at night and looks like a cat (keep the fact about twilight in mind – we will still need it). The smell of a skunk now emanating from Sam is a metaphor for the internal decay of the hero. And the situation when a homeless man finds him by this smell,

Looking at the number of all kinds of mysteries in “Under the Silver Lake”, the question arises, who invented all this, is it really the director himself? No, the famous cryptographer named Kevin Knight was involved in the creation of ciphers – it was he who deciphered the alphabet of the Zodiac killer maniac, which they could not decipher for almost 30 years. By the way, the Zodiac alphabet itself was used in one of the most complex and interesting puzzles in the film, which we will call “The Secret of the Three”.

The Secret of Three.

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

In Sam’s room during the broadcast of the news program in the running line we see the inscription: COPIALE GRAFFITI DISCOVERED IN DOWNTOWN LA – which translates as “Copiale graffiti discovered in downtown Los Angeles.” The Codex Copiale, aka Copiale cipher, is a German encrypted manuscript of the second half of the 18th century containing information about a secret Masonic-type society called Oculisten. The code with which the manuscript was encrypted turned out to be a substitution cipher. By the way, one of the scientists who deciphered the manuscript was Kevin Knight.

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Copiale cipher occurs in two scenes: on the street in the form of graffiti on the wall and in the toilet cubicle. When deciphering (the alphabet is given in the gallery) both inscriptions, we get the same two words: COFFEE MENU. This refers to the coffee shop menu from the beginning of the movie.

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

While Sam is staring at the blonde, we have the opportunity to pay attention to the cafe menu, at the very bottom of which a combination of dots and dashes is drawn in chalk:

−··− ·−−− ···− −−− / −−− ·−−− ·−· −·−− / −··− ··· ··· ·−−

This is Morse code, and the combination is explain as: XJVO OJRY XERSW. This is another cipher, the key to which is contained in one of the scenes in the house of the author of the comic book “Under the Silver Lake”.

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Decryption gives the following: WHAT THRE WORDS. Here we need another key, found on an advertising billboard with the inscription Now I see clearly, that E=EE (in the lower left corner of the billboard). We apply the key and get: WHAT THREE WORDS (What are three words).

what3words logo

A simple Google search brings us to what3words. They receive a service with a map, in which the Earth’s surface is divided into squares with a side of 3 meters. what3words encodes each square with three words (should I say three is the most common number in the movie?).

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Note that the three parallel lines symbol in the site’s logo is also featured in the film as one of the homeless codes. And he means the ominous “This is not a safe place” (“This is not a safe place”).

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

In Sarah’s room we see three dolls: Betty, Marilyn and Lauren. This is a reference to the movie “How to Marry a Millionaire” – Sarah watches it in the same scene. Under the names of the dolls there are inscriptions encrypted with the alphabet of the Zodiac, they are deciphered as follows: TOMBSTONE SHERIFF ENTRIES. If we enter these three words through a dot on what3words, we will get the coordinates of a place in the Sequoia National Park in California. Unfortunately, what this place hides in reality is not known for certain.

Mysterious place in Sequoia National Park in California

Who is Sam?

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Film director Mitchell said in an interview that he is fascinated by people who believe in conspiracy theories and strive to find the truth. And Sam became a collective image of all these people, as well as geeks and moviegoers. But at the same time, Mitchell regretfully concludes: pop culture is dead. Linked to this statement is a pivotal scene in the entire film, in which Sam meets the music producer who has written all the hit songs of the past decades. This vile old man will deprive the meaning of everything that brought joy and pleasure to the main character.

Who is killing dogs?

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

The identity of the killer of dogs, whose search announcements are hung and painted throughout the city, has not been revealed to us. But this is the same mystery from Mitchell for the viewer, like the rest. If you recall the fantastic noir detective “Dark City”, then it had a similar situation, only everyone was busy searching for the killer of prostitutes, who turned out to be the main character himself – or rather, his personality that was erased from memories as a result of alien experiments. Perhaps this is just a coincidence, but the rest of the facts directly hint that the dog killer is Garfield’s character.

There is a lot of malice in Sam, which fully shows itself in the scene of beating children. The accumulated negativity and resentment from breaking up with a girl, Sam, probably pours out on the dogs. In favor of this theory is the fact that most of the inscriptions with a call to find the killer of dogs, Garfield’s character meets in places related to his past relationships. We should also remember the fact that the skunks, whose smell haunts the hero and symbolizes his moral decay, are awake at night – like the dog killer.

Sam himself also had a dog, but he was allegedly robbed, and the dog was killed – most likely it was she who became the first victim of the future killer maniac. This circumstance allowed the hero to find an excuse in the eyes of others – due to the actions of the attacker, Garfield’s character does not have the money to pay either for the car he borrowed or for the apartment. But looking at a bored slacker like Sam, one comes to the not-so-unbelievable thought that he just squandered all his money. After all, Los Angeles is not a cheap city.

What is the meaning of the ending?

“Under Silver Lake” / A24

Actually, the answer to this question is given at the very beginning of this article, where it is said that solving all the puzzles of the film does not lead anywhere. There is simply no point in everything that happens in the film. And this is Hitchcock’s ideal MacGuffin, which Mitchell is a big fan of and references repeatedly in Under Silver Lake. We owe the word “MacGuffin” to the same Hitchcock, who described it like this: “this is an item that must be obtained, if you like – secret papers that spies are hunting for in the film.” But MacGuffin can be not only an object, but also a person (blonde for Garfield’s character) or an idea (clearing ciphers – for the viewer). And the great director believed that the best MacGuffin is the one that is not in the film at all, that is, pure convention, “a donut hole”.

Sam’s path, although it turned out to be full of all sorts of adventures, turned out to be essentially meaningless, which is why in the final scene Sam is so indifferent to what is happening that he has sex with an elderly hippie (a symbol of indifference) and watches with a smile as he is evicted from the apartment. All that remains for him is to look at his life from the outside with a fresh look, cleared of illusions, pain and endless searches, and just enjoy it.

If anyone is interested. Remember, when the main character goes to the composer’s house, a stave with notes is depicted on the fence. I played these notes on the piano, the music is very mysterious and unsettling, like the one that sounds in “film noir” before the murder. Maybe this is the beginning of some particular melody, but I don’t recognize it.

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  1. Lia

    Brilliant review, so much work. I watched Under the Silver Lake and have not been able to talk about it to anyone, thank you for your review. I found the movie to be so full of meaning and so personally unsettling. At the time and thinking back on it, if I had not known there was someone else who thought these thoughts I wouldn’t have wanted to see it again and would have tried to forget it – of which you cannot. As it is a psychologically unsettling film. Human connection, love, support like this is so necessary in this life. Lia xx