Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Frequently Asked Questions
Suggested timeline of events:
1 - Diane on the set of Adam Kesher's film - While the movie timeline starts with Camilla/Rita's Mulholland Drive sequence, the actual reality timeline starts with Diane's visit to the movie set where Adam is directing a scene with Camilla, her girlfriend (even though it's seen as a flashback). Adam's very hands-on technique of showing Camilla's co-star how to properly perform a screen kiss leads Diane to suspect that the two are having an affair behind her back. Later, when Camilla visits Diane, Camilla tells Diane "we shouldn't do this anymore." Realizing her suspicions regarding Adam are likely true, she angrily throws Camilla out of her apartment.
2 - Diane at the dinner - The characters there will later be incorporated into the paranoid fantasy of her 'romanticized Hollywood' dream: The director talking about the pool man becomes the director in her dream, also with Diane's idea of the pool man. The fat man watching her as she drinks her coffee becomes the gangster who doesn't like his espresso. Coco, the director's mother, becomes her landlady. The cowboy-hat guy becomes the cowboy-hat Hollywood power figure. The girl who kisses Camilla becomes the "Camilla Rhodes" in the dream part. And of course, Camilla, her ex-lover, becomes the dependent, loving person Diane wants her to be: "Rita".
3 - Diane at Winkie's - After the humiliation at dinner, Diane decides to kill Camilla. At Winkie's, we meet the hitman she hires. He remains the hitman (and becomes a pimp) in her dream, although an amusingly incompetent one, possible because Diane fears he may not have been discreet in his actions, since she's been told that a pair of detectives have been asking after her. The scary man in the background of this scene becomes the man with scary dreams in the dream-Winkie's scene. Diane's fear (acknowledging the reality of the murder) is projected into her dream as the man's fear, the scary bum's face. We later see the connection, as it is this dream-bum who holds the box. The single stack of dirty money is dreamed as clean, neat multiple stacks. The plain blue key, that opens nothing but represents the murder, becomes futuristic looking, and now represents the 'key' to opening the repressed reality of the murder she is responsible for, hidden in the blue box. The waitress at the diner becomes "Diane." (She is often mistaken as the prostitute seen hanging out with the hitman later, although it is not the same actress in both scenes. They do have very similar hairstyles, however.) The waitress's real name, Betty, is the name Diane takes in her dream persona.
4 - Diane at home - The first scene of the movie (after the opening dance sequence) is filmed as Diane's head landing on a pillow, following the montage of the jitterbug contest she had won. We later learn that she already has the blue key, and knows the murder has taken place. At some point after that is the unseen moment when she begins her downward spiral into fantasy, falls asleep, and dreams.
5 - Diane's dream/fantasy - The first 4/5 of the movie- It begins with Camilla/Rita escaping the hit Diane had just, in reality, taken out on her. "From there, Diane, a product of Hollywood, imagines the story in cinematic fashion: She sees herself as the naive wannabe starlet Betty, who succeeds on sheer talent and solves whatever problems are thrown her way. She even gets the girl!...she reimagines her ruined career and failed relationship with the woman she loves." - Salon.com. Her fantasy also punishes the director for getting the girl in the real world; he loses control of the film he's directing, his wife cheats on him with the pool man, and they throw him out of his house.
6 - The box - In the "Silencio" club scene, because of all the "illusion" comments and depictions, such as the singer, Diane realizes she is dreaming and shakes uncontrollably. On the edge of reality/waking, the box appears in her dream, as her subconscious could no longer repress her memories of murdering her friend. The box is the symbol of Camilla's death and inside it Diane's guilt, which she kept locked up by her fears (the bum/monster). Once Rita/Camilla unlocks it, the dream-cowboy says, "It's time to wake up."
7 - Diane's awakening - As shown on her face when she wakes, Diane is forced to face the fact that it was all a dream, the sadness of her own life, and the guilt brought on by having her ex-girlfriend murdered. Diane's neighbor knocks on her door, which is what actually woke her up, to tell her there have been detectives looking for her, additional confirmation that there has been a murder. From Salon.com- "She starts reflecting on how she came to be in this position, from Camilla's coolness to her flirtations with Adam to the unforgivable humiliations at the party. Diane sees that she's been reduced to an object of pity and contempt by even someone like Coco." In her kitchen, Diane says excitedly, "You've come back", to "Camilla" before quickly realizing it was just another hallucination/fantasy. This is when Diane goes into a flashback of: 2 - Diane at dinner, 3 - Diane at Winkie's, leading into:
8 - Diane's breakdown - This hallucination starts with the bum dropping the open blue box (the murder realization), and then comes the crushing guilt. The escaping little old people (the ones who are possibly her parents or grandparents) remind her of how far she's come and how much she's changed and also how she couldn't possibly face those people again, knowing what she's done. (When we first meet Betty, she is saying good-bye to this old couple, on to a better, brighter future in Hollywood.) As her guilt and the reality of what she's done overwhelm her (and with the hallucinatory breakdown of the old couple attacking), she shoots herself in the mouth, and lies dead on the bed much like the dead Diane Selwyn did in Diane's dream sequence.
* Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: at least two clues are revealed before the credits. The red comforter and pillows, upon which Diane will later awake, and Betty/Diane's appearance with the elderly travelers seen later in the film, who may be her parents or grandparents.
* Notice appearances of the red lampshade. First time: Nobody answers the telephone next to it, but the final ring carries over into the next shot, where we are introduced to Betty for the first time. Second time: When Rita/Camilla calls Betty/Diane to tell her that the car is right outside to take her to Mulholland Dr.
* Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again? The film is entitled "The Sylvia North Story." We hear the name again at the dinner scene at Adam's house, when it is revealed that Diane auditioned for a part in the film, but lost it to Camilla.
* An accident is a terrible event... notice the location of the accident. Mulholland Drive is the location of Rita's accident in the dream sequence, whereas in real life the limo ride culminated in the dinner party where Camilla and Adam Kesher announced their engagement in front of Diane.
* Who gives a key, and why? The hit man gives it to Betty/Diane, to inform her that the job is done.
* Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup. The robe turns into a pair of cutoffs, the empty ashtray wasn't there before, and the coffee cup turns into a glass of iced tea (or a glass of scotch on the rocks), as Betty/Diane walks towards the couch with Rita/Camilla in it. This indicates that the scene has seamlessly segued into a flashback, as we see Diane give the same ashtray back to her neighbor just a few minutes earlier in the film.
* What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio? Sadness, that everything is an illusion, and that Betty/Diane has the blue box, and Rita/Camilla had the key to that box.
* Did talent alone help Camilla? No. It is strongly implied that she is sleeping with the director. In Diane's dream interpretation, a vast mob conspiracy is behind a girl named "Camilla Rhodes," while her own dream persona is the one who appears to have real talent. Diane feels the world is against her, and an unfair collusion behind the scenes kept her from the part in The Sylvia North Story (see clue #3.)
* Notice the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkies. The dream comes true, except it's day, not "half-night." The significance of the location is that in real life, the restaurant was where Diane arranged to have her lover killed. In her dream of the events, a monster lurks there, described as being "the one who's doing it." Subconsciously, she associates the location with something terrible. When the man in her dream comes face to face with the monster, which he believed to be a dream of his own, the realization that it is really there causes him to drop dead from shock, prefiguring Diane's own breakdown and suicide when she confronts her actions.
* Where is Aunt Ruth? She's working on a film in Canada in Diane's dream. In reality, she's dead. This is a reference to the old Hollywood joke that "actors never die, they just 'go and act in Canada'."
"Nowhere within Mulholland Drive does anyone directly state that Diane Selwyn is a call girl. Theres nothing outward about that accusation, and its likely that millions of viewers have watched the film without ever thinking along those lines. Yet Lynch peppered several things within the story that imply Dianes side-job from acting was that of a high-class prostitute..." Read more here.