mercoledì 29 gennaio 2020

Ed's Corner: Beyond the image, journey through the hidden meaning of movies - Mulholland Drive

Oggi è mercoledì, il giorno di Edoardo e delle sue analisi di film troppo complicati per essere compresi dalla capra che sono. Oggi tocca a Mulholland Drive, un Lynch visto parecchi anni fa e mai più riguardato per ovvie ragioni. Dopo questo utile compendio a firma edoardiana potrei riprovare, magari passata la febbre da Oscar! ENJOY!

This is the second-last movie of the filmmaker David Lynch, a great success among critics and audience, also acclaimed from many parts as “the best film of the 21st century”.
Needless to say, it’s a fascinating movie, eligible to be one of the greatest masterpiece in the history of cinematography, but this doesn’t mean it’s a film for all the tastes, as it often happens with most of the Lynch’s works. The reason of that is always the same: it’s a deconstructed and hard to understand film, with hidden meanings and a deep symbolic value (as it was for Eraserhead, Lost Highway, and so on).
Regarding to the plot, I can just write a few lines about the story: here, in fact, the association and dissociation of images reaches an extreme level (even if the highest level is reached by INLAND EMPIRE). The explanation will follow.
Rita, a black-haired beautiful woman, is the only survivor of a car accident happened in Mulholland Drive, a famous street of Hollywood. She loses her memory after the accident and, completely confused, ends up inside an apartment where lives Betty, a young and talented actress from Canada.

To better understand the film is important to list the events in the order they really came: Diane Selwyn (grandly played by Naomi Watts) is a talented actress ignored by the film industry, who manages to get to Hollywood after winning a Jitterbug competition (the beginning scene with people dancing). Despite her skills, she can only get small gigs here and there, given by Camilla Rhodes (Laura Harring), that she met on a movie set and with whom she started a homosexual relationship. But what for Diane is a serious love story, for Camilla is just a little game, something she did to fight off boredom, and now she’s tired of it. After getting engaged with Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), the director of the movie both the women are working on at that moment, she decides to end this pseudo-relationship.
While Diane is furious about that decision, the other girl, on the contrary, seems to make fun of her, and that mockery reaches its top during a dinner at the director’s home, where the whole movie cast is attending. The house is located in Mulholland Drive, a famous street of Los Angeles.
All the mockery makes Diane feel sad and full of hate, to the point that she decides to have Camilla killed by a serial killer.
After the facts listed above, we have to go back to the short bit after the beginning scene (yet the one with the people dancing): the same night the serial killer gets hired, our actress goes back home (maybe drunk, but that’s not important) and falls asleep on the bed… here starts her dream.
It is now that Lynch shows all his genius, starting a pure association of images between both the characters and their names.
Inside her unconscious the name of Diane is Betty, a name seen on the badge of a waitress from the bar where she met the killer.
Mulholland Drive is the street where Camilla had an accident with the limousine, right where our actress had arrived when she was heading to the dinner at the director’s house, and because of that accident she lost her memory.
From the beginning we can see that she’s in danger: some men want to kill her (Italian-American men from the mafia), and here appears Diane’s will of making her ex lover suffering and the movie director that “took the woman away from her”, who is also a victim of the same men (leaded by a guy dressed like a cowboy), which force him to give the lead of his last movie to an actress of their choice. In addition to that, our actress punishes the movie director in other ways, like through the betrayal of his wife.

Inside the dream, Betty is a skilled and talented actress (as she is in reality by the way), recently arrived in Hollywood, who stays at the apartment of her aunt Ruth, that has left (there is where she finds Camilla injured and with a memory loss). In reality aunt Ruth is dead, and here appears our actress’s will too, her desire of not having lost a person she loved, that inside the dream has just left for a gig.
As said before, each character is designed by images association with the reality: the girl chosen as lead actress of the movie, the cowboy leading the mafia, the manager of the building where aunt Ruth’s apartment is (Coco, which in reality is Adam Kesher’s mother), the scared man in the bar, the waitress of the same bar, the clumsy killer (important detail this one, because maybe Diane repented of having hired him), Castigliani brothers, all people already seen in reality, some at the movie cast dinner, some other at the bar where she met the killer, some other simply neighbours.

An item with strong symbolic value is the blue key, the key of her new troubles. Yes, because in reality that’s the sign that the murder of her ex lover had happened, and she finds the key after she wakes up, on the table in the apartment. The blue box that it opens doesn’t contain anything in the “real world”, it’s just in the dream that this box has a symbolic value (it’s in Camilla’s purse): it contains the madness and desperation of our actress. If the box opens up, Camilla has been murdered.

The Club Silencio is another important element with a deep symbolic value: it represents the constant fear of death, the fear of being alone, the fear that after death there may not be anything at all (she already lost her aunt, and now she could lose Camilla too): there’s no band, but a music can be heard. But this music, maybe, it’s just an illusion.

Yet another important symbolic figure: the monster that hides behind the wall, the monster the man in the bar is terrified of, (one of the most powerful scenes in the history of cinematography): in reality that monster is just a poor dirty and hungry tramp who lives behind a wall close to the bar, where he finds the blue box inside a paper bag. Is Diane’s state of mind that makes him look like a monster inside the dream, he represents evil (“Nel giardino incantato lo costrinse a sognare, a ignorare che al mondo c’è il bene e c’è il male” - “In the enchanting garden he was forced to dream, to ignore in the world good and evil is”. Please forgive my off-topic here, but I couldn’t resist to quote the great Fabrizio De Andrè).

The culmination of the story arrives when Diane gets woken up by the neighbour that came to take some of her stuff back (they swapped their flats).
After have given her stuff back to her, Diane shuts the door and turn towards the table: the blue key is there, Camilla has been killed.
Now she’s desperate and cries, she thinks she can see her again, she can live their memories again (now we see the reality for what it really was), but it’s just an illusion, no one will ever take her back to life.
The pain drives her crazy and so we see the old couple that at the beginning of the film arrived to Hollywood (they represent her madness), coming out of the blue box the tramp got, going to her house and terrorize her.

They only exist inside her mind. So, to stop the pain forever, Diane shoots herself in the mouth (when in the dream Camilla and her go to find a certain Diane Selwyn, they see that she’s dead, putrefied in the bedroom: Diane Selwyn it’s just her real name, she sees her corpse as a premonition of what is going to happen).
Death, the end of all pain.

As you might have understood, I consider this film absolutely brilliant, a work surrounded by a sick atmosphere, sometimes deeply dark, sometimes funny, where each single actor plays his best part, and the evocative power of the images talks for itself: it’s a dreamlike world where the cinematography technique is just sublime. But be aware, I don’t consider this the very best film of the 21th century.
Among all the Lynch’s films, in my opinion this is the one that most approaches the real nature of the dream, because of it deconstruction, image association, evocative power, onirism, and a very few examples in the history of cinematography that can compete with that. Offhand, one particular film director comes to mind, Richard Linklater, with his immortal masterpiece: Waking Life.

But ladies and gentlemen the time to talk about Waking Life hasn’t come yet.


Special thanks to Alessandro Cardena and Glenda Fontana for the translation.

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