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Reality In The Movie Mulholland Drive Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 941 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In order to write this paper, I have looked for several definitions of reality, and I rapidly got confused among all the meanings, the perceptions and the concepts around it. However, for the purpose of my analysis of David Lynch’s movie Mulholland Drive, I picked the following one:

The first part can be seen as a dream that has some ingredients of the typical Hollywood movie with suspense, drama and musicals: this dream is an attempt of the protagonist (Betty/Naomi Watts) to delete from her memory, or to delete from her reality, what happened to her in her “Real” Hollywood experience in order to become an actress (how Diane/Naomi Watts wishes her life could have been). The second part is dark, almost desperate, and can be seen as an expression of the sublime through which the spectator falls into the “Real” part of the movie. In this second chapter, Diane remembers all her failures through the character of her ex-lover (Camilla), falls into depression and paranoia that will lead her to commit suicide.

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Going back to Lacan, the first part of the movie refers to the “Imaginary” register and is characterized by a abundance of enigmatic events and mysterious signs (a man with a monstrous face behind Winkie’s restaurant, body of a dead woman lying on her bed, a small blue box, etc…) that are here to maintain a certain suspense in the story but they also show us abnormalities and deficiencies. These signs can be seen as sublime objects that underline the lack of “Real”. And when, at the end of the first part, Betty and Rita manage to open the mysterious blue box, the spectator thinks he is close to discover the truth about the whole story, but there is only there is emptiness. However, this emptiness is meaningful: it brings us to the “Real”, which breaks with the first part of the movie. Therefore, the second part of the movie starts and several things becomes clearer. The monster behind Winkie’s restaurant is a premonitory sign of Rita/Camilla murderer (command by Betty/Diane in the same restaurant), the dead body lying in the bed is the one of Diana after she committed suicide (when Betty saw the body in the first part in the apartment, it was an anticipation of her own death), etc…

An interesting scene that announces this rupture between the “Imaginary” and the “Real” in Mulholland Drive is the one that takes place in the cabaret “Silencio”: this scene announces the end of the first part and the imminent end of Betty’s dream in a very brutal way. The magician in the cabaret warns us that “everything is illusion” and the song interpretation (playback) by Rebekah del Rio comes like a reminder to reality. The song, “Llorando” treats about an unhappy love story (Diane and Camilla?). Before the end of the song, Rebekah del Rio falls and faints, that can be seen as the death of Camilla. Betty and Rita cry while listening to that song, like they knew that the dream was about to end. Rita cries like she sensed that she was about to be Camilla again, and go back to the kingdom of the dead where Diane sent her. Betty shakes and cries like she sensed she was about to be Diane again, a woman distorted by pain trying to forget she made kill the woman she loved, before committing suicide.

On the topic of the perception of reality, philosopher, John Searle asserted that:

… The thesis that there is a reality independent of our representations identifies not how things are in fact, but rather identifies a space of possibilities… External realism articulates a space of possibilities for a very large number of statements.

Into just such a space, a dual scenario film like Mulholland Drive can emerge. Both parts of Mulholland Drive make use of key aspects of fundamental ontology – people, places, events, and reinterprets their external reality through the lens of Diane’s subjective reality. While you’re watching Mulholland Drive, both of its parallel narratives seem equally plausible, but its only after stepping back from them at the completion of the film that you realise that they are in fact two subjective statements on external reality – paradoxically related, and indicative of the ability that we all have to place broad interpretations on real life events. Mulholland Drive effectively provides both a commentary on the nature of subjective reality as it’s depicted on film, and as we experience it in real life.

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Mulholland drive is also about interpretation of the Real. Nietzsche wrote that “there are no facts, only interpretations”. With a Hollywood background, Lynch first exposes us to the fake, the doubt, the part of belief and mirages and then awakes the conscience of his characters and his spectators. Nietzsche also thought that there was “no absolute distinction between dreaming and waking consciousness.” This is applied to Mulholland Drive on different levels. First, it forces the spectator to challenge himself intellectually and see the movie several times if he is willing to think about it and understands its mysteries. Second, that we can conceive most of the film as a dreamed interpretation of a reality that is only revealed the last half an hour. Third, the movie as a whole is an interpretation of the dream/reality and finally if we try to analyze, psychoanalytically, the dream itself not only as a reconstructed fantasy of the Real but also as the expression of an impulsive world.


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