Customer Review

85 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams and Hollywood, 23 Dec 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Mulholland Drive [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Diane, an unsuccessful actress, has a sexual relationship with Camille, a rising star. But Camille tires of the affair, trying to call it off and getting engaged to Adam, a director. Diane, in a jealous rage, engages the services of a hitman, telling him to kill Camille. He says that she will know the deed has been done when a blue key appears in her apartment. Having hired the man, Diane repents and has a dream*. When the blue key turns up, she is tormented by hallucinatory guilt and kills herself.
* The dream.
The dream occupies the first three-quarters of the film. It is Diane's wish-fulfilment fantasy, embodying the following desires:
1. The failure of the hitman to kill Camille.
2. The continuation of her sexual relationship with Camille.
3. Her own success as an actress.
4. Revenge on Adam, for having stolen Camille from her.
In the dream Diane sheds her identity and becomes Betty, fresh-faced, naïve, happy, and - crucially - a very talented actress, whose ability is acknowledged by everyone she meets. She only fails to get the starring part in Adam's film because the mafia have coerced him into giving the part to Camille. When Diane and Adam first clap eyes on each other it is obvious that he is thinking, "This is the girl." So Camille's success is not the result of any talent she may have. Moreover, Camille herself becomes transformed in Diane's dream into a nobody, an amnesiac who needs her help.
The developing relationship between the two women in this part of the film is classic, unimaginative wish-fulfilment stuff: two people thrown together by circumstances share a bed for the sake of practicality and end up as lovers.
In fact, the whole of the dream sequence reveals the paucity of Diane's imagination. So immersed is she in the unreality of Hollywood, her dream resembles a vacuous film, in which the characters speak as if reciting rehearsed lines. Diane herself, as Betty, is an unconvincing character, cartoonish and false. The audition scene is ludicrously cosy and mannered, and ironically the only hint of an emotional reality beneath the surface comes when Diane (playing Betty) performs her audition piece. Similarly, towards the end of the dream sequence, it is in the theatre, during a mimed performance, that genuine feeling is manifest, in the form of the swooning singer and the reactions of Diane and Camille in the audience.
The blue key turns up in the dream, no longer as a mundane object but as something strange, fantastic. The box perhaps represents the consequences of the action symbolised by the key. Thus, at the end of the dream sequence, Diane's fantasy gives way to the ineluctable reality of what she has done. The box opens and Camille (as "Rita") is destroyed, sucked into the void. There is also some silly Freudian symbolism in all this box-and-key imagery.
Why does the dream come first in the film, when chronologically it occurs between the hiring of the hitman and the accomplishment of the deed? Because one of the purposes of the film is the deconstruction of the discourse of Hollywood. The dream represents this discourse (based on sentimentality and unreality) and what follows in the film is its refutation and subversion.
Naturally, there are complications. If Diane as Betty seems unreal in the first half of the film (the dream), Camille is equally glacial and one-dimensional in the second half ("reality"), pouting and manipulating like an empty femme fatale. But maybe this is what her success in Hollywood has done to her; perhaps the price of celebrity is unreality.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Mar 2010 14:41:10 GMT
Dean, London says:
A great review, which captures the essence of this complex, mysterious, beautiful film.

Posted on 9 Mar 2011 12:30:36 GMT
I saw this film last night - as a freebie from The Observer - and couldn't understand the meaning of it so I read these reviews hoping some light would be shed - and this reviewer's assumption that the first two thirds of the film are a dream - seems to fit. I can't think how it could otherwise be explained, so THANKS.
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