The Skeptic and the Surrealist

by hughestim665

“What a waste of two and half hours.”

“Are you kidding?  It was incredible.”

“Bull.  Pretentious, art-house crap.  None of it made any sense.  Pretty hot, though.”

“It was not pretentious.  Art-house maybe, but not pretentious.  God forbid you should have to use your frontal lobe to figure out a plot.”

“This is just like you— defending your hipster, too cool for everyone else directors and artists.  You probably don’t even know what the hell happened, but you’ll defend the guy to your death because he’s ‘indie’ and ‘subversive.’  You people are so elitist even though you claim to hate elitism.  Hypocrites.”

“You people?  What does that mean?”

“All you hipsters.  I’ve seen Eraserhead.  That was way worse than this but no, everyone thinks it’s amazing and groundbreaking.  Like I said, art-house crap.”

“OK, so what’s your definition of a good movie?  How should stories be told?”

“Gimme a nice, tight ninety minutes any day of the week.  Linear.  Straight lines.  Something that actually makes sense.  Keep the plot simple but compelling.”

“OK, sure, this definitely was not ninety minutes, and it certainly wasn’t told in a linear way.  But it made sense.”

“Bull.  Shit.  Did we just watch the same movie?  Let me see you ticket, does it say ‘Mulholland Dr.’ on it?”

“‘Hey, pretty girl.  Time to wake up.’”

“OK, real cute.  Fine, hot shot.  Let’s hear it.  Enlighten me, my ears are at attention.”

“Right, so, the movie begins, not the story mind you, the movie, it begins with the car crash.  Fade in on a woman escaping being shot in the head by way of a lucky accident.  She hits her head and now has amnesia, right?  So she wanders down into L.A. and goes to the only street she can remember, Franklin Ave. where she wanders over to an apartment that looks familiar.  Luckily, the resident is vacating it at the moment and our little amnesiac finds unexpected sanctuary.”

“So we did see the same movie.”

“In walks, Betty, the virgin to Hollywood.  The innocent girl from Ontario who is in for one mother of a culture shock as she plunges headlong into a broken reality.  She’s naive as hell, to the point of frustration really, and quickly befriends this amnesiac, this stranger, this nobody.  So, together, they turn her into somebody, Rita.  Rita’s got a purse full of cash and this weird blue key.  Now we’ve got Betty and Rita, right?  Pay attention, names are important.”

“Rita and Betty.  A brunette and a blonde.”

“Mmhm.  Meanwhile, while all of that’s going on, the flick is being spliced with scenes about this director guy, Adam, and the movie he’s trying to make being influenced by the mob.  Let that be the extent to which we talk about Adam for now.  We’ll table him for later.”

“Back burner.”

“Right.  Also, we’ve got this weird scene with two dudes at Winkies who talk about dreams then get freaked out by a homeless guy out back.”

“Homeless monster.  He was a monster.”

“Right.  Let’s put that on the back burner, too.”

“Fine, so who’s on the front burner.”

“Let’s just keep following Betty and Rita for a while, see what they’re up to.  At this point they’re getting into their investigation as to who Rita is.  Betty’s curiosity is insatiable.  They stop by the Winkie’s and are served by a waitress, Diane.  Remember what I said about names?”

“Right, Diane is the waitress.”

“So, seeing this waitresses name, Rita remembers a name of her own, ‘Diane Selwyn.’  That’s the only purpose of the waitress, that’s it.  Put her on the furthest back burner before you have the chance to read too far into her.”

“Done.”

“So they find this Diane Selwyn and break into her house.”

“Wait, wait, wait.  This is after Betty auditions and gets that part right, after she visits the director, Adam’s, set?”

“Right, but that doesn’t matter.  Who cares.  Don’t worry about Adam for now, remember he’s on the back burner.  So they go to Diane’s place and break in, what do they see?  What do they smell?”

“A dead body.”

“A decaying dead body.  Betty is slightly taken aback but Rita’s got the howling fantods.  She’s having a grade-A nervous breakdown, on the edge of losing it completely.  They beat it and go home, have some sex and wake up in the middle of the night and head to a weird night club, Silencio.

“No ay banda!”

“Damn right.  There, they both break.  They’re having their own little collective breakdown, or crying session, or realization, whatever you want to call it.  They’re moved is all.  And in Betty’s purse, what do they find?  A pretty blue box.  Blue box, blue key.”

“One plus one equals…”

“They go home, and open the blue box.”

“Betty’s gone and then Rita’s gone.  What the hell happened?  This is where I call B.S. on Lynch.  It was all looking good until that damn blue box.”

“Right-e-o.  So where are we going?  Note the word I used there, ‘we,’ just remember that.  Now we’re back in Diane Selwyn’s apartment, right?  Where she died.  And who’s there?”

“A roughed up Betty.”

“Nope.  That’s Diane.  For now, pretend Lynch ran out of money, and he had to use Naomi Watts for two roles.  Let’s just pretend that for now, for simplicity.  So now we’re in a timeline where we’re following the ridiculously depressed Diane, someone who lives in the grayest, drabbest, darkest existence you can imagine.  This is the beginning of her arc in our eyes.  I’m going to describe her arc in a linear way, but remember, the movie doesn’t tell it that way.  Start with Diane being cast in the same movie as Camilla.  Here, they’re involved in a relationship they–”

“Wait a second.  Camilla.  That’s Rita.”

“Let’s pretend for a second that Lynch ran out of money again.  Pretend Camilla is just another actress in L.A.  She’s a new character to us.”

“Right but in the scenes with Adam and the mob before–”

“Back burner, remember?  Back burner.  Camilla is a new character for now.  So Diane and Camilla are in the same movie and they’re in love or close to it.  In walks Adam who steals Camilla away from Diane and Camilla and Adam fall in love leaving Diane depressed and alone.  Then Adam and Camilla throw some sort of dinner party where they subject Diane to witnessing them loving each other totally crippling her psychologically.  Camilla visits Diane at her place and tries to explain, but Diane is super pissed and tells her to fuck off, basically, right?”

“And then that scene where she’s naked on the couch.”

“Right, ultimately irrelevant because it’s just Diane’s fantasy in her head to masturbate to.  That’s it.  The way it’s edited makes it appear as if it’s more but it’s not.  It could have actually happened but it doesn’t matter.  So but then now Diane can’t take it anymore.  She slings herself into a wild depression and seeks out a hit-man to kill Camilla.  They go meet at Winkies, of course, and they hammer out the details.  The hit is on.  The hit-man tells Diane that she’ll find a blue key when it’s done.  OK, great.  Soon enough, Diane finds that blue key on her coffee table and she totally breaks.  She can’t stand that she hired someone to kill Camilla, the woman she loved.  It tears at her heart and soul and eventually she goes into this hallucinating psychosis where she sees tiny old people chasing her and other insane things.”

“The old people Betty met on the plane.”

“Right.  Remember that, but put it on the back burner.”

“It’s getting awfully crowded back there.”

“So Diane curls up on her bed and puts a gun in her mouth and pulls the trigger.  No more Diane.”

“Diane is dead.”

“Diane is dead.  Absolutely.  Silencio.”

“And that’s how the movie ends.”

“Right.”

“So what about all these people on the back burner.”

“Let’s take a look at them.  First we’ve got Adam, the director.  Where does he play into this whole equation?  First let’s figure out where he belongs on the timeline.  The way the story is told is that his scenes are spliced in with Rita and Betty’s which give the appearance that his timeline is happening at the same time as theirs.  This isn’t even remotely close to being true.  Remember how his wife cheated on him?  In terms of chronological order of all the events in the whole movie, we can place that happening as either the first or the second thing that happens.  The other option would be the hit-man stealing that black book and killing those three people.  Those two things happen way, way, way before anything with Camilla, Diane, Rita or Betty.  So now Adam is up shits creek with the mob and is newly single.  What does he do?  He gives in to the mob and casts who they want in his movie:  Camilla.”

“But it’s not the same Camilla.  It’s a different actress.”

“Right.  Two different movies, two different Camillas.  Proof?  They kiss at the dinner party.  Same name, different people.”

“Ugh.  Fine.”

“So he casts Camilla, our Camilla, formerly known as Rita.”

“You said Lynch ran out of money.”

“But now I want you to think of Camilla as the same person as Rita.  Two different identities, same person.  Camilla is pre-car crash brunette.  Rita is post-car crash brunette.  Rita is Camilla with amnesia.  Plain and simple.  With me?”

“Barely.”

“Perfect.  And he also happens to cast Diane as well, just in a supporting role.  At this point it’s safe to say the two ladies are hooking up like crazy when Adam seduces Camilla and steals her away from Diane.  This is when Diane goes into her depression and whatnot.  We see Adam’s storyline spliced into Betty and Rita’s as well as into Diane’s.  It’s a mess.  The point being that Adam stole Camilla away from Diane which slung Diane into depression.  That was his role.”

“OK, so what about the homeless monster?  And what about the guys at Winkies?”

“Easy.  The monster represents the beginning of one person and the end of another.  We first saw him at Winkies, right?  What was the next scene?  Rita sleeping after the car crash and Betty arriving in L.A.  The next time we see him is in Diane’s hallucinations and suicide.  Beginning and end, my friend.”

“So now you’re going to tell me that Diane and Betty are actually the same person and Lynch didn’t run out of money.”

“Bingo.”

“…”

“OK, here’s where it gets weird.”

This is where it gets weird?”

“At first blush, the main character of the movie would appear to be Betty, right?”

“You mean Diane.”

“Let’s just say Naomi Watts.”

“Fine.”

“I submit to you that Laura Herring is actually the main actress in this movie.  Her character, Camilla, is actually the main character in the whole movie.  Not Naomi Watts’s Betty/Diane.  And not Rita.  But Camilla.”

“Big whoop.”

“So let’s follow Camilla’s storyline in terms of chronological events in the story, not in terms of when they’re told in the movie.  To start, Camilla falls in love with Adam.  They have the dinner party.  Diane puts a hit out on Camilla.  Camilla is in a car crash and loses her memory.  She is now an amnesiac and wakes up in a strange apartment that she doesn’t know how she got to.  And in walks Betty.  Who is this Betty person?  Why does she seem so cliche and naive?  Simple, because she’s a figment of Camilla’s imagination created out of distress from not knowing who she is anymore.  It was a psychological release by her subconscious.  Betty was created by Camilla’s subconscious using details of Diane’s arrival in L.A. that Diane told Camilla when they were in relations.  This is all surfacing through Camilla’s subconscious.  Betty is Diane’s origins story just with a different name.  She’s Camilla’s safety net.  Her security blanket.  Her comfort food.  Whatever.  So now, with the help of her imaginary friend Betty, amnesiac Camilla gives herself the name of Rita after Rita Hayworth.  This is why Rita freaks out at the sight of Diane’s dead body, she knew Diane when she, Rita, was Camilla.  Now we’re going through the whole story of Rita/Betty and end up at Silencio after they have sex.  That must have been a pretty groovy hook-up since Betty is just Rita’s imagination.  When they go to the night club, Rita and Betty are struck with some realization, could have been the singer collapsing or her lyrics or the whole No ay banda! thing.  Whatever it was, it woke up Rita to the point that she new she had to open the blue box.  Now the blue box is barely relevant in the story of the characters but in our eyes, it’s key.  Once Rita decides to open the blue box, Betty vanishes.  That’s symbolic of Rita’s subconscious subsiding to the fact that she’s remembering who she was.  Then Rita opens the box and now Rita is gone.  Figuratively, not literally.  The person Rita isn’t gone, just the identity.  The person now becomes Camilla having remembered who she is, and she now goes about her life, whatever that is.  We don’t know and shouldn’t care.  The identity of Rita is sucked into the blue box and is never seen again.”

“And then we get sucked into it.”

“Exactly!  The blue box takes us back in the story’s chronological timeline, it transports us all the way back to when Diane was alive and depressed and helplessly in love with Camilla.  The character Camilla continues on her timeline but we, the audience, get taken back in time.  We’re a character in the story just as much as anyone else.”

“OK, so let me get this straight.  Diane kills herself.  Amnesiac Camilla resurrects her as Betty, who is made up of details of Diane first arriving in L.A.,  and Rita is actually just Camilla under a different name.”

“Right-e-o.”

“And you’re saying that when the movie ends is different from when the story ends?”

“Depends on whose story you’re talking about.  If you’re talking about Camilla’s, then yes.  If you’re talking about Diane’s then no.”

“I’m still not buying it.”

“What’s not to buy?”

“What was with Silencio?  What about the guys at the diner?  And the Cowboy?”

Silencio was just a way to wake up Rita.  It was just a catalyst to her remembering she’s actually Camilla.  The guys at the diner are there for thematic interpretations.  They actually hint at another way to view the whole movie which may be more plausible but also easier.  Their scene occurs exactly after Diane and the hit-man meet at Winkies.  The Cowboy is just a guy that works for the mob.  He threatened Adam, and then he made his presence known to Diane who was messing around with Camilla pre-car crash.  Or maybe he was in on the hit, doesn’t really matter.”

“Wait a second.  There’s an easier way to interpret this mess?”

“Sure.  The Betty/Rita story is just a dream of Diane’s who is looking to escape the harsh realities that she’ll never be with Camilla.  The last third of the movie where Naomi Watts is Diane is the real world, everything else is in her head.  But that’s a tough sell if you ask me.”

“So then Diane is the main character in that sense.”

“Right, Diane or Betty, doesn’t matter.  The weird part about this interpretation is that if we’re witnessing Diane’s dream, we’re also witnessing Adam’s reality spliced into that dream.  What’s the point of doing that from a storytelling point of view?  The only thing that accomplishes is that it makes the telling of Adam’s arc non-linear, but that non-linearness has no effect on the two arcs that actually matter, Diane’s and Camilla’s.  It’s just a way to confuse the audience which would be a pretty dick move by Lynch if you ask me.  Also, that would mean in Diane’s dream Betty and Rita discover Diane’s suicide.  She would have dreamt her own suicide.”

“So I kind of get it now.”

“Pretty cool, right?”

“I just don’t see the point.”

“Well, I think it’s just a way to show that time is more of a concept than a concrete fact.  It’s a way to tell the viewer that you can fracture reality anyway you want, and that the way Lynch fractures reality is close to bats.”

“What a self-indulgent piece of crap.”

“The movie or Lynch?”

“Both.  Subjecting us to this.  Whatever happened to not punishing your audience?”

“Yeah, thinking is a real downer.  It’s better when it’s spoon fed to you.”

“Screw you, man.  Whatever.  You’re going to stick by this?  This genius shtick?”

“Genius?  Maybe.  I’ll tell you this though, he’s a damn good illusionist.”

“Huh?”

No ay banda!

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