Mulholland Drive: Common Theories

First off, let me say that virtually none of this was discovered on my own.  I greatly admire those of you who put in the time and the thought to figure it all out on your own, because as soon as I turned off the TV I went straight to the computer to research. 🙂

"Like so many others, I thought the movie Mulholland Drive was an
inspired work. The power of it does not just emanate from its eerie and
mysterious atmosphere, its taste for conspiracy and intrigue, and its
poignant love story which ends tragically in betrayal, murder and
suicide. The force of the movie comes across in the way most scenes are
able to communicate on many different levels at the same time. This, in
effect, challenges you to tease apart the significance of the multiple
layers if you are to really understand the message at the subtext of
the story. And just as the metaphorical structure at the subtext of the
story is difficult to grasp, the context of the story at the surface
level is also a complicated and puzzling challenge. As in other works
by Lynch, there are serious plot twists and shuffled timelines that
force the viewer to do some work to decide what the chronological
sequence of events in the story really was. But this movie doesn't stop
there. Even with a reasonable chronological story line, the logic of
the events is still very illusive. The true genius of Mulholland Drive
is in the way that it employs an intricate language of symbolism and
metaphor that would give even a complex novel a run for its money."

The most popular theory is this:

"Diane
Selwyn is a struggling actress in Hollywood. She moved to L.A. from
Deep River, Ontario after winning a Jitterbug competition that
inspired her to become an actress.

We
descend into the pillow at the start of the film from Diane Selwyn's
point-of-view. From now, until the moment we see her wake from the
bed, Diane is dreaming. She dreams that she is Betty, a fresh-faced
actress arriving in Hollywood. She dreams that Rita stumbles into
her apartment after an accident, having lost her memory. She dreams
that she wows the various assembled showbiz people at her
audition. The
dream climaxes with the haunting Club Silencio, the disappearance of
Betty, and the opening of the blue cube back at Havenhurst. 

A
knocking on the door awakes Diane from her bed, and she raises
herself from her slumber to answer the door. The scenes that follow
are intended to illustrate the breakdown of a relationship between
Diane and Camilla and subsequent mental collapse of Diane. Tricky
thing is that Lynch presents them to us in a non-linear style.

It's
up to you to decide the chronological order of these scenes (help here),
but the crux of this interpretation is that it is inferred that
Diane hires a hitman to kill Camilla. So from this point of view,
the flashbacks can be seen as Diane's attempt to justify the murder
in her mind, and the dream as an attempt to re-live and re-imagine
Diane's life since her arrival in L.A."

That said, here are some other common theories (out of 27 that exist!), divided up into a few different categories.

Dream/Reality

Camila is not dead.
Diane was sexually abused.
Diane didn't kill herself.
Diane was murdered.
Diane had an abortion.
Schizophrenia.
Drug trips.

All Dream

A dream within a dream.

All Real

The dream was a movie.

Metaphysical

Afterlife Theory
Mobius Strip
Parallel Universes
Deal with the Devil.

And that's just some of them.  Find more here.

And if you're really willing to put in the time, here's a very well written (and quite long) essay from Alan Shaw.

Stay tuned for a common explanation of Lynch's ten clues!

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