David Lynch plays tricks with time, memory and identity in the utterly mystifying yet completely bewitching Mulholland Dr. One of the few film-makers who can genuinely be classified as a Surrealist, Mulholland Dr. heady blend of atmospheric neo-noir, twisted Hollywood fable, mind melting strangeness and one of the most convincing dream narratives since a certain Alice fell down a rabbit hole defies categorization or rational comprehension, but therein lies its beauty.
After their initial intrepid investigations to discover the true identity of Rita (Laura Elena Harring), who is suffering from amnesia after a car crash, take on a darker turn with the discovery of a decomposing body in Diane Selwyn’s apartment, Betty (Naomi Watts), in an effort to calm Rita persuades her to put on a wig which turns her into Betty’s doppelganger. Shortly afterwards Betty will tell Rita to take off the wig when she comes to bed. Betty’s ego wishes to transform Rita into herself in the outside world but to remain other in the bedroom so that her desire is not sorely narcissistic, which would in the end be just a convoluted form of masturbation.
Towards the end of the film, in surely the most heart-rending scenes of attempted auto-eroticism in cinematic history (not that the competition is particularly stiff) Diane/Betty will, through her tears try to achieve a momentary forgetfulness of the self, but even this temporary release isn’t forthcoming. The dream of success and love had, as dreams have a habit of doing, turned into a nightmare which there is no escape from, waking or sleeping. Because the looking-glass of the unconscious always shows us who we really are, no doubt darkly, no matter how much we try to avoid looking into that particular mirror.