This piece subscribes to the theory that the two stories in Mulholland Drive are parallel universes. Not that I personally believe in that theory. I just found the dream theory too hard to write about.
I will refer to the characters in Universe A, the first part of the film, with an (A) at the end of their name. I will refer to the characters in Universe B, the second part of the film, with a (B) at the end of their name.
Adam-(B) is in love with Camilla Rhodes-(B), who is the love interest of Diane Selwyn-(B), who in Universe A is Betty-(A), who falls in love with Rita-(A), who in Universe B is Camilla Rhodes-(B), who is the love interest of Adam-(B).
Mulholland Drive is a circle with detours. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on Mulholland Drive. For example:
Betty-(A) = Diane-(B)
Betty-(B) = Diane the Waitress-(A)
Diane the Waitress-(A) = Betty the Waitress-(B)
Betty the Waitress-(B) serves coffee to Diane-(B)
Diane the Waitress-(A) serves coffee to Betty-(A)
The fabric of space/time has broken in Mulholland Drive. Two universes have been torn and sown together haphazardly to form a mangled circle.
We go in circles in our lives. Unless we move forward, we meet the same kind of people and enter the same scenarios. This leads to the same kind of dreams, fantasies and delusions. Diane-(B) believes that she can’t move forward without Camilla-(B) in her life. Has this emotional distress caused the temporal disruption? Or are we always feeding off of delusion, it feeding off of us?
Mulholland Drive is about the tragedy of romantic love. Diane doesn’t subscribe to the philosophy, “If you love them, leave them.” She wants Camilla in a box where only she has the key. Love is anything but freedom.
When we love someone we’re tied to them, a balloon string tied to a child’s finger. A child that can let go at any whim. Is the lover the child or the balloon?
And does Betty-(A) really need to help Rita-(A) find her identity? With no idea who she is, Rita-(B) is virtually untouched by the world like a puppy. Betty-(A) can mold her into anything she wants her to be. Like an abuser, she keeps her close…in a box.
Analyzing Mulholland Drive is like trying to shoot a moving target from a mile away. A soon as you think you have it boxed in, the film presents a hole in your logic. You find yourself going in circles until it spits you out at the beginning of the circle, which has no beginning. Instead, we search for a box and a key that will help us bypass the mystery and give us the answers. But all we find is beautiful production design, excellent cinematic craftsmanship and the feeling that we’ve learned something about life. And that’s all we can ask for.