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Mulholland Drive Explained – Deciphering the Puzzle

Mulholland Drive Explained

Mulholland Drive, released in 2001 is a cinematic enigma that entices the audiences till now. The film appears like stepping into the bizarre world of Hollywood where dreams are like magic and every street holds potential. 

However, the fairytale dream turns into a nightmare with some dark twists and turns. Mostly, this reality vs illusion is the point of understanding the entire movie plot. 

This movie by renowned director David Lynch gives you a rollercoaster ride throwing different plots of understanding reality vs dream. The way Lynch narrated the story, transcends the traditional boundaries of conventional storytelling. Before starting we can assure you, that this movie isn’t your typical or regular Hollywood film, it awaits with the riddle to be solved! So, let’s get into today’s topic – Mulholland Drive explained.

Casting of Mulholland Drive

Casting of Mulholland Drive

Here’s the brilliant casting of the film Mulholland Drive-

Character Actor/Actress
Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn Naomi Watts
Rita/Camilla Rhodes Laura Harring
Adam Kesher Justin Theroux
Coco Ann Miller
Wilkins Scott Coffey
Mr. Roque Michael J. Anderson
Luigi Castiglione Angelo Badalamenti

Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts)

Betty, the main character of the film, comes to Hollywood with her extreme optimism. Her coming to the spotlight plays a complex role in the narrative highlights in  Lynch’s world.

Rita/Camilla Rhodes (Laura Harring)

A quite mysterious character, Rita has amnesia. Her character adds layers of intriguing twists and her connection to Betty makes it more complex. 

Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux)

Adam is a film director whose life takes a turn when he gets connected with Betty and Rita’s story. 

Apart from these three major characters, there’s also- 

  • Coco (Ann Miller)
  • Wilkins (Scott Coffey)
  • Mr. Roque (Michael J. Anderson)
  • Luigi Castiglione (Angelo Badalamenti)

Short Summary of Mulholland Drive

Short Summary of Mulholland Drive

Diane Selwyn came to Hollywood with high hopes from her hometown. She won a dance competition back there and from her success there, she wanted to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. However, she was just a small fish in a big Hollywood pond. 

Then, there’s Camilla, who was in the same industry and she’s gotten ahead in life using her face and physical appearance.

Diane and Camilla met at the set of a movie where both of them auditioned for the lead role. Unfortunately, Camilla was chosen for the role. As a result, Diane gets jealous as well as she’s in love with Camilla and they’re in a sexual relationship. 

However, a love rival comes between them, Adam Kesher, a film director. They announce their marriage at a party and soon Diane snaps and hires a hitman to kill Camilla. The confirmation of killing was confirmed by a blue key which was a symbol of the hitman. 

Soon afterward, Diane fell into the pitfalls of guilt and fell into a dream-like state where she imagined her life story in a fantasy-like state. This unfolds the major plot of the film. In the dream, she takes an innocent and lovely character named “Betty” and Camilla is shown as “Rita” who is strikingly beautiful but amnesiac. 

When she wakes up from the state, depression and fear trigger her which leads to the tragic suicide of her at the end of the film. This film gives a message about the messed up influence and nepotism in the Hollywood industry giving young people false hope and later being thrown away. 

Mulholland Drive Explained – Dream Vs Reality

Let’s check out Mulholland Drive- dream Vs reality.

Real Diane Vs Dream Betty

Diane Selwyn, brilliantly played by Naomi Watts, is a struggling actress who came from her hometown dreaming of a successful and famous career in Hollywood. She was staying in a house which she got an inheritance from her actress aunt, Ruth. 

Later, Diane falls in one-sided love with Camilla Rhodes played by Laura Harring. Her love for Camilla turned out one-sided and out of jealousy of her unsuccessful career, Diane began to take drugs and hired a hitman to kill Camilla. 

Later out of guilt, she fell into a dream-like state where she imagined herself as Betty, a beautiful and energetic girl who came to Hollywood to pursue her dreams. 

Real Camilla Rhodes Vs Dream Rita

As mentioned before, Camilla used her striking beautiful face and her physical appearance to seduce the men and climb higher positions in industry. Both she and Diane auditioned for the leading role in a movie named “Sylvia North Story” directed by Bob Brooker. 

In the film, Camilla got the leading role as she slept with the right people to get the role. This role was the path that made Camilla the star in the limelight. Gradually, Diane falls in love with her, which Camilla only takes as fun as she is bisexual. 

At one dinner party Camilla invites Diane and there she and Adam declare their marriage. Diane was enraged with anger and hired a hitman to kill Camilla.

In Diane’s dream, we see Camilla asRita who had escaped from getting murdered and lost all her memories. She then stayed with “Betty” and there were many more symbolic hints in the movie which will be discussed later. 

Hiring the Hitman, Joe

In Winkie’s Diner, Diane calls the hitman and gives him hefty amounts of money to kill Camilla and shows him the picture of her. In “Betty’s’ ‘ dream we’ll see the Winkies Diner multiple times which shows the constant fear and guilt Diane has about what she had done there. Anyways, the hitman, Joe, explains that when the job is done, he’ll leave a Blue key to her place. 

Suicide of Diane Selwyn

After waking up from her fantasy and dream-like state, she began to hallucinate Camilla about what she had done. Also, she noticed a blue key kept by her side indicating Camilla had died. 

Then, her neighbor(lover) came to collect some of her stuff and on the way out, she said that two detectives were searching for Diane. Then, with the fear, guilt, and effects of the drugs, she got triggered and began to hallucinate the two old couples barging into the house and tormenting her. Later, she took out her gun from her bedside table and shot herself in the head. 

Mulholland Drive – Explanation of the Dreams

[Video Credit: @TomTheCritic]

As we can see, the film Mulholland Drive has taken a significant part of time in dreaming of Diane. There are many more symbolic facts we need to notice to have a proper understanding of the movie. Let’s talk details about the dreams- 



Betty’s Name From a waitress, Diane saw at Winkies Diner
Jitterbug Dance Represents Diane’s idealized success
Elderly Couple Ominous foreshadowing of Diane’s death
Mulholland Drive Shows Diane’s conflicted feelings about Camilla
Winkies Diner Represents Diane’s guilt
The Cowboy Warns Adam/Diane about the consequences of bad deeds
Hitman Scene Diane’s doubts about the hitman succeeding
Diane Selwyn Sees her death leaking into the dream
Silencio Scene Ends the fantasy dream crumbling

Diane Borrowing “Betty” Name

When Diane went to Winkies Diner to talk to the hitman, she saw a waitress named “Betty”. In her dream, she borrowed this name to imagine her innocent self. 

The Jitterbug Dance 

Back in her hometown, Diane won the Jitterbug Dance competition and came to Hollywood. In the dream of Diane, we see very flashy lights and people dancing energetically, and Diane smiling ear to ear hugging an elderly couple. As we see from Betty’s eyes, we can hear people screaming “Betty” and her dress is like winning in a beauty pageant, not the dancing costume. 

Who is the Elderly Couple? 

It may seem insignificant at first but these two had appeared just before Diane’s death. Those two were not close to Diane, whom she just met on the plane, and wished for good luck. Even though they appear in her dreams quite often giving quite creepy feelings. In addition, they were also seen just before Diane took her life. 

The Mulholland Drive Road 

Here, the beautiful woman sitting in Limo is taken away on the road of Mulholland Drive. This was the replica scene where Diane was taken to Camila’s dinner party. However, suddenly the car stopped and one guy aimed a gun at the woman to kill her but suddenly another car crashed into them and the woman escaped safely. This was a hint that, even in the dream Diane didn’t want Camilla to die. 

Losing her memory, the beautiful woman wanders on the road and sneaks into Aunt Ruth’s house. Please note, in the dream, Ruth is Betty’s actress aunt who went to Canada for shooting and in reality, Ruth died long ago leaving the inheritance of the house to Diane. 

In Winkies Diner Who Was the Man & the Hobo? 

When Diane paid the hitman to kill Camilla at Winkie’s Diner, she saw a man named Dan standing at the counter. She implicated him as her guilt and fear. On the other hand, the hobo is the notorious and ugliest side of Diane which she fears. In her dream, when the man sees the hobo, it scares him and causes him heart failure resulting in death. It was also an indication that her guilt and ugly side would result in her death. 

The Cowboy 

The Cowboy was quite a mysterious character. When Adam was told to meet him, he met the cowboy and agreed to pick Camilla Rhodes(In the dream Camilla was portrayed by another actress named Mellisa George. Diane saw her kissing Camilla at the party). With enormous pressure, Adam agrees to pick Camilla for the role even if he is drawn to Betty. 

However, the cowboy says to Adam,” Now, you will see me one more time if you do good. You will see me two more times if you do bad”. 

Diane saw him in dreams and reality, so it was a message for her. Diane saw him a total of 3 times, first at Camilla’s party, second in a dream with Adam, and third when he woke Diane up from her sleep by saying, ”Hey, pretty girl. Time to wake up!” Diane had done bad by trying to kill Camilla, so she saw him three times in total. 

The Chaotic Hitman Scene

As we can see, the hitman Joe is trying to steal a black book and kills three people in a messy and funny battle. The audience got good humor from this scene. However, this scene indicates that deep down Diane thinks what if the hitman misses Camilla, or what if he is a chaotic mess like the dream? However, unfortunately, in reality, Diane had successfully got Camilla killed. 

Diane Selwyn in Dream 

When Betty and Rita got out to eat at Winkies, they saw a waitress named “Diane” (Diane swapped her name with the waitress’s name she saw in real life). Seeing the name Diane, it seemed familiar to Rita and they began to search for Diane for any information about Rita. 

Then, they got the address of Diane and went to search her house. Her ex-roommate directs them to Diane’s house where Betty and Rita find the dead body of a woman. 

In reality, this was Daine, the real Daine. She had seen her death in her dream. In the dream scene, the woman was lying on a red bedsheet which was similar to Daine’s. She has the same dress as real Diane as well as the same posture of sleeping. 

The “Silencio” Scene

Seeing the dead body and fearing for her life, Rita began to cut her hair but Betty stopped her, giving her a blonde wig which made Rita look strangely similar to Betty. Later that night, they made love and Betty confessed her love to Rita, even in her dream Rita didn’t accept her. 

At night, Rita mumbled the name “Silencio” in her sleep. Later, they headed to a club with that name. A magician was performing and his theme was “Everything is an illusion”, Betty began to convulse and her imaginary world was crumbling. 

After that, a famous singer began to sing a tragic story of past love which brought tears to their eyes. Later, it was shown that she never sang, rather it was an illusion or dream. 

Then, Betty discovers a blue box with a blue key in her bag which is similar to the one Rita had in her bag back home. When Betty opened it, she was the one to disappear first from the imaginary world and later Rita also disappeared. The dream ends here. 

Later, we see Diane wake up and hallucinate reality with illusion. Getting triggered by all these, she committed suicide by shooting herself in the head. Lastly, we go back to the “Silencio” club where a blue-haired woman says, Silencio. Silence, the tale is now at an end”. 

So, that concludes our theory and storyline of the surreal film “Mulholland Drive”. 

Where to Watch?  

You can watch the film on any streaming platform like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu or other services. You can also find the film on any Blu-ray or DVD. 

Final Words

So, that’s all about the topic ‘Mulholland Drive Explained.’ In the end, we can say that this film is one of the masterpieces you can watch if you haven’t. It’ll take you on a different rollercoaster ride with emotions and for sure you’ll enjoy this masterpiece. David Lynch never spoon-feeds his audience, rather he throws different hints to the riddle of the haunting world of Diane Selwyn. Therefore, don’t forget to watch it at least once! Best of luck! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Now let’s learn about some common questions on Mulholland Drive Explained.

What is so special about Mulholland Drive?

The amazing plot of Mulholland Drive is the surreal storytelling and the ambiguity of the renowned director Lynchian. The film isn’t like your typical Hollywood film, you need to interpret each scene with symbols that make the cinematic experience thrilling! 

What is the significance of Silencio in Mulholland Drive?

The epic last scene of Mulholland Drive where the blue-haired lady said, “Silencio!”. It holds profound symbolic meaning in the movie. It’s the point that exposes the illusory nature of the movie that makes the audience confused about the dreams and real life of Diane Selwyn. 

What are the trigger warnings for Mulholland Drive?

The audience should be aware of the potential triggers throughout the film. The triggers include- Violence, dead body, sex, extreme nudity, strong language, drugs, smoking, and homosexual behavior that might be unsettling for many viewers.

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