Cours d'Annie Bourgois

Mulholland Drive

Bibliothèque Angellier



The tears

A short commentary on the sequence of the show at the Silencio.

-List the occurrences of the club and of the word ‘silencio’.

In the scene staging the magician and the singer, the former very explicitly, forcefully hammers in the illusory nature of the show which is not a live one but has been pre recorded. To illustrate this point, he takes the exemple of the music which is quite apt to convince the spectators who are, in fact, sitting in an auditorium, listening to a film and its soundtrack which both are registered. In this sense, both Rita/Gilda and Betty/Diane are our alter ego, being at that stage, like us, spectators of a show.
A singer enters the stage and starts singing a lament Llorando per my amor luego…te quiero’ (Crying for my remote lover…I love you.) Her face is thickly made up and a tear has been painted on her cheek. Meanwhile, in the theatre, the two women are crying, and we see ‘real tears sliding down their faces. The question which rises at that point is: are their tears more real than the painted ones of the singer’s cheek.
We might be tempted to answer positively. The song prompts an emotion through the well known mechanism of identification and empathy. Hence the fake tears of the singer provokes the real tears pf the spectators. But, the two women are but actresses, playing a part, therefore their own tears are false too, feinted, unreal. This issue echoes the advice that was given to Betty during her rehearsal: ‘Don’t play it for real, until it becomes real.’ Conclusively the tears of the actresses may seem real but are just as unreal as the singer’s.
Let us now withdraw once more and move back one step further from the film. Now, we may consider the eventual tears which this scene may have provoked among the spectators. Are these tears more real? Does the spectator belong to a reality which would grant the real status of any of his manifestation. Now, let us remember the very last words of the film ‘Silencio’. These are the words uttered by the director to announce that the camera is shooting. ‘silence’ is followed by ‘action’. It is quite legitimate to suggest that, since we are the addressees of these words precisely as we are about to leave the auditorium and return to the ‘real world’, they actually signify that the world towards which we are moving is but another stage. The end of the film of Lynch would then echo Shakespeare’s well-known metaphor ( the world is a stage, life is a play and men are but actors)
It is this ever receding elusiveness of reality which is one of the theme of this film fostered by the intuition that fiction also inhabits and shapes reality.
We might at this point jump back into the scene. from which we stand twice remove now. The singer, overwhelmed by the power of her song, faints and collapses. It seems that, contrary to the tears, she experiences a real emotional shock, undergoes a real crisis, is overpowered by a surge, a turmoil of real feelings which she cannot control nor bear. Would that suggest that however false, fictitious the feelings, once acted and performed, they act upon us and touch us. In other words that our life is a fiction and that there is little difference between actors and men.
The film would therefore invite us to meditate on the notion of reality, or at least to question the validity of this notion, to question the safe dichotomy which we have planted between fiction and reality.
Let us once more reconsider this scene: a scene during which dream switches to fantasy just before the irruption of the Real. Dreams tend to protect the dreamer from an unbearable Real by weaving an idealizing veil which conceals this reality: here the Real of the murder and of the decaying body of Rita-Camilla, the collapse of Diane’s hope of becoming a star and the harsh nightmarish nature of Hollywood. However, the Real keeps intruding in the dream, tearing the veil and showing through: hence the two women discover a corpse in the villa. To repress this intrusive Real, the dream makes another forceful attempt at veiling reality and Diane-Betty glides into the dream of a marvellous love scene with Rita. This love scene represents the acme of her dreaming activity by staging a perfect sexual relationship between the heroine and her ideal Ego, the hollywoodian star Rita-Gilda. In the next scene, at the silencio Club, we might expect the return of the Real. And when Rita starts remembering Spanish, it does testify the thrust of the Real striving to pass through the veil of the protecting dream. Actually, had she completely recovered the memory of this language she would know that she is already dead: then the Real would impose its irrepressible nature. But, the dreamer makes another desperate attempt at checking the surge of the Real and the word uttered in her dream ‘Silencio’ is the expression of this imposed repression while it signifies also the silence of the dead. Meanwhile, on the stage, the singer sings a sad love song ‘Llorando’ and dies, this sequence of Diane’s dream is of course a soft metaphor of the murder of her lover and we may, again argue that the repressed: death, has returned. However, it is acted and suggested, not actually shown, as if to suggest that death cannot be represented. In the same scene when the voice, split from the body, continues to be heard we get an uncanny sensation and the feeling that indeed, the registered song may go on playing beyond the death of the body, which is an apt metaphor of the survival of the spectral memory of the dead Rita-Camilla. At this point, the dreamer begins to sob, overwhelmed by the very despair she will feel when, awake, she will see the ghost of Camilla, the hallucination of a silent Camilla who is staring at her. Guilt, despair, woe, the ghost will not leave her until she falls dead. Hence, in the Club, we may argue that we have witnessed the emergence of the Real fighting to steal through the mesh of the dream. Besides, the voice emancipated from the body may be interpreted as the metaphor of Diane’s drive, a pure fantasy, the primal object of her desire.

Another critical thread (implicit in what we have just said) to find our way in this maze is of course provided by the comparison between this film, that is its narrative structure, and the dream work. The spectator, through the subjective camera dropping into the red pillow, is Diane, falls asleep like her and shares her dreams, nightmares, her memories. Some parts of the dream fulfil her frustrated desires, others negate, deny the murder of her lover she has ordered to a hitman. The very few flashes of her ‘real past life’ are essentially filtered through her memories. We might suggest that the murder has already taken place from the onset of the film, she falls asleep, dreams, has nightmares, tries in her dream to deny reality and foreclose guilt, hence reverting her role and imagining another story altogether, the repressed keeps returning, she tries to wake up from the nightmarish dreams, fails, and ultimately is awakened to face the horror of her act, remembers her past love affair, Rita/Gilda/Camilla’s treason and commits suicide. For the analysis of this interpretation read my essay.

My points are:
1 The film is a satire of Hollywood, the star system, the corruption of producers, their connections with the Mafia.
2. The film is about film making and cinema: (with references to other films, among others: Gilda by Vidor, 46, Sunset Bd by Wilder, 50, Persona by Bergman, Céline et Julie vont en bateau by Rivette.
3. The film is about the unreality of reality, the fictitious nature of our lives.
4. The film is about the nightmarish nature of the Real (the scary bum is the metaphor of this real, the leftover of all discourses, what cannot be taken in charge by language and remains; death being the other unrepresentable). Lynch once said that he had the conviction that below the surface of the world there were other worlds, horrible and terrifying. The zoom into the grass and the discovery of the insects may symbolize these worlds in Blue Velvet.
5. The film is about Feminity. What is a woman, who and where is the woman? (‘this is the girl!’ proving quite ironical, since, as Lacan, once said: ‘il n’existe pas Lafemme.’) Woman does not exist, that is, whatever has been said or believed about women is ideologically moulded, fantasmatically wrought, historically dated, hence is not true, not real.
6. The film dramatizes also the relationship between men and women. These relationships are systematically theatrical, staged (see Adam and Camilla in the studio, or Diane and the actor). It may signify that these relationships are highly coded and acted, performed, played rather than ‘lived’. There is no intimacy, nor any authenticity, both men and women play their roles according to the rules of gender classification and regulation. There exists no such a symbolical coding for the love between women and in the love affair between Diane and Camilla, Diane represents the split ego driven by its desire, while Camilla stands for the ideal object of desire well symbolized by the Star of the Hollywoodian system such as Gilda for exemple.