Last night, by way of procrastination and consolation, I posted the first half of an old essay of mine about the psychoanalytic functions of Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., focusing primarily on the film’s form. The concluding part deals with the content of the film. Incase you are wondering, I am maybe 20 words ahead in my dissertation-writing than I was yesterday. :S
Here’s part two:
Not only does Lynch engage with psychoanalytic theories though his use of apparatus, he also does so through the narrative of Mulholland Drive. In particular, Freud’s ideas about the structure of the mind are relevant to analysing Diane’s thoughts and behaviour throughout the film. Freud divided the mind into three operations: the id, the ego and the superego. The processes of the id are completely unconscious; it obeys the pleasure principle – the compulsion to obtain immediate gratification in whatever form it may take. The ego mediates behaviour by compromising between the id and the superego. The superego is split into the conscience and the ego-ideal; the conscience is the internalisation of the rules and restrictions of society, while the ego-ideal represents an individual’s goals and what he/she would like to be. The human mind is full of conflicts between these different urges.
Exploring Diane’s behaviour in terms of these three drives is valuable when trying to shed light on the events of the narrative trajectory. When Diane has Camilla killed, she is obeying the compulsion of the id while suppressing the demands of both the ego and the superego. Freud believed that dreams are motivated by repressed urges:
…dreams arise out of inner conflicts between unconscious desires (primarily sexual ones) and prohibitions against acting out these desires. (Tang, 2001: 2)
In this light, it is possible to read the first part of the film, the fantasy narrative, as fulfilment of Diane’s repressed ego-ideal. In this section, her alter-ego is talented and causes a sensation when she goes to her first audition. She lives in a nice apartment, as opposed to Diane’s drab bungalow.
More importantly, however, she re-envisages her whole self as the kind of person she wants to be in real life. Diane is a depressed loser whose optimism has been beaten out of her by lack of fortune. She is also effectively a murderer, and her guilt plagues her to the point of suicide. Her alter-ego, Betty, is impossibly compassionate and cheerful. The power balance in the relationship is in her favour; she drives the story and is in control of both her own fate and that of Rita. There are numerous occasions where Betty compels Rita to do things she would have been too afraid to do alone. It is Betty who suggests opening the bag to find out Rita’s real name, Betty who makes the decision to hide the money they find, Betty who persuades Rita to let her phone the police to find out about the car accident and Betty who breaks into Diane’s apartment – all to help Rita find out who she is and what is happening to her. As Martha Nochimson points out:
Her generosity towards Rita is, perhaps, not quite as altruistic as it might seem; she is also in love with the control she seems to have over her. (2004: 174)