Mulholland Drive through a mirror darkly

Copyright by Karim D. Ghantous 2002

Raymond Harris, president of production at Ryan Entertainment, braces himself to engage Mr. Roque through the intimidating barrier of a glass partition.

Before I put forward the idea that a verse in the Bible may help us to understand aspects of Mulholland Drive, I should be quite clear about a few points.

Firstly, I am not the kind of person to force the Bible's spirituality or narrative on creative works, particularly Lynch's movies. If I see a fit, then I say so. Otherwise I don't. I need to say this because one or two posters on weren't too happy about my Twin Peaks/Bible essay.

Secondly, I still feel that MD can be best understood on its own terms. We don't really need to bring in outside ideologies to see the framework of the movie. Of course, using psychology, Buddhism and so on can help us expand our understanding and fill in details.

Thirdly, I quote below a part of a post that Trichome wrote last year which I agree with:
From: Trichome (
Subject: Re: The Mulholland Drive SPOILER thread
Date: 2001-10-21 20:09:39 PST
Stacey, try thinking the same ideas, but take the extremes out of
it. Not all dreams involve religion. Guilt and regret can be
featured without invoking a Christian framework.

I'm not always anti-religion, but there are some contexts, such
as the films of David Lynch, where a Christian interpretation clouds
the issues and muddies the symbolism. If he wanted to make his
films based on religious themes, we would know this after twenty
years of films.
This is much less a persuasive essay than a personal one.

Okay, so I'll present the idea, then. This verse, 1 Corinthinas 13:12, which I feel can help us a little, will be familiar to many and is from the KJV:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, King James Translation)
Note that the word 'glass' in those days meant 'mirror'. Further below I'll quote the whole chapter so you can see this verse in context, but first, have a look at this verse in different translations:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (Revised Standard Version)

Now we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face. My knowledge now is partial; then it will be whole, like God's knowledge of me. (The New English Bible)

For at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known. (New World Translation)

At present we only see the baffling reflections in a mirror, but then it will be face to face; at present I am learning bit by bit, but then I shall understand, as all along I myself have been understood. (James Moffat Translation)

At present, we are looking at a confused reflection in a mirror; then, we shall see face to face; now, I have only glimpses of knowledge; then, I shall recognize God as he has recognized me. (Knox Translation)
Right, then. So what of it? I think that from one perspective, this verse can be applied to the audiences while they watch the first 90 or so minutes of the movie. It's as if they're seeing 'only puzzling reflections in a mirror'. Things are not clear - who is the cowboy, the creature, the girl who calls herself Rita; what is the key, the blue box and so on.

But after we finish the last 40 or so minutes, we 'know accurately' to a point what the hell was going on - as long as we are able to form or understand a basic interpretation. Otherwise, we're still trying to understand during our 'puzzling relfections' on the movie.

There are some other points to consider, too. After Rita comes out of the shower, still in a confused state, the audience sees Rita look at a Rita Hayworth movie poster, both reflected in mirrors. Rita is looking 'through a mirror, dimly'. She has 'only glimpses of knowledge' if any at all.

Not knowing who she is or where she came from, the woman we know as Rita looks through a mirror to the Golden Age of Hollywood for inspiration.

There's another aspect which is subtle but grabbed my attention immediately: in at least two shots, notably of Betty and Rita flagging down a cab and the cab dropping them off at Club Silencio (which occur after the sex scene) the image is just a tad distored, muddy, unclear, as if the POV is from an unknown or unseen character (or characters) who is either watching them physically or transcendentally. I think it might be the creature (whom I have previously described as a 'controller'). It was this shot that made me think of the verse, 'through a glass darkly', or a 'hazy outline' in a mirror. But it's not a reflection so much as it is a refraction through some medium - a dream; or perhaps electricity, a running theme through many of Lynch's films.

Notice that this verse from the NT is being used to expose elements in the narrative and our reaction to them, rather than directly interpreting any part of the movie in the classical sense. I don't think that the Bible can be used much to interpret or further expose the events in MD.

Mulholland Drive is an enigma. It seems that no two people will ever see it the same way. We can assume that David Lynch was not thinking of 1 Cor. 13:12 when he made this movie, but poetically it is one of the most apt expressions to describe the wonder and confusion that we will experience each and every time we see this film.

Below is all of chapter 13 in 1 Corinthians from the KJV. I got if from here.

1 Corinthians 13

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

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