The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

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The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 31 Jul 2012

I wanted to go ahead and start this thread for folks who might have some input on interpreting Mulholland Drive as Diane Selwyn's Bardo Thodol.

Here is, from the main site, a link to this theory, http://www.mulholland-drive.net/theories/13.htm

Although I think this theory only scrapes at the surface of this interpretation, and doesn't take into account some of the almost subconscious poetry of the movie.

Just to start off this thread, here are two very subtle but I think very important images from the movie. Lynch takes a certain amount of care to make sure the first limo ride with Camilla is echoed with the second with Diane. It is implied they stop at the same place, they both say "we don't stop here."

Here is Camilla's view when they stop.
Image

Here is Diane's view when they stop.
Image

Camilla is going towards a light. Diane is not.

Because this theory has probably been thoroughly discussed on many boards over the years, I don't want to go over the entire movie bit by bit, what I want to do is put this thread here so that some blanks can be filled in.

One of the greatest mysteries is The Cowboy. In the Bardo Thodol Interpretation The Cowboy represents the idea that in this Purgatory, a soul travelling toward the light may be asked to do things that could determine their fate. Adam Kesher is asked to let go of control of the movie in one way, but really it's not a small thing, The Cowboy is saying Adam Kesher has no control over who will play the lead in his movie. Kind of a big deal. So while I tend to think The Cowboy is a spiritual buggy driver for Adam, I am never quite convinced in my mind if The Cowboy is, well..

a. Good

or..

b. Bad

If you look at how he talks to Adam it's like The Cowboy is good. Adam is a smart aleck, and Adam is probably also a control freak. The whole tone of the scene is basically, "Adam, you have a bad attitude and you need to fix your attitude," and it appears to be true because Lynch shows us that, well, Adam (while not a wildly evil guy) does have smart aleck attitude. For instance, The Cowboy thanks Adam for showing up at the corral. Adam does not thank The Cowboy likewise. The Cowboy notices little things like that.

But if you look at what he asks Adam to do, The Cowboy is bad.

So basically, if there is something in the movie that seems to clearly indicate if The Cowboy is good or bad, or if there is something from another of Lynch's movies that would help with this. Pruitt Taylor Vince has a cowboy hat on in WILD AT HEART but I don't remember him saying anything.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby Siku » 31 Jul 2012

Could I take the liberty of reposting this link to your blog, kmkmiller? I think it is relevant here.

http://kmkmiller.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07 ... dream.html

Also, can I re-ask my question mentioned in the Carol thread: Does anyone know of any evidence to determine whether Diane's dream is dreamt
a) just before the lamp lady wakes her by knocking on the door
b) as she is dying after committing suicide

?

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 31 Jul 2012

hey siku, thanks for posting that link again, as it does really chart the entire movie as an afterlife journey.

her bardo dream is dreamt up until the lamp lady comes a knocking. but that is not the end of her bardo journey. she will still be judged by luigi and reincarnated after she kills herself in bardo. I hope that makes sense.

thanks for resizing the pics, btw.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby blu » 31 Jul 2012

The board automatically resizes images over a certain size so that the thread widths don't get forced massively out. Took a fair bit of tweaking to get the effect we wanted, but it works pretty well in the main.

I haven't read the blog fully yet, so can't really comment substantively, but the death dream was the first theory I really liked and subscribed to for a while. I slowly came around to thinking that the "classical" interpretation of the film (at least as far as structure goes) fits better for me. I'll try to elaborate when I have a bit more time.

But just quickly on those images themselves, other than the light/dark, don't you notice something weird about them? Something missing perhaps ... ?

:hmm:

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 01 Aug 2012

honestly, not really. the biggest difference between the two is one is travelling towards a light and the other is travelling through total darkness.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 02 Aug 2012

I wanted to respond to one piece of criticism from the other thread ("Carol").

There's this idea that if none of the movie is real, or if it's all just this purgatory/bardo dream, then the movie lacks resonance for any of the 1000s of living/real life Diane's trying to make it big in Hollywood today.

I guess I just don't think that criticism applies. The idea that MD is Diane's afterlife experience doesn't mean that Diane wasn't who she was. She was still an aspiring actress who let love, jealousy, her dreams and the cruel arbitrary nature of the business drive her to murder and suicide. And I think it's totally fair to point out that David Lynch is making commentary on how women are treated in the film business. That commentary is explored big time in INLAND EMPIRE, where boys go out into the world creating evil shadows and girls go out to play in a marketplace (prostitution). Lets put it this way, if all we had of TWIN PEAKS was scenes inside the Black Lodge, I think the movie would still resonate as a movie about sexual abuse.

The interpretation is not meant to cancel out any of that, even if it does mean there is a tendency to pick around the edges of the more traditional (Shaw) interpretation of the movie.

This interpretation just adds the next layer. The lyrical poetry of the movie. For instance three or four scenes prior to the image above of Diane travelling in a limousine through total darkness, Adam Kesher declares "Kill the lights!" But maybe that was obvious.

One other thing, I know I'm fairly new to MD discussions (I see the RT threads going back to 2002), but I've never been a big fan of leading questions.

But just quickly on those images themselves, other than the light/dark, don't you notice something weird about them? Something missing perhaps ... ?


Preference is that if one person is not seeing what they should be seeing then just tell them, so they can see it and then decide for themselves what it means. it's cool. just tell me cause i can be a little dense sometimes. 8-)

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby blu » 03 Aug 2012

kmkmiller wrote:honestly, not really. the biggest difference between the two is one is travelling towards a light and the other is travelling through total darkness.

The rear-view mirror is missing in Diane's limo ride. That's what I was getting at. Could be insignificant, but why would Lynch remove it?

Symbolically speaking it could mean that there is "no way back" for Diane after the party, but that feels a bit weak to me.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby Siku » 03 Aug 2012

No way back, or unable/unwilling to perceive herself? Are you sure it's not there Blu? It's a very dark scene.

Talking of journeys to the afterlife, Rebekah del Rio's character La Llorona de Los Angeles name checks the Mexican legend La Llorana, unable to enter heaven until she redeems herself, in this case by finding her murdered children:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Llorona
Last edited by Siku on 03 Aug 2012, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby Siku » 03 Aug 2012

kmkmiller wrote:There's this idea that if none of the movie is real, or if it's all just this purgatory/bardo dream, then the movie lacks resonance for any of the 1000s of living/real life Diane's trying to make it big in Hollywood today.


Twin Peaks spoiler alert!!!:
Agent Cooper, asking others to accept that Leland was possessed by demon Bob when he killed Laura says "is it any easier to believe that a man would rape and murder his own daughter?". Well, No. For me it's more gut-wrenching and tragic for a human to do that. But they do, don't they? In real life, not just in the movies.


But this bardo theory is something else. Anything can happen in a dream while outside of the dream the real mundane waking world remains intact. Even if we accept a theory of collective unconcious or collective dreaming, featuring dreams isn't requiring us to suspend disbelief and introduce real live demons to the narrative! (BTW I fould FWWM much more amenable to dream/delusion interpretation than the TP series).

The bardo death dream is a unique psychological experience, whatever form of afterlife you believe in, and one that we all, hopefully, go through when our time comes. We don't need to have demons poping up as characters in MD to employ this theory. I mean, my problems with supernatural interpretations don't apply here.

Personally I have been fascinated by the process of death for a couple of years since reading Watership Down. It's a beautiful book, deeper and more subtle than I expected featuring both collective consciousness and a MAJOR death trip.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 03 Aug 2012

Regarding the limos, the interiors could be different. It stands to reason they could be because Diane's limo ride was shot to make the feature and Camilla's limo ride was shot as part of the pilot. So it is probably two different actual limos. But what does David Lynch have control over? The street light is now gone from this scene that is intended to be similar in every other way. So of all the differences between the two scenes that could be listed, it's the streetlight (now missing) that is the most intentional and most important. The darkness surrounding the limo is the point of the scene. And it is subconsciously oppressive.

Just to then take into account the next scene, Camilla shows up backlit descending from a lofty place and says "Shortcut."

And that's where I see so much more drama in the purgatory interpretation. Shortcut isn't just a neat path up to Adam's house, nor is it even how Diane thinks she can make it in the movie business. It's Diane thinking she can get a shortcut out of her purgatorial guilt. When it occurred to me that it was a spiritual journey the entire dinner party scene just took on a level of pathos that was much more visceral for me. She thinks she is being taken to heaven (holding hands with Camilla) but is just stuck in her hell, and Adam and Camilla play this trick on her.

I know there is this tendency to look at this dream stuff as separate from the real world and there are no real world consequences. I get what you mean about that quote from TWIN PEAKS. But hey, lets look at this a couple ways. One of the reasons why INCEPTION works is because Nolan sets up the premise that what happens in dreams can change what happens in the real world. So. There's that.

Likewise, if you have ever seen THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. But I don't want to go into detail on that in case you haven't seen it. Suffice to say it could be included on the "Films working with similar themes or elements to MD" list.

But here's another thing. If this Bardo dream interpretation does anything at all, it simply makes it clear that Diane killing herself does not, very important, get her off the hook. There are only two results in Bardo, one is spiritual perfection and Nirvana, the other is re-incarnation based on your Karma. Throughout the entire movie, either in the dream or in her 17SB apartment waiting room she can never enter the white light. So it will be re-incarnation. By my Bardo interpretation, Diane is re-incarnated as the bum. Would it be better if she just killed herself, and then never had to atone for what she did? In this interpretation, there are real world consequences.

THANKS for the info on La Llorona de Los Angeles... very very much appreciated. Never would have checked on that!!

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 26 Sep 2012

Because I think Camilla is going towards the White Lodge in the opening scenes of this movie I find it convenient to point out that a white car shined its headlights on Camilla (saturating her in a white light) before crashing into Camilla's limo.

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 26 Sep 2012

Bob just sent me a blue ray screen shot of Mr. Roque's tie and turns out, they are not owls on his tie, but flowers of some sort. being stubborn i still like to think there's eyes on those flowers. they're flowers masquerading as owls! LOL.

Here's the image in much higher resolution.

Image

So here's another wild goose chase.

Image

If Bob or someone can do a blue ray high def screen grab of the image above, much obliged.

Cards on the table, I think it looks like a lamppost reflected in Diane's eye. (but it's obvious i could totally be projecting what I want to see there.)

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby Bob » 26 Sep 2012

I don't see anything particular

diane_eye1.jpg

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby kmkmiller » 26 Sep 2012

damn, that's high res!! is that the Studio Canal collection edition?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B003PHJLR8/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new

nope. nothing definitive, but it's still something reflected there, perhaps Bucky J got the lighting queue wrong again... so maybe open to interpretation.

there. i fixed it.

Image

:2up: :2up: :2up: :2up: :2up: :2up:

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Re: The Purgatory Bardo Thodol Interpretation

Postby MAGICIAN » 30 Sep 2012

I would assume that it's a reflection of the window in front of her.
Just forget you ever saw it. It's better that way.


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