What I've assumed and also read all along since the first time I watched it was that Diane projected herself as Betty and her lover Camilla as Rita. After watching again last night I'm almost fully convinced this ISN'T the case. I think there are more than a few things to suggest that Diane is really dreaming of herself as Rita…
and that Camilla is assuming the role of Betty in Diane's dream. What makes me think that? Everything from hunches to clues, and they're listed as follows:
First of all the most obvious thing. Diane is completely in love with Camilla. She meets this wonderful, beautiful woman when she comes to Hollywood…
who befriends her, and despite beating her out on a big role, there's an admiration there. CAMILLA gets the attention of the movie
moguls. SHE draws the eye of Adam Kesher. SHE's the one who's beautiful and irresistible
… all those things Diane wants to be herself, so she projects herself in that role. Camilla then assumes the role of Betty.
Another thing to suggest that Diane had projected herself as Rita in her dream was the attempted assassination of Rita occurs just as Diane's trip up to
Kesher's party transpired. The car takes a long, winding journey up Mulholland Drive and suddenly and inexplicably stops in the middle of the road. In reality Camilla emerges from the side of the road and escorts her up a back way to the property
… in the dream it's where the driver pulls the gun on her. This is why she knows this scenario so vividly and projects the same drive and sudden stop as
"Rita's" assassination attempt … because Diane is the one who experienced it
… (the hows and whys of Camilla's actual death are never explained … we just know that it was carried out, as the blue key
In the shower when Betty asks her name, Rita doesn't know. We assume this is because she's been in a car accident and has a head injury suffering from slight amnesia apparently. But if you buy that Diane is projecting herself as Rita, it would make sense that she can't remember her own name or identity. She's repressing WHO SHE IS and what she's done in real life. In her dream she doesn't want to confront who she is and what she's done (plan Camilla's murder).
Why is the money in Rita's possession and not Betty's? This is the same
"blood money" that Diane uses in real-life to pay the hitman to kill Camilla. So now Rita can't remember her name and is in possession of this money and can't remember why. Again, consider that Diane is Rita and is repressing both her identity and the "real" reason SHE (not Betty) is carrying this money. (Why in the dream Rita actually has the money is
irrelevant … it's a dream and it's never explained in that context anyhow)
When the clairvoyant comes to the door and speaks with Betty, she questions where the Aunt
is. Betty says that she's her niece and is staying there. The Clairvoyant says "That's not who you are" (or something along those lines), confronting Betty that she's not who she says she is. But more importantly, right when Coco is starting to drag her away from the door, the old woman says
"someone's in trouble" and PEERS in and catches a glimpse of Rita right as she says this. Perhaps the inference is that Diane (projected as Rita) is in trouble for what she's done.
When Betty goes for her audition and she's just about ready to start the scene with her male co-star, the actor looks over at the director and says
"Play it close like we did last time … You know, the one with the black hair
… what's her name?" You can infer that he's referring to just some previous auditioning actress reading for the role; but since this is Diane's dream and in reality Diane actually LOST out on the part to Camilla, Diane is actually that nameless, forgotten dark-haired woman that he's referring to
… (what's her name?!?). And Betty is the talented, beautiful Camilla, who comes in and gives a knock-out performance on the spot and gets the part.
To take the above example one step further, just as they finish reading their lines and the room erupts in awestruck-applause, the casting director looks at her assistant and says
"I'm going to take her (Betty) over there …" referring to
Adam Kesher's set. When they arrive on the set, everything is in slow-motion as the lady singers audition for their respective roles in
Kesher's film. As Betty walks onto the sound stage, Adam's head inexplicably turns
… as if some cosmic force is making him aware of her presence. In the middle of a laugh and wide smile, her head almost magically turns toward him too
… and their eyes meet and lock as the song plays in the background. It's almost a clichéd
"love at first sight" encounter. But in reality this LOVE happens between
Adam and Camilla … further suggesting that Betty is the embodiment of Camilla rather than Diane. Diane never drew
Adam's attention … but Camilla did. After Betty leaves, the actress playing the role of Camilla Rhodes ("This is the girl") comes on the set. Notice that she looks a lot like (almost uncannily so) Betty
… and if you buy into the idea of Betty is the real-life Camilla, then it makes sense that the
"dream" Camilla starlet look like Betty.
Rita is the one who "remembers" the name Diane Selwyn, not Betty. This would make sense that as the dream wears on, the illusion of Diane's repression begins to fade and slowly her reality is reintroduced to her. Seeing the name
"Diane" on the waitress' name tag at Winkie's starts this process. Also notice that when the two women ARE at Winkie's, Rita is sitting where Diane later sits when she meets with the hitman. It's not unreasonable to assume this is another visual clue that ties Diane to Rita rather than Betty. She would likely put herself in the dream where she remembered sitting herself in real life.
When the women arrive at Apt. 12 and the neighbor says that Diane now lives in Apt. 17, it preserves the illusion for Rita a little longer. There's almost relief on her face, as if to suggest that being Diane is something she doesn't want for some reason.
When Betty and Rita enter the bedroom in Apt. 17 and discover the body of Diane, it's Rita who reacts by breaking down, almost collapsing into Betty's arms. Betty is but a bystander to the emotion Rita expresses. It's Rita who reels and lets out a loud gasp when the neighbor from Apt. 12 knocks on the door (not unlike how Diane herself will react to the knock on the door prior to her suicide)
… and when they leave the apartment, Rita runs from the door crying and covering her face, as if to suggest a recognition.
In the very next scene with these two, Rita is found cutting her hair wildly in the sink
… getting rid of the long locks that make up her "false" identity. Betty stops her and says
"I know what needs to be done… let me help you." The next shot is the two of them standing side-by-side in the mirror, Rita wearing a blonde wig that is the same style, cut and color as Diane's
… This is to suggest that the illusion is fading and that Rita is discovering the truth about who she is. From this point on (except for in bed together), the two are always seen both looking
"similar" with their blonde hair.
When they arrive home, it's the blonde-clad Rita that turns to get the key to unlock the blue box. When she turns around, Betty (Camilla) is gone
…gone. The truth and reality is about to be revealed and restored, and only Rita (Diane) can do it. Those are HER truths in that box, and that's why Betty disappears
… because she's gone. Reality is rushing back at warp speed, and with the turn of a key, she begins to wake up.
The Cowboy peers in the bedroom, which depicts a woman (Diane) lying in bed (in her ultimate death pose). The Cowboy says
"C'mon pretty girl… time to wake up." The image lying on the bed is a blonde wearing a black dress
… same as Rita had worn to the theater that night … (for the record, Betty was wearing a red top). It's Rita's image that the Cowboy looks in on just as reality comes back into focus and the real-life Diane is shown in the same pose, waking up to a knock on her door.
After Diane's neighbor collects her things, Diane goes out into the kitchen then turns her head to the left and with a look of astonishment says
"Camilla, you've come back" … the camera cuts to a shot of Camilla standing there smiling. It then cuts back to Diane's happy surprise, which changes suddenly
… her eyes widen and her face twists with disgust … she's repulsed. The camera cuts back to where Camilla had been seen just a second before and looking back at her is
As a small aside, while at the party, Camilla is seen wearing a bright red scarf over a black dress
… the last time we see "Betty" she's wearing a red top over a black skirt. I think this is a visual connection to further suggest that they are one and the same.