Posted on 02/18/11 09:08 AM | Last edited on 02/18/11 09:08 AM
The sequence in Winkie’s Diner in Mulholland Drive involves director David Lynch creating (perhaps literally) a wall between dreams and reality. Here, David Lynch examines the simple, if banal reality in a diner, while integrating this within the abstract and rather traumatic dream state to explain that both worlds can be startlingly congruent to each other. Lynch emphasizes character to suggest dreams brushing against reality, exemplified through the characters’ psychological states. It is through his control of music and the camera composition that he can show the collision between dreams and the real world when the two characters are inside and then outside of the diner.
The opening of the sequence is set up like a conventional dialogue scene in a Los Angeles diner: There are sirens in the background, it is a sunny day, and everyone is having breakfast. There are two men sitting down and seem to have a strong rapport. Dreams appear nonexistent until the dreamer1 mentions he had a nightmare in this very diner. The friend2 across from him is confused but attentive. These two are dressed similarly but have very different demeanors. The friend is bewildered and insouciant, representing much of the audience. The dreamer is fully entrenched in and is the creator of his state of chaos, representing director Lynch.
Lynch is creating a bridge between dreams and reality here. The friend’s interaction with the dreamer makes him a character who is obliviously sliding into the dream world of this dreamer. After hearing the dream, the friend goes over to the counter. The dreamer looks over at him, noticing that the friend has entered his dream because in it, his companion was at the counter. Gradually, this very nightmare comes alive – in an untouched, untransformed reality that is the diner. The dreamer is well-aware of his friend’s sudden entrenchment into the dream world, but the friend is not. When the homeless man3 pops out from behind the wall, the dreamer sees him but the friend does not. With the homeless man proving to have some actuality, Lynch shows that reality can interact with dreams. It all depends on who is willing to believe this can happen. Through the dreamer, Lynch is impishly challenging his audience.
Lynch’s incorporation of music is meticulous in this sequence. He avoids tension at first, by playing no music and allowing the two characters to casually talk. As soon as the dreamer mentions “I had a dream”, the music begins to simmer. Originally acknowledging the blatant realism of the diner atmosphere, Lynch jumps into a foreboding dream state by making the music drone like a plane in the sky. The music continues at this pace until the friend reaches the counter and the music escalates, to emphasize the dreamer’s fearful recognition of his dream coming into reality. The only other time the seething music accentuates is when the homeless man emerges from behind the wall. That moment also involves the collision between dreams and reality, which unsettles the characters (and the music). For Lynch, the mixing in of these two dimensions is inevitable and pernicious.
As for camera composition, Lynch is at first very conventional. His camera has two over-the-shoulder point of view shots of the friend and the dreamer, exchanging angles at identical length. Lynch suggests this is a typical conversation that, through the dialogue, is developing into something more peculiar. When the dreamer gets up and leaves the diner, the camera moves in on the plates and cups of the two characters. The friend has finished his meal and the dreamer has not touched his. This expresses the two varying demeanors of the characters, while also implying the two different states the characters represent: the dreamer being his nightmare and the friend his comfortable reality.
When the two leave the diner, the camera is in the dreamer’s point of view. This shows his preoccupation with his nightmare coming into reality and taking over his space. We only see the two characters walking and then the dreamer looking at the wall – his incubus. When the homeless man startles the dreamer, Lynch makes the final shot of the sequence the wall. The, albeit ostensible, existence of the homeless man has confronted dreams with reality, but the final shot of the wall, puts us back in reality again. The audience does not know what they just saw; either way, reality is restored.
Therefore, with Lynch combining dreams and reality, he compares the concrete and abstract world to understand both as equally penetrable and proportional worlds. He uses the characters’ psychological states to comprehend these different dimensions, while also manipulating audio and visuals to explain the interaction between dreams and the real world. This postulation is common throughout all of Mulholland Drive. The sequence at Twinkie’s Diner is just another example that dreams have the tendency to become very real.