Mark Beers

Drawing copyrighted by Nancy Victoria Davis

Drawing by Nancy Victoria Davis

 


This Will Be the End of Everything

David Lynch's last of his ten clues he put forth for audiences is "Where is Aunt Ruth?" It's the last clue for a reason: it is far and away the most important of his clues in understanding the fundamental nature of Mulholland Drive.

Where is Aunt Ruth? In a sense, she is everywhere. First we see who we believe to be Aunt Ruth at 1612 Havenhurst: a well-dressed red-headed lady with a scarf on, and a taxi driver helping her with her bags. Then look at the airport while Betty is saying goodbye to the old couple. In the taxi zone area, a well-dressed red-headed lady with a scarf on walks by, and a man accompanying her, carries her bags. And then at Sierra Bonita, Betty and Rita watch a well-dressed red-headed lady with what appears to be a scarf around her, with a man carrying her bags to a limo or towncar.

Where else is Aunt Ruth? Hell. Let me explain.

First of all, in the dictionary the word "ruth" is described as "grief; repentance; regret." This is key.

I was always a believer that Diane was abused as a child, most likely by a family member. Not only because of the clues in the film, but also because of the prevalence of child abuse in Lynch's films. However, I was never really convinced that her abuse was central to the film's meaning, until recently. Diane's uncle or father (or whoever it might have been) sexually abused her as a child, and Aunt Ruth knew about it. Diane threatened to tell someone what was happening, but Aunt Ruth couldn't bear the secret to be let out, so she makes an agreement between the two of them. If Diane keeps quiet, she can have some (or all) of her aunt's money when she's gone. ("Silencio." There are those who believe one of the greatest sins there is is silence.) Diane's agreement to be silenced is not just for the money, of course. The primary reason is because Aunt Ruth has put things in her mind to make her feel guilty about it ("If you're trying to blackmail me, it's not going to work." ... "And what about you? What will your dad think about you?")

The repeated appearance of an Aunt Ruth-like character always packed and on the move in her dream could represent either Ruth's unwillingness to help Diane in her time of need or Diane's unwillingness to accept the fact that they had an understanding over such a traumatic thing. (Coco: "You and your Aunt probably have an understanding, so here's the key.") Betty is given the key to Aunt Ruth's apartment because Aunt Ruth is dead, just as Diane is given another key because Camilla is dead. This answers another one of Lynch's ten clues: Who gives a key, and why? Also, could two family members ever have an "understanding" in a Lynch film without it having a darker meaning?

Why is Aunt Ruth in Hell? Look on the flyer on the lamppost where Betty and Rita get into a black cab (an ominous sign) to go to Club Silencio. The only readable word on the flyer is in block letters: "HELL". I believe Diane gives herself a glimpse of Hell, or what she perceives Hell to be. Also, on the parking lot of Club Silencio is a figure eight. If it is turned sideways it becomes the symbol for infinity, showing that we are now entering a realm of eternity.

After Betty and Rita are seated in the club, the Magician enters and begins to speak. I believe the Magician is the Devil, or Diane's perception of the Devil. He is actually a silly Hollywood stereotype of the Devil, just as the Cowboy is a silly stereotype. Among the stereotypical qualities the Magician has are that he speaks at least three other languages, he has a goatee like most of the standard depictions of him, he has a large wand which could act as his pitchfork, and he can perform magic. Finally, as he disappears behind the smoke, his grin does not have the friendliest of qualities.

When the Magician says, "Listen," thunderous sound fills the room, and blue light (symbolizing her abuse, just as it does in Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) fills the theatre. This is Diane's idea of silence being broken, and she quakes with fear, but afterwards appears relieved, as if a weight has been lifted.

The reason for the Magician speaking English, Spanish, and French is he is speaking to three people: Betty, Rita, and Aunt Ruth. Aunt Ruth is associated with French because inside her apartment is clearly seen the book Tout Paris, which is a guide to the art of French decoration. Is the book a definitive answer to Aunt Ruth having French blood? No, but I think its possible significance should not be overlooked.

One of the biggest mysteries of the film is the identity of the Blue-Haired Lady in Club Silencio. I believe it makes perfect sense that she is Aunt Ruth. The reason for her blue hair can be explained. The club's interior is almost all red, just like her hair, but you'll notice that the club sometimes is flooded with strange blue light. As Aunt Ruth has the only balcony seat, we can assume that she holds a special place in the club, and therefore her hair has turned from red to blue (she has been tainted with the guilt of silence). The absence of her scarf could indicate that she has been stripped of her pride which forced silence upon Diane. Also, it would be a dead giveaway that she was Aunt Ruth if she wore a scarf. Lynch is far too abstract for that.

Finally, the film ends with the line, "Silencio," a reminder to both Aunt Ruth and Diane that the abuse and subsequent silence has, indeed, been "the end of everything."

 

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