Lodges, Empires and Lost Highways: The Grand Unification Theory of the Lynchian Universe (Part 1)

Written by Eden H Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

Warning!: Contains spoilers for all of Lynch’s movies and the TV series Twin Peaks. Don’t read if you don’t want to know!

Now entering the Lodge.

Now entering the Lodge.

We all know that David Lynch’s films share many motifs, such as red curtains, telephones, black and white/good vs. evil, singers in night clubs granting obscure epiphanies, flashing lights, non-linear time, prostitutes, and other dimensions. But could there be a deeper connection? Let me blow your mind with a fun fact, if you didn’t know already: David Lynch has told us that his movie Lost Highway takes place in “the same universe” as Twin Peaks.

[A brief explanation for any who don’t understand that statement, think of it this way: Superman has never met Mickey Mouse, because they don’t occupy the same “universe.” HOWEVER, Superman can team up with Batman, because they both occupy the same universe (The DC Comics Universe). Just like you can’t meet Dorothy Gale because she’s from a different, fictional universe, but you can go visit your aunt in the next town over, because you both live in this universe.]

So this means, the characters of Twin Peaks could interact with the characters from Lost Highway. Theoretically, if Fred Mason traveled up to Washington State, he could get cherry pie at the Double R, served to him by Norma, who might have heard about a woman who was mutilated down in LA, killer at large. And if Bobby pulled any delinquency in Los Angeles, Henry Rollins might be his prison guard. (OK, maybe not REALLY Henry Rollins…)

With today’s reports of Balthazar Getty (Lost Highway‘s Pete Dayton) being cast for Twin Peaks Season 3, the possibilities are… intriguing, to say the least.

“Balthazar? It’s David. We might finally be able to get you out of that weird dimension I trapped you in back in ’97…”

How else are these two works connected? Let’s look at Lost Highway: What does it have in common with Twin Peaks? Some see the Mystery Man as a sort of BOB figure; a manifestation of the evil inside of Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), just as BOB was, on one level, a representation of “the evil that men do.” Both movies have to do with the darker side of humanity (prostitution, drugs, murder, etc…), and the mask of “normalcy” that people wear to disguise it.

Let’s look at one scene in particular: Fred goes in to check the house after seeing a bright light flashing upstairs. He goes down the hallway, past some red curtains, and the phone rings. It is most likely the Mystery Man calling him. He doesn’t see anything, so he goes back outside, gets Renee, and they re-enter the house. While Renee is in the bathroom, Fred is staring into the hallway he went down earlier. It looks like a black void. He walks back down the hall (presumably passing the red curtains on the way). He comes to a mirror, and looks at his reflection in the darkness.

Fred disappears towards some red curtains.

Fred disappears towards some red curtains.

Just in this scene, we can find some strong ties to Twin Peaks: The red curtains in the Black Lodge, and the mirror that Cooper looks into in the final episode of Season 2, when he sees himself possessed by BOB (Who, of course, parallels the Mystery Man). I feel that this is an indication that Fred is symbolically entering the Black Lodge, while “The Mystery Man” (the evil inside of him) controls his body and kills Renee.

Now, how about this scene: Where Pete goes to a cabin (lodge) in the middle of the desert. The flame effect used on the cabin is the exact same that is used in Twin Peaks, when BOB captures Windom Earle. Inside this lodge is the Mystery Man, who is waiting for Pete, just as BOB is in the Lodge, waiting for Cooper. Fire is, of course, an all-important symbol in Twin Peaks: It represents the spirit of destruction, and symbolizes BOB himself. So the Mystery Man being so closely associated with fire here lends credence to the idea that he is either a being like BOB, or he is BOB himself in another form. Fire is also focused on earlier in the movie, when Fred is, quite probably “possessed” by the Mystery Man.

losthighwaylist

There are many other parallels littered throughout the film: The Mystery Man shouting at Fred, “And your name — What the fuck is your name?” is similar to Philip Jeffries’ question “Who do you think that is there?” (Speaking to Gordon Cole, referring to Agent Cooper). The blond femme fatale (Alice/Laura) involved with the criminal business man (Mr Eddy/Ben Horne). Bright, flashing lights during essential scenes (Cooper in the Black Lodge, Pete venturing down the long hallway to find Alice). Video tapes play important roles in both (the video tapes received by Fred and Renee, and the video of Laura and Donna at the picnic). And of course, doppelgangers aplenty (Renee/Alice, Mr Eddy/Dick Laurent, Fred Madison/Pete Dayton…).

Fred looking up into a bright light, not unlike the kind that appears in Twin Peaks, and later Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.

Fred looking up into a bright light, not unlike the kind that appears in Twin Peaks, and later, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.

Everyone knows that each David Lynch film exists within a strange world so similar yet so different from our own world, that is ruled by broken laws of physics, and that is as likely to send you to Hell as to take you to Heaven. There are strange creatures that dwell here, and they may help or harm us; they speak in riddles that will reveal the secrets of the universe if only we are astute enough to fathom them. Each film has its own “rabbit hole” where the hero moves from the normal world into this other place. Agent Cooper and Laura enter the Black Lodge, Nikki Grace gets trapped within the film set and become Susan Blue, Fred Madison turns into Pete Dayton and enters a sort of parallel world, Betty and Rita open the Blue Box and are sucked in…

Here’s the bombshell: What if I told you that the Black Lodge, the Lost Highway, inside the Radiator, the Inland Empire, and Club Silencio were all the same place?

If you’re familiar with the Lynchian Universe at all, you are most likely also familiar with this recurring motif: The Red Curtains. They appear in virtually every Lynch work, most famously Twin Peaks where their familiar presence has led to the coining of the name “The Red Room.” But these curtains aren’t limited to the Black Lodge:1430778-red_room

– In Eraserhead, there are curtains on the stage, behind the Lady in the Radiator. The film is black and white, but I think it is a safe assumption to say they are red.

– In Blue Velvet, Dorothy Valens performs onstage in front of red curtains.

– In Lost Highway, there are red curtains in Fred and Renee’s house.

– In Mulholland Drive, there are red curtains in Club Silencio and Mr. Roque’s office.

– In Inland Empire, Sue enters a mysterious hallway that is decked in red curtains.

So what does this mean? It is my belief that the red curtains are a sign post to let viewers know You’re entering another dimension. And this dimension is the same one in every film: However, it changes based on its visitor’s psyche (but I’ll get back to that at a later date).

Slow_Club

Let’s take a look at more of the shared traits of these places: They are dreamlike places, which use heavy symbolism. Everything is shrouded and disorienting. Often they are occupied by magical and strange beings, such as The Man from Another Place, or the Rabbits. There is almost always music in the air; singers such as Little Jimmy Scott and Rebekah Del Rio appear. Revelatory messages are imparted in code.

I believe that these worlds aren’t just similar; they are THE SAME. The Lady in the Radiator could be an agent of the White Lodge, the Rabbits may have been watching Cooper from a distance all the time, and Nikki Grace may have entered Club Silencio to watch that footage of herself at the end of the film.

But how can we be sure of this? How can we be sure of anything, in a world that is so symbolic and convoluted?

I believe the movie Inland Empire is the key.

axxon-n

A doorway to the Inland Empire.

Inland Empire seems to be a film completely dedicated to the exploration of this other dimension, its power, the beings that live there, the people who fight to control it, and its possibilities. In fact, I think that this other dimension IS the “Inland Empire” referred to in the title: A dimension within dimensions (“inland”), a veritable empire of other worlds, all connected. The film shows us many motifs from earlier films, and contextualizes them. Using the symbols, events, and images from Inland Empire, one can crack the code of the entire Lynchian Universe.

In the next part, we will examine the symbols of Inland Empire, and use them as a Rosetta Stone to deciphering the rest of Lynch’s Universe, and produce evidence that all of Lynch’s films are connected.

“Just Like a Movie Star”: The Evolution of Lynch’s “Judy”

The Many Faces of Judy?

The many faces of Judy?

Written by Eden Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

 

Judy is an enigmatic character, and a point of extreme interest for some die-hard Twin Peaks fans. Researchers have managed to uncover her original identity as Josie Packard’s sister and Phillip Jeffries’ informant, but is Judy more than just a character cut out of Fire Walk With Me for time? There are still many unanswered questions about her: For one, why does the monkey whisper her name? And how does she know about the existence of the Black Lodge? I have a theory that may explain this, and reveal the true face, or faces, of Judy. This theory also indicates that we have actually seen Judy much more than we originally thought. Let’s start with this quote from Inland Empire:

My friend Nico, who lives in Pomona has a blonde wig. She wears it at parties. But she’s on hard drugs and turning tricks now. She looks very good in her blonde wig just like a movie star. Even girls fall in love with her when she’s looking so good in her blonde star wig. She blows kisses and waves. But she has got a hole in her vagina wall. She has torn a hole into her intestine from her vagina. She has seen a doctor, but it is too expensive. And now she knows her time has run out. She [will] score a few more times, and then, like that, she will stay at home, with her monkey. She has a pet monkey. This monkey shits everywhere, but she doesn’t care! This monkey can scream. It screams like it in a horror movie. But there are those who are good with animals; who have a way with animals.

-“Street Person #2” (Nae), Inland Empire

Right off the bat, we can say that Judy and Nico have two things in common: 1) We know very little about them, but 2) we know they are both associated with monkeys, for whatever reason. That may not be much to go on, but the monkey connection is a strange enough one to merit some further rumination.

Nico has "a way with animals," one could say.

Nico has “a way with animals,” one could say.

So, who is Nico? According to her friend, she is a woman who turned to prostitution and drugs, but because of a perforation in her vagina wall, she will now live at home, with her pet monkey. Oh, and she wears a blonde wig, which makes her look “just like a movie star.” She is so beautiful, both men and women fall in love with her. It’s difficult to tell from the only shot we get of Nico, but the actress who plays her, Masuimi Max, is of Korean descent, which makes both Nico and Judy Asian.

Monkey

The monkey that mysteriously whispers the name “Judy” in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

But who is Judy? Thanks to some very loyal Twin Peaks fans, we have more info on Judy: She’s allegedly Josie Packard’s sister, an informant and possible love interest to Phillip Jeffries, and she seems to know something about a portal to the Black Lodge that exists in Buenos Aires. Through Josie, she may also be linked to prostitution. And a monkey mysteriously whispers her name in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

But what, if anything, does this mean?

Judy was meant to be a character in Fire Walk With Me, but when the script ran long, certain parts had to be taken out. And thus, poor Judy ended up on the cutting room floor… mostly. She’s mentioned, but never seen in the film, and never discussed at length. There are many theories about Judy, and whether or not the Judy mentioned in the final film product is still meant to be Josie’s sister, or a symbol for something else. According to my theory, it’s a little bit of both. Let’s look at another character, seen briefly in Inland Empire.

Although it’s Nico who’s described as blowing kisses and laughing, she does neither when we see her in the end credits. But someone does: Laura Harring, a.k.a. Camilla Rhodes, a.k.a. Rita, from Mulholland Drive. At first this may seem meaningless… until you realize that the character of Rita looks just like movie star Rita Hayworth, and wears a blonde wig. Even women have been known to fall in love with Rita when she’s looking so good in her blonde star wig. Now, because of the manner of storytelling utilized in Mulholland Drive, analysis gets a little tricky, but Rita may also be associated with the character of Diane Selwyn; a would-be movie starlet who had to resort to prostitution and maybe even drugs when her career fails. Many fans have debated about the film, its meaning, and the story behind its characters, and there are too many theories to recount in one place, but there is one I’d like to bring up at this point, and that is the theory that Camilla Rhodes was inspired by Lynch’s former girlfriend, actress Isabella Rossellini. Both Rossellini and Camilla are “exotic” actresses with dark hair, and they both dated well-known directors (Adam Kesher, played by Justin Theroux in Mulholland Drive, seems almost like a self-written parody of Lynch). Oh and as for the blonde wig…

isabella-rossellini-blonde

That’s Rossellini in Lynch’s film Wild At Heart, which he was working on concurrent to the second season of Twin Peaks. And if this isn’t building a clear enough pattern, it is known that Rossellini was originally going to play Josie Packard.

Before Josie Packard was played by Joan Chen, Lynch had written the part, originally named Giovanna, for Rossellini. She was, of course, Italian-American as opposed to Asian-American. But when Rossellini backed out of the project, Lynch re-worked the part and cast Chen instead. And Josie, of course, according to early drafts of the Fire Walk With Me script, is Judy’s sister, and is thought to have worked as a prostitute in Hong Kong.

But what does this all mean? Where is this going? To finally complete the picture, we need to look at another Judy…

Garland?

Garland?

Lynch’s fascination for the story of The Wizard of Oz is well-known among his fans, and it has been made evident again and again in his works. The motif of a girl traveling to a strange world, full of both magic and horror, is one that Lynch emulates in almost every one of his films. Sometimes the symbolism is even more blatant, such as having a character named Dorothy wear red shoes (Blue Velvet), or having Major Garland Briggs mention Judy Garland’s name in relation to his own (Twin Peaks). Women filling the role of “Dorothy Gale” in Lynch’s works include Laura Palmer, Nikki Grace, and Diane Selwyn: But the woman who most famously portrayed the original Dorothy Gale was Judy Garland.

Judy Garland, despite her tragic life, was forever immortalized as the hopeful and naive Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz.

Judy Garland, despite her tragic life, was forever immortalized as the hopeful and naive Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz.

Garland is, in many ways, the perfect symbol of the wonder and tragedy of Hollywood, a subject that Lynch is passionate about: Born Frances Ethel Gumm, “Judy” was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when she was only thirteen, and played the famous role of Dorothy Gale three years later. She was originally supposed to wear a blond wig for the part, but ultimately the producers decided against it. Her many years in show business were plagued with woe: She suffered various heartbreaks, including a time when MGM forced her into a divorce, and potentially pressured her into having an abortion for the sake of her career. She eventually married director Vincente Minelli, with whom she had her daughter, Liza Minelli. The stress of living always in the public eye ate away at Garland, driving her to multiple suicide attempts, stays at mental wards, and addiction to morphine, alcohol and barbiturates. “All I could see ahead was more confusion,” Garland was quoted as saying, after one of her many career disasters. At the age of 59, Garland was found dead of a barbiturate overdose. According to doctors who examined her, she was already dying of cirrhosis, and only had a matter of time, anyway.

This dark, tragic life, full of turmoil and a sense of hopelessness, is such a jarring juxtaposition to the roles she was most famous for: Happy, bright young girls, always singing and dancing and full of cheer. This telling vision of Hollywood struck a chords with Lynch, and “Judy” has been a part of his films ever since.

Let’s look at the evolution of the character: Lynch, inspired by the story of Judy Garland, creates the character Dorothy Vallens, played by Isabella Rossellini, who notably wears red shoes. He writes the role of Italian-American “Giovanna” for Rossellini, but she decides to pass up the role. The role is rewritten as Chinese-American “Josie” and goes to Joan Chen. When Rossellini is cast in Wild At Heart, a movie filled with Wizard of Oz references, Lynch consciously or subconsciously dresses her in a blonde wig, a reference to the early wardrobe plans for Garland’s Dorothy. The early drafts of Fire Walk With Me are written, featuring a character named Judy; Josie’s sister, who seems to know the secrets of other worlds, and may even know how to get into them. After multiple drafts, Judy is mostly cut from the script, but in the film we still see the blue-lit face of a monkey whispering “Judy.” After a period of tempestuous reinvention, Mulholland Drive is released as a feature film, with Laura Elena Harring playing the exotic and seductive actress Camilla Rhodes, whose alter-ego “Rita” disguises her Hayworth-esque appearance with a short blonde wig. She is so beautiful, she both men and women fall head-over-heels in love with her. Naomi Watts plays Diane Selwyn, a failed actress who resorts to prostitution and possibly drugs just to survive in Hollywood. Years later, Inland Empire tells the story of Nikki Grace, a Hollywood actress, apparently past her prime and hoping for a comeback. She eventually slips into another world, where we meet her alter-ego Sue, who is a prostitute in Hollywood, and at one time opines “All I can see from here is blue tomorrows,” a possible reference to the Judy Garland quote. She is stabbed on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where she staggers past a partially-obscured star on the Walk of Fame: Only the name “Dorothy” is visible. She collapses next to some homeless people and hears an Asian woman (played by Japanese actress Nae) talk about her friend Nico, a drug-addicted prostitute who wears a blonde wig, so she looks “just like a movie star,” and owns a pet monkey.

After initially being inspired by the story of Judy Garland, who was born Ethel, became Dorothy on the screen, and was Judy to the public, Lynch carried the character of “Judy” with him, and, as with any character that is destined to be, she took on a life of her own: Showing the dark, seedy truth covered up by the glamor of Hollywood and its promise of fame and fortune. It is a place where magic and beauty can be made, but it is at the expense of millions who try and fail to become a part of it, and often fall into the underground world of drugs and prostitution, and those who do make it have taken hold of a double-edged sword. It is a stark balance between light and dark, horror and beauty, power and poverty, fame and obscurity, painful truths and attractive lies. “Judy” represents the glory and tragedy of life and death, and a desire to enter another world: Through death, through magic, or through movies.