Descartes & Mulholland Drive

A piece a wrote for my philosophy class on Descartes and how it relates to the movie Mulholland Drive

In the beginning of Mulholland Drive a car accident causes Rita to forget who she is. She wanders away and makes her way to a random apartment building, which she slips in while the owner is packing the taxi. Betty, an aspiring actress, discovers Rita in her aunt Ruth’s apartment. She thinks that Rita is Ruth’s friend, but when her aunt tells her different she tries to help Rita remember who she is. They check Rita’s purse and find a lot of cash and a blue key. They go on this strange journey to figure out who Rita really is and what happened to cause her to lose her memory. They go to this club called Silencio and they watch this weird show. They magical receive this blue box that matches the blue key Rita had in her purse. When they get close to figuring out what happened both Betty and Rita disappear. While all this is happening there is also a movie director named Adam who is being pressured into casting this one girl as the star of his movie. He sees Betty and he literally can’t take his eyes off of her. He seems completely unrelated to the two characters, and he never actually meets Betty.

Then the movie jumps to Betty in an apartment but now her name is Diane. It shows her as unstable and she is obsessed with Rita, who is now called Camilla. Diane is jealous because she and Camilla used to be lovers but she got dumped for Adam, the director of the movie that they’re both starring in. Camilla and Adam become serious, which drives Diane insane. They make an important announcement, which makes Diane crazier because she realizes she can’t get Camilla back. So, she plans out the accident to get revenge, or so it seems. She is most likely on drugs, because she hallucinates two old people laughing and coming after her, goes crazy and kills herself. As she was killing herself white smoke appeared from out of thin air, which makes this seem more like a dream than reality.

In the end it eludes that it was all part of a show, because it ends on the blue haired lady from the club saying: “silencio.” The first and the second half don’t seem to really go together. They both seem like alternate realities that the characters are in. If it was all a show it was focused on the Betty/Diane and Rita/Camilla dynamic. Everyone else were background characters and they weren’t as important. Everyone else kept their same names in both realities, which shows that both events can’t really be related. It seems that the show was about how the two main characters were drawn together and how they were torn apart, because both realities show that. When they arrived at the club the first time the guy said that none of it was real and it was all taped. That leads you to believe that none of the movie was real. That it was all just taped and all just for show. It was like you know you are watching a movie but the movie isn’t really telling a traditional story. There is a protagonist and an antagonist but it changes from story to story. The only thing the movie is showing is that the love between the two main characters can never exist without problems.

Both of the realities seem to relate back to Descartes idea of the two kinds of freedom. The first reality is more like freedom from events/deeds, while the second is more like freedom from constraint. Freedom from constraint is a low grade freedom where you basically waste your life. You have no demands, direction, and you’re indifferent towards situations. You live for what you want and don’t care about the big picture. The second one is more like freedom from constraint because it shows Diane wasting her life. The only thing she isn’t indifferent about is Camilla. This kind of freedom causes you to make all kinds of bad decisions, e.g. Diane hiring a bad guy to hurt Camilla. Since this freedom allows you to think that bad decisions are okay you would continue to make them like Diane did. She believed that, that decision was good because she was free to make that choice and it felt right to her. It wasn’t based on any facts or reason, which is another reason why freedom from constraint is a low grade freedom.

Freedom from events/deeds is when you’re free to accomplish something. You are free within the confines of knowledge. The more you know the freer you are because you can make a decision based on facts instead of on a whim. You have all the necessary facts and you can make an informed decision. This relates back to the first reality because it was all about acquiring knowledge. Betty and Rita tried hard to figure out who Rita really was. The more knowledge that received the better decisions they made to figure out who she really was. They made informed decisions instead of like Diane who made decision based on her emotions. Making decisions on a whim is connected to error because it is a lack of knowledge. When you’re free from constraint you will make more errors because you don’t have all the information. When you choose the second kind of freedom you will make less errors because you have more knowledge. While the second kind of freedom related to the first reality it didn’t really relate to Betty.

Betty and Diane, although they’re the same character, learn nothing from both scenarios. Learning provides the knowledge to the situation and would help them make informed decisions, but they seem incapable of grasping that idea. They do what they want and are ruled by freedom from constraint. They don’t want stipulations on their freedom, but by trying to make free choices without clearly thinking they are making errors. Errors are caused by two things: 1) knowledge obtained, and 2) free will, because both depend on intellect and the will. The intellect is flawed because it doesn’t always have all the information so, it can be a false reporter. It is also more limited than the will. The will is unlimited because it is free choice. The will by itself is perfect and infinite, but connected to choice it is infected by our flawed intellect. Intellect withholds choice until it has clarity and distinctness, then the will makes it happen once the intellect has arrived at a clear and distinct decision.

Diane’s impulsiveness didn’t allow her to make a clear and distinct decision. She relied on her flawed logic, which caused her to make a rash decision. That decision seemingly links both realities together. But at the same time all the background characters would have to be in on the part Diane was playing, but that doesn’t seem likely. That is why it is hard to see the realities connected in any other way, and because Camilla’s decisions don’t really change the plot. It either focuses on Betty’s deterministic/impulsive traits or Diane’s obsessive/impulsive traits. In both realities she is impulsive but has different reasons behind it. For the first she wants to help Rita, and in the second she wants to get justice for being wronged by Camilla and Adam. Even though everything seems to be happening to Rita/Camilla Betty, Betty/Diane is the main focus. The fact that the story follows her shows how she takes control of every situation. She chooses to operate with the low grade of freedom because it allows her to make her emotional choices without any thought process behind them.

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