Mulholland Dr. and the 17 Enigma

Maybe the simplest description I can offer of Synchromysticism is "the bleed-over of dream logic into consensus reality." The keys to this process are myth, symbol and co-incidence.

If symbol and myth is indeed the lingua franca of some higher function of consciousness, it could well be that manipulating that consciousness could certainly re-structure our reality paradigm. I'm saying not only our perception of reality, but even the causal order of that paradigm.

However, by investing yourself in this process you often find yourself living in a world governed not by reductionism and determinism, but by a real-time variant of dream logic. Not always a pleasant place to be, believe me.

Dream logic is David Lynch's lifeblood. Although some reviewers have dismissed Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire as jumbled navel-gazing, there are very simple keys in these films that unlock the mysteries. Even before I discovered these clues I felt the films made perfect sense, even if I couldn't quite nail it down. Knowing now what these films are about (at least what many people interpret them as, Lynch never makes any definitive statements on the films' meaning) doesn't demystify them for me, it does the exact opposite. With a friggin' unholy vengeance.

The film (released 10/12/01) gets its name from the famous Los Angeles street, which in turn is named in honor of William Mulholland, the LA water baron. Mulholland inspired Roman Polanski's 1974 film Chinatown, which starred Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston (who played the Mulholland character) and was based on a Robert Towne (Parallax View, Firm, Mission Impossible) screenplay. Mulholland's birthdate? 9/11/1855.

The film pretends to be a standard mystery: a would-be starlet named Betty (played by Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood to house-sit for her aunt, only to find a beautiful and mysterious brunette named Rita (played by Laura Harring) who is suffering from amnesia. Throughout the film there are disconnected subplots- a man who dreams of a demon living in a restaurant parking lot, a film director with the Kabbalist-sounding name Adam Kesher (meaning "connection," played by Justin Theroux) threatened by a crime boss, and an idiotic hitman who is looking for Rita. Sprinkled throughout are some old school Hollywood icons- Chad Everett, Lee Grant, Robert Forster, Ann Miller. Michael J Anderson (Twin Peaks, Carnivale, X-Files) also makes an enigmatic appearance.

Rita is looking for clues to her own identity, which leads her to an apartment of a woman who has committed suicide. Halfway through the film, Rita vanishes and a totally different story begins. Watts now plays a failed actress scorned by her glamorous but sadistic bisexual lover Camilla (played by Harring), who humiliates Diane by taking her to a party celebrating her engagement to Adam Kesher.

That's all I'll say for now. Let's run the number...

The apartment of the suicide is- yes, you guessed it - 17.

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Watts' characters are from Deep River, Ontario which lies smack dab on which route?

"Rita" takes the name from a Rita Hayworth poster. Hayworth's birthdate? The 17th.

Now here's where it starts to get interesting- when we first meet Betty, she's wearing a bright red cardigan. When Camilla dumps Diane, she's wearing a flaming scarlet dress. This color identification repeats itself throughout the film.

"Scarlet" and "17" take us to back to Jack Parson's old obsession- the Scarlet Woman, the Whore of Babylon from Revelation 17...

Is Lynch, the maverick artist, condemning the bitch goddess of Hollywood (like Rome, a city of hills) as the Whore of Babylon? That would be the obvious answer, but we don't see any further connections, obvious ones at least. That kind of mythologizing isn't really Lynch's style, and Camilla - the whore - merrily runs off with her Adam while jilted Diane lies dead in number 17. A detail-obsessive like Lynch wouldn't leave those loose ends dangling (though there a couple interesting scenes that might be interpreted as Diane riding a scarlet beast). We have to consider that this is bleed-over from the powerful subconscious contents Lynch is playing with.

And then we have this weird conjunction- Watts pregnant with Liev Schreiber, who played the Gregory Peck character in The Omen remake (released 6/6/06, which is Hollywood's idea of clever symbolism). Interesting connection back to Mulholland Drive, since The Omen is essentially a take-off on Rosemary's Baby, directed by Chinatown director Polanski.

Note that Watts' crown chakra is blocking CBS' Eye of Horus- we'll see that again in a bit.

If Hollywood is Lynch's Babylon (more likely it's his saṃsāra), it's interesting to note that Parsons' Scarlet Woman, Marjorie Cameron, played the Whore of Babylon in Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (which was re-released in 1966 with the subtitle, "The Sacred Mushroom Edition"). Anger later penned the Hollywood Babylon books.

In this light, the name "Diane" takes on added resonance connecting back to Parsons and his crowd.

What's a 17 without a 33? Laura Harring has a birthday on March 3. Watts would later play a Hollywood icon herself, the lover of the mighty Kong. Here she is atop 33rd Street in Masonic Manhattan in the King Kong movie poster. A strange reversal of scale takes place in the climax of Mulholland Dr., when Diane watches in horror as two tiny versions of the elderly couple she meets on her arrival in Hollywood crawl under the door at #17.

Remembering that William Mulholland's birthday was 9/11, we shouldn't forget the previous remake of King Kong, from 1976.

Minor details take on resonance- Robert Towne's adorable daughter, Ka-Hathor-Ein, plays Adam's assistant Cynthia (another moon goddess name). The actress' birthday is on the 17th, too.

Kesher's wife Lorraine dumps him for a pool cleaner, played by none other than Mr. Montana himself. Gene, pool...hmmm.

And speaking of genes and mushrooms, the hitman is played by Mark Pellegrino, who guest-starred in the X-Files episode "Hungry," which immediately followed the FieldTrip/Biogenesis/Sixth Extinction blowout (and was actually filmed between them).

Token XF geekery: "Hungry" was written by Hancock co-writer Vince Gilligan.

Then there's this classic Lynch scene- Adam Kesher's confrontation with the enforcer known as the Cowboy, played with inhuman intensity by Monty Montgomery, a non-actor who's the founder of this organization....

When I first began looking seriously into symbol and Synchronicity, I took a very deterministic view towards it. But as the evidence and the connections multiplied, I realized that I was holding onto a comforting fantasy rather than surrender myself to a process I could not understand, and thereby never hope to control.

Which is all just another way of saying that I think David Lynch might have a tighter grip on the true nature of reality than the rest of us do.

I'll let the Cowboy have the last word...


  1. Chris,
    for what it's worth, just south-east of Deep River, Ontario (Latitude 45°54' North and Longitude 77°17' West) is Canada's largest ground forces military base CFB Petawawa at Petawawa, Ont.

    CFB Petawawa was/is an Intelligence training base in Canada. The training at the base was founded by Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada's famous son, Sir William Stephenson - The Man Called INTREPID and the basis for Ian Fleming's "James Bond - 007".

    "At the end of the Second World War, several hundred C Int C members were deployed in various locations throughout the world, often in British and American organizations. In Ottawa, the first Canadian Director of Military Intelligence, Colonel Murray, set about establishing the Corps for post-War service.

    The C Int C was one of the first such Corps to be included in the regular forces of any nation, and devoted much effort to security duties and CI activity. The Corps operated an Intelligence training school at Camp Petawawa for active and Reserve Force personnel of the Corps."


  2. 17-o-licious:

    The 101st Battalion was broken up in England, and he was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion in East Sandling, Kent. On July 17 he was transferred to the Canadian Engineer Training Depot. He was attached to the Sub Staff, Canadian Training Depot Headquarters, in Shorncliffe, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant (with pay of Clerk) in May of 1917. In June of 1917 he was ‘on command’ to the Cadet Wing of the Royal Flying Corps at Denham Barracks, Buckinghamshire. On August 15, 1917 he was officially struck off strength of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and granted a commission in the RFC.

  3. More 17 North of the Border...

    Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg (CFB Winnipeg) is a Canadian Forces Base located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    Co-located at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, CFB Winnipeg is home to many flight operations support divisions, as well as several training schools. It is also the 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters. The base is supported by over 3,000 military personnel and civilian employees.

    As with other AIRCOM bases across Canada, CFB Winnipeg's squadrons were grouped under a wing system, in this case 17 Wing Winnipeg, which is the highest-level unit at the base.


  4. Chris
    I remember seeing this on DVD in 2003. I was particularly interested in the extras - one of which gave a full step through the 'key clues' issued throughout the movie.

    The other extra was a press conference in which DL explained the movie is a love story and takes place within a dream.

    The movie starts with NW's head hitting the pillow, whereby she then dreams all lovely stuff (romanticising the idealic girl's initial arrival in Hollywood). It turns bad when the reality of the way her life has really turned out sinks in. (I can't quite remember but I think she is on drugs when her head hits the pillow later in the movie - which is really the beginning).

    I remember thinking DL's explanation was remarkably straight-forward for such an interesting (strange) movie.


  5. That's exactly right, David- it begins with her head hitting the pillow and ends with the cowboy telling her to wake up. Then we're in her miserable reality, punctuated by flashbacks and hallucinations.

    Inland Empire takes that whole conceit to the nth level.

  6. Time to bring up an earlier comment of mine, which mentions Liev Schreiber, the Omen remake that references Salome, and Scream III, which actually has a character named Roman.

    As for King Kong, the original was actually made in the magic year of '33, and it was the favorite film of occult nutcase Adolf Hitler (one can only begin to speculate why).

    Speaking of giant monsters and tall buildings in New York, check out this bizarre poster for Godzilla vs. Megalon.


  7. Jason,

    Maybe Hitler saw King Kong as the triumph of militaristic technology over the primitive forces of nature. The Nazis were obsessed with micromanaging agriculture and landscape.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Interestingly, I read an article on the upcoming movie Terminator: Salvation. Hopefully, this won't spoil the plot too much, but Sam Worthington plays Marcus, a man who's on death row before Judgment Day. Before his execution, he's met by a doctor or corporate exec, played by Tilda Swinton, who asks him to sign his body over to her company for research.

    What's the age of the character when he's executed?


  10. But then is it a personal enigma because *you* see it everywhere or do others have this same enigma? They made the film 23 and I have had run-ins with this number, but nothing w/ 17. 9/11 has gone out of control w/ synchronicity since then. So are their others who notice 17 and , then to whom do these folks connect the number? Bones? Mason? Gov?
    just curious.

  11. There are no answers, only questions.

  12. I'm not sure if this counts as a 17 synch, but it seems near enough:

    Philemon are releasing Jung's legendary never before published Red Book on 10.07.2009, at least as you yanks read the date. (Why, oh why, the month first?)

    10 + 7 = 17.

    Yea? Nay? It's an event at any rate. I've pre-ordered my copy. The standard edition, not the $2500 deluxe for those with the cash to splash.

  13. having not the seen the movie, my question would be, "Is dreamlogic a bad thing?" Being that the cowboy said, "Time to wake up." Again, great stuff tho. You make movies (more)fun, again.

  14. Christopher I just had a large comment that was "eaten" don't know why I was signed in-basically all I said was thanks so much for this beautiful article! I think your thoughts on a definition for synchromysticism are right on-Mulholland Drive is one of my fave movies -and I do not really know why-but I thought your interpretation of it and the other people mentioned like Jack Parsons -Babalon et al was superb-I had also mentioned a blog that kind of found me that i am enjoying getting caught up on. I had put the author's "Reincarnation" poem up on 1 Jan 09 and he found it at MFM and thanked me-I think he has articles about Carl Jung and others that you and other people who read your blog would enjoy also- or his blog is also on my bloglist I really appreciate The Secret Sun so much-thanks for your hard work through the years! all the best!!

  15. Camilla and Diane?Where's prince Charles?

  16. I see you have 17 comments as I write this Chris! LOL

    Great scoop! LOVED IT!! It's a small pool these guys swim in..I am still convinced that ONLY bloodlines get major acting jobs/careers, and perhaps monarchs are put into some very strange roles to maintain Hollywood's "spell like trance" on the world. Whenever I hear "a red carpet extravaganza" I always think bloodline.

    That GENE CLEAN sigh was pretty Eugenic, tsk tsk. I've noticed some strange things in Stargate SG-1 lately, might have to do a write up on that too.

    Keep up the amazing work bro!
    Be well.

  17. Justie- It just is. My goal in life is to transcend value judgement. Which just is, too.

    Devin- Yeah, ol' Jack certainly put his semiotic fingerprints all over the place, didn't he? Interesting that people like he and Lovecraft were such underachievers in life and yet so ubiquitous in their afterlives.

    Anony- Oooh, good one!

    Skaggsie- Yeah, it's interesting- in both this film and Inland Empire Lynch puts his finger on the real control system of unattainable goals, the winner take all spoils system that Hollywood perpetuates and colonization of the subconscious by the 24/7 media monster. Why didn't Diane stick to dancing and pursue that? Why did she allow herself to be seduced into this hideous starlet fantasy that destroys young women every day? Inland Empire particularly gets to the core of how ghoulish celebrity culture has become- and how destructive it is for women, especially. It's like that candy house in Hansel and Gretel, really.

  18. Another great post, Chris!

    But one that immediately hit home for me with the picture of the Harlot (scarlet woman) sitting on the wild beast. I recognized it from a bible study book I read as a kid. (And it is on the bookshelf next to my desk right now: "Babylon The Great Has Fallen -God's Kingdom Rules" I also have an original edition of Hislop's "The Two Babylons"-priceless- right next to it!) Yes, I was raised a JW (Jehovah's Witness).

    I migrated away from the stringency of the religion as I got older, attended college and grad school. However, just to make sure that I wasn't totally daffy after all those years of religion, I minored in religious philosophy in my studies in Europe.

    The Secret Sun has done nothing but flood my consciousness with all the religious relevancy of Charles Taze Russell's mind-blowing Masonic religion.

    Surprisingly, I appreciate all those years as a JW because it certainly prepared me for the next phase of my enlightenment: The Secret Sun! So much of the religious information that, as a kid, often scared me with its life and death ferocity is fertile ground for my current learning of the real "Truth" of our existence.

    No one should sell the value of their religious experiences short...I believe it's a highly necessary part of our evolution.

    You and the followers continue to fascinate and amaze me here!

    Thanks, Chris!

  19. Thanks, Soapie! I can relate to your upbringing. I guess I can add just this: "don't follow me, I want to be lost!"

  20. I recently re-watched the highly symbolic film, In Bruges again. The motion picture has many layers of synchromystic coded material, but still I was surprised I'd missed one of the more overt subtle items before.

    The Brendan Gleeson character has to go to a gun-dealer (who is obsessed with "alcoves," as it turns out) to pick up a gun. He comes to the door, and full screen, there you have it. The address is proclaimed with the image of the number on the door: 17. When the crime boss (played by Ralph Fiennes) needs to obtain a gun later, the door scene with the "17" is, more or less, repeated again.

    The "number game" has been played for years, with synchromystic and Fortean viewers noting all the "23s" that pop up in film scenes. It appears that something similar may be done with the number "17."

    I'd like to see someone, someday, do a statistical study of about 10 early films as a sample, in which the investigator counts up the appearances of all numbers in each scene to determine if the numbers "17" and "23" show up at a statistically significant higher number of times.

    Enjoy today...5.7.2009, which adds up to, well, "23."


  21. I am fairly familiar with Deep River on Hwy 17 but it may be of interest to know that it is only a few miles from Chalk River where there is a significant Nuclear Reactor. An interesting sidelight is that when there was a heavy water spill during the 1960's the person in charge of the clean up was none other than James Carter of the USNavy who went on to greater things.

  22. I found a 17 (finally!)
    Like I said, I don't really see them.
    Anway, when you close iCal on my mac it auto-reverts to 17 in the toolbar. When the app is open the correct date shows, otherwise, it is always 17.

    so there.

  23. apartment in blue velvet is 7100. Did you noticed that??? ;)

  24. Hmmm...
    would you explain why you wrote an analysis of Mulholland Drive without once mentioning the obvious implication of MK MPD in Hollywood? Multiple personality disorder of actresses is clearly implied.. which is rife in the dark occultic Hollywood. Why the omission?

  25. so strange. I am reading this article at a seemingly random time after work, while watching an old movie on TCM. the character walks up to a desk at the hotel to get a key to her room, the number? 17. that was strange.

  26. Lynch has a love of the color red in all its hues. Look back at the White Lodge in Twin Peaks, with its many red curtains, for instance. No surprise that a talented painter should be so bold in his Studies (that is, works featuring variant shades of a selected color). I'd love to ask him about color theory and his approach to both color and texture, the answers of which would not doubt add new voices of significance to his scenes.

  27. It's a very erotic color. Just look at Katherine Towne's lips.

    1. I am reminded of Mario Bava, another painter turned director. His use of color is outstanding. Hmm, he's also another director whose works are steeped in mythology, sci-fi and the occult.

    2. Its certainly the color of passion, and the way he tends to set physically static scenes awash in red speaks to their undercurrents of tension, of words unspoken.

  28. Ironically his best known movie is in black and white.

  29. Fantastic research Chris, now I really want to know more about American Cinematheque and "non-actor" Monte Montgomery, my spider sense is tingling!