Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anatomy Of A Performance: Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr. (2001)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Anatomy Of A Performance, where I take a performance and try to dissect the internalities behind them and hopefully allow viewers to get a closer look at them when watching the film. For today, I will look into a performance that in my mind got horrifically snubbed by the Oscars, Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr. Let's take a look:

Now, for those of you who have seen the film, you know that in the first half, Watts plays a very sunny character, Betty Elms, who is very optimistic about a future in Hollywood. But I will first go into the actress' bridge from Betty to Diane, a more rainy character.

             In this scene, the camera just focuses on Betty and the man she is practicing a scene with in her audition. Even though her character is just saying lines, the way Watts delivers them makes it feel like there is an underlying fury and sensuality within Betty as it is an actress playing a character playing a character and saying her lines as if she really means them. It then becomes a performance within a performance. Notice how at the very end of the clip, Betty's voice then suddenly shifts to a much lighter tone. It is almost like Betty herself couldn't believe how she pulled off her lines.

          But this scene is where Betty really begins to be more grounded in reality. The woman singing is doing I believe a Spanish version of the song "Crying" by Roy Orbison. The song itself is about love and crying over someone who doesn't return the singer's love. (*Spoiler Alert*) This is an indication of the character of Diane and how she longs for a woman, Camilla, who doesn't feel the same way about her. But the performance of the singer forces tears from Betty and Diane's story indicates that what happens in this scene is Betty realizing what she is experiencing isn't real and that Camilla doesn't love her the same way as she does. So, Watts is really showing us what is going through Betty's mind without having to say a single word.

Next, I will get into the character of Diane, who as I mentioned, is much more rainy than the character of Betty. I can't really find any videos of the character of Diane, so I am just going to have to settle for pictures.

                 If you notice Diane's appearance, she doesn't seem as polished as Betty is. Diane's voice is also much deeper.

                    Those of you who have seen the film and remember the scene from this picture above, you know that in that scene, a certain type of news is announced that Diane doesn't take too well, which I don't want to give away for those that haven't seen it. But take a look at the expression on Diane' face. With a tear flowing from her left eye and a slight snarl from her open mouth, Watts showcases her character's rather boiling rage and in my opinion, does it without really playing up the melodrama. As you can see by her eyes, you can definitely get the sense that Diane wants to do something awful and you either sympathize with her or just go "crap".

                    The way I see it, it seems like it is two different actresses playing the different main roles. We see two different performances yet also a performance-within-a-performance, hence the bridge Watts got through from Betty to Diane. It is performances like those that are just interesting to dissect and show what kind of commitment an actor brings to a role that doesn't just involve just some kind of drastic physical transformation.

So, that was my quick analysis of Naomi Watts' stunning dual portrayal in Mulholland Dr. If you have the same insight to this performance as I do or looked at it differently, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Just on a side note, since I discussed just female performances, my next AOAP will be on a male performance, which I won't reveal until that next AOAP comes. Until then, thanks for reading!



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