“Under the Silver Lake” is filled with lots of crazy conspiracy theories, puzzles and mysteries. Consequently, it has inspired viewers to look for patterns and clues within the text (whether they mean anything is irrelevant). I’m like those people, though not in the cataloguing manner. These theories are things I’ve noticed in the movie. Some of them explain parts of the movie, others probably raise even more questions. They’re things that have lingered in my mind, so I’m type-barfing them out here, in two categories: Basic Wild and WILD Wild..
First… The Basic Wild Ones:
1. Sam is the dog killer. I’m not sure if he realizes this himself, but I think it’s a reaction to this awful breakup he went through (well… awful for him; seems like she made the right decision for herself). The evidence on this seems pretty clear, though like most of the movie is more implied than explicit. His strange visions of seeing women barking at him, the way he openly worries if there are dogs around when he’s blindfolded are as solid as this movie gets. The one visual clue I cannot get past is when he and Topher Grace are in the bar, and Topher asks him about “these dog killers.” Sam replies, “There’s more than one?” and the door behind him opens, lighting him from behind. Spotlighting him in a way.
2. The Songwriter is part of a network of SongwriterS. “There’s more than one” again. I’m always thrown off by some of the songs he plays, especially that one is by Mozart. In the moment, I think he’s being figurative, rolling with the flow and saying that someone like him has been writing these songs and directing the culture in ways that they have been instructed to do. I also think that whoever has been writing the songs has not been putting the same messages in them forever.
3. The squawking bird in Sam’s apartment is saying “Oliver.” This relates to nothing. I just think that’s what it sounds like.
Now… The WiLD wILd oNeS!
1. Sam’s “job” is a private detective. Same with Allen. I’m mostly basing this on the fact that he’s seen in a mystery film, doing what private eyes do. The thing that makes it feel true to me is his exchange and relationship with Allen. It feels like the one time when Sam is asked about his work where he is not hostile, and I think that’s because they are both in the same line. They get each other. And when they do talk, they discuss meeting people, finding people, searching for people. This is probably residue left over from “Brick,” where teenagers are all mapped over hard-boiled detective fiction, but I think it tracks.
2. Sam was engaged to his ex. While she has one scene in the entire movie, Summer Bishil’s ex-girlfriend character clouds everything in Sam’s life. We don’t even see her until 3/4’s of the film is over, but when we do, it goes about as well and low-drama as one might expect in real life (which, ironically, is the opposite for how we’d expect them to go in the preceding film). She stops him at the party and pulls her fiancé over to them to meet Sam. And the way she says, “This is my fiancé” lets us read so much into those words. First and obviously, she might feel awkward telling Sam about this development; she likely knows he took the breakup hard, so she’s nervous about throwing more potential fuel on the fire. Still another way to think about it would be to read into her hesitation before the word “fiancé” as a mental note not to put “ex” in front of it. The entire scene represents the most dreamlike moment in the film, and it seems like classic Dream Logic to imagine one’s fiancé still thinking of YOU as “my fiancé.”
3. The actress (Nicki Lindgren) is the Owl’s Kiss. This one is way, way, WAY out there, but I kinda like it. I actually got the theory from a friend whom I’d forced the movie upon. At first, he didn’t respond too positively to it. But then he kept thinking about it and, in the end and at the very least, admitted there was an arresting quality about the puzzles it presented. He put this one toward me and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. First off, it would give us a third appearance from Riki Lindhome’s struggling actress character in the film, and I’m counting Rule of Threes like it’s a fact. Second, the Owl’s Kiss is not exactly supernatural. She serves someone, so the person in the mask is following orders.
Playing a part.
Like an actress would.
Secondly, Riki is the one who reads the zine which details the Owl’s Kiss, then comments, “What a load of horse shit.” Sure, anyone might think that and be right. However, it also seems like something someone who wanted to keep a secret might say. Much the same way Sam’s discovery in the zine’s exploration of the Silver Lake dog killer seems to come from his own defensive position, I think Riki, too, is interested from a point of personal investment, then actively tries to throw us off her own scent.
That’s it. Isn’t that enough? It is.