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What would become of our existence as human beings if we were to consider the possibility that our memories and experiences were in fact a recording? What would our reaction be if it were revealed that our identity, which we proudly proclaim as our "true self", was in actuality a role in a pre-scripted act. This shifting perspective of human identity and reality is the subject of a variety of challenging books, movies, music and essays in popular culture.

No hay banda. Il n’y a pas d’orchestre. There is no band. It is all a recording.”

The Spanish phrase “no hay banda” is found in the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive as a means of describing the bizarre, abstract occurrences in the movie. It translates to “there is no band” and is Lynch’s way of explaining that everything the audience (and the protagonist) is seeing is an illusion. The movie itself fascinated me and much has already been expertly written about the film itself in the titular node, however the notion of “no hay banda”, the illusion and what it represents, deserves a closer look.

The scene in particular occurs almost two-thirds of the way into the film, where late at night Betty and Rita find their way to the mysterious, surreal cabaret Club Silencio. The compere announces, to wild orchestration and thunder claps, that it is all a tape; it is all a recording. He is followed by a woman who sings a beautiful, haunting Spanish cover of Roy Orbison’s Crying, only to appear to collapse towards the end as the singing continues. This becomes a turning point in the film for the characters and for the film-goers. If you haven’t seen Mulholland Drive it will come as a surprise to you to know that everything up to this point is a dream. The first two-thirds of the movie are formulated in the mind of Naomi Watts’ character; a series of made up proceedings that are sourced from characters that she meets beforehand and events that hold a striking resemblance to movies (detective noir films, golden days of 1950's Hollywood), perhaps from her childhood.

It poses an interesting enough question within the movie, but what we can obtain from a movie so abstract is that perhaps Lynch also raises the philosophical question to us, the viewers – what is reality if nothing more than a series of prosthetic memories?

Alison Landsberg, in a 1995 essay1, discusses the implications of what she calls “prosthetic memory” – memories which do not come from a person’s live experience in any strict sense. While she writes that memory might have always been prosthetic, certainly “the mass media – technologies which structure and circumscribe experience – bring the texture and contours of prosthetic memory into dramatic belief.” That is to say cinema has the capacity to generate to our minds its own memories and experiences we somehow believe to be our own. She claims, to some extent, this then leads us to “act out” familiar roles in our everyday life based on characters we identify with and experiences we feel we have lived. Certainly some people we encounter in real life feel to us like their role is scripted somehow - like their life is all a recording.

Individual identity and how we define ourselves relies largely on past experience and memories. Our beliefs, our actions, our whole essence of “self” then is not necessarily inside us and our minds, but "outside it in all forms of bodily and mental relations - in supermarket isles and university hallways, on computer drives and in the cinema"2. It becomes such that there is so much outside influence "guiding" our desires and choices, that at what point does it stop being "ours"? In this sense, an increasing reliance on external stimuli and medium means of remembering, suggests a decreasing reliance on personal experience as the basis of our identities.

The Landsberg essay itself was in reference to Philip K Dick based movies Blade Runner and Total Recall, which both also raise this idea of memory perception and reality. Deckard may in fact not be a human, as his memories suggest, but another Replicant – one of the very beings he is ordered to hunt down. Additionally, Quaid has had his memory replaced in order to convince him of an alternate reality he is supposed to have lived. Mulholland Drive sees the development of the same prosthetic memory idea, however it is implied as being voluntary – wishful thinking. Betty wished she was the innocent, talented character the audience saw in the first two-thirds of the film that is clearly based on a tapestry of characters she had observed from cinema - a Hollywood cliche.

While it is simply a question to explore without any definite answers either way, it is clear that media is capable of providing the sense of personal experience to those willing to accept. The feeling of one's life being, itself, a movie is conveyed in the thought-provoking Okkervil River song "Our Life is Not a Movie, Or Maybe" and just like Mulholland Drive it attempts to clarify the differences between life experiences and prosthetic memories where life is essentially an illusion.

1. Landsberg, Alison. "Prosthetic Memory: Total Recall and Blade Runner"
2. Ekeberg, Bjorn. "No Hay Banda. Prosthetic Memory and Identity in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive"

I'm finally in a movie, and the coolest part of it is that all of the cameras are hidden: my director wants me to be totally un-self-conscious. Also very cool is that we're communicating wirelessly: him whispering suggestions in my ear: ". . .very nice, very nice . . .now, take out a cigarette . . . just let it dangle from your lips for a little bit before you light it: guys don't care but the women love it watching you smoke. Very nice . . .now, stand up and pull your coat collar long wool overcoat up against your neck . . .button it so that it looks military . . .that's it . . .now look across the street and through the branches of that wisteria, you see the one? . . .good . . .very nice . . .

I can't see it, but know there's a camera there.

I feel like a cross between James Dean, Edward James Olmos, and Brad Pitt, sunglasses on, hands crammed deep in my pockets, hair shoulder length swept back, three-day stubble, cigarette dangling from the side of my mouth: irresistible.
I'm wordlessly telling everybody around me not to blow my cover; we're doing a film here, so just be cool, no autograph shit. I slip even deeper into character: I can almost feel my cells shifting, my bone structure morphing, my posture is different from my own, I am a god. All I have to do is stand here with intention and everybody here will notice. Good thing they're kind of scared by my character (Jack the Ripper in America), they're giving me plenty of space to work; I wonder if this barista knows that she's being filmed while I order vanilla ruebos tea?
That's the fuckin' trick: hide the goddamn cameras! Go back to people who show up well on film later and get them to sign releases, but for beautiful, totally candid shots, camera position is everything.

"Rick, I want you to go deeper, just let yourself go . . . I 've got you covered . . ."

I begin to vibrate, like some drooping Dali tuning fork, to the psychopath wavelength. Something about being very, very still inside, and grounded like a giant bell gong is suspended from my stomach.

Holy shit! This isn't a movie, this is some goddamn Reality TV show! OOOOooooo, ok: Xerxes is using this to get me national exposure! Of fucking course. They're going to title this something like "Who Wants to Marry a Carpenter", and a covey of gorgeous women are going to join me onstage for the grand finale. One of them will be Robin first girlfriend, there's Mary P. first true love and Capucine hands-down best lover, Rachel and several other women I don't recognize. They're going to shoot it over at the Fairgrounds, maybe that's why the lights are on over there now: fuck yea, they're doing a light check.

Shit, how do I get myself into this? I am terrified of being up in front of large crowds, but somehow I keep winding up there.

Xerxes is giving me the scoop: "ok, Rick, when we're ready you'll come onstage and go down center, the women will form an arc around you from upstage but don't upstage yourself--keep at least half of your face to the audience. (like I need him to tell me that, jesus christ, Xerxes, how many times have we worked together?)
"You're going to be introduced to ten women; several of them have been very significant in your life; the last one's going to be Britney."
(oh my god, I'm going to have to be so fucking focused out there, and all I can do is tell the truth, even if it makes me look bad . . .)

". . .and you're going to have to choose one. Your One True Soulmate. And if you choose right, you're going to win your dream house here in New Orleans, and cars and cash and a bunch of other shit, but you get where I'm going . . ."

Now my butterflies are cockroaches. "Aww, man . . . this is fuckin terrifying . . ."

"Don't worry! You'll be great: just be yourself . . ."

"I need to walk . . ."

"OK, just be back here by 5:30 . . ."

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