Lost Highway (1997)

by Afra Nariman

Lost Highway (1997)

Director: David Lynch

Stars: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Richard Pryor, Jack Nance


Happy to have spent the last hours of “national cinema day” on the Lost Highway with David Lynch. Can’t pretend I completely understood everything in this film — and revisiting it is something that I look forward to doing multiple times — but nevertheless, Lost Highway is awesome and such a mood. It’s a wild ride that has a more or less clear enough thread to follow (or maybe a couple separate threads that lead into one — kind of like a piece of string that has been split and intentionally pulled apart, but not fully?). Perhaps some of the meaning behind what we see is hard to fully grasp or know definitively; but the film guides you to think about it and attempt to interpret along the way, and I expect subsequent viewings to be rewarding in unveiling more of the film’s secrets. 

One of the very first things we learn about whom we first believe to be the sole main character, Fred, is unveiled in his response to the questioning of why he doesn’t own a video camera:

“I like to remember things my own way… [I mean]… How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened.”

Lynch has often been fascinated in exploring the theme of people who are reluctant to face their reality — who retreat into their dreams and fantasies, or who distort their memories in order to avoid it. This is thematically on full display in Lost Highway and it takes precedent over any sort of traditional “narrative plot” that the film discernibly focuses on. What is revealed as the story progresses in its own twisted way is the basic truth that much of Lynch’s filmography, particularly from Twin Peaks onwards, tends to highlight:

That is; when one chooses to not face their reality and resort to retreat into their dreams and fantasies, they lose themselves and their sense of self all together — they end up on the Lost Highway. Eventually you’d psychologically deteriorate until there is no turning back, there is only going forward as fast as you can to avoid what’s coming to catch up with you — to get on the Lost Highway and never stop driving until you reach your end. Ultimately, in this circumstance the final consequence of refusing to face reality often becomes the destruction and cause of suffering for not only yourself, but those around you as well. 

So much of what makes Lynch great can be found in Lost Highway. It’s clear why, of the two films, that it was Mulholland Drive which got “popular,” as Lost Highway is even more nonlinear and open to interpretation than its spiritual successor — but Lost Highway is still Lynch at his best, doing what he does best.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

View this Review on Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/3cbzJT

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