Produced by David Lynch, the film tells the story of a disoriented man who, after strange events and hallucinations, suspects his wife is cheating on him and kills her, which he does not remember doing. Found guilty of murder, Fred enters a psychogenic fugue where he invents a new identity for himself including family, friends, job and romance, transcending the reality of awaiting his death sentence in a cell. Bizarrely enough, the prison guards did find a different person in there during a routine check one morning, releasing him and assigning 2 detectives to follow this young man called Pete Dayton.
From here on, a new story unfolds, leaving the audience wondering if these 2 characters are related or if one plot will answer for the other? The truth is when David Lynch and Barry Gifford first started writing it, they each had a different story mind so a transformation of the male lead character had to occur to mesh their imagination. Yet this take on the idea of metamorphosis is not very successful in our opinion, as the 2 stories seem somewhat disjointed and stand-alone, making it hard to connect. However we must applaud the great performance by the 2 male lead (Bill Pullman as Fred Madison, Balthazar Getty as Pete Dayton) in protruding different personalities but sharing similar experiences.
Additionally, the rest of the cast all did a fantastic job in their roles, ranging from Patricia Arquette playing Fred’s mysterious wife (Renee) to Pete’s gutsy lover (Alice); Robert Loggia as the charming hot-tempered mobster boss Mr Eddy; and Robert Blake’s chilling portrayal as The Mysterious Man (we found him particularly disturbing visually and behaviorally, running chills down our spine) yet in hindsight, you will realize that the more seemingly ordinary the character, the more secrets they’ve to hide (e.g Renee/Alice) or in Fred’s case, the more likely their inner monster is at work like Jekyll & Hyde. Therefore, in the context of this story, Mr Eddy is actually a breath of fresh air as ‘what you see is what you get’ – you know what to expect from such gangsters, no matter how classy they look.
We also have to make a note of the intensity of the movie deriving from superior camerawork such as close-up shots and home video style recording, creating an unnerving, unrelenting and claustrop-hobic atmosphere throughout both plots. This feeling is enhanced by certain character’s appearance design especially The Mysterious Man’s kabuki white face look and Renee’s Dracula Bride’s hairstyle. In fact the strong themes of ‘perverse sex, betrayal and murder versus the despair of drab, alienated daily life of impotence and distrust’ (by Slavoj Zizek) reminds us of Eyes Wide Shut by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as they are both erotic thrillers exploring loyalty, intimacy and trust in a relationship.
Music is another significant element in the movie as it accompanies many scenes central to the plot. At David Lynch’s request, Trent Reznor (known for his work Natural Born Killers) produced and put the album together for Lost Highway, writing songs especially for the film such as the haunting ‘The Perfect Drug’ or the catchy ‘Driver Down’, all alluding to the phantasmatic horror of this cult classic.
As the female lead in the movie Patricia Arquette puts it perfectly “This isn’t your run-of-the-mill movie and it certainly isn’t for everyone…It’s like deciphering a dream.” (Or for us, a nightmare!)
But if you are a fan, you will surely enjoy the special features on the DVD as it takes you behind-the-scenes on the Making of Lost Highway, Movie Featurette, Interviews with David Lynch and the cast, Original teaser and theatrical trailer etc. You will probably hear about other movies he made and we have no doubt you’ll stay tuned for our upcoming review on Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.