There is a type of nightmare that I often have, one in which I am living another life as someone I do not know in a place I have never been at, yet all the people I meet look just like the ones I know. Many interactions that I have are usually a way of venting my feelings to them (both positive and negative) and finding a cathartic way in accepting my day to day life. The longer the dream goes on, the more I start feeling the need to run away from all these people, as if reality is starting to kick back in, and I am paralyzed by how powerless I am. Lost Highway feels like such nightmare.
Released in 1997 to mixed reception by critics and audience members (go figure), Lost Highway is one of David Lynch’s most misunderstood movies. While I do respect that everyone has different tastes when it comes to art, it cannot be denied that a majority of movie watchers keep their minds closed to the limitless possibilities of the medium, preferring to both watch unbelievable things that are still easy to follow. Lynch refuses to be an easy to digest artist whose work is going to appeal to everyone; quite the opposite, he makes movies with a clear goal and meaning that he is not going to reveal, making each of his films some kind of puzzle that has to be studied and analyzed to shreds in order to complete it.
In my limited experience of watching Lynch’s work, what I enjoyed the most was how much enjoyable everything is when you are not focusing on the reason behind something or why something surreal is happening (that belongs to future viewings), instead giving yourself in to the movie and the director. Watching Lost Highway for the first time is going to be an experience that I will cherish. In the first act of the movie we follow a middle-class couple who starts receiving video tapes with disturbing and stalkery recordings. This act lasts around 44 minutes, and from the very beginning I felt uneasy, as if something was slightly off-putting. The longer that sequence went on, the more I started to feel some sorts of invisible weights pushing on my chest, bringing me to a borderline state of panic. This is all very odd, because there are no creepy monsters, jump scares, or even generally “scary” images, but the atmosphere and cinematography were enough to truly terrify me in a way that I do not feel I ever experienced before.
The second act of the movie is the only part in which I have some problems, mainly due to some small pacing issues and a couple of unnecessary characters, but other than that it was all worth it for the jaw-dropping finale. I would say that calling this movie confusing is wrong: I prefer the word curious. When Robert Blake’s iconic Mystery Man appears on screen, I was not confused by who he was or what he was doing, but I was most definitely curious by his actions. Curiosity is what kept me going during the movie, and suspension of disbelief and (most importantly) viewing it as some sort of nightmare most definitely helped the enjoyment and understanding of the events that slowly unfolded.
The whole movie has been analyzed hundreds of times, with different interpretations, hidden meanings, and parallels with other works of art. To me, this movie is not so much about what it wants to say, rather what it wants to give. There is no cookie-cutter message, moral of the story or obvious symbolism, but an ambiguous and creepy atmosphere that slowly gets under your skin and terrifies and confuses you in ways that many other movies do not dare to. The beauty of not having a clear message is that everyone has a different experience with the movie, and I find it impossible for someone to watch it and not get some strong emotion out of it; even frustration and anger for having just witnessed a convoluted film is better than just watching a run-of-the-mill forgettable flick.
Technically speaking it is gorgeous, with Peter Deming’s cinematography being simple yet so effective, with excellent uses of light strobes, dark rooms, empty highways, seedy hotels, and empty houses. All of the main actors do a commendable job, with surprising performances by Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette as the aforementioned couple, and Robert Blake and Robert Loggia are the most memorable scene-stealers from this movie. Only weak link was Balthazar Getty: there was just something slightly off about his performance, and not in a good way. The original score for the picture is once again composed by Angelo Badalamenti, with surprisingly fitting uses of hard rock songs from Marylin Manson and Rammstein.
Overall, while it did not make me reach the level of epiphany that Blue Velvet did, Lost Highway is an unforgettable experience that catapults you into a nightmare with doppelgangers, repressed sexuality, unhappy marriages, and an almost Mobius Strip narrative that is going to leave you wanting to rewatch it again as soon as the credits start rolling.
Visual Effects: 9
Violence & Gore: 9
Sex & Nudity: 8
Drugs & Profanity: 6
Intensity & Horror: 7.5