Lost Highway was the first film made by David Lynch after his sensational Twin Peaks TV show and Fire Walk With Me spinoff. Lost Highway is a noir/horror film that shows off David Lynch’s talents in experimental story-telling and tense, unsettling, atmospheric sequences, thus, Lost Highway feels completely different to any of his previous works and definitely stands out amongst his repertoire. The story of Lost Highway revolves around two protagonists: Fred Madison, a middle aged jazz musician, and Peter Dayton, a young mechanic. However, the stories of these two characters run in synchronicity with similar plot points and character interactions, but the two stories aren’t exactly linked as these characters are shown to be one entity whose stories have barely any relation, yet the links between the two stories are very clearly detailed. The story of Lost Highway is very confusing, and it makes the film very hard to describe as the plot raises a lot of questions and only seems to answer a handful of them by the end of the film, even then, it’s very hard for the average viewer to comprehend the overall story of Lost Highway without going into immense detail, like a complicated and intricate puzzle.
The stories of the two main characters are quite different thematically. Peter’s story, the middle section of Lost Highway, is quite reminiscent of Blue Velvet: a young man is seduced by an older woman but has to contend with a villainous and violent gangster who is infatuated with the woman. Peter’s story is very indicative of David Lynch’s satirical take on suburban life: where idyllic homes house dark, dirty secrets. Fred’s story, however, is what makes Lost Highway chilling, surreal and uncomfortable to watch. Fred’s story is primarily an exercise in atmospheric horror: Fred is a man who is very wary of his beautiful wife and the friends that she keep, however, he also has to contend with being stalked, being threatened and being victim to disturbing events that are outside of his control. Whenever the plot of Lost Highway focuses on Fred’s story, the film is unsettling, almost to the point of becoming unwatchable, due to slow, disturbingly intense sequences where Fred becomes victimized from something neither he, nor the audience, know about. It’s only when the film begins its final act does the plot try to wrap up Fred’s story, but by this point, Fred feels like a usurper of Peter’s story, like an unwanted tumor who destroys the narrative. However, despite following a confusingly experimental story-line, the characters of Lost Highway are quite conventional by Noir standards, thus making the plot relatively easy to follow. Lost Highway has clear Protagonists, Antagonists, and film-noir style Femme Fatales with clear story arcs and character motivations. The surreal experimental aspects of Lost Highway come not from the characters, but it comes from the fact that Lost Highway combines two very different stories and concludes it all with a bizarre third act that needs to be seen to be believed.
However, Lost Highway is quite technically sound and aesthetically pleasing. The film heavily utilizes David Lynch’s signature cinematography – bizarre angles, zoomed in shots and warm, atmospheric lighting – and the film is also very well edited with an emphasis on slow, lingering shots that help create a tense atmosphere. Lost Highway also heavily incorporates scenes of very artistic, surreal sequences that offset the plot and provide the viewer with nothing more than aesthetic beauty, which is, again, very indicative of a David Lynch film, however, the story of Lost Highway overwhelms any other aspect of the film. Lost Highway isn’t memorable because of it’s production values, Lost Highway is memorable because of just how strange, yet understandable the story is. Whilst watching Lost Highway, part of me knew what was going on, part of me didn’t. Like I said earlier, it’s quite hard to describe Lost Highway because the story is clear, yet it isn’t, and I feel that the only way to properly comprehend how incomprehensible Lost Highway is, is for a viewer to witness it themselves. In conclusion, I thoroughly recommend Lost Highway. In all honesty, it’s not one of David Lynch’s best films, but it’s definitely a fine example of the man’s experimental style, and a fine appetizer before one decides to watch his more surreal cinematic outings.