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Lost Highway: Explained

Patricia Arquette as Renee in Lost Highway

As the ending credits of Lost Highway swept over the cinema screen, I was left behind in a state of total perplexity.  Instinctively, I knew I had witnessed one of the greatest movies of all time. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I had just been watching for the past two hours. It was the first time a film had ever evoked such a bewildered feeling out of me.  I had to know why.

The dialogs were in English, but the film conventions used were foreign. Subtitles were nonexistent. It was a film that would take many viewings to figure out, though many claimed the film could not be explained. That it was nothing more than one long dream sequence from a twisted brain that made absolutely no sense. I never really believed that. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Mulholland Drive: A Slight Detour.

Justification came when David Lynch released Mulholland Drive. Many of the ideas and principles first implemented in Lost Highway would make their return. The difference was, Mulholland Drive was a lot easier to grasp. It was meant to be solved. Despite the fact that Lynch had originally planned it as a pilot for what was meant to be a series, he managed to tie up most loose ends when it was decided it should be a one off film instead. The DVD I bought even came with a cheat card.

The first two thirds of Mulholland Drive is in fact a dreamscape imagined by an actress that moves to Hollywood in search of fame and success. In her eyes, everything is perfect and she is the center of attention. In fact, she’s god’s gift to Hollywood. Yet dark forces outside of her control conspire  against her to take away the success she so deserves. In the last third of the film, we’re confronted with a reality that is much closer to the truth. She is not the successful women she perceives herself to be, but instead is consumed by jealousy that clouds her own judgment. It’s a film about self delusion. It’s also the Rosetta Stone of David Lynch’s mind.  The film language that once seemed so foreign and alien is finally starting to make sense.

Driving back to the Lost Highway

headlights lighting up a lost highway

The first thing we have to take into account is that Lost Highway is more of a mindscape. A place were thoughts are depicted as  scenes and people, rather than events that have actually happened. And in this particular film, we step inside the mind of murderer who is trying to deal with the fact that out passion and jealousy, he killed his unfaithful wife and her lover.

While I can’t be sure David Lynch had this in mind while he was writing the scenario, the film does more or less follow the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Needles to say, this explanation contains spoilers. Now that we have gotten the disclaimer out of the way,let’s get on with it:



“Anyway, I hate the idea of acting paranoid.”

The film begins with our killer, now in the form of Fred. His state of mind is one of a sterile world, oblivious to what has just happened.  The first sign that alerts him of trouble is when the doorbell rings. When he checks the intercom, someone speak the words: “Dick Laurent is dead”. When he looks outside the window, no one is there. The significance of this scene is that it is his subconscious trying to tell him something, but our killer is deeply in denial. The name doesn’t ring a bell at all.

We are then introduced to Renee, his wife. The conversations between Fred and Renee are not exactly natural. It’s not how two people, who are, whether in love, or even estranged, would talk to each other. There is no emotion in their voices and instead speak in monotone manner. Their relationship, just like the house they live in is very sterile.  It’s a conversation imagined by the killer. Deep down, he has grown suspicious of his wife, but he is afraid to recognize what that might mean to their marriage. What he really wants is confirmation that she still loves him and only him.

She stays home that night. He goes to play gig. After the concert, he phones her, but she doesn’t pick up. Did she stay home, or is she somewhere else? When he returns, he finds her in bed. He convinces himself she was already sound asleep when he called. Everything is still fine.

The next morning, his subconscious sends him another message. This time in the form of a videotape. The first cassette just shows the front façade of the Madison House, the home they live in. Strange.

The killers suspicion, that his wife is cheating on him, grows. But at the same time, he still doesn’t want to recognize the truth. In one of the next scenes, they make love. But Renee is simply going through the motions. There is no sense of passion in her, no show of love. While the screenplay states that Fred does in the end come, in the movie, it looks more like he just gives up and is in fact impotent. And remember, this film was made  before  Viagra  was introduced, so that would have been doubly worrying. His wife proceeds to consoles him, an act that doesn’t really ad much spice to their sex life. For Fred, it must have felt quite the opposite. Compensating even. A further blow to his ego.

Fred tells her of a dream he had. That he was looking for her, but couldn’t find her. Subconsciously, the dream tells him his wife is no more. She is gone forever, but in his denial, he continues to believe she is still alive in this believe world of his. Everything is still fine.

Renee and Fred watching the videotape

The next morning, another videotape arrives. The tape starts out the same, with a shot of the front of the house, but now continues inside, as if filmed from something hovering against the ceiling. It moves thru the house and ends with Fred and Renee in the frame, sleeping in their bed. Renee already knew there was something foreboding about these tapes. Now she is really disturbed. They decide to call the police.

Two detectives arrive. It seems that in David Lynch movies, detectives always come in pairs, and act more as observers rather than crime solvers. But they bring with them another very significant scene. At one point, of the detectives asks if they own a video camera. Renee answers that Fred hates them.

Fred: I like to remember things my own way.
Detective: What do you mean by that?
Fred: How I remember them. Not necessarily the way they happened.

That last line is very important. It basically describes the whole film. We are being shown how the killer wants to remember things. And so far, he doesn’t want to be reminded of what he has really done. But eventually, the truth will catch up to him. The videos are a symbol of what really happened.

A new day, a new tape. This one is even stranger. In it, Fred seems to be awakened by the strange presence and looks straight into the camera, horrified. But Fred can’t remember ever doing that. While Renee is now practically freaking out on this, Fred is still not all to curious or motivated about getting to the bottom of all this.

Andy’s house: They are both at a party. Fred was asked to play a gig here, but Renee didn’t really want to come. She’s got history here. How she and Andy are related will later be revealed in a later part of the movie.

The Mystery Man

After the gig, Fred and Renee match up again. As Fred goes to get a refill for their drinks, Renee starts dancing with Andy. Fred isn’t too pleased about that, but continues walking towards the bar. His jealousy peaks and that triggers the introduction of the mystery man.  The mystery man is a manifestation of our killers jealousy. The two go hand in hand. And even though the mystery man tells Fred they have met before, Fred remains adamant that he has never seen him before. What follows is probably one of the creepiest scenes in the movie. The mystery man asks Fred to call his own house. Fred is surprised to hear the mystery man speaking back at him on the other side of the line. When Fred demands to know what he is doing in his home, the mystery man tells Fred, he invited him in. Mystery man then demands his phone back. This encounter rattles Fred and his world is slowly starting to unravel now. Disturbed by what has happened, he knows something is clearly wrong and he is finally starting to slip out of denial.

He and Renee flee back home.

One last videotape awaits Fred the next morning. He watches it alone this time. The video begins the same way as before, but now ends with Fred on his knees, his hands full of blood next to a badly mutilated body. That of Renee. She is dead. Killed. Looking at the camera, Fred is horrified, unbelieving of what has just happened.
He finally realizes he has killed his wife.


Fred in jail

“I didn’t kill her! Tell me I didn’t kill her”

We know find Fred in jail. He now knows he is going to be punished for what he has done. But in his mind, someone else is surely to blame? This can’t be happening to him. He doesn’t see himself as a killer. But the whole system is against him. He feels victimized. He’s trialed and sentenced to death.

The jail scenes are probably the closest we come to reality in the whole film. But even here, things get strange. Although it is now certain, our killer is in jail, we are clearly still viewing his thoughts inside of his mind.


After anger comes bargaining. In this stage, and how futile it may seem, an individual hopes to postpone the final outcome of their situation. In Fred’s case, he wants to go back to the way things were.  He wants out of death row. He wants to escape  the death penalty.

And this will inevitably to lead to the biggest WTF moment in the whole film.

The killers bargain starts with a headache. Fred is in really bad shape and it’s only getting worse. Something is happening to his head and it’s not normal. It starts to horribly deform. Finally, he becomes Pete.

Why Pete?

Still unable to except his fate, Pete is in a way, the killers hope to start a new and escape capital punishment. Pete is also a manifestation of the ideal self image of the killer: a handsome innocent young man without a care in the world.
The prison guards are naturally surprised  to find Pete instead of Fred in his cell. But legally, they have to set Pete free.
The first striking thing we notice is that Pete doesn’t live in the sterile world that Fred did. Things seem more natural here. There is even a sense of optimism in this new  world.


Pete and Shirly dancing

After the strange events of the past few days, Pete returns home. And while everybody is wondering what exactly has happened to him and are anxious for everything to get back to normal, Pete seems to be detached from everything. He doesn’t seem to have much interest in his friends. Not even in his girlfriend. One could say he is depressed. He also can’t remember what happened to him in the past days. And while he seems a bit troubled by it, he’s not really curious to find out what, why or how. Another secret looms?

Working at the garage, he meets Mr. Eddy. His car needs a little tuning and invites Pete for a ride to figure out what’s wrong. We are then introduced to another memorable scene, where they are riding along Mulholland Drive – what a coincidence – and are then tailgated by an aggressive driver. After letting him pass, Mr. Eddy strikes back by using the power and mechanical excellence of his Merc to ram this menace off the road. He then promptly pulls out this hapless driver out of his car, gives him a good smacking, and with guns drawn from him and his assistants, sternly tells the beaten up driver off that tailgating is dangerous.

It’s a strange scene, pointing out that while Mr. Eddy seems like a very sympathetic and engaging person, he’s not exactly a very nice guy. While on the one hand, he’s a man of principle, he also doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to uphold them. And the reason he can get away with it all is that he probably is the leader of a gang that dabbles in organized  crime. The kind of people you don’t want to mess with unless you want your kneecaps busted or a bullet in your head.

When they return to the garage, they are noticed by the two detectives that have been assigned to keep an eye on Pete. The detectives identify Mr. Eddy as Dick Laurent. Apparently, they are one and the same person.


Alice attempts to seduce Pete

Our killer is now in a phase where he is in a process of accepting what has happened. He’s definitely not there yet though. In a way, he has returned in a state of denial again. But this time, our killer is living in Pete’s perfect fantasy world. This illusion will eventually crumble and send the film into some strange twists and turns. As time progresses. More and more links to the truth will soon start to appear.

Like when Mr. Eddy shows up at the garage to drop off a car with Alice by his side. Pete immediately is attracted to her. But Alice looks exactly like Renee. Except now she’s blond. And her name is Alice. She also lacks the dispassion that Renee expressed in Fred’s world.

Later that night, Pete makes love to Sheila, his girlfriend, though it seems more out of convenience for him rather than anything else. In any case, he’s not very faithful as the next day, when Alice returns to pick up the car, it doesn’t take her much seducing to get Pete into bed. If Fred was a poor performer, alter-ego Pete, the idealized version of who our killer would want to be, is apparently a true sex machine. Which makes perfect sense. Every red blooded heterosexual man dreams of girls throwing themselves at them. And if they claim otherwise, they are lying!
Yet sleeping around with many women doesn’t really have much ego boosting appeal to it if no one knows about. But luckily for our killer, the two detectives still tailing Pete, are envious witnesses to his sexual adventures. So far, that seems to be their only function in Pete’s world.
In a turn of tables, it is now Mr. Eddy that has become suspicious of Alice cheating on him. He pays Pete a visit once again and threatens he’ll kill anyone who dares comes between them.


Alice and Pete, afraid that Mr. Eddy will murder them, decide to run off together. But they will need money for that. Alice has a plan to rob a guy she knows. It’s Andy. Someone she used to work for. Someone who pays girls to party. Although she never says it with so many words, Pete discovers that Alice used to be a prostitute. His jealously kicks in. She also confesses that thanks to Andy she was made to star in porno movies for Mr. Eddy.

Alice is afraid of what Mr. Eddy might do to them

They plan to meet up the next day at Andy’s house. She’ll already be there, and he’ll sneak in through the back. Pete’s perfect world however is starting to fall apart.

When he gets home, Sheila discovers Pete has been cheating on her and makes a real scene out of it. According to her, Pete has changed and it is time he finally learns what has happened to him. His parents try to protect him from the truth but are interrupted by a phone call for Pete. It’s Eddy at the Lost Highway Hotel, asking if he is fine. He then passes the phone on to the mystery man. Once again, our killers jealousy has triggered his subconscious mystery man to appear. He reveals he has murdered, and not just once, but several times. The mystery man also reminds our killer that trying to escape into Pete’s world is a futile endeavor.  Whether he likes it or not, he will face the death sentence.

PETE: What’s goin’ on?
MYSTERY MAN: Great question!! In the east … the far east… when a person is sentenced to death… they’re sent to a place where they can’t escape…

Just when you thought this film was finally starting to act like a normal movie, it’s back to WTF?! mode again. No wonder people have a hard time understanding it. Here goes:

The next evening, Pete makes his way to Andy’s house. He sneaks in and is confronted with a porno movie in which Alice is occupied by certain sex acts. Pete’s jealousy is now starting to get out of control. Blinded by passion, Andy becomes our killers first victim. Evidently, he was the one that introduced Alice to this world in the first place. Andy’s life is brought to an end, his head sliced into  the edge of a glass table .

But when Pete exclaims that they’ve killed him, Alice corrects him: He killed him. Things are turning in to become a blur. But he does notice a photo in the room. Posing in it is Andy, Mr. Eddy, Alice and Renee. He rightfully asks if Alice and Renee are the same person. Alice points at herself in the photo, and says: that’s me. Deep down, Pete does realize the two are the same. The woman in the porn flick playing in the background is Alice, and Alice is Renee, his wife.  Pete’s nose spontaneously starts to bleed. The transformation back to Fred has begun. Our killers perfect world is quickly evaporating and the truth is taking its place.

alice_stars_in_a_pornWhen Pete searches for a bathroom to clean himself up, the hallway in Andy’s house changes into one of a hotel. And in one of the rooms he finds a whorish version of Alice sleeping with another man. Our killer probably always imagined his wife as naïve and innocent. The discovery that she was everything but just that must have truly shocked him.

Pete returns downstairs. After having looted the place, Alice hands him a gun. She also knows of a fencer that will help them with the stolen goods. And with that, they make a run for the dessert. They stop at a cabin. Alice checks the door but there is no one inside. They’ll have to wait.

After having discovered his wife’s’ secret  life, the question on our killers mind is, why did she choose him?  Was it out of love, or a chance to escape her past and live a quieter life?

Pete and Alice make love with each other for the last time

Alice and Pete make love for the last time under the headlights of his car. Alice perhaps was a passionate craving. A fantasy that ended up in disappointment. The woman he wanted to love.

Pete: I want you… I want you…

..he calls until finally, Alice pulls herself away and inflicts the last final blow. The reason why she too had to go.

Alice: You’ll never have me.

She walks towards the cabin, enters it, and disappears. Our killers manifestation of Pete is now gone too. It’s now just Fred. The cold hard truth of the killer himself. Almost..
The Mystery Man returns. When Fred enters the cabin, that’s all whom he finds.

Fred: Where’s Alice?
Mystery Man: Alice who?

Alice is indeed nowhere to be seen.

Mystery Man: Her name is Renee . If she told you her name was Alice, she’s lying. AND YOUR NAME? WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR NAME?

And that pretty much sums it up. Pete is Fred, and Alice is Renee, Mr. Eddy is Dick Laurent. And the Mystery Man? That is Fred too. Fred now finally recognized that jealous part of himself as well. As a result, both manifestations of our killer start working together from this point on. It’s now time to fully accept what he has done and why.

Fred heads out into the dessert again, driving down Lost Highway, finally ending up at a hotel. One with a hallway he had momentarily seen earlier at Andy’s place when he was still in a blur with a bleeding nose as Pete.

He books a room. Renee and Laurent are having an affair in the room next door. In the meantime, our detectives are actually doing some investigative work at Andy’s place, the scene of a murder. They too notice the photograph. Except, now, there is no image of Alice in it, just Renee.

Back at the Lost Highway hotel, Renee leaves Laurent behind and heads off in her car. Fred picks up the gun, knocks on the neighboring door and when Laurent opens it expecting to see Renee, Fred smashes his way in. He then proceeds to kidnap Laurent and throws him into the boot of his own car before being driven off to a deserted spot.

When Fred opens the trunk, Laurent charges at him and a fight ensues. A knife appears, presumably handed over by the mystery man. Fred’s jealousy has pushed him to the point that he is prepared to kill again. He slashes Laurent’s throat. Something Laurent probably wasn’t too pleased about at the time. Bleeding profusely, he is still alive and conscious.
Fred picks up the gun and points it at Laurent. Dicks last words: What do you guys want?


We then see Fred with the gun, and next to him the Mystery Man, both staring at their second victim to be. The Mystery Man pulls out a portable TV and hands it over to Laurent. Just like the videotapes, this too is a symbol device. They show the events in which Renee and Laurent are engaged in questionable sexual and pornographic acts. The TV depicts the reason why he is about to be killed. After returning the television, the Mystery Man unloads his gun on him.

Moments later, we just see Fred holding the gun in his hand. The Mystery Man is no longer a separate manifestation. Our killer now not only recognizes but also accepts that jealous side of himself as well. He is finally taking blame for what he has done.

The last significant scene of the movie is Fred driving up to his own and ringing the doorbell. He then speaks into the intercom the following famous words: Dirk Laurent is dead.

And with that, the five stages of grief have been completed. When at first, he was in complete denial upon hearing about Dirk Laurent’s death from some subconscious part of himself, he has now come full circle and accepts what he has done. Or at least enough to admit it.
The film ends with a police chase. Fred is fully aware he can’t escape the death sentence.  It’s just a matter of timeLaurent, Renee and Andy, all killed.

The End.


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Cool explanation! Thanks for posting this.

Felicity  ¤ July 27, 2010 at 11:00

thank you for the explanation.. it now makes sence

wonder  ¤ August 28, 2010 at 14:10

NICE….I can’t wait to re-watch it knowing what I’m watching finally thanks to you and a few other websites

S  ¤ December 19, 2010 at 21:59

u could have explained this in 1-2 paragraphs..
u pretty much went through the whole movie.
thing is i have seen the movie all i needed was an explanation.

george  ¤ January 15, 2011 at 05:36

“u could have explained this in 1-2 paragraphs..”

– You try explaining it in 2 paragraphs and see if it makes any sense.

“u pretty much went through the whole movie.”

– Which is absolutely necessary. Talking about the plot or characters without any context wouldn’t exactly make any sense now would it, genius?

“thing is i have seen the movie all i needed was an explanation.”

– And you received one. This sentence also indicates that you are completely unaware of the fact that the explanation essay was written for everyone, not just you.

Laslo Holyfeld  ¤ January 30, 2011 at 20:47

nice explanation. I would also add that the film ended with Fred being fried in the electric chair while he was fleeing the cops.

Luke  ¤ February 16, 2011 at 10:01

George, do you think you could explain this movie in a single paragraph? If it were that simple, why would we need an explanation?

tim  ¤ February 27, 2011 at 19:32

Thanks great and necessarily detailed explanation :)

hannah  ¤ March 1, 2011 at 04:51

Very nice one thanks

Anta  ¤ May 9, 2011 at 20:43

Would this lead to two equally possible versions of the movie? I’m basing this off the fact that he hears “Dirk (Dick?) Laurent is dead” at the start of the movie and at the end. Basically, I can imagine him killing Andy, Laurent, and René before he is sent to jail. Or, he could just be imaging the deaths of Andy and Laurent because that is what he wants.

Edouard Mattille  ¤ July 1, 2011 at 21:43

An amazing, detailed explanation of this movie. Without you, I’d still be scratching my head and confused as hell. Thank you so much!!

Sharane  ¤ July 25, 2011 at 18:16

Hey very nice explanation, just saw the movie and my grasp was close to yours, only that you managed to put it down in a much more organized manner than in my head hehe. I only have one question : The video tapes mailed to Fred were imaginary, right? Then I guess his wife was imagined too as they were watching them together, meaning that she was already dead by that point, right? So what about the point she called the detectives, the detectived arrived and all of them were talking etc?

Nick  ¤ September 8, 2011 at 02:14

According to this theory even the part before his arrest is not the pure reality but just Fred’s recollection of those events (remember the way he remembers the things, not necessarily the way they happened?). So the tapes, as well as the mystery man, are the messages from his subconscious into his mindscape. Makes sense to me.

Gio  ¤ September 10, 2011 at 22:15

Thanks a lot man. It all makes sense now :)

Oleg  ¤ November 7, 2011 at 01:27

Great explanation. I’ve always liked lost highway in giving
so much to think about without me having an answer. The
key point seems to be looking at it as what is going on
within Fred s mind rather than the external story
and characters. Was able to watch it again another couple
of times in a new clearer light. Cheers.

Phil w  ¤ November 15, 2011 at 10:32

Very good job! Thanks a lot. Well…I feel quite dull, at the end of the movie, I saw it yesteryear night, I was thinking that he actually killed Eddy and Andy but non Renee because he went home only to speak at the intercom and then the agents would chase him… Anyway, the magnetosphere is terrific and the movie deserves 4/5 stars. Thank you again,

Marco V  ¤ December 10, 2011 at 13:56

I don’t know, maybe it’s the Catholic thing, or my passion for the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits (originals!) growing up, but when I watched Lost Highway, it was all in real time and the “Devil made him do it.” Lol

Marie  ¤ December 13, 2011 at 00:14

I like the explanation.. seems to make alot of sense. My only thing is… how did he et out of prison? By literally transforming his body to another person’s? How does that work? Or does he ever get out at all? I can understand that Pete is a manifestation of his own psyche but then how does Pete have history, parents, a job, a girlfriend, etc? Great movie. Definitely gonna watch it a few more times.

Jerald  ¤ December 23, 2011 at 21:05

Dear Jerald:

I understand Fred´s not going outta prison, just remains in jail dreaming-scaping from reality whatchamacallit..

correct me if im worng somebody….

NOT INCLUDED IN THE SOUNDTRACK!!!such a beautiful scene:

rafa  ¤ January 13, 2012 at 01:11

A very good explanation, but after rewatching it again recently, and in respect to his greater genre work, i believe you’ve missed a few salient points. As you said, pete and fred are the same person. Fred, is the psychogenic fugue state.
Consider. In the script, fred is 32. Renee is 30. Pete is 24. Thats 8yrs difference. Alice, is also 8 yrs younger than renee. Fred and renee ARE pete and alice, 8yrs down the line. Fred, in his fugue state, has no recollections of their earlier life. His metamorphosis in the prison, is him revisiting the memories (along with us the viewer) that he has, for some reason, blocked out. (His frenetic jazz playing shows the schizoid division in his soul.)
Has Pete/Fred actually been released? For all intents, we are living his paranoid hallucinatory/revelatory recollections. Assume it is the aforementioned dreamscape memories of their youth, he is revisiting for what seems to be the first time (and for us, the viewer.)
Pete comes across alice, amd in typical Lynchian dark romance, a forbidden and dangerous love springs up, which the relatively innocent pete is dragged into. (remember also jeffery in blue velvet also.)
As the anger and jealousy rises, we get the introduction of the ‘mystery man’. A fragment of the psyche, sure, but in the larger Lynchian mythos, we get the pure existential horror of the other. The outsider, who is part of us. Imagine an ancient pre-civilisation spirit, like an indian avatar, or a voodoo loa, possessing the innocent. Very seductive. Be it the metaphor of drugs, like frank booth and his ether cannister in blue velvet, or just wanton sexual depravity and lust, like killer bob in twin peaks, this is the externalisation of inner psychic forces. The ultimate horror that not just are we being controlled to do actions that we do not want to think we are capable of, but also that in reality, are part of us projected as a figment of externalisation! The mammalian forebrain showing that centuries of higher brain evolution have availed us very little control past these primal, dark urges.

The mystery man does what his dark side wants but is too fearful to embrace. And once given in to these impulses, externalise them as the mystery man. But how to live with the revelations of the dark behaviour of alice, as well as the ‘psychic possession’/ inner turmoil? We have the fugue structure of confused Fred.. Just as Leland Palmer was mostly ignorant of his actions ‘as’ killer bob, so is Fred. Hence his blocking out of the events of Eddys death, and the mysterious voice telling himself on the intercom. And the scene at the party with the mystery man, who he has blocked out, and believes is seeing for the first time. And then, the ending with his fugue state realised, and his buddhist ending of damnation, on the ‘lost highway of the soul…

Jason Parker  ¤ January 27, 2012 at 23:41

I don’t know if you can go as far back as Blue Velvet in order to try to explain Lost Highway. Blue Velvet is still a fairly straight forward story with some really strange characters in it. It’s more likely that Lynch started developing the world we see in Lost Highway in Twin Peaks where things aren’t always what they appear to be and starts to introduce dream sequences. But the real key for me in understanding Lost Highway was his later film: Mulholland Drive. Mulholland Drive is in many ways a copy of Lost Highway, but despite its loose ends (it was actually ment as a pilot) is much more concise and clearer in presenting Lynches strange and dark universe. In Mulholland Drive, the first two thirds of the movie play in an idealized version of the world the main character is living in. It’s only in the last part when this idealized world breaks down that the main character sees herself for what she truly is. Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are films of clouded self perception.

Patrik Fagard  ¤ February 2, 2012 at 14:52

Great article and write up. Thanks for explaining this. Overall the dialogue and tension make this movie totally gripping. The odd characters and strange build up were phenomenal. But to be honest, I find this kind of film making frustrating and ridiculous. It’s as if there is an attempt to be confusing just to depict something in a weird way, leading you down the road to strange paradoxes that one cannot understand except by reading some explanation to the movie like this one. It’s one thing to take some liberties for imagery. It’s another to make an incomprehensible film that requires a detailed guide to explain it all. Personally I think this is a more gripping film than Mulholland Drive but suffers from being even more incomprehensible. This is my favorite least favorite film, if that makes any sense and every once in a while I enjoy watching it, at least for the performances in the way of Pulp Fiction.

John Denard  ¤ February 4, 2012 at 07:46

I almost understand everything,but WHEN was Renee killed?that’s confusing to me.

kornjaca  ¤ February 8, 2012 at 23:05

Well, technically, she was already dead when the film started.
The moments we do see Renee, at the beginning of the movie, that is when Fred is still in denial of actually having killed her. He still believes everything is ok.
The moment he finally realizes what he has done, is when he received the last videotape. It’s a short black and white scene where Renee has been brutally murdered in bed and Fred has blood on his hands.

Patrik Fagard  ¤ February 8, 2012 at 23:30

Good explanation of the movie. This is mostly how I perceived it. Everything about Lynch’s movie is about dream-scape feelings than actual reality.

My guess is that the “real” Fred was in prison all along and that all the movie was just a desperate dream to ease his own mind, pretty much like this essay explains. In fact, I want to believe the Mystery Man is actually the real murderer and the dreamer who dreams Fred, but his reality is still reflected on him, so he then becomes Pete, going deeper into the rabbit hole.

Alex D  ¤ February 10, 2012 at 22:25

Although this is a well thought out interpretation, it doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation of the film. It doesn’t fit as an explanation upon scrutiny, while viewing the film in its entirety. It doesn’t appear that any of the murders take place until the end of the movie. I’m not entirely certain the wife ever gets killed, and that when he arrives at home and announces that Dick is dead, he’s telling her…on the other end of the intercom that her extra-marital lover is now dead, and she’s next. However, the cops, having discovered the body of Andy are looking for him, and interrupt him before he has the chance to get her. He was never in prison at all in the film, that was only his imagination. Just a thought.

Jon  ¤ February 20, 2012 at 23:07

Hi Jon. If you do want to create your own interpretation, a good place to start is not just by watching the movie, but also by reading the script which you can find over here:

Because if the film can be explained, each detail that is mentioned in the script will likely be put in there for a reason. The challenge is figuring out what that reasons are for each detail.

Patrik Fagard  ¤ February 21, 2012 at 01:06

Upon reading Gifford’s explanation, it would seem that he did in fact go to prison, and that everything which happens after is simply a fugue state. I never imagined such a basic explanation, and frankly I think I like the story a lot less knowing that. It’s just lacking in layers.

Jon  ¤ February 21, 2012 at 13:26

One other thing, I think the above synopsis was very spot on now that I know more about at least one of the writers’ intentions, so good on ya. I will be reading the script to get a better feel for the flow. One thing I noticed was at the very beginning of the film, there is the sound of a prison door closing.

Jon  ¤ February 21, 2012 at 13:55

Very good article.. I loved it, but if I can say something in the defense of george (the guy who complained about length of the article). It’s a bit hard for non-english people to keep focus trough whole text.. At least I had that problem.. But anyway it helped me a LOT.. :)

darksidenow  ¤ March 23, 2012 at 18:11

This is one of my Favorite films of all times. Although I understand it might not be an average viewers choice and that many ppl dont like watching films like that. I pretty much agree with your interpretation, that’s the expanation I find most suitable, after reading-watching about it ofcourse. For me, the whole story takes place while he is in jail. The first part, is what he “remembers” happened, while he is being interrogated, and the 2nd story when he transforms into Pete, inside jail while he is waiting his death sentence. What I’m not sure of though, that I read in many theories, is the certainty that his wife was a porn star/unfaithful. For me the only things we know for sure is a)there is a Fred b)he had a wife c)Fred killed his wife, d)Fred goes to jail e)the house they lived in. Full stop. What I’m trying to say is, that there is no proof that his jealousy was justified. Or not for that matter. The second part could might as well be, mixed fantasy with real facts that weren’t revealed to us in the first part, due to Fred’s memory denial. Or, the second part could be completely fantasy coming out of his jealousy. Maybe he was so obsessed with the thought that she was cheating-was a porn star, that in the second fantasy of his, living a different life, this obsession sub consciously took over again. We can’t be sure which one happend, at least for my part. But I love how this film is open to so many different interpretations/ideas and the fact that everytime you watch it you find something you havent seen/understood before. And I think that Lynch wanted it to be this way and that’s what I find great about this film. kornjaca asked WHEN RENEE WAS KILLED. That’s my question too. I believe she was killed (before the film started if we accept that the first part was his memory from jail) after returning home alone, one of these nights Renee stayed home. I came to that conclusion, without being sure though, in the beginning of the film when he calls home, noone answers and then he goes home, and he has something evil on his face. I think that’s what the film suggests there. That Fred killed his wife in one of those jealous nights. Just my two sents. My question is, what Mystery Man whispered to Fred in the desert? Any ideas?

DickLaurentIsDead  ¤ March 29, 2012 at 00:31

Hyia, fascinating discussion going on here. I pick up on the last question asked and give my own ‘personal’ understanding of it. I think the whisper symbolizes the final ‘acceptance’ of what happened, it could be ‘Dick Laurent is dead’ or whatever else, but it seems to suggest that Fred is finally reconciled (at least in the sense of becoming aware) with what happened, and with the part of him that here has been called Mystery Man, but that I would rather call Reality Man. The reason being that Lynch movies are soooo dense with simbology, and the fact that the MM holds a camera throughout the movie cannot be accidental. As the dialogue quoted by the ‘original’ explanation in this page seems to suggest the camera is meant to represent ‘objective’ reality, so it makes sense that everything, or rather, only what is shown though the camera eye is ‘real’. And the MM is the one behind the camera. He seems to represent what Fred has ‘repressed’, but which also happens to be what actually happened. MM’s threatening appearances throughout the movie represent Fred’s fear to remember what he did, but they also show that deeply inside he knows it. If we accept this idea, then it would also follow that Fred’s wife was indeed some kind of prostitute in Eddy’s entourage, as those images are shown to him though the camera, the only observer in the movie who never lies. In this sense this explanation relates back to the ‘jealousy theme’, as the MM also represents the part of Fred who found in the wife’s actions a justification for his behaviour. That is why his demeanour towards Fred changes towards the end… he seems almost to be comforting him… so well, another option for the whisper in question would be ‘you did the right thing’. And in this case then also those who believe MM is the devil wouldn’t be too far off… as what else is the devil if not the personification of what is evil within a human being?
I hope my writing wasn’t as convoluted as the movie… Time to leave with a whole new question. I haven’t double checked in the movie now but I clearly remember that before Fred turns into Pete we witness a confused scene where the parents and the girlfriend are screaming at the side of a street and, at some point later on, the same scene is followed by the flash image of a corpse, which seems to suggest that Pete is dead. And that actually seems to be what the parents and the girlfriend keep alluding to in their dialogues, and are so hesitant to share with Pete… or? Any ideas about this aspect that doesn’t seem to have received much attention so far? I’ve got some vague ideas myself but I keep them for my next Mindscaping break!

Absinthia  ¤ April 7, 2012 at 17:52

Very nice expanation great. Thanks

siddhant  ¤ April 13, 2012 at 08:44

Awesome explanation, awesome movie.

Dan  ¤ April 16, 2012 at 06:07

thanks for the explanation.. couldn’t have done it without you!

audra  ¤ April 23, 2012 at 03:50

This article is very helpful in understanding most of the film but there are of course still loose ends. One thing I think you have right is the 5 stages of grief and this seems to be backed up by an interview I saw with David Lynch explaining that his idea behind this film came after he was thinking about the OJ Simpson case. He explains that he was curious as to what happens to the mind in a situation like that, where one commits a horrendous crime but is able to go on living as if nothing has happened. So the film is his interpretation of what happens. The difference of course is that OJ Simpson was not convicted and we don’t know if he’s ever accepted what he did. So like some people say, maybe Fred was never sent to prison but then the whole first half of the movie doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s a metaphorical prison, who knows? And we don’t know if he definitely killed the others.

I like films that make me think and I have become attracted to David Lynch’s strange works, but I also find it frustrating with the kind of film making that requires extensive research to understand it. There should be some form of explanation, but that is perhaps why the films that don’t make sense initially don’t become hugely successful. I believe that if there were an explanation thrown in to the film then it would have been much more successful.

Dee  ¤ May 7, 2012 at 18:12

just read all the posts, then re-watched the film. How about: throughout the film there are flashes of lightening – this is because Fred is in the electric chair and the film is his life flashing before his eyes, but rather than the life he led, he remembers what he wants to remember and the associated emotions.

bob  ¤ May 22, 2012 at 14:13

definately agree with bob especially since mystery man says: Great question!! In the east … the far east… when a person is sentenced to death… they’re sent to a place where they can’t escape… Its like hes on the brink of death (literally sitting in the chair with the bag over his head) and any second he will be electricuted and in those few seconds before death he is trying to escape it in his mind, going into a dream scape to remove himself from his iminent death. when watching for the first time, as i got to towards the end, i thought the last scene would be fred being electricuted but that would be too much closure from Lynch eh :)

kyle  ¤ June 3, 2012 at 23:01

great job in expaliningn the movie thoughwe have still some unfold scened in the movie. but i like your explaination

india great  ¤ June 7, 2012 at 19:42

Really enjoyed the article, well done for coming up with such a detailed interpretation.

I won’t try and explain the entire film in my own way as I don’t even know if I could do that at this point. But here are some interesting points which are worth discussing:

The mystery man is the personification of the evil, jealousy, negativity, which exists in Fred’s mind. The figure of evil similar to the hobo in Mulholland Drive. The cabin where he ‘lives’ is the same as the blue box in MD.

Alice and Renee are not two different people, or two perceptions of the same person, they are the same person throughout. Alice is Renee’s stage name. Fred hates video cameras because they remind him of ‘Alices’ past activities.

The ONLY part of the film which is happening in ‘reality’ if you like is from when he’s punched in the nose by the detective to when he cracks up his jail cell. If you observe carefully at the scene immediately before he’s punched in the nose and is brought back to reality, there’s a shaking camera and lightening flashes – correct me if I’m wrong but Lynch has used these effect to signify ‘waking up’ from a dreamstate before (off hand I can think of the Club Silencio scene in MD).

Tom  ¤ June 8, 2012 at 18:02

very good! however i disagree with one very important point. to me personally it made a lot more sense (really like a light bolt went on)that mister eddi and pete are both fred. when fred is in prison he is forced to judge him self. as a result two characters pop up. pete, the “good side” of fred, and eddi the “evil side.” for example when mister eddie passed the phone to the strange man it was him (eddie) who was possessed with jealousy (because he was the one jealous of pete for his wife’s betrayal which is why he called in the first place). and then it was discovered that renee is also eddie’s wife (fred’s wife). and the last clue that for me sealed the deal was when strange man passed the small screen to eddie when he was laying on the sand. you can see all the images that were seen by eddie, infact it showed us strange man and fred as eddie was looking at them! strange man controlled booth pete and eddie because they were booth fred.

dani  ¤ June 25, 2012 at 22:18

oo and also when eddie the “evil side” dies. mister strange man(jealousy) naturally disappears since jealousy is believed to be a part of our bad side.

dani  ¤ June 25, 2012 at 22:28

thanks for this dude, this makes sense now!

One thing: when Pete is talking with his mom and asked about the night he dissapeard, mom says “you were with a man i’ve never seen before”, or something like that. Who was the man she was talking about? In the scene were Fred is walking in the dark and trough the living room there is two shadows(?) am i right?

anyway thanks, my theory was that Fred had a multiple personality disorder or something.

lynchfan  ¤ June 27, 2012 at 06:40

If I were to explain this movie in chronological order, this is how I understood it:

1- Pete, a young mechanic, gets in trouble for something that he did (the movie does not mention what exactly happened) but he makes it through and comes back home where he lives with his parents who provide him full support. Two detectives are now following him (possibly in relation to what he did).

2- Pete, while at work, meets and falls in love with Alice (Mr. Eddy’s mistress, porno actress, etc…). Mr. Eddy is a mafioso/porno maker/etc… Pete and Alice start having an affair without Mr. Eddy’s knowledge.

3- After realizing that Mr. Eddy discovered their secret relationship, Alice and Pete are very afraid that they might be killed, and Alice tempts Pete into robbing Andy (Mr. Eddy’s friend) so they can have some money and runaway with each other.

4- Pete commits the robbery and kills Andy.

5- Alice also decides to kill Mr. Eddy. She takes him to a hotel room, where Pete is waiting in the room next door. After she makes love to Mr. Eddy, she leaves, and Pete walks into the room kidnapping Mr. Eddy and killing him in the desert.

6- Pete and Alice change their names to Fred and Rene in an attempt to erase their past and hide from the police.

Here the movie pauses and does not cover a big part of Fred’s life, until he’s in his early 40s (I think?)

7- Fred is now married to Rene, and they’re both living in their california home. Fred works as a saxophonist.

8- Fred suspects that his wife is cheating on him and because of all the history that has happened between them, he kills her in their bedroom.

9- Fred is caught by the police, sentenced to death and is now sitting in his jail cell waiting for his execution. This is when he starts going over his whole life and his acceptance/denial of what he did.

10- Fred is executed in an electric chair.

I might be way off with my explanation but this makes most sense to me. Did anybody else see the movie this way?

Marc  ¤ July 15, 2012 at 03:52

very elaborative and to the point. Thanks

Jayant  ¤ August 20, 2012 at 12:29

Thank you very much for your explanation! I makes a hell of a sense. Just for the record: Barry Gifford, the co-writer, gives way small pieces of an explanation that matches your solution to the case. Thumbs up for you!

Helio Marx  ¤ September 25, 2012 at 22:30

Again (with the adres of the mentioned site this time):

Thank you very much for your explanation! It makes a hell of a sense. Just for the record: Barry Gifford, the co-writer, gives way small pieces of an explanation that matches your solution to the case. Thumbs up for you!

Helio Marx  ¤ September 25, 2012 at 22:32

Thx for the link Helio!
It has been quite insightful. I didn’t know the scenario was co written, but I guess this is good news as Lynch himself has remained tight lipped about his own interpretation of the film. It does raise new questions though. As in how far do the interpretations between Gifford and Lynch differ? And what was their collaboration like?

Patrik Fagard  ¤ September 26, 2012 at 09:07

Nice work on the interpretation. Like you, I too enjoyed this film, although it made no sense to me!

Ranjodh  ¤ October 30, 2012 at 20:34

nice job man! many times u went through the movie before writing it??

sandy  ¤ November 15, 2012 at 01:27

I believe I have seen the movie some four or five times. And Mulholland Drive two or three times.
I however relied mostly on reading the screenplay when writing this post. This made it less tedious then having to review the movie itself over and over again.

I also figured that by reading the screenplay, it would be easier to distinguish any important plot elements from any of the other visual cues in the movie.

Patrik Fagard  ¤ November 15, 2012 at 13:54

Great explanation, thank you very much!
I just watched the movie for the 3rd or the 4th time, I can’t be sure. I hoped to have it figured out by now but failed to do so. Then I decided to find some explanation on the interet.

After reading everything, one more thought comes to mind. Can someone please explain the meaning of blowing up of the cabin in the dessert. And becoming a whole once again after “rewinding” the explosion. What is the meaning of that??

Tibor  ¤ November 23, 2012 at 02:31

Oh, and another thing. Noticed how mistery man never blinks? That is a certain prof he isn’t human. I mean that he is not a person but a feeling, just like you guys said. Jelousy.

Tibor  ¤ November 23, 2012 at 02:42

For the record George was right. In fact this film can be explained in even 1 sentence. It is the 5 stages of grief. DONE. Then the beauty of it, is being able to watch it again and seeing if you can dissect it enough to figure out which stage is which. Or even what a character like the mystery man might symbolize or represent. The people who needed a full explanation are the same people who expect everything to be handed to them in life, or want that pay raise the third day of work.

Bobby  ¤ December 1, 2012 at 05:40

I can’t read this. It’s simply too butchered. There is no excuse for spelling and grammar this bad.

Amelia  ¤ December 4, 2012 at 03:29

Great explanation, thank you very much, great job.

Titus  ¤ December 4, 2012 at 19:03

Excellent, you explained it well! Congratulations!

One of the genius touches in this film is at the beginning (also Jon above in a comment was speaking about it: the sound of a prison cell’s door):

At the start of the film, Fred, in his cell, was smoking the last cigaret of his life, with fear and apprehension, trembling and sweating, before they opened the cell’s door, making an electrical buzzing sound, and light came slowly into the room and onto Fred’s face: his timeout is finished, they finally came to lead him to the electrical chair, through the corridor of death or call it the “highway” with its yellow line all along the way till the sentence room, into the dark.
At the end of the film Fred is shown electrocuted on the car’s seat.

saberitto  ¤ December 6, 2012 at 00:11

Dream . . . We Live In Dream . . . Twin Peaks And Bob . . . Now Lost Highway And FUCKING Mysteroius Man . . . They Are Symbols Of Another World And Will Appear Whenever You Feel Guilty Or Or Black ” Fell a Victim ” .

Ashkan  ¤ February 4, 2013 at 17:37

Thanks, this is great. From other David Lynch films I knew that most of the characters were part of his mind… Though I thought it was more he had multiple personalities or all the characters were part of his mind. Saberitto, I think you are right, the blue flashing and electric noise that you see and hear that seems to coincide with him changing bodies, is him frying. Seems like most of the movie, from the 1st “change” to the end is all in the couple seconds they are electrocuting him.
Also, the start of the movie seems to be when he is punched by the detective, then the movie ends when he is in the jail cell (or frying). If you want to understand David Lynch movies watch Meshes in the Afternoon by Maya Darren. It is a Mobius loop. All Lynch movies are highly inspired by that film.

raj100  ¤ February 4, 2013 at 19:15

apriciated. Thank you very much.

Zazamg  ¤ February 11, 2013 at 21:48

Gratefully appreciated!
Thank you.

PP  ¤ February 17, 2013 at 19:12

aaaahhh! NOW I get it :)

Benjamin  ¤ February 28, 2013 at 19:35

Loved the film (and MD) and loved the interpretation.

ignatias  ¤ March 9, 2013 at 23:52

I agree with your interpretation.
David Lynch is a true artist, and with any artist’s work you will find that even the smallest details ( a pen angled at 66 degrees or the enunciation of the simplest greeting) are deliberate.
At first watching, I myself was befuddled by this ostensibly weird film: but like many of you, grasping ‘Mulholland Drive’ allowed me to retrospectively realize that the characters and incidents of Lost Highway, as represented, were actually manifestations of the (tortured) subconscious of a single individual, who – by fracturing the elements of his personality – attempts to suppress the reality that he has ‘killed his wife’. As in any subconscious mind, the main preoccupations are desires and fears, therefore time & linear sequence become unimportant: images repeat themselves at seemingly random points, depending on the state of mind and emotion of the thinker.
The only real Alice/Renee is the individual depicted in the pornographic films (SHE’S JUST A WHORE!…lol): every other image of her is Fred’s attempt to warp that personality in to what he wants, and to the last he never stops trying to fool HIMSELF – in the scene where the Pete manifestation of Fred’s personality questions Alice (repeats his mind’s questions to himself about her) regarding her ‘activities’ with Andy & Laronte, he makes the statement “you enjoyed it, didn’t you?” (or words to that effect), she (he) does not answer (himself), but rather (he) prefers to indulge in more self deception to hide the truth and give in to his desires. But ‘reality/the truth’ is beginning to break down all his illusions, culminating in the disintegration of the Alice image in the words “you’ll never have me…”
The scene where he subsequently walks in to the cabin in the desert and sees only the Mystery Man (representing what I imagine to be the angry side of his personality largely fed up – to the point of emotional violence – with the layers of internal subterfuge) is pivotal. The self he cannot hide from tells him ‘the truth’: 1.(by statement) he cannot continue to recreate Renee; 2. (by question) he cannot keep hiding his whole ‘real’ persona behind the ‘Pete’ (and attendant manifestations). My take on the incendiary destruction of the cabin is Fred’s subconscious destroying this ‘good Renee’ (Alice) illusion. You will all have noticed in earlier scenes with the burning, that he is attempting to reverse the destruction (engage in more self-deception/cling to the ‘good Renee’ image), which the MM manifestation has introduced into his subconscious.
The ‘Sheila’ image to me represents what part of his subconscious is telling him should be the type of good simple, woman he could be happy with. She, like Alice, is an archetype in his mind (did anyone notice that they both have the same black fingernails?), but this concept cannot win against his (frustrated) overwhelming desire for the representative voluptuousness that the Alice/Renee concept encompasses.
As you correctly stated, Sheila and Pete’s parents are part of an attempted assertion of innocence. It cannot be forgotten that they are reflections of his subconscious also subject to the ‘reality’. When they refer to the incident in which Pete meets this ‘strange man’ and goes with him, I have no doubt that Fred’s/Pete’s subconscious is showing the futility of trying to totally bury the ‘truth’ by having even them remind him of when the MM (the strange man) aspect of his personality became dominant (took him away).
The more you watch this film, the more you pick up, and the more you’ll appreciate it.

Herman  ¤ April 1, 2013 at 20:48

Wonderful interpretation, but I think it is only partially correct. I don’t mean to suggest that any part of it is wrong, but that you don’t have the whole story (I don’t mean you are lacking the details that Lynch, in his wisdom, left out, but rather, something that the film shows which few to none have spotted).

Let me begin…

Lost Highway is a splice of reality book-ended by two dreams.

The first dream (as noted in some of the comments already posted) takes place directly before he awakes from a knockout punch he has received from the cop interrogating him. The dream, therefore, not only contains aspects of what ACTUALLY happened, but also, elements of the fabrications he has offered the cops while arguing his innocence.

The middle of the film is the waking reality: Fred Madison has been sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. He spends most of his time lying in his cell remembering the last image he has of the woman he obsessed over; her brutal dismemberment, and blood on his hands. He is in a living and very real hell. He is having trouble sleeping.


Fred visits the prison doctor and is given a sleeping tablet and told, “You’ll sleep now”.
Let me repeat…
Fred visits the prison doctor and is given a sleeping tablet and told, “You’ll sleep now”.

Thus begins the second dream. Here we are treated to a glimpse of who Fred Madison actually is. The murder is covered in the first dream, now Lynch is trying to understand the murderer

The End

The real pickle/joy to Lost Highway is trying to think of the story in terms of opposites. The only thing I can be sure of is that Fred Madison is in prison awaiting execution for the murder of his wife, everything else that is shown to us is a dream and should be treated as such. Pete Dayton, for example, young, virile, popular, is a diametric opposite of Fred Madison. Renee appears to be sweet and subservient (gimme a break); notice also her shift from blonde to brunette. The saxophone solo Fred plays in the night club, how could anyone interpret that as music; it is masturbation (Q. what do saxophones represent in movie narrative? A. sex). The solo intensifies and bleaches out the screen in orgasm (this motif is supported by other similar moments of bliss that Fred experiences in the act of lovemaking; or, should I say, dreams he is experiencing).

I’m getting ahead of myself here(it’s 4:am and I’m ready to dream, myself)

Forget everything I’ve just written.

Let me really begin.

Lost highway is not a comedy (although there a few laughs thrown in), it’s not a western or drama or science fiction’ it is a Noir Thriller and this genre (like all other) has rules. Apart from musicals and children’s films, Film Noir seems to be one of the few genres that deserve the mantle ‘oneiristic’ (oneirism: dream-like). In fact, in the forties, psychologists realised that films can be interpreted like dreams, and in particular those of the (retro labeled) Noir genre. Notice how, for example, when a movie ends, the common reaction by the viewer is to stretch and yawn, as if awaking from a dream/sleep. It is no accident that Fred Madison has dreamed himself into a Noir laden existence; it is the only dream/genre that could allow him to reinvent himself as he does. Bearing all this in mind, Lost Highway would seem to be a trite little story of obsession and murder, so, why is it so intriguing? The answer to that is, THAT IS NOT FRED MADISON ON THE SCREEN!!

Who are we watching on the screen? I’ll get back to that in a moment.


The dreams in Lost Highway are an amalgamation of many other Noir ‘dreams’, be they characters, scenarios, plot points, etc (the only research needed to decypher Lost Highway is that you watch other movies of the genre -Sunset Boulevard, Detour, Laura, Vertigo and countless others). Sunset Boulevard (Lynch’s favourite movie) is a tale told by a dead man (lights have gone off at that last statement, I’m sure) but that does not necessarily mean Fred Madison is dead. It is only one facet of the many devices used in the countless Noir tales that Lynch is referencing. When Fred id handed the knife that he uses to cut Mr. Eddie’s throat, it is almost identical to the shot from Fritz Lang’s ‘The Woman In The Window’ wher Edward G. Robinson is handed a knife to do likewise, and this film also turns out to be just a dream (do I have to mention the references in ‘Wild At Heart’ to ‘The Wizard Of Oz’; another dream based movie?
When Pete Dayton reclines in his back garden and we see the picket fence, dog and garden hose, Lynch is not referencing HIS movie ‘Blue Velvet’, he is referencing THE movie ‘Blue Velvet’. As it falls into that long line of traditional movies in the Noir catalogue. For, after all, what is a Noir murder mystery without a little misdirection.

Blodes vs Brunettes, dream sequences, shifting identities, flashbacks, time shifts… these are all ingredients of the genre and Lynch stirs them together as only a true master of their art can do so. Mr Eddie is a dream character for Fred, but he has somebody’s face, is it Fred’s father’s face? The Mystery Man is Fred’s wrath (his explosive rage condenses in the cabin and the Mystery Man emerges- contained and embodied), but his face… did it belong to the witness at Fred’s trial (it’s the mystery man that sees Fred kidnap Mr. Eddie) – I AM NOT CONTRADICTING MYSELF AS BOTH THESE FACES APPEAR ONLY IN THE DREAM SEQUENCES.

I could talk for hours about this film and still I have no concrete solutions to Lost Highway. In fact, it wasn’t until I spotted the keys to unlocking Mulholland Drive that I revisited Lost Highway and found the keys therein, but they only help me to place the substance of the story and ultimately ask more questions than they answer. There are simply too many splinters to the narrative of Lost Highway and I’ve barely managed to skim the surface with this comment and you have covered most of what I have left out. All I can add is that you should not be afraid to analyse Lost Highway as a dream within a movie, a lot of critics think that to interpret the film this way is a cop-out and droll. Lynch is trying to psychoanalyse the mind of a murderer, and, as any good psychoanalyst will tell you, the best way to do so is through the dreams of a murderer. But Lost Highway is not the life and dreams of a murderer, it is a movie by David Lynch, and it is wrapped in the many guises of the body of film known as Noir; it is a mystery, and the biggest mystery of all (as expressed by everybody who watches this film)is – WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING?

Let me end now by answering the question that I posed earlier (it’s hard to be wrong when you’re asking yourself the questions – Groucho Marx),,,

Who are we watching on the screen?

When the film begins, we seen a road at night, we hear David Bowie singing the song ‘Deranged’. The road leads us to Fred Madison. Half way through the movie we see that road again, Fred becomes Pete. At the end of the movie, the road and song sends us home. THE VIEWER IS THE ENTITY ON THE SCREEN.

We sit, the curtain opens, we become Fred, the knowledge of who we are is too disturbing, we become Pete, but this identity is arguably more terrifying. The curtains draw closed, we stand, stretch and yawn. The dreamer has awoken.

Is it so impossible to imagine how a psychopath could function day-to-day, reinventing himself as he goes, when, for the duration of the movie, we ourselves were lost to the world. I’m not talking about the casual movie goer, I’m talking about us; the fanatics. We are the deranged of the song’s title. We are the ones who try to escape into these meta-stories, as if there may be answers for us therein.

Believe it or not, everything I’ve just written (and more I’m too tired to cover), also supports the theory that Fred was framed for his wife’s murder; their past caught up with them. But that’s for a later discussion.

As the saying goes, “I was gonna write a book about love, but I think I should read one first”.

Good Night.

I’ll drop back to this thread now and again and elaborate on this comment if anybody is interested.

P.S. I’m probably wrong about all of this.

Josef K.  ¤ April 5, 2013 at 06:16

good work guys!

cd  ¤ April 25, 2013 at 14:09

how does this story relate to the oedipus complex?

Jaclyn Sokolowski  ¤ May 17, 2013 at 06:43

I watched the film again and can say, after 20 years, I have solved the riddle (thankfully, there is still more juice to be squeezed from it, and I have another 20 years of mystique and pleasure), but I would like to say “stick with it”. It’s there, it’s all there. Solve Mulholland Drive, it’s not as obscure (the thing you’re looking for, that I’m reluctant to reveal), and apply the same reasoning. The big mystery now is Inland Empire. I applied the same thinking and got good results, but the key (which was the last piece of the previous two puzzles) is hidden in so much more screen time (RABBITS, INLAND EMPIRE, OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED, and one or two other shorts that may or may not connected) that I am as completely lost on my sixth viewing, as I was when first I saw Lost Highway almost 20 years ago. But I repeat, Stick with it… It’s all there.
Good Luck!

Josef K.  ¤ June 24, 2013 at 02:36

maybe not everything is metaphorical and fred really was allowed to turn into pete even temporarily if he could commit more evil acts. we see all kinds of supernatural shit going on..lightning flashes, lights flickering, macabre sounds like bugs flying around in lamps.. signalling evil manifesting itself on the physical plane of the real world which we know is possible in Lynch films. the mystery man can do supernatural things like be two places at once why cant he grant fred some time as someone else so he can leave prison and murder mr eddy and andy? We know petes reality is almost a negative/opposite image of freds reality but the end result is the same fred was always going to die. Just putting some alternative thoughts out there because i dont buy the fact that everything in lost highway is a metaphor for 5 stages of grief or his fantasy to escape or whatever. Just like mulholland drive isn’t necessarily dianes delusion or dream or schizophrenic mental creation or whatever you want to call it but it was a true reality for her even if for a little while? The monster in the alley is somewhat similar to the mystery man and the blue box always held the two girls deaths. Not saying this is exactly what happened but i just dont buy that both movies can be fully explained by saying the scenes all mean something else.

Jason G  ¤ June 26, 2013 at 19:52
T-shirts with the god Shiva print