Lost Highway Review: What Does the Ending of Mean?

Explanation of plot and ending, detailed plot analysis, similar movies. Three interpretations of the film “Lost Highway”.

Genre: thriller, detective

Year of production: 1997

Directed by: David Lynch

Actors: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty

tagline: “A lost road on the edge of strange…”

David Lynch’s paintings are saturated with suspense and surrealism. One of his most complex and gloomy works was no exception. The point of Lost Highway is the danger of not accepting reality. Can you really hide in your own dream world? Lynch is sure you can. However, this film of his hints that you need to be very careful in your desires.

What is the movie about

Brief description of the content of the film Lost Highway. Los Angeles, 1994 The couple lives in a compact two-story suburban home. Their life cannot be called cloudless: Fred Madison, a talented saxophonist, is completely absorbed in the idea that his wife Renee is cheating on him.

Bill PullmanBill Pullman as Fred Madison. Frame from the film.

What follows is a dark, frightening event. In the intercom, an unfamiliar voice announces the death of a certain Dick Laurent. In the morning mail, Fred and Rene discover video tapes showing the front of their house and themselves sleeping peacefully in their bed.

Shortly thereafter, the couple are invited to a party where Fred meets the Mystery Man. After talking with him, Madison and his wife hurriedly return home. The next morning, Fred receives a new videotape. On the recording, he sees himself, and next to him is the dismembered body of Rene. From shock, the man departs a little only at the police station. After the trial, he is sentenced to death, and until the execution of the sentence, he is placed in a cell.

One morning, while making his rounds, the guard sees not Madison in the cell, but auto mechanic Pete Dayton. He is immediately released, but at the same time he is being followed. The freed Dayton is trying to return to normal life – working and dating his girlfriend Sheila.

Pete doesn’t make much money, and an order to fix the car from crime boss Mr. Eddy comes in very handy. With Mr. Eddie, it turns out very interesting in general – the police recognize him as the deceased Dick Lorant …

After some time, Pete meets Laurent’s lover, former pornographic actress Alice Wakefield. The girl, the owner of beautiful blond hair, is surprisingly similar to the brunette Renee Madison. Dayton, strongly infatuated with Alice, enters into a relationship with her. The situation becomes very dangerous and Alice offers her lover a way out – to rob one of his acquaintances, a guy named Andy, sell everything to a buyer of stolen goods and leave as far as possible.

Patricia ArquettePatricia Arquette played the roles of Renee Madison and Alice Wakefield. Frame from the film.

And Dayton does it. However, during the debriefing, not everything goes according to plan – Pete kills Andy. Afterwards, the lovers escape with Andy’s belongings, which are planned to be sold.

According to a preliminary agreement, the buyer of stolen goods must wait for them in a house that is located in the middle of the desert. However, he is not there. Pete and Alice spend a passionate night in the desert, after which the girl enters the house, and Dayton remains outside …

Lost Highway Ending explanation

Explanation of the ending of Lost Highway. Near the end of Lost Highway, Pete Dayton transforms into Fred Madison. Entering the house, he discovers the Mysterious Man there. He informs him that the name of his beloved is Rene, not Alice. When asked about his name, he does not answer.

Pit Fred is confused. He goes to a motel called Lost Highway where he watches his wife Renee break up with Dick Laurent. When the wife leaves, the man attacks Lorant and takes him to the desert. Dayton suddenly appears there. Together with the Mysterious Man, they kill Lorant. After that, the Mystery Man says something in Pete’s ear and disappears. At the end of the film, Dayton, in the guise of Madison, goes to his house and meets with the police there. They investigate the deaths of Andy and Rene. Madison reports Laurent’s death on the intercom and tries to leave, but the police chase him. He fails to hide.

The meaning of Lost Highway ending is quite complicated – it depends on what actually happens in the picture. And there are many interpretations of the plot.

The meaning of the film Lost Highway

Unfortunately, Lost Highway is David Lynch’s most underrated film. The answer lies in the fact that even the fans of the talented director were not ready for such a difficult-to-understand film with a non-linear plot and hidden meaning. Speaking about the essence of the film, someone quite aptly said that this is not just Lynch, but Lynch cubed.

According to legend, David Lynch was inspired by the story of O.J. Simpson, who, against all odds, was acquitted of murdering his wife and friend. Reflecting on this, the director came to the conclusion that in the case of Simpson it was about the phenomenon of psychogenic fugue. Briefly explained, it looks like this: a person commits a crime that shocks him so much that his psyche blocks everything related to the murder. As a result, he lives peacefully on …

Throughout the existence of the film, the audience has developed a huge number of theories. All of them can be combined into three main types of interpretation of the plot.

mystical version

This version of the events of Lost Highway is considered the simplest. The point of all this is that Fred Madison really turns into Pete Dayton in a prison cell. Absolutely everything that happens to him is the work of dark forces (according to one of the interpretations, the Mysterious Man is the devil).

Fred and Pete are people from different realities. They both became victims of the devil’s game. The events of their lives are looped, and the boundaries between the worlds are blurred. Both of them seemed to be in Groundhog Day and are forced to experience monstrous events over and over again.

There is another option with possession and transmigration of souls. By the will of evil forces, Fred kills his wife and dooms himself to endless suffering.

Robert BlakeThe role of the Mystery Man was played by Robert Blake. Frame from the film.

According to the third, most original interpretation, the Mysterious Man is a good force. He is able to turn back time and help Fred not commit the murder of Rene. To do this, Madison has to deal with Lorant and always travel along the highway, hiding from the servants of the law.

Mystical theory has many holes. Some connoisseurs of the master’s work reject it because this interpretation only glides through the plot, and there are no random and unnecessary details in Lynch’s paintings.

Grim Detective

The meaning of this version is that everything that happened is real. To understand what is happening, you need to move the reference point to the beginning of the Pete Dayton story.

The young man led a quite ordinary provincial life. He had a girlfriend and not the highest paid, but stable job. He also had a traumatic brain injury, which probably affected his condition in the future.

Pete was appreciated by everyone – including the bandit Mr. Eddie, aka Dick Lorant. To his misfortune, Dayton falls in love with a spectacular blonde, Laurent’s mistress … The story of unlucky lovers ends in a house in the desert: Pete and Alice receive new documents from a buyer of stolen goods and turn into Fred and Renee Madison. The events shown in the first half of the film are the tragic ending of their story.

Balthazar GettyBalthazar Getty starred as Pete Dayton. Frame from the film.

The bottom line is that a few years later, Renee could not forget her past life – she liked both shooting and the patronage of such a strong, powerful man as Mr. Eddy. Fred is in trouble too. He has erection problems, an old head injury makes itself felt – he forgets individual events. Madison suspects his wife of cheating. Fuel is added to the fire by the Mysterious Man, who demands a special fee for information – he needs a video recording from the spouses’ house.

Fred arrives at the motel where Laurent and Rene meet. After waiting for his wife to leave, he attacks Dick and takes him to the desert. A few days later, completely distraught Madison kills his wife …

He is sentenced to death in the electric chair. He suffers from a terrible headache and suffers from insomnia. The fact that he committed two murders, he does not want to admit even to himself. After receiving sleeping pills, he falls asleep and sees his past. So Lost Highway goes to the second round.

This version also has holes. There are, for example, questions – how did an auto mechanic become a saxophonist and why did Pete and Alice openly live under Laurent’s nose? Perhaps a third interpretation will help answer them.

Psychogenic truck

Fred Madison is a man suffering from progressive schizophrenia. His condition worsens against the backdrop of his wife’s infidelities. He not only forgets important events in his life, but also begins to suffer from a split personality. At the same time, one of its parties refuses to accept what the other has done.

To deal with this version, you need to conditionally break Lost Highway into three parts.

Balthazar Getty, Robert LoggiaBalthazar Getty as Pete, Robert Lodge as Mr. Eddy. Frame from the film.

The first begins with the film and ends with death row. All events are shown through the personal prism of Madison’s perception – and in one of the mise-en-scenes, he says that he is used to “remembering things in his own way.”

The second part starts with Fred’s headaches, and ends in the desert, when Pete is again replaced by Fred. We are talking here about the notorious dissociative (psychogenic) fugue. That is, real events are mixed with the inventions of a sick person. The point is that Fred runs away from himself and thus invents his “other self” – the young Pete Dayton and begins to live a new, illusory life – however, in a dream.

The third part begins with the return of Madison and ends with the film. Here Fred gets rid of the “other me”. He continues to sleep, but now he is dreaming of real events. It is worth remembering that at the moment when the film begins, Dick Lorant is already dead. “Good” Fred doesn’t want to hear anything about it, so his mind comes to his rescue again by creating a creepy message about the death of his opponent.

Madison knows for sure that his wife is cheating on him – as well as the fact that Laurent is dead. However, to make sure that he is right, he calls home. Nobody picks up the phone. Believing that he will find his wife agitated by the disappearance of her lover, he returns to find her sleeping peacefully at home.

In the morning, Rene finds an envelope with a videotape. The girl is frightened: she is sure that there is dirt on her. However, the short footage only shows the front of their house.

watching a videotapeFrame from the film.

What follows are Fred’s memories. He recalls that he saw his wife leave the club where he works as a saxophonist, in the company of a young man – Andy. She is wearing a gray dress – the same one she wore in the scene of Laurent’s murder. This means that Fred killed a rival before he said goodbye to his wife before leaving for work. That is, the events of the first part of the picture took place after the death of Laurent.

Later it turns out that Madison cannot satisfy his wife – that is probably why she began to cheat on him. Further, in Fred’s mind, the image of his wife splits into two. One of them is good and beloved, the second is cold and distant. Madison attacks her at the end of the dream, which is exactly what his “bad” side wants.

But who is the Mysterious Man? According to this theory, Fred knew him in the past and probably a deal was made between them.

They meet again at Andy’s party, and Fred denies knowing him. He’s not pretending – his “good” part really doesn’t know this creepy guy. Madison remembered the conversation with him in his own way …

And apparently, the Mystery Man said that he wanted to be paid for his services and said when he came to the Madisons’ house. So he becomes for Fred a symbol of dark horror, his inner demon – and the man identifies his “bad” side with him.

He is tormented by his deed and cannot admit to himself what he has done. He loses sleep, he is tormented by terrible headaches. He is given medicine and falls asleep.

Patricia Arquette, Bill PullmanPatricia Arquette as Rene/Alice, Bill Pullman as Fred. Frame from the film.

So his alter ego, Pete Dayton, enters the scene. All the people around Pete are similar to the people around Fred. Rene turns into a blonde Alice, Rene’s friend Andy becomes Alice’s friend – who, unlike the real “prototype”, dies. Probably, in this way Fred “gets rid” of another rival.

In a dream, Madison exaggerates the image of Laurent, turning him into a crime boss. Probably, in fact, it was an ordinary person who had met Rene before.

The fictional reality begins to fall apart after talking on the phone with the Mysterious Man. Pete commits both robbery and murder, and Alice just uses him for her own purposes. So Dayton disappears, and Fred returns to reality. At the same time, he continues to see the events as he remembered them. His “good” side still can’t go along with the murder. Therefore, Lorant is not killed by himself, but by his “dark side” – a creepy Mysterious Man, who knows how to find himself in the middle of the desert.

Lost Highway ends with the police chasing Madison. He never managed to escape from himself – the worst thing for him is not death in the electric chair, but a return to reality and the realization of what he had done. However, he still cannot escape execution …

Patricia ArquetteFrame from the film.

Similar films

Here are a few films similar in meaning to Lost Highway:

  • Mulholland Drive (USA, France, 2001). After an accident, the girl takes a new name for herself and tries to live on. But to do this is not so easy.
  • “Blue Velvet” (USA, 1986). The young man leaves a prestigious college and returns to a quiet province – closer to his sick father. There he becomes a witness to gloomy and terrible events.
  • Jacob’s Ladder (USA, 1990). A soldier wounded in Vietnam returns home. The horrors of war haunt him and it seems to him that he is slowly losing his mind.
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