Dream Interpretation of the Film Lost Highway Essay

Dream Interpretation of the Film Lost Highway Essay

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Dream Interpretation of the Film "Lost Highway"

Cop: Do you own a video camera?
Renee: No. Fred hates them.
Fred: I like to remember things my own way.
Cop: What do you mean by that?
Fred: How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened.

A dream can mean everything, or it can mean nothing. According to Freud, if we take its contents seriously, it has the potential to reveal things about ourselves that we scarcely believe could be true. But often the fragmented oddness of such a vision damages its credibility, and one is left wondering how something so disjointed could contain insight of any value. Such is the dilemma with "Lost Highway," a movie seemingly bent on walking its viewers down one path, and then, when they begin to understand the nature of it all, to abruptly change course and begin anew. Hitchcock's "MacGuffin" - the term he coined to refer to the apparent plot of a story, which is merely a cover for the underlying, more important thread - is both irrelevant and vital in this film. The viewer will watch what is happening, trying to get a sense of the plot, but the plot, really, is unimportant. The very nature of plot demands a sense of linearity, and this movie lacks such a characteristic. However, the plot is also the most important aspect of the film, because, ultimately, almost everything each character does seems to be part of a dream in the mind of the central character, Fred Madison. Consequently, what happens is not merely manifest content to be brushed aside. Hidden within it is the latent content which will give the viewer an understanding of what is happening in the mind of this man. How do we know it is a dream and not merely poor story-telling? How do we know...

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...on to detail complements this approach quite well. In either case, the effect works. One of the most difficult tasks in a movie is to let the viewer inside the mind of one of its characters. This is much easier in literature, which can employ the faculties of narration and omniscience. In a film with no such leisure, a director must rely on images and dialogue alone to accomplish this feat. To visually represent the emotions of a character can only be well-executed in a few distinct ways. One such, effective way is to film the dreams and fantasies occurring in the mind of that character. Lynch's approach works, and Fred's emotional and psychical states of being are clear, if the viewer can just look past the manifest to find the rich, latent content buried beneath.


Gay, Peter, ed. The Freud Reader.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1989.

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