Repetitions in Lost Highway Edit
As a method of narrative development, Lost Highway repeats many images, music, and elements of the story throughout the film. The different sets of repetitions overlap with one another, creating a dense network of meaningful relationships.
Sax music Edit
Fred’s explosive and virile sax performance, which Renee shows no interest in (supposedly she stayed home to read, but no one answers when Fred calls home), is repeated twice. Images of Fred playing sax are replayed without the sound as Fred remembers Renee leaving one of his performances with another man (Andy). Things have become more explicit: Renee is shown with another man, and Fred’s sax playing has been deprived of its potency. Immediately after this memory sequence, Fred and Renee have sex, and Fred’s sexual performance leaves Renee unsatisfied and cold, which in turn provokes Fred’s response of anxiety and revulsion. Later in the film, immediately after Pete and Sheila have hot, passionate sex, the audio from the sax solo plays over the radio at Arnie’s garage, and Pete, disturbed by the music, changes the station. Pete doesn’t need a substitute for sexual virility, but on the other hand, Pete is a virile substitute -- for Fred. The return of the audio plays on the contradictions of Pete’s dual status as virile lover and virile substitute.
Piano music Edit
When Pete hears the sax solo on the radio and changes the station, the piano music that comes on is the same music that plays in the scene that introduces Renee into the film. Acting as cue, the music now plays just prior to Alice’s introduction.
Dream and video Edit
At home after Andy’s party, Renee calls for Fred just as she did in Fred’s dream: “Fred? Fred, where are you?” In the videotape that Fred watches the following morning, the camera comes down the hallway exactly like the sequence of images from Fred’s dream. When the dream-images get to the bedroom, Renee looks like she’s being attacked, while Fred says (of his dream): “Then there you were…lying in bed. It wasn’t you. It looked like you… but it wasn’t.” Fred cannot accept that he wants to kill Renee -- that’s why he describes his dream the way he does. When the videotape gets to the bedroom, however, Fred is poised over Renee’s dismembered body. Through the replay of images, the videotaped murder plays out a fantasy that Fred cannot admit to himself. Even after the murder, Fred’s desperate request is: "Tell me I didn’t kill her."
Headaches and dismembered body sequencesEdit
While suffering from headaches in his jail cell, Fred has a vision of the Mystery Man; we are then introduced to Pete Dayton (“Pete! Don’t go!”), and Fred morphs into Pete. Later, while Pete is suffering from a headache, his parents talk to him about “the other night,” about which Pete says he remembers nothing; Pete then has fleeting memories of the “Don’t go!” sequence and the jail-cell morphing sequence, followed by flashes of videotaped images of Renee’s dismembered body, some of the same flashes that Fred had while in his cell.
On the night of Renee’s murder, Fred looks at himself in the mirror. Before he goes out for “a ride” with Sheila, Pete looks at himself in the mirror. The mirror scene, and its repetition, can be seen as playing on the themes of self-identity and doubling that are central to the film’s narrative.
Meeting the Mystery Man Edit
After Fred describes his dream to Renee, he has a vision of the Mystery Man’s face. This is what the Mystery Man is referring to when he says to Fred: “We’ve met before haven’t we?… At your house. Don’t you remember?” When the Mystery Man says the same thing to Pete later in the film, he is speaking, as it were, to both Pete and Fred: he is reminding Fred of their previous encounters, but he is also referring to “the other night.” It was the Mystery Man who was with Pete “the other night,” the man referred to when Pete’s father says “There was a man with you…. I’ve never seen him before in my life.” When the Mystery Man says to Pete, “…when a person is sentenced to death…”, he is again speaking to both Pete and Fred: he is referring to Fred’s death sentence for murdering Renee, and he is also threatening Pete with a death sentence for having an affair with Alice.
Meeting Andy Edit
Alice tells Pete about meeting Andy, just as Renee told Fred: “We met at a place called Moke’s… We became friends. He told me about a job...” When Fred pointedly asks “What job?”, Renee’s somewhat delayed response is: “I don’t remember.” Then, when Alice tells Pete about meeting Andy, Fred’s fears about Renee--namely, that she’s a whore--are played out, to the extreme, through Alice’s description of stripping at gunpoint and Pete’s disgusted reaction (“You liked it, huh?”). However, Alice is still able to seduce Pete despite his whorish image of her -- a theme that will be taken up again at Andy’s house (where Pete encounters a whorish apparition of Alice, who mockingly taunts him, laughing as she asks “Don’t you want to ask me: ‘why?’”) and in the final scene between Pete and Alice (“Why me, Alice? Why choose me?”/”You still want me, don’t you Pete?…More, than ever?”/Seduction and sex scene./”I want you Alice. I want you.”/”You’ll never have me.”).
Room 26 and Rammstein sequencesEdit
After killing Andy, Pete goes upstairs and encounters a whorish vision of Alice taking it from behind in room 26, as “Rammstein” plays. She taunts him mockingly, laughing as she asks “Don’t you want to ask me ‘why’?” At the cabin in the desert, Pete asks “Why me, Alice? Why choose me?” Alice seduces Pete by tempting his desire to possess her: “You still want me, don’t you Pete?…More, than ever?” As they have sex, Pete expresses his desire to possess Alice and she rejects him: “I want you Alice. I want you.”/”You’ll never have me.” Soon thereafter, Fred finds Renee with Laurent in room 26 at the Lost Highway Hotel. Renee leaves and Fred beats up Laurent in room 26, as “Rammstein” plays. The first and second scene are connected by the question “why?,” and the first and third scene are connected by room 26 and “Rammstein.” In the first scene he is taunted by the whore, in the second she rejects him, and in the third he eliminates the other man.
Song to the Siren Edit
This song appears three times: first when Fred and Renee have passionless sex, which leaves Renee cold and unsatisfied, which in turn provokes Fred’s response of anxiety and revulsion; it plays a second time when Fred has the vision of the cabin in his jail cell, right before he turns into Pete Dayton; it plays for a third time when Pete and Alice have passionate sex at the cabin and she rejects him, when Pete turns back into Fred. Represented schematically, the three scenes break down like this: passionless sex and dissatisfaction; cabin and metamorphosis; cabin, passionate sex, rejection, and metamorphic return.
Heirate Mich and murder sequences Edit
The song “Heirate Mich” (“Marry Me”) is played twice: when Pete enters Andy’s house and when Laurent watches the handheld tv. These two scenes lay out the same set of related thematic elements, first with Pete, Alice, and Andy, then with Fred, Renee, and Laurent: she’s in a porn film; she’s making out with the other man; the other man (Andy/Laurent) is murdered. Coupled with the repetition of the music, the repetition of thematic elements is meticulously organized.
The photograph Edit
As Pete watches Alice remove jewelry from Andy’s body (with whom she seems to have just had sex) and looks at Alice in the larger-than-life porn flick, he sees a picture of Alice and Renee, side by side, standing between Mr. Eddy and Andy. The second time we see the photograph at Andy’s house, Renee is alone with Laurent and Andy. Alice was a fantasy-construction of Renee. However, as is shown in the scene where Pete sees the photo, Alice defied the fantasy of possession just as Renee did. Moreover, the fact that Renee defied and exceeded Fred’s desire to possess her is what drove the fantasy-construction from the very beginning. In this sense, Renee is the truth of Alice. (“Where’s Alice?”/”Her name is Renee! If she told you her name is Alice, she’s lying.”)
Dick Laurent is dead Edit
First, notice that at the beginning of the film, after Fred hears that “Dick Laurent is dead,” we hear sirens outside, just like at the end of the film.
Second, if you compare the voice on the intercom (at the beginning of the film) to Fred saying “Dick Laurent is dead” (at the end of the film), the line at the beginning (the intercom voice) sounds like the line at the end (Fred’s line) has been slowed down and filtered.
Go here and scroll down the page to the audio clip link for "Dick Laurent is dead.” First you'll hear Fred’s line from the end of the film, then you’ll hear the intercom voice from the beginning of the film, then you'll hear a sped-up version of the intercom voice. Listen to the way the words are formed and the way they flow, but also notice that the sped-up version of the intercom voice even sounds like Fred. The strange voice that Fred hears at the beginning of the film but does not recognize is his own!
Third, while identical in crucial respects, these two scenes are very different, and they are also very different at the level of what they mean. At the beginning, Fred receives this message, which he does not understand, from a strange voice which he does not recognize. At the end, Fred delivers the message having killed Laurent himself.
What does it mean that Fred doesn't recognize his own voice at the beginning of the film and that he later delivers this message, which was initially so perplexing, having killed Laurent himself?
My interpretation is that Fred goes from a position of not being able to recognize his inner fears and fantasies to a position of having lived them out. The trajectory from the beginning of the film to the end is a movement from a state of non-knowledge and repression, to a state of self-knowledge and self-actualization.
The Final Scene Edit
In the final scene, Fred begins to morph for a second time.
It is important that Fred is diving Mr. Eddy’s car, wearing Pete’s jacket (Fred wears Pete’s motorcycle jacket throughout the concluding section of the film), and is being chased by the police. These represent different aspects of Fred’s identity as (1) the murderer of his wife, (2) his wife’s virile lover, and (3) the murderer of “the other man.” Fred begins to morph because his identity is not stable but, rather, caught between the contradictions of these three aspects: (1) and (2) are obviously contradictory, and (2) and (3) are contradictory insofar as (2) implies that he would be her only lover -- that is, insofar as it implies an exclusive possession of his wife, which he clearly never gained. The film leaves off with Fred in an unstable, in-between state in order to depict the unresolved contradictions of Fred’s identity.
Another, potentially compatible, interpretation of the final scene -- Fred hounded by the police and going into spasms -- is that it represents Fred’s execution by electric chair.