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Lost Highway – A Film Analysis

Lost Highway is a 1997 psychological thriller directed by David Lynch of Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive fame. This movie, alongside Mulholland Drive, is known for being one of the hardest films to follow. There have been all kinds of speculation to its underlying meaning due to the lack of a grounded plot, but the themes that Lynch presents to us are quite apparent. In fact, Lost Highway has quite a lot to teach us about the cyclical nature of envy and violence, and how these evils are planted within our psyche.

We are straightaway introduced to the character of Fred Madison whose last name gives us a hint of what he is about to venture into. But why does he go mad and what is the nature of his madness? Deconstructing insanity is no safe task; it requires us to go into the mind of the insane subject ourselves. And so, David Lynch takes us through some uncomfortable scenes filled with violence, eroticism, and frightening imagery, the result of which is a surreal nightmarish landscape–a typical Lynch narrative.

Through the initial scenes of the movie, we come to know that Fred possesses some characteristics that are a precursor to insanity. The first sign is that Fred does not like video recordings. When asked why he despises video recordings, Fred answers that he “likes to remember things his own way, not necessarily the way they happened.” This is indicative that Fred is not particularly interested in objective reality or concrete truths, which are the prime foundations for reason and understanding. Not only is he not interested in truth but he despises truth, and we will see this coming back to haunt him again and again.

The second sign is that Fred does not trust his wife Renee; she doesn’t seem to have anything beyond platonic feelings for him. Fred Madison’s distrust of Renee eventually leads to jealousy and paranoia. He begins to question her whenever she is away or whenever she is with another person. Here, Lynch enters a character who resembles something like that of a ghoul–a character that will stalk Fred throughout the film.

In one of the film’s most bizarre scenes (and there are plenty), this mysterious, satanic character (portrayed by Robert Blake) walks up to Fred in the middle of a party and nonchalantly claims to have met him before. Fred is puzzled but the stranger insists, “You invited me. It is not my custom to go where I am not wanted.” Who is this Mystery Man that shows up suddenly to haunt Fred Madison?

It is perhaps not too far-reaching to assume that the creation of the Mystery Man has much to do with Lynch’s understanding of far-eastern philosophy, namely the aspects that center around desire. It’s highly likely that the Mystery Man, according to the heavily monist worldview of Lynch, is a manifestation of Fred’s ego. The Mystery Man frequently terrorizes Fred, often bringing him out of his illusory state and reminding him of who he is and what he must do, thus leading him to a state of “emptiness” through a reverse Bodhi of sorts.

It is worth noting here that Lynch is not consciously working from a Christian worldview, but it should be obvious to anyone that the Mystery Man is unmistakably Satan in the anthropological sense, not because he provides the truth (as it may seem from Lynch’s viewpoint) but because he acts as chief prosecutor and even co-conspirator in Fred Madison’s impending and atrocious crime. In a jealous rage, the cause of which seems to be Renee’s infidelity, Fred Madison brutally murders his wife. He is promptly arrested and sentenced to the electric chair.

While on death row, Fred Madison is in mental agony; he is unable to sleep. It is here that we slip into a kind of coping fantasy designed by Fred’s mind. As the fantasy progresses, we catch a glimpse of Fred’s deepest desires: cheerful friends, understanding parents, magical mechanical skills, a peaceful suburban home, and a faithful girlfriend. At first glance, we think Fred–now in the body of a young man named Pete–is wholly satisfied, but the fabric of this “all-American” dream (which Lynch seems to be poking at) evidently starts to tear.

All myths must have a hint of truth, and it turns out that Pete’s life has nothing in common with Fred’s. In an attempt to rectify this, Fred unconsciously constructs a much more pleasing and seductive version of his wife Renee. Here, we have to remember, once again, the cause of Fred’s crime, which is mimetic desire. It is precisely because Fred’s crime is uxoricide that Pete must have “Alice,” who turns out to be Renee’s double.

Alice shows up as a kind of femme fatale who honeytraps Pete into a dangerous situation which proves to be yet another tear in the fantasy of Fred Madison. The myth must not only have a hint of truth, it must also reflect the murder in some way. In the Christian worldview, the murder beneath ancient myths is showcased par excellence by the crucifixion of Christ. The Passion narrative, therefore, manages to short circuit humanity in such a way that it is no longer able to construct fantasies by which the murder remains hidden.

Lynch’s narrative achieves this to some effect but, due to the absence of a Christian-infected worldview, it fails to redeem the human person in any concrete way. Lynch’s vision of unity between creator and creation is ultimately cyclical as he compares the universe with the symbol of the Ouroboros–the serpent eating its own tail.1 This is why Fred’s further revision of his myth finally involves a murder, not of the wife but the wife’s lover.

In the climactic scenes of the movie, Fred’s fantasy fails to save him, exactly because the murder is exposed, and instead places him right back at the beginning of the story–the genesis of his paranoia, thus completing the circle of the serpent. He is stuck in a prison as the Mystery Man tells him at one point. The Mystery Man even expands, albeit chillingly, on the prison metaphor: “In the East, the Far East, when a person is sentenced to death, they’re sent to a place where they can’t escape, never knowing when an executioner may step up behind them, and fire a bullet into the back of their head.”

Fred’s fantasy is most certainly a prison–a state of Maya–that has trapped him. It is worth noting that the prison metaphor deals with contemporary society on multiple planes with its depiction of hedonism, infidelity, sadism, nefarious figures pulling the strings, murder, etc. It serves as an important tool, through the dual worlds of Zeus and Hades, to bring to light the American nightmare underneath the American dream. It brilliantly dissects the state of modern man and his futile existence in a post-Christian society.

All being said, Lost Highway is ultimately the film form of the Ouroboros–a reminder of how violence sustains societal order to a certain degree. The lack of any final say, however, might be the film’s unintentional moral message. The sheer demonic nature of the plot and the lack of redemption in any of the characters may remind us, above all, of its opposite: the protoevangelium, wherein God mentions that the seed of Eve would “crush the head of the serpent.”2

 

  1. https://www.wallpaper.com/guest-editor/david-lynch
  2. Genesis 3:15

What Happens Next? Progress or Sacrifice?

David Gornoski starts the show by stressing the need to transcend politics and groupthink, especially when it comes to COVID. Why are we seeing so many deaths being reported as deaths caused due to COVID by the media? Why is there next to nothing being mentioned about the toxic vegetable oils that are ruining our body’s immunity? Are Big Tech and the corporate media telling the truth about asymptomatic COVID spread, or are they blatantly spreading anti-science superstition? How has the crucifixion of Christ challenged the rulers of the world? Listen to the full episode to find out and more.

Hindsight is 2020, The Great Start of 2021

“The world offers a Great Reset, but what we need is a Great Start!” David Gornoski starts the episode with an analysis of the rampant authoritarianism as evidenced by the notorious lockdowns around the world. Why has Dr. Fauci completely ignored information on nutrition and our immune system? Joining David to see what lies ahead in 2021 is Shannon Braswell. The two discuss the anthropological work of Rene Girard and how Girard has provided a thorough dissection of our modern-day socio-political landscape. Listen to the full episode for all this and more.

The Birth of Mercy

Recently, a psychology professor by the name of Erik Sprankle stated that the Virgin Mary may not have given ‘consent’ when the angel Gabriel told her that she would give birth to Jesus. Besides showing the utter ignorance that is overwhelming in academia, the professor proved how much contemporary thought is possessed by ideological and identitarian groupthink.

In reality, it is hard for ideologues to shape a crucifixion-haunted world into their own image, for Christ had already shattered the very foundation of ideology: violent force. The virgin birth story speaks of something remarkable and unprecedented in human history. It gives us a completely new perspective on the role of human beings voluntarily creating an underground society that would ultimately reshape the world in the image of Jesus Christ.

In the times before Christ and outside the Hebrew people, the world had been largely dominated by grand narratives that empowered lynch mobs and thus gave rise to the notion of ‘might is right.’ We know these narratives today as the classical myths of the ancient world. These myths, such as the birth of Dionysus, contain evidence that reveals the empowering of the accusing mob in ancient pagan societies.

In his book, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, René Girard explains the violent origins of the pagan birth myths:

Stories of this kind always involve more than a hint of violence. Zeus bears down on Semele, the mother of Dionysus, like a beast of prey upon its victim, and in effect strikes her with lightning. The birth of the gods is always a kind of rape…These monstrous couplings between men, gods and beasts are in close correspondence with the phenomenon of reciprocal violence and its method of working itself out. The orgasm that appeases the god is a metaphor for collective violence.

It is almost as if the virgin birth account of the New Testament were written as a response to the birth myths of the Greek gods. In the gospels, Mary’s status, unlike that of Semele’s, is elevated by God to that of nobility. In the gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel greets Mary by saying, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” God makes known to Mary that she will bring forth his son, to which Mary replies, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” There is a complete absence of violence and coercion in the virgin birth story. There is no element of force whatsoever.

For centuries, humanity has operated under a principle of ritual sacrifice, where the sacrifice of one may bring the temporal unity of many. Our modern-day society, despite the lack of extravagant mythologies, still operates under this same principle. We divide ourselves into factions and are forever in search for that one sacrifice, that one execution which will bring us nearer to utopia. Mass incarceration of innocents to rid ourselves of crime, abortion to bring family stability, and war to bring peace. This is the story of the rape of Semele, of achieving good through coercion. The mortal and vulnerable becomes nothing more than a means to an end. It is not so with the God of the Bible.

When Christ was born, singing could be heard coming down from heaven. “Glory to God in the highest,” the angels sang, “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” The image of a lowly teenage girl giving birth to the Son of God, among animals and poor shepherds in a manger, turns the powers and principalities of the world on their heads. This was God and the human race working together to create a kingdom of peace on earth, one that the prophet Daniel predicted will outlast the empires of men.

The God of the Bible brings order and peace through mercy and self-sacrifice. The mortal and the vulnerable is proclaimed to be the image bearer of God, and Mary is given the honor to become the mother of divinity. The young Mary accepts this honor, and in doing so she becomes a precursor to her own son dying on the cross. This divine dance of self-sacrifice would come full circle when Mary, an old woman by now, would stand at the feet of the cross upon which her son would die for the sins of the world.

With Christ’s birth, Mary is bestowed with the privilege of becoming the mother of the divine emperor Jesus. She represents mankind voluntarily partaking with God in bringing the kingdom of God to a world riddled with violence and degeneracy. The birth of a child signifies how Jesus’ kingdom would undermine the mob-rule and totalitarian nature of power in our age. The way of God is of self-sacrifice–the willingness to be expelled from the confines of worldly power–in such a way as to deconstruct and lay bare the evil of worldly power to all of humanity, thus enabling us to forsake violence and embrace mercy.

Mercy can only come about when we see others as children of God, and when we think of children we see the infant Jesus, innocence and vulnerability personified, lying in the bosom of a human mother. Nothing is as dangerous to a sacrificial machinery as a small child and his mother carrying within them an overwhelming value—the spark of divinity. The birth of Christ, like the crucifixion, calls on us to treat our neighbor as we would the child Christ and his mother Mary; it calls us to imitate these two brilliant self-sacrificing personalities, and through imitation, it calls us to compassion. The way of Zeus raping Semele is dead, and nothing, not even our ideological saber-toothed concern for victims, can ever replace it, except for self-sacrifice, voluntary negotiation, and mercy.

This article originally appeared on LibertarianChristians.com

Great Reset, Saturnalia, and Christmas

David Gornoski revisits an essay he wrote a few years ago titled Saturnalia vs Christmas. What did Jesus mean when he said that His power is made perfect in weakness? David Gornoski gets to the bottom of this question and comes to some fascinating anthropological facts when comparing Jesus’ birth narrative to the ancient myth surrounding Saturnalia. In today’s culture, why is it considered cool to be a victim? Can Jesus’ kingdom be brought about by political machinations or is God working a bigger mystery through human culture? Listen to the full episode to find out.

The Anthropological Effect of the Gospel

Does the government understand what constitutes science? Why isn’t Fauci telling us to avoid vegetable oils that destroy our immune system and make us more susceptible to comorbidities? Listen to the full episode as David Gornoski comments on the cultish ways of statism; the COVID-19 stimulus bill; the uniqueness of the West in having political correctness; the anthropological effect of the Gospel; and more.

Media Myths Fall Like Lightning

David Gornoski starts the episode with a telling critique of the institutions that perpetuate theft and anti-western indoctrination. How does Woke Corporate-Fascism compare to Christianity and the myths of old? David reads from the work of Rene Girard and helps us understand how the Christian Gospel lays bare the concoction of narratives by power brokers. Will social-distancing taboos work in favor of the modern-day mythmakers? Can society ever hide its victims behind myths again? Listen to the full episode to find out.

A History of Human Violence

David Gornoski continues his analysis of the election with its Big Tech censorship and Dominion software controversy. The host of A Neighbor’s Choice also comments on the latest news surrounding the economic shutdowns due to COVID-19. What do the current overt authoritarianism and election rigging tell us about politicians? Is the concept of the “noble savage” true? Join David as he takes us through the history of how mankind creates and refines violence while setting up centralized institutions. Listen to the full episode for all this and more.

How Victimism Blinds People to Systemic Oppression

David Gornoski is back with another exciting episode and this time he gets to the bottom of the Democrats’ victimist-driven politics as deflection from real tyranny. Beneath the veneer of diversity and social justice, the Democrats and their media allies perpetuate nothing but crony corporatism and authoritarianism. Does the Left’s “diversity” matter when people like Janet Yellen in Biden’s team systematically strip people of all groups of their freedom and purchasing power? Listen to the full episode to learn how Jesus’ personhood revolution hastens the funerals of the gods of coercion and sacrifice.

Building a New World

In this episode, David Gornoski gives us an anthropological breakdown of the mythology behind the “Great Reset.” “The ancient world believed that the best was at the beginning of time–the golden age,” David says as he brings attention to the archaic practice of religious sacrifice meant to effect resets in societies. But in today’s post-Christian world, the personhood project of Jesus Christ has made it impossible for societies to unanimously bind around sacrifices. How has Christ changed the trajectory of history? Listen to the full episode to find out and more.