Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Metzger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Victor Peppard, Ph.D.


moebius strip, psychogenic fugue, film noir, postmodern directors, identity crisis


As a postmodern director, David Lynch makes films which are innovative, evocative, and uniquely his own. The theme of twinning, in particular, is recapitulated throughout the director's oeuvre; however, it is with Lost Highway that the thematic element he addresses takes center stage. The film's main character Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is unable to cope with the trauma in his life. After killing his wife and finding himself on death row, he has a parallel identity crisis; he manages a metamorphosis into a younger, virile Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty). The method which allows this transformation is the psychogenic fugue: a fantasy which creates an alternate reality caused by the subject's refusal to see objective truth(s).

As the plot progresses, there are several more characters who develop alter egos. These other important twinnings include Fred's wife Renee/Alice (Patricia Arquette), Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurant (Robert Loggia), and the Mystery Man played by Robert Blake. Of all the doppelgangers, the Mystery Man is vital to the unraveling of the story; he is an abstraction and can exist in several places at one time. He is a symbolic function of the superego which allows Fred to carry out the mission.

Lynch also uses the Moebius Strip as another tool to interweave reality and fantasy into the plot. The story can have a litany of meanings because of the twist in the strip. It allows overlap in the space/time continuum. The use of this concept is invaluable in applying certain types of analysis to the film. Among others, Jacques Lacan , Sigmund Freud, and Slavoj Zizek are central to defining the film. Lynch shows the audience that fantasy cannot subvert reality. It is only a temporary fix. Fred Madison's twinning is unsuccessful in the end. He is forced to continue riding his own lost highway until another new reality is created.