Thursday, January 20, 2011

Psychogenic Fugue

I find it very interesting how David Lynch uses psychogenic fugue on Fred Madison, the main character, in The Lost Highway to develop the plot and storyline. Psychogenic fugue, also known as fugue state, is a psychiatric disorder in which an individual completely forgets who they are and takes on the identity of another individual. This is what happens to Fred while he is in jail for the murder of his wife as he takes the identity of Pete Dayton, the young mechanic. The condition can be triggered by a reappearance of a traumatic event or person in the individual’s life. The more I reflected on the movie the more past of Renee and Alice could have triggered the state of amnesia. Fred suspects Renee of cheating on him and questions her about her past, especially her involvement with Andy. Shortly after they attended the party at Andy’s home Renee is murdered and Fred takes the identity of Pete in jail. Right before Pete is to attack Andy in his home he sees the projector playing a pornographic movie involving Alice. Shortly after he witnesses this he kills Andy and transforms back into Fred while they are at the cabin in the desert. Both of these transformations could have been triggered by the memories or finding of the pasts of the two women. Though I initially struggled with following the action of the movie, when I became aware of the psychogenic fugue I was able to understand the events of the story.

1 comment:

  1. Charles, I find your theory interesting and you've piled up some good evidence to support it, but at the same time, I don't know that all of the uncanny events that occur in Lost Highway can be attributed to a single episode of fugue state. For me, I suppose it’s too simplistic. Psychogenic fugue usually involves a great deal of amnesia and Fred Madison seems to remember things rather acutely—despite the fact that he remembers things the way he wants them. Granted, there are huge chunks of the story-line missing in the development of the movie but I think the non-linear plot sequence makes for a representation of how we remember things. Usually when we think back to a particular memory, it is not as cut and dry as it was when we first experienced it. It tends to be fragmented; particular details of that memory are highlighted according to the intensity with which they affected us. I believe that Fred Madison was just delusional in his pre-electric chair hysteria. I would be too!
    I think he saw his life flash before his eyes, so-to-speak. Whether or not all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly, the events that take place after Pete supersedes Fred’s character are simply representations of Fred’s memories. I see Pete as a young Fred and Alice as a young Renee. I believe that each separate story-line, the one in which Fred stars and the other in which Pete takes the stage could also represent an idea similar to the butterfly effect wherein this theme is conveyed: no matter which path we choose in life, fate will always find us. Neither Fred’s nor Pete’s lives turnout in a honky-dory fashion and I believe that Lynch wants his viewers to realize that we cannot escape our destiny, which is ultimately death.