New Year New Beginnings

Today is the second day of 2017 and I have decided it is the day to reinvigorate my blog. Last written in 2012, it was entitled existential films and was a project to earn credit for in a graduate program. That course never made it, but watching those films was a unique and reflective experience.

Today, at 61.5 years old or so, I begin anew and hope to impart some wisdom and reflection on life, existence and what it is like to be a “flaneuse”.

I have explained the “Flaneur” many times as being a stroller and the Flaneuse is the feminine word for that person. As a flaneuse, I stroll through academia, as a professor and a student, through a myriad of interests in book form and also through travel that has taken me far and wide throughout the USA primarily. It is my fervent hope that people will find this site who need stimulation, understanding and compassion.

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Write the book. This is something I have wanted to do this some time now. First, it was on a book about Freddie Mercury, but my perfectionism and his desire for perfectionism staved off my attempts to complete the work. I did not fail, I simply awoke and realized this task was too daunting for me to complete.

So, this year I start here. I will add in some of the things I wrote for my Freddie love story, but overall, this place allows me to be me, to feed my soul and my need for creative expression. It simply is a place to be free from the constraints of perfection and also to speak to the universe in a shared space.

 

Namaste, Aley Martin

The author on a Flaneuse adventure to the big Island of Hawaii, December 2016.

aley-in-hawaii

 

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Le Notti Bianche

Le Notti Bianche.

 

I had always heard that the Italian director Luchiano Visconti was one to be viewed. He did not disappoint. Filmed in 1957, Le Notti Bianche is based upon the Russian novelist Dostoevsky’s short story entitled “White Nights”. The title of the film however means sleepless nights in English. Filmed in black and white this film chronicles the relationship between two strangers who meet at a bridge, each not certain of the other, and their life stories. As the film progresses, we find the existential idea of happiness appears to be prominent in the film, as is a journey that reflects back upon itself in bittersweet repose. Maria Schell plays the beautiful Natalia and Marcello Mastroianni the stranger she meets on a bridge. But there is another character whose influence will affect their lives, played by Jean Marais.

Italian neorealism is the type of film style Visconti utilizes in this film. This new realism mixed aspects of  realism with an elegant dreamlike style, but is filmed intending to depict St Petersburg Russia’s  lower socio economic locales, even though it is clearly Italian. The film appears more like a play, minimalist in mise en scene and the film appears to be on a set, but we see the areas as dull and poor, with stray dogs loose and people living on the street. In the film, the two main characters are a lowly clerk and a young woman who lives with her blind grandmother and repairs rugs. The director “bridges” the two worlds with the use of a real bridge between seeming reality and fantasy. The lighting is ethereal and the scenery harsh, much like the lives of its inhabitants. The area is depicted as rough and the characters seedy and gang-like.

The interaction between the main characters appears to be almost dreamlike, the girl Natalia beautiful and mysterious. The man, who is clearly smitten with her, ignores the advances of other women as he is intrigued by this lovely lady, who is an enigma. After Natalia tells her story, which is done in retrospect, there is a camaraderie that turns into a kind of confusing love triangle between the two friends, and the mysterious “other” who has disappeared for a year, giving no reason behind his actions. One critic mentioned that: “The film is not so much a straightforward narrative as it is a meditation on the act of being in love, and the consequences of unrequited passion coupled with senseless devotion.” This is a good analogy of the film in that it reminds us how love can blind us and make us do things that do not seem to be reasonable. But there is no reason in all the characters actions, not just the two main characters. If the movie resembles the line between reality and fantasy, we are in the midst of the dream and it will soon become a nightmare for our heroic male lead.

Existentialist ideas describe the nature of human experience in an unfathomable world, a world that only makes sense to a person subscribing to this philosophical ideal by the idea that meaning is life. In this film, we learn in the final scene that happiness, which is so elusive for many, was attained by the man, if even for the short duration of the relationship. We sense that this man may never be happy again, if it is dependent on the fragile position of unrequited love. Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1943 treatise Being and Nothingness wrote that “man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.” Tragedy therefore appears to be the flip side to a destiny filled with the search for destiny in this man’s world. These two worlds, separated by a bridge, once again offers the viewer a sense that we are all truly alone in the world, at least  until we realize our existence depends upon the meaning we make in our own life and how we view our own experiences in it.

One of the most explicitly steamy scenes in the movie takes place in the bar where the characters encounter a dance scene that is explosively sexual. The tension does not seem to disturb the characters sensibilities however as they appear to be comfortable with each other in the midst of this action, and later closer dance positions. It seems the characters work through their feelings in a mature and loving manner, smiling and laughing even as they work out the details of their future together. When returning to “reality” they encounter the distant lover, one with whom no real intimacy has occurred, making the viewer wonder which of the partnerships is more appealing, and questioning the appropriateness of the choice Natalia makes.

Finally, the use of snow must be mentioned in this cinematic representation of the nature of love. Snow has always symbolized a cleansing, a new beginning, a kind of covering of the old that lies underneath it. In this film Mario and Natalia take a boat ride to a secluded place that ends up being very crowded. Yet, as they talk, they decide that they will be together. At the same time the snow begins to fall, making them joyfully exuberant. The boat, which is on the water (emotions) cleanses the couple anew and in European symbolism, snowdrops represent purity, humility and hope. The hope is dashed soon after the couple return to land, but for the few moments they were floating on the water, life held a whole new beginning that “died” as soon as the snow stopped falling.

 

 

 

Whose Life is it Anyway? 1981

Whose Life is it Anyway?

Watching this movie some 31 years after watching it the first time gave me another look on the subject of reason, life and our ability to make our own decisions about our lives. At the time the film was made, euthanasia was something no one would believe would be accepted in our society. And while this movie does not support the idea of physician assisted suicide, it does offer the viewer a perspective on making a decision about their own life that has transformed into a right to die issue over the past 35 years since it came out. I must mention that while watching the movie, the things that were shown were tremendously “dated” and unacceptable in our 2012 world! Watching doctors smoke cigarettes, for example, in the lunch room was a total shock to me, even though when I watched this in 1981, it did not faze me at all!

Existentially speaking, this movie asks us to examine a meaningless existence, one that has been irreparably altered by a terrible car accident. Prior to the accident, we learn that the protagonist is an accomplished sculpture whose life is filled with creativity and an intense love relationship. After the accident, we learn this man will never again be able to create anything, as his life as a quadriplegic makes him a complete puppet in the hands of well -meaning health care workers at a hospital. Nietzsche said that “Life has no meaning except that which stands under the domination of purpose” (Schlick 63). If one’s life is suddenly altered to just be alive and unable to therefore have a purpose, then should not a man be allowed to leave this life upon his reflection and choosing? According to character Ken Harrison, his life is tortuous because even though is mind is active and able to consider his life, he can no longer do that which brings him meaning, and in fact suffers from the ability to do any other thing, due to the limitations of his disability.

The idea that most of us lead lives of quiet desperation whereby we struggle with finding our purpose when we have all the physical capabilities intact, so how could one with so many limitations find solace in his or her own life within that paradigm? Schlick mentions that : “For mere living, pure existence as such is certainly valueless, it must also have content and in that can only the meaning of life reside” (Schlick 63). In the movie, our protagonist appears to be not only intelligent and witty he also comes across as upbeat and with a zest for life. One gets the impression in the beginning that he will eventually get physical therapy and then be back to his former self. It is only when he learns his fate that his desire to remain alive with only his mental faculties useful to him that he claims he is already dead and wishes to move along to escape his “life sentence”.

One of the components of existentialism is an emphasis on the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe and Ken Harrison’s universe became a hostile environment the minute he lost his ability to manipulate his body. In his bold action to have a judge allow him to leave the hospital and stop his medical treatment, Ken’s world then became one in which he could control once again. Society viewed this as something odd and many fought him on his decision, not because they wished to be cruel, but because they knew their lives would be impacted by his decision to die.

According to IMDB, Richard Dreyfuss who played the part of Ken Harrison has no memory of making this film due to heavy drug use at the time of filming. This fact seems to oddly typify the behavior of an absurdist, both in and outside of the film. Absurdism, so named by Albert Camus in his work “The Myth of Sisyphus” is described by the Greek Mythic analogy to demonstrate the futility of existence. In the myth, Sisyphus is condemned for eternity to roll a rock up a hill, but when he reaches the summit, the rock will roll to the bottom again. Camus believes that this existence is pointless but that Sisyphus ultimately finds meaning and purpose in his task, simply by continually applying himself to it. I find it odd that both Dreyfuss through his altered state, and his character Harrison, appear to be living pointless existences inside and outside of the movie. Dreyfuss could not complete a day’s work in the movie without having to leave to rest, and yet most of the movie he is in a bed and cannot move.

Another scene involves the death of a man of 56 years old and who is examined as a cadaver by some medical students. One of the students yawns, probably due to his hectic schedule as an intern, but who is condemned by the lead doctor for not being bothered enough at the loss of life before him. Themes of existence appear to remind us of the importance of the Hippocratic oath which says “first do no harm”. Man’s thinking nature is played out in the philosophical ideal that believes in the theory that each part of the wheel is important to the whole and without even one lug nut present, a wheel does not work as effectively in moving the car (life) forward.

References.

Schlick, Morris. “On the Meaning of Life” Klemke and Cahn A Reader. 2008 Oxford Press.

Ikiru or To Live

Deemed Akira Kurosawa’s best film the movie Ikiru– or To Live is a complete examination of the life and death of a government worker in Japan. The movie was inspired by the book “The Death of Ivan Illych” by Tolstoy for its existential look at the life of one man and his realization that his life was lived as it should be, instead of as he would have chosen it to be.

 

One of the main differences between the movie and the book that inspired it, is the missing element of the wife in the cinematic version. The protagonist’s wife dies at a young age in the movie and he is left to raise his son by himself. This, and his job working in the same environment for thirty years invites scrutiny throughout the film.

Kurosawa does an excellent job directing this work of art and has described the way he focuses on his choice of film has to be inspired by something he sees in real life. He does not like thematic cinema, instead choosing to make a movie that may have scenes in it that offer glimpses into real world experiences and perceptions.

This movie while examining the demise and death of its protagonist is one of the most life affirming movies I have ever seen. It asks us to look at our lives while we can and to find the joy inherent in each moment, instead of finding ones’ self at the end of it filled with bitterness and regret.  Watanabe comes to some moving conclusions after his brief battle with anger, sadness and confusion and makes a decision that will impact his community that will be left behind.

One of the most poignant parts of this movie is when the protagonist sings a song entitled” Gondola no Uta” reflecting his sadness over the ending of his life. Even the words bring a tear to the eye of the viewer and the choice Kurosawa makes effects the view of the scenes it is in:

life is brief.
fall in love, maidens
before the crimson bloom
fades from your lips
before the tides of passion
cool within you,
for those of you
who know no tomorrow

life is brief
fall in love, maidens
before his hands
take up his boat
before the flush of his cheeks fades
for those of you
who will never return here

life is brief
fall in love, maidens
before the boat drifts away
on the waves
before the hand resting on your shoulder
becomes frail
for those who will never
be seen here again

life is brief
fall in love, maidens
before the raven tresses begin to fade
before the flame in your hearts
flicker and die
for those to whom today
will never return

 

It is said that when Takashi Shimura rehearsed his singing of “Song of the Gondola,” director Akira Kurosawa told him to “sing the song as if you are a stranger in a world where nobody believes you exist.” One might agree the song hauntingly reflects that reality.

Ikiru” means “to live,” and it seems that one of the major themes of the movie is that the main character – Watanabe, who has just been diagnosed with terminal illness but his doctor will not admit it so he is stuck in an ambiguous situation. Watanabe eventually comes to an epiphany and acts altruistically for others just before he dies. We also see the people at his wake take credit for the park Wantabe creates, because everyone only thinks of themselves in this life unless they are faced with their imminent demise.

Comments from the narrator of the movie include “He is simply passing time without really living his life – in other words he is not really alive.” Also “He might as well be a corpse – in fact he has been dead for over twenty years.” The comment ” busy, busy, always busy – in fact this man does nothing at all” is reflective of the way most people in the world work without thought to any other part of their lives.

 Heidegger’s  philosophical concept of the ‘tyranny of the other’  comes to mind when watching this film. Human beings, in their struggle to live any kind of meaningful or authentic existence, are in constant conflict and battle with the will, norms, standards, conceptions, ideas, preconceptions, and expectations of the society of which they are a member. From the day we are born, we are subject to the ‘tyranny of the other.’ We are born into a particular family which is full of expectations and ideas and conceptions of how we should act and who and what we should be. We live in a society where our peers, our church, our government, employer, and the general aspects of our particular culture, all expect us to act in a certain way and to believe a certain thing. And we cannot be nonconformists or we risk being ostracized by those who make the rules and regulations and laws of our communities. We all live the lives of “Watanabes” or worker bees!

Would Watanbe just have gone along doing what he was doing until the day he died, had he not been awakened to the idea that his life was to be cut short and there was more to it than he had realized? The narrator in the movie states the sad irony that: “the nobility of this misfortune because it teaches us the truth – we only realize how beautiful life is when we chance upon death.”  Much like the men in the Tolstoy story, the mourners at the wake refuse to waste the Sake and relish the idea that there will be room opening up in their work place so as to be able to move up in life! Toya, the young girl he used to work with tells him one day that she is bored with her existence at her job and chooses to move along, as she realizes her life is valuable and she wants to be living it doing what she wants to do. This seems to be the impetus for Watanabe to make his shift in the way he finishes his life. Ironically the swing he makes is much like the swing where he sits during his last day on Earth, moving hither then yon, up and down and away from his earthly life.

 

 

 

Rashomon

Rashomon is a film by legendary Akira Kurosaki made in Japan in 1950. The starkness of the setting and the endless rain make produced in black and white make for a look at the differences in perceptions of witnesses to the rape of a Japanese woman in the woods. One thing rings at the end of the movie that most men have accepted at some point in their lives: “If you are not selfish you cannot survive”. This film shows human weakness and selfish egoism, as well as how fleeting life is from moment to moment.

The first thing noticeable is the building set where two men are sitting and contemplating an event that just took place in the courtyard. Another man comes upon the scene and the viewer listens to the exchange of differences in the accounts of the event discussed in detail. Immediately we are told that there are many disasters, like wars, floods, famines and other manner of ill in the world, but the worst kind of event we all are subject to is man’s inhumanity to man.

Immediately, I sense the horror of the atomic bomb’s destruction which had occurred only a few years before the making of the film as one of the sets. The other is the woods, which is always a dark and dangerous place, in all myths and stories of yore. We come back to the “Rashomon” or the building set many times and each time there is a sense of foreboding felt between the three men in the scene. The mise en scene is simple, the setting stark and this reminds us of the harsh realities of life. It is said in the film that even the demons have left “Rashomon” as they have given up on the lies and deceptions men inflict on the other. Losing faith in the human soul is worse than a disaster, as what have we left if people cannot be trusted?

There are several existential themes in this movie, “the ferocity of men”, “everyone lies and is selfish” and people do not wish to get involved. During the movie the explanations of those who witnessed the crimes in the woods all have different stories that come from personal agendas. The woman is viewed as a selfish, conniving whore and even her own story is how her husband refuses to look at her after her assault by the bandit in the woods. A medium recounts the “dead mans” side of the story in which the husband saves face by suicide. The bandit has another tale and the woodcutter another. Plain and simple, it shows how we all see things dependent on our agendas and the view we have on life.

The end of the tale is even more poignant. After what have been hours and hours of rain, the men argue about how selfish the woodcutter was in not doing anything but watch what happened in the woods. The other man, a priest is having his own crisis of soul and then a baby’s cry can be heard nearby. One of the men goes to the baby and instead of picking it up to care for it, takes the amulet and kimono it is wrapped in and plans to steal it. The woodcutter decries the listener for being evil in doing such a thing and the man reminds him that he too has been selfish, where is the ivory dagger that was lost in the woods that everyone mentioned in their testimony? The onlooker looks ashamed as the other man leaves. The priest picks up the baby and then men stand in the rain watching a continued cleansing of the area pounding in rain. As the scene shifts the onlooker tells the priest he will take the child and the priest believes he will harm him, but the man tells him he has 6 other children, what is one more? The priest believes in the goodness of man and now has a renewed faith in that belief. The child, representative of a new beginning, also reminds us that life is cyclic and one day he also many have to make choices that is judgments of ethical behavior.

Of this film Akiru Kurosawa has written about how his script was not initially understood by the makers of the film. He wrote: “Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings–the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. It even shows this sinful need for flattering falsehood going beyond the grave—even the character who dies cannot give up his lies when he speaks to the living through a medium. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it is the most difficult to redeem. This film is like a strange picture scroll that is unrolled and displayed by the ego. You say that you can’t understand this script at all, but that is because the human heart itself is impossible to understand. If you focus on the impossibility of truly understanding human psychology and read the script one more time, I think you will grasp the point of it.” (http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/196-akira-kurosawa-on-rashomon)

There is a type of effect called the “Rashomon Effect” that was introduced after the movie came out that refers to the subjectivity or perception of a recollection of an event. The observers are known to offer very different, but equally plausible accounts of what happened even though described in contradictory ways.

 

 

 

 

Lathe of Heaven

Lathe of Heaven

 

Just now powerful is the mind? If one were to consider this question they might realize that all things begin in mind before manifesting in reality. In order to invent something in the physical world, one must ponder it in the mental world. In the genre of science fiction, one questions the possibilities of world that can be created at a time in the ever present now, or the future. This existential reality is one we may deem worthy of evaluating as we discern the power of a dreaming mind. In the movie, “Lathe of Heaven” we find author Ursula LeGuin’s 1977 make into a cinematic event, replete with symbols, as well as the question of morality and ethics.

George Orr has a prophetic ability to change reality merely by dreaming. Not wanting to make manifest the dark and dismal realities of his dream visions, he believes suicide might be the antidote to the power inherent in his nightly dreamscapes. The harsh reality of a future world that is depicted in stark black and whites brings the future into a world of stark contrasts and dismal imagery. As time progresses, we find an unethical doctor who takes advantage of George’s power to change reality by making his own dreams made manifest for his own personal gain.

Some of the stark contrasts are most evident in the repressed sexuality of Dr. Haber’s secretary Penny. Aiming to suppress her sexual urges for her employer, she dresses conservatively in the beginning of the movie, and as she is unleashed from the grasp of her neurosis, works her image as one that is “hot to trot” much like Lady Godiva, an image utilized throughout the entire movie. This secretary undergoes a transformation or “trance-formations” that enable her to exhibit herself expressly to both Doctor Haber and George Orr.

Manny, or Manfred is a character whose presence appears to follow a heroic sidekick archetype for Manny, and one begins to wonder if this man is not the father to George Orr, as he is an effective father figure. Manny protects George and is a strong player in the universal game of chess. The chess pieces turn different colors throughout the movie, but Manny remains the strongest player on the board. It becomes evident by the end of the movie that Manny accepts his “part” in the play of George’s life and is aware of the ever present changes through George’s dream visions. He is also the first one to identify a therapist George will seek help from as “the rapist”, if you divide the word in this way. Dr. Haber does rape George by affecting all the changes he wants in the world, including, but not limited to, his notoriety and his wants for a devastated world. He does not value the world as it is and affects change in it that does not always “work as planned, in a straight line” as George would explain.

Dr Haber’s world becomes more colorful throughout the film, as evidenced by his clothing color choices. Both he and Ms. Heather LaLache are juxtaposed as adversaries and typify the balance between good and evil. The use of the phrases “good old days” and “hot to trot” bring some reflective humor to the movie and show the passage of time we all face in our own personal lives. The mention of the importance of staying “in the now” cannot be overemphasized as a means to enjoy life in the moment and not lurk in the past or worry over future moments that many not occur. These existential questions are often brought to the forefront in such a way throughout the movie without the audience being confused or preached to, which is always the hallmark of good cinema.

One of the key features of this movie is fear of change. George does not want to sleep and have a dream that will “change his world”. This fear of change is a rampant issue in society all of the time. If we take it one step further, we could say we also fear that “our dreams” will change our lives and it may not be for the better. Other people can try to manipulate our dreams and this also can affect the future in our own lives. This existential metaphor clearly is delivered in this movie. Even at the end when Haber decides he wants to take control of his patients mind, or his dreaming mind anyway, he loses all sense of his own memories and becomes a pathetic patient himself, living the delusion of being a doctor. His “doctor” is his own secretary and George becomes an “orderly” who tries to being some semblance of “order” to Haber’s life in a world of chaos and confusion.

One of the most stirring images we are shown in this movie are the nebula like jellyfish pulsating in the universe of the mind. The dark and still waters of the ocean are our subconscious mind which is also the keeper of secrets and the hidden nature of man, sometimes corrupted by the attempt at controlling others. The universe, vast and pulsating reflects our higher nature, the one in touch with the oneness of all things and the keeper of our higher wisdom. Taken together, these images remind us of the fleeting qualities of life and the strong inclination to try to make sense of a world that is riddled with chaos and instability. Because it is set in the future, we do not have to be forced to realize it confronts our reality in the present moment as well, but offers us a glimpse into another world, one in which we fear change will take things from us, exists and is not as scary as we might believe it to be.

 

Lost Highways

In the short story “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, the protagonist, Peyton Farquar is taken to be killed by the Yankees because he was thought to be a Rebel spy. In this story, Peyton escapes his fate after he is hung over the bridge and makes his way “home” to his family.  The reader actually believes that the man has escaped his fate by removing the noose from his neck and swimming to safety, then running from bullets being hurled at him by the yanks. In the end, we find Peyton is dead and swinging on the Owl Creek Bridge. He had in fact not escaped, it was the moments before death, however small that appeared to make him think he had escaped his fate. So too, do we find Fred Madison as the protagonist in “Lost Highway” in the 1997 neo noir film by David Lynch.

Elements of the film noir genre are imposed upon this movie that details terror, sex, lust and betrayal in a dark and evil world. Madison morphs into a young man named Pete Dayton who finds himself entrapped in the mind and world of convicted wife killer Madison. Use of convoluted images and confusing scenes offer a deeply disturbing world of Madison and a terrifying “devil” man played by Robert Blake. Robert Loggia plays Mr. Eddy, a mean, tough Mafioso man, and Patricia Arquette plays both Renee and Alice, the femme fatale of the piece who lures men into her seeming trap by powerful lust and sexual tension.

Themes of death, fear and paranoia fill the film as does an ending that offers us the psychological twist.: Who am I?  Fred Madison morphs into the character of Pete which makes no sense to the viewer and to the character himself. Pete is “different” his girlfriend tells him, and yet he has no idea what happened when he appears in another place, not knowing how he got there or what is wrong. The supernatural feeling of the movie starts at the party Fred attends with his wife and a meeting with the ugly man (Blake) and a strange telephone call and ends with Fred talking to a young guy who says strange things to him, similar to what Blake character has said to Fred Madison.

Although this is a very esoteric movie, one begins to ask oneself where one person stops and another one begins. The publicist of the film likened the identity shift to a psychological fugue state, a rare disorder that is characterized by a type of reversible amnesia that attacks the memories and personality of a person who has it and can cause a subject to take on a new identity. This would explain how Fred becomes the younger Pete, although does not explain how he would be let out of jail, as the person does not take on a whole new look! But this is a movie, so we are asked to stretch our limitations!

The narrative is a cryptic look at psychological existentialism and the way people view reality and ghostly existence. Many people have tried to describe this film in reviews, but fall short of examining the interconnectedness of life and the way we look at reality. Although the film is full or eroticism and violence, there appears to be a thread running through it that examines the human condition in its worst case scenario. We are often lead down a primrose path and expect that things are as we think they are, until we realize that we have been deceived and that life is not what we expected it to be. In the case of Pete, he becomes a willing pawn in a relationship that only serves his mistress and no himself, and yet he gives himself over to it because of his lust. Fred is set up in the killing of his wife, or is he? In a seemingly loveless marriage and dreary home life, the only thing he seems happy doing is playing his sax.

Once again, as in other existential films we find the use of the doppelganger, much like the writer EA Poe does in his macabre works of fiction.  David Lynch is well known for his persistent use of surrealism, keeping the viewer guessing at all times as to where the narrative is heading, especially when the characters take a turn from their individual identities in the two parts of the films. The curious thing is that we do have something oddly familiar in the female characters and their contrasting hot and cold  sexuality on screen.  Something familiar is going on with the women, and oddly enough we see the contrast from their nail polish coloring to their 1940’s hairstyles and love of high heel shoes. We can see the nails turn from dark to white in the movie as well as the hair coloring of the women.There is also a German character in a number of scenes and the use of German expressionism is evident in the choice of lighting, mise en scene and music used with him and the “Mystery Man” who employ a disturbing kind of other-worldy evil in his film scenes. We see the contrast of light and dark repeatedly in this film and it is done in such a way as to make it obvious to the viewer.

Here is an explanation that appears to nail the doppelganger idea and also the concept of the “other” in the film: “the first half of Lost Highwayis so brooding and mysterious. It pushes up against the limits of what can be seen and said. So much is hinted at, and so little is shown. Even the event upon which the whole film turns, Fred’s apparent murder of Renee, does not take place on screen. We see what comes before, and what comes after. But we do not–cannot–see the act itself. It is missing from the body of the film, just as it is missing from Fred’s own consciousness. The murder drives the story, but it stands apart from the story. It is like an intrusion from another world” (Shaviro). This representation, which is much like the convention of Greek Theater, has the action take place off screen, and is meant to leave the viewer uncertain as to whether this actually occurred, or was another piece of the plot puzzle. Later, we see Renee in a photograph at the home of Alice. She and Mr. Eddy, and the German man and Alice are in the picture, although it is Alice that Mr. Eddy brings to the garage with him and the German man appears to be flirting with Renee at the previous party. The characters appear to be extensions of each other, similar, one and the same, doppelgangers as it were.

Showing  two sides of every character,  director Lynch makes certain that no character appears on the screen with their opposite counterpart. The story instead takes place as a cycle, where every action has a reaction in the film, but not in a linear way. Sometimes an action can take place in the latter half of the film whose reaction appears in the first half. And, the detectives depicted in the movie act like buffoons appearing not to be able to find their way out of a paper bag. They seemingly interact with the seamier side of life, but one would not know it by the way they interact with the Fred and Renee at the beginning of the film, nor the way they handle keeping an eye on Pete.

 

Works Cited.

Shaviro, Steve. Stranded in the Jungle. Paradoxa Magazine. 1998

 

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