Lynch's Lost Highway Soundtrack: As Disturbing and Complex As The Film Itself

It features Bowie, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, a fitting roll-call for an album that challenges the listener as much as the film...
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It features Bowie, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, a fitting roll-call for an album that challenges the listener as much as the film...

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David Lynch’s film Lost Highway isn’t his masterpiece but its soundtrack tops the already high standard of his usual collaborations with composer Angelo Badalamenti because of its eclecticism and its spot-on appropriation to the events in the narrative.

Like his other surreal works (it’s worth remembering they aren’t all – hello, Dune, Elephant Man, The Straight Story),  Lost Highway’s nightmare logic relies for its effect on fractured symmetry and insane circularity. Consequently, the film is bookended with the David Bowie song ‘I’m Deranged’ (from his album Outside), the simple but urgent 4-4 rhythm perfectly fitting the opening and closing image of flying along a road at night.

This soundtrack tops the already high standard of his usual collaborations with composer Angelo Badalamenti.

What happens in between, the journey from point to point, is best described as threatening and disturbing, and not only the chosen tracks but also the music written specifically for the film conjure this atmosphere brilliantly. Lost Highway presents us with, on the one hand, the dislocation of psychologically damaged identities – the hero is played by two actors and the principal actress plays two heroines - and, on the other, a pulp crime tale with stock villain. This mishmash of elements is brilliantly unified by the brain-bashing metal of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails washing up against the brassy jazz swagger of Badalamenti’s dedicated score and Barry Adamson’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’.

Best of all are the soothing insertion of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Insensatez’ – a rare instance of a Lynchian calm before a storm – and the fabulously eponymous ‘Rammstein’, a song of such slow-mounting, heavy, thunderous dread that, once seen, it’s impossible to imagine the film’s dark climax of revelatory horror and perplexity without it.


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