The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
Lost Highway: Unveiling Cinema's Yellow Brick Road

The Nameless

Three primary fissures are foregrounded in this film: that which exists between one discrete individual and another, that which exists between the individual and itself, and that which exists between the thing and its representation. Complicating these distinctions will be the work of the film. But this work can only be done by approaching the abyss that lies between them, and finding with horror the one behind the face of the other. When Fred has a nightmare on the first night and Renee reaches over to comfort him, he awakens and for a moment sees her face in the darkness displaced by the face of the Nameless Man he will only later meet at the party. This Nameless Man will play a leading role in the film as that which stands between doubles, between passages from one realm to the next, and between each individual and itself. He exceeds the constraints of temporality and spatiality, moving from past to present, from subject to subject, and occupying two spaces simultaneously. While everyone in this film is trapped, everyone also partakes of this blackness that *exceeds* limit and border.

It is perhaps tempting to interpret him as the unconscious, especially in the light of Fred's apparent forgetfulness of his wife's murder. [5] One might also be inclined to understand him as the figure of death as symbol, like the ghoul who comes to call in Bergman's _Seventh Seal_. But I will do neither. I also want to insist that I am not understanding this figure in terms of a Hegelian negativity that serves as a resource in the dialectical process. Rather I want to understand him in the Bataillian sense as that excess which undoes and exceeds *any* system of signification--a dark tear that is revealed through heterogenous matter, excess, obscenity, sacrifice, and eroticism. [6] This is also close to Derrida's concept of Otherness, which he insists is not a lack or void but a 'negativity without negativity.' [7] This is not the reverse side of positivity, but rather something that transgresses signification. To even name this figure is problematic because he is precisely what is nameless. He both is and is not. He is the downfall of Aristotelian logic and Hegelian dialectics. He is what breaks apart all construction and yet serves as its groundless ground. He is beautiful and terrifying. He is in everything and yet he is nowhere and nothing. He is glimpsed at the threshold of the paradox, the aporia. And he is everyone's double. I will call him the Nameless for the sake of legibility, keeping in mind that to say him is to unsay him.

back up next

Content | Papers | Lost Highway | David Lynch main page
© Mike Hartmann