The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
On the Lost Highway: Lynch and Lacan, Cinema and Cultural Pathology

"A graphic investigation into parallel identity crises"

It is the phrase parallel identity crises that interests me the most here. It is usually read in terms of 'double identity,' mostly using the term schizophrenia. There has been quite some misunderstanding about this very term. In 1911, the Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler replaced Kraepelin's term for a group of psychoses, dementia praecox, with the term schizophrenia. Dementia praecox meant a psychosis of early onset, which Bleuler wanted to capture with the term schizophrenia, meaning literally "split mind," since he thought the splitting of psychic functions to be the structuring element of these psychoses. Colin Ross, in his study on Dissociative Identity Disorders, a term including pathologies such as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and the Borderline Syndrome, states that, "dementia praecox is actually a better name for this group of disorders [described by Kraeplin] than schizophrenia, while schizophrenia is a better name for [Dissociative Identity Disorder] than multiple persona disorder." (31) Hence the popular notion of schizophrenia as "split personality," a misconception that does not account for the fact that schizophrenia is an organic disorder of the brain, and not actually a personality disorder.

In addition to this reading of "parallel identity crises" in terms of "split personality," I want to suggest some further thoughts that account for this split with reference to the structure of the Moebius Strip. Thus, it is not that simple that Pete's story is only the reverse of Fred's story (remember, a Moebius Strip has no such thing as a reverse side - it is one-sided!). Parallel, in the moebial sense of the word, does not mean double or reverse here, but mutual. Pete's story is not only the reverse side of Fred's story, simultaneously Fred's story has to be the reverse side of Pete's story ... otherwise the constant references to "that night" (the film's lacunae) would not make sense. True to the logic of the Moebius Strip, what on a very local level seem to be two sides of the story is actually one. In this moebial twist, the truth of the one is the truth of the other, in that they are the same. On the level of the images of the movie, this complicity can be shown by a comparison of two scenes that occur more than once in Lost Highway. These two scenes of Fred in the dark hallway (Renee calling "Fred!") and Pete in front of his parents' house (Sheila calling "Pete!"), viewed in parallel, function like a kind of worm-hole which traverses the different event-levels of the movie - I would even argue that if you mirrored those two scenes onto two screens put next to each other, it would have the effect of the one character changing over to the realm/screen of the other. Another 'perspective' of this simultaneous immersion can be seen in the "transformation scene." Here again, the moebial twist of inside and outside, one and other, is brought to the fore, this time effected by shots intruding the inside of the body.

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