Analysis

For the purposes of this section I shall limit myself to the first half of the film, concentrating on the distinctive characteristic of Branigan's theory and methodology - the various agents and levels of narration he outlines. The focus of the following analysis is therefore: What narrative agent (if any) motivates the selected images? And: What level of narration can they best be described as operating upon?

After the Madison's view the first video that has been sent to them (scene 5), the film cuts to the hallway leading up to the Madisons' bedroom. This hallway is draped by a distinctive red curtain (a characteristic feature of Lynch's films). What is the status of this shot? Is it simply a transitional shot between scenes? It seems to be a non-focalized shot - that is, a shot not controlled by any narrative agent in the film's diegesis, but controlled by an agent outside the diegesis - the narrator.

In scene 6 Fred's recounted dream consists of the following shots, which also raise intriguing questions in terms of agency and levels:

• We see Fred walking around the house and hear Renee calling out to him; we also hear Fred's voice-over recounting the dream. All of the recounted dream shots are therefore internally focalized (depth) shots (type 4).

• Image of fire (with exaggerated sound, rendering the fire uncanny). (Because this shot is part of the dream, it belongs to type 4; but within the dream, it is non-focalized (type 1).)

• A puff of smoke rises from the stairway (as with the red curtain, smoke is another characteristic symbol in Lynch's films). This shot is coded as Fred's POV shot. In other words, within his recounted dream (level 4) we have a POV shot (level 3).

• Fred in hallway (there is an ellipsis, since he have moved location between cuts).

• Hallway and red curtain, and bedroom (coded as Fred's POV).

Here we have a repetition of the red curtain, but this time it is coded as Fred's POV. Whereas previously the shot could be read as a transitional shot, which means that it is non-focalized (objective, or belonging to the narrator), here Fred has now appropriated this image, as it is focalized around his vision and is part of his recounted dream.

With Fred still recounting or narrating the dream in voice over, the camera quickly moves towards Renee, and she screams. Fred then 'wakes up' - but this seems to be part of the dream. (This is the conclusion we reached in the 'Bordwellian' analysis of this scene.) In Branigan's terms, is this image of Fred waking up an internally focalized (depth) image (i.e. part of the recounted dream), or has Fred stopped recounting the dream? There are insufficient (or conflicting) data in the image to enable us to decide one way or the other. The voice-over has ended, and the film has returned to Fred and Renee in bed, the place where Fred began narrating the dream. This suggests that Fred has stopped narrating the dream. However, there is no continuity between this shot of Renee and Fred in bed with the shot of Fred beginning to narrate the dream. This is discontinuous because both of them are now asleep, and Fred is waking from the dream. He then sees the mystery man's face imposed over Renee's face. This means that he is not only narrating the dream to Renee but is also telling her that he woke up and did not recognize her. The film is inherently ambiguous about which description is correct. Furthermore, there are no other cues in the film indicating that Fred stops narrating the dream. If the second description is correct, it means that the dream remains open-ended - we don't know when and where it ends.

The second video (first shown in scene 7) also deserves closer scrutiny. As Renee and Fred watch the second video, Renee turns to Fred and calls his name. Fred looks at the TV screen. Cut to a shot of the hallway. This is a complex shot to describe. First, it is Fred's POV shot as represented in his dream. But another narrative agent has also appropriated it - this time the agent who has made the video (the mystery man). But as Fred watches this shot on screen, it becomes his POV shot again. He is therefore watching his POV shot within his dream, now being manifest in reality via the video. There are multiple layers of agency attached to this shot (as there are with many shots; however, here the presence of the various agents becomes apparent). Perhaps part of Fred's fear is that he feels someone has got inside his head and is now reproducing his dream on video. Cut to a close-up of Fred's eyes, and then cut back to the video image, now showing the red curtain, a shot used twice before, but this time it is attributable to the mystery man (or the mystery man appropriates it from Fred, who appropriated it from the narrator). The video then shows Renee and Fred in bed.

When Fred comments in the next scene that he does not own a video camera because he prefers to remember events his own way, not necessarily the way they happened, this comment seems (as we saw in the Bordwellian analysis of this scene) to be a nodal point on which to focus the previous scenes. Yet by looking at the previous scenes more closely, through the lens of Branigan's theory, we come to realize that the video images appropriate Fred's POV shots. In other words, there is no conflict between what Fred sees and remembers and what we see on video; yet Fred's comment serves to distinguish video images from his experience.

Later we can attribute the video images to the mystery man. The fluctuating attribution of agency to these shots gives us textual evidence to link the mystery man to Fred. Furthermore, we argued that the shot of the red curtain, when it is first seen, is a non-focalized shot (i.e. is attributable to the narrator); on its second appearance, Fred has appropriated it; on the third occasion, the mystery man appropriates it. We can use this description to link narrator to

Fred and the mystery man, and perhaps go even further and link the narrator with the historical director, Lynch. It is easy to make wild assertions (or hypotheses) about the relation between Fred, the mystery man, the narrator, and Lynch; what we need is textual evidence to support these hypotheses, so that we can attach or ground these assertions in the film itself.

In scene 11, Fred in the house after Andy's party, the shot of the red curtain is repeated for the fourth time, which could be the POV shot of an unseen agent, who then seems to confront Fred. Could it be the mystery man with his video camera recording what's going to happen in the house? (If so, then do we identify the narrator's-Lynch's camera with the mystery man's video camera?) Otherwise, it could be a non-focalized shot. Preparations for bed. Fred then looks at himself in the mirror in the same way he looked at the camera a moment ago. Renee then calls out, in the same way she did in Fred's dream. We then have a shot of the living room with two shadows (are they replacing the image of the blazing fire in Fred's dream?). Is this the mystery man following Fred with his video camera, ready to record what's going to happen next? Instead of finding out what happens next, the spectator is positioned outside a door. We then cut to the next morning, where Fred picks up the third videotape, which fills in the ellipsis of the previous scene. The dream can also be added to fill in this ellipsis, since we see Fred approaching Renee as she sleeps in bed.

This reanalysis of key scenes and shots from the first half of Lost Highway only begins to demonstrate Branigan's theory of agents and levels of film narration. But from this short analysis, its ability to make more and finer distinctions than Bordwell's theory make it a powerful tool, particularly in analysing moments of ambiguity, in more detail and with more subtlety. The spectator's hypotheses can be formulated more clearly, and exclusive hypotheses can be related to one another more precisely (by linking each to a particular agent and level of narration). Whereas Bordwell's theory offers a methodology that reads a film as a linear or horizontal string of cues that spectators try to identify, Branigan develops a methodology that reads a film both horizontally and vertically, which enables the analyst to recognize the complexity of a individual shot or scene. A notable example from Lost Highway is the shot of the hallway in the second video, which Fred is watching. Branigan's method of analysis not only revealed the complexity of this shot, but also supplied the tools to analyse it in detail.

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