As an academic exercise for the Communication & Art Direction Master’s Degree at ELISAVA we were commissioned to update the design of the movie titles for David Lynch’s unique neo-noir film, Lost Highway. The design proposal would be carried out by developing a creative book that specified the conceptual, aesthetic and narrative levels of the project as well as the various codes that make up the art direction of new movie titles for a fictional relaunch of the film.
Our creative book was called “Dick Laurent is Dead”, a quote from the film.
David Lynch has been defined by the film industry as a Director with a particular style, a manipulator of space, time and dark emotions. His productions are immediately identifiable but hardly categorizable.
We decided not only studying Lynch’s visual and narrative style but also investigate his references, inspiration and method. It was at this point when we found out that most of the stories found in David Lynch films are merely an exponentiation, deconstruction and reconstruction of his personal stories and experiences.
Understanding that social, economic and political contexts are the main sources for Lynch inspiration, we turn out to investigate in depth the director’s environment during the time that Lost Highway was written and produced. The beginning of the nineties in the United States.
It was in this research where we were able to create a direct link between the story of the film and the context of the time. Particular key events in the US in the 90’s such as government initiatives to understand the neuronal processes, the first moral arguments about genetic modification and even the introduction of portable technologies such as Pagers and Cell Phones are present throughout on the film.
One event stands out. The technological advances of the era, such as the marketing of cable television resulted in the popularization of some legal and judicial issues such as the case of the murder trial of former NFL player and actor O. J. Simpson. This case was widely covered by television media, becoming noticed 2,237 times during news segments from 1994 to 1997.O.J. Simpson was one of the immediate references Lynch during the creation of the projected story Lost Highway:
"At the time when Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for Lost Highway, I was completely obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about this, but for me the film is somehow related to all of that.
What impressed me about O.J. Simpson was the fact that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go play golf without much concern. I wondered how a person who did such crimes could go on living. It was then that we found the grandiose term Psychogenic Fugue, which describes an event where the mind gets lost inside itself to escape some kind of horror. Then, somehow Lost Highway is about that, and the fact that nothing can remain secret forever. "
- David Lynch in an interview with the Chicago Sun Times. 2007.
Once we had completely understood the context in which the film was written and produced we started deeply analyzing the narrative, in which Lynch constantly seeks to disconcert the viewer. The reason is none other than trying to bring us into the mind of the main character, Lynch wants us to feel very close to Fred Madison who as we mentioned above apparently suffers from a neurological disease, with symptoms that are quite similar to the shown by O.J. Simpson.
After understanding Lynch’s film and intention, we synthesized our research in a general concept that could rise to a coherent proposal for the movie titles. The final concept selected was "dubiety", which translates as a constant state of doubt, without a temporal reference, a sensation that is constantly provoked in Lynch’s films.
This concept was translated into three key elements for implementing the proposed movie titles.
Image. A very strong and agreed visual style, taking the colors, contrast and saturation from old VHS home videos. This style takes the viewer directly to the 90’s and is also highly linked to the key scenes of the film.
Distortion. Such as the ones provoked by information loss in old VHS cassettes. The distortion plays a key role, making a direct analogy with the protagonist who loses his memory and constantly confuses and distorts reality. In our approach the distortion represents the way in which the protagonist distorts the reality to avoid a traumatic events.
Atmosphere. We seek to show the environment which could have been the youth of the main character. Therefore, we seek to visually represent a young middle class american family of the seventies in California.
Combining these three elements we reached the final proposal, which will see a series of short stories in which everyday images shown from the point of view of the childhood of the protagonist. The stories that begin with an innocent and childish tone will exponentially become dark until reaching a breaking point where the story ends abruptly, modified and distorted.
In short, in our movie titles proposal we see as the protagonist recalls, modify and re-imagines his childhood from his current mental state.
In the printed edition of the creative book the whole process of research, conceptualization and implementation proposal was detailed expressed. We also provided visual references for the typographic style of the titles, types of images, types of distortions, atmosphere, color palette, rhythm, sound, saturation and five proposals (scripts and storyboards) of short stories that could accompany the titles.
The container of the digital edition was a modified VHS cassette that contained a digital memory that was connected to the computer through a self-retractable USB extension that re-used the gear system of the video tape.
By: Nestor Feijoo, Daniel Gutierrez and Roger Zambrano.