Posted by: ckckred | May 2, 2017

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me

Although he may be the most well known surrealist in contemporary cinema, David Lynch has never exactly been mainstream. Throughout his filmography, Lynch has explored the most subversive and grotesque aspects of society, using a dream-like lens in capturing such action. Movies like Eraserhead and Wild at Heart overflow with graphic imagery while pictures such as Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire dispense the notion of linear narratives completely. Even Blue Velvet, Lynch’s most forthright and accessible picture (excluding The Elephant Man and The Straight Story) is aesthetically disturbing through its depiction of sexual depravity.

This makes Twin Peaks’ enormous popularity all the more surprising. At the height of its popularity in the 90s to today, Twin Peaks inspired and birthed countless advertisements, songs, video games, and pop-culture parodies. Not only did Lynch make something so widely cherished by the general public on a seemingly unprecedented scale but on a medium as strict as broadcast television, where the taboos of sex and violence must be more sensitively approached.

It’s within these boundaries that the filmmaker, alongside co-creator Mark Frost, managed to translate the Lynchian cult to a mainstream audience. Twin Peaks may have been a show about rape, murder, and incest but it was also a series about romance, fantasy, and cherry pie. Lynch and Frost used Twin Peaks to satirize the conventions of traditional television, playing upon exaggerated characterization, suspenseful cliffhangers, and excessive melodrama that defined the form. The duo used the show-within-a-show soap opera Invitation to Love as a means to directly confront and parody the stifled nature of television in general. Through hiding the darkness of the town with such playfulness, Lynch and Frost gave Twin Peaks the mainstream following the eluded many of the director’s other films, which were too violent or bizarre for audiences to digest.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’s initial failure at the box office thus is attributed to its large divergence from the series’ tone. Ditching the jokes about coffee and doughnuts, Lynch reveals the malevolence that lay under the curtains of Twin Peaks to its fullest extent. Although the first act of the film focuses on a pair of FBI agents (played by Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland) investigating Teresa Banks’ mysterious death, Fire Walk With Me centers on the last week of Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) life and her abuse at the hands of Killer Bob (Frank Silva) and her father Leland (Ray Wise).

Though Twin Peaks may have been oriented on Laura’s death, the series was never about Laura per se as it was about the town itself. Lynch and Frost’s initial idea was for that the series to expand beyond Laura’s murder to explore the affairs of the rest of the ensemble. Fire Walk With Me dispenses this notion entirely; in fact, much of the cast of the series is absent within the film. Even Kyle MacLachlan, the star of the show, only briefly appears in several cryptic scenes as Dale Cooper.

The dearth of much of the ensemble as well as Frost’s lack of involvement may be the primary criticisms directed at Fire Walk With Me, but Lynch’s intent is to allow viewers to grapple and fixate on Laura’s frenzied psyche before her tragic killing. Lynch fixates on Laura’s duplicitous life of drugs, violence, and prostitution and descent into madness and despair at the hands of Leland, holding nothing from the audience in her own self-immolation.

Although Fire Walk With Me reveals little what we didn’t know about Laura beforehand, the film allows viewers an intimate look at the doomed girl’s life. The degeneracy and viciousness of Laura’s decay is heavily disconcerting, making Blue Velvet look like the work of Walt Disney in comparison, yet despite its supernatural overtones Fire Walk With Me is a horrifyingly realistic portrayal of sexual assault. It’s difficult to understate how hypnotically powerful Sheryl Lee’s performance is as audiences witness her demise; the actress captures Laura’s angst and frivolous mindset with accurate precision. As both Laura’s tormenter and her father, Leland is as equally of a complex figure and Ray Wise manages to allow the character to be switch between naïve benevolence to monstrous rage and anger. Although Frank Booth may be the quintessential Lynch villain, Leland Palmer is perhaps the most terrifying due to Wise’s stark portrayal.

Yet despite its wicked abundance of sadism, Fire Walk With Me is not a heartless film, and its ending is more transcendental and spiritual than any of Lynch’s other works, suggesting an honesty and redemption in death. The movie’s final image, of Dale comforting Laura in the Black Lodge, does not connote despair but is uplifting, suggesting that Laura has finally found her absolution after suffering for so long.

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Responses

  1. Getting in the mood I see, Charles? This is a great write-up my friend. It always a pleasure to Lynch crop up on the blogosphere.

    • Thanks Mark. I’ve been a bit busy the past month or so, but I couldn’t pass up the chance writing about FWWM. Saw a special revival in theaters alongside the pilot and Missing Pieces in 35mm; a great showing.

      • Nice! I just caught Missing Pieces myself for the first time recently. Some interesting little bits. I enjoyed the Extra with Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries.

      • I’m hoping to write a bit about the Missing Pieces. While I did enjoy most of the scenes, I think Lynch made the right call cutting the material; FWWM is about Laura, and giving more time to the other characters would detract from that.

        Out of curiosity, what did you think of the supplemented epilogue?

      • The epilogue? I’m drawing a blank on that. What happened again?

      • Just the parts showing Annie in the hospital with the ring and following the evil Dale after bashing his head in the mirror. It doesn’t add much, which is why I’m glad Lynch axed it from the final cut.

      • Ah! I remember it now. Yeah, it was the right decision to drop it. I’m struggling to actually think of any scenes that they could’ve kept. As I say, I liked Bowie’s extra scene but even keeping that would’ve upset the flow and intrigue a little.

        I’ve heard that there was much more stuff dropped. A lot of the TV show characters like Big Ed and such. All left of the cutting room floor.

      • I think if Lynch had added some of that footage into the cut, fans would have probably liked the movie more upon its initial release because there’s a great exposure to the ensemble. But ultimately while a lot of those scenes are quite good they would detract from the overall focus on Laura.

  2. A transfixing, heartbreaking picture. Awesome film that has me excited for the new episodes!

    • I actually watched this in a revival screening back to back with the pilot. Seeing them together really shows the contrast in tone between the two. but I do love FWWM. I’m very excited for the new episodes as well, I hope Lynch and Frost can match the quality of the first season.

  3. Fantastic post!

  4. ahhhhhhhhhh I can’t read any of this, I need to finish watching the bloody TV show and then the bloody movie!!!!

    Will come back to this once I am done, as I’m sure I’ll be interested in your thoughts. I’m two episodes out from the end of season 2

    • and of course its on the bloody cover of sight and sound too!!

    • You’ve got to finish Twin Peaks soon. The show kind of falls off midway through season 2 but the movie is so good. Plus I’m pumped for the new episodes coming out next week….

      • I thought it fell away mid-way too. After Leyland I think he was got thrown in the cell, and that crazy scene where ‘Bob’ is like, “thanks for this vessel, now I shall leave him with the memories of killing his own daughter!”

        That was awesome!!! I actually thought that was the end of the series! Was surprised to see I was only halfway thru. And after that, in the episodes after, I was all like, where is Bob ffs!! I want more of that!!

        But he’s just… gone. I hope he pops back up in the last two episodes. I’ll watch em now I reckon.

        I am loving that character that is waging this psychological war with Cooper. Using Leo and shit, fucking crazy stuff. its a pity that Lych obviously had to cater to TV expectations, as half of the show is awesome, but the other half is a fucking soap with relationships and affairs everywhere, taking up time, Lucy with the pregnancy – more wasted time – not to mention the music and acting are AWFUL!!!!

        I can certainly see why its loved as its so surreal and nothing like that could possibly have been on TV before. But yeah for me its 50/50, half awesome, half excruciating. I do really like Machlaclan (sp) though. Lynch obviously liked him but I always have too.

      • It does get tawdry after the main mystery is solved, and the lack of Lynch’s involvement in the latter portion of season 2 is evident. But strangely enough, when I watched it again I enjoyed season 2 much more. Some of the stuff works (Duchovny’s character and Major Briggs) and some doesn’t (the James subplot), but I think the good outweighs the bad. And there is a lot more explanation about Bob as well the other cryptic characters in the last few episodes…

  5. Hey there Charles, sorry for the un-related comment here, but was wondering what a good email was that I could get in contact with you with re: the Decades Blogathon. If you were still interested in talking about Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis we’d love to have you, and we have a tentative line-up of the posts going forward about to go up so please let me know! Thanks a lot man!

    • Hey Tom, sorry for the delay. Unfortunately I’ve been feeling under the weather last weekend but I’ll get it done today.

    • Just sent my review to Mark, sorry for the delay.

      • No apologies necessary good sir! Thanks in kind for having interest in this yeasrs event and thanks a lot for sending along your piece. We will be in touch with you as to when you can expect it to appear in the blogathon. Again, Thanks!


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