This is a world I find myself consistently revisiting, and personally can’t wait to be reintroduced to again with the release of Series 3 on May 21st. My perspective is ultimately centred in bias, although I argue it’s a bias that is not unfounded. This is due to my trust not being disputed in reflection to Lynch’s ability to present something distinct and unique—after all he is ‘one of the few artists whose name is used as an adjective’. He has remained true to the ideals of the avant garde, and upholds artistic integrity and vision over the traditional commercial formula. David Foster Wallace sums up Lynch’s originality and work as ‘what the really great artists do, is they are entirely themselves… they’ve got their own vision, their own way of fracturing reality and if its authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings… Lynch very much helped snap me out of an adolescent delusion about what avant garde art could be.’ I echo these statements in terms of my own forays into creativity and writing, and feel my mind set parallels to Wallace’s sentiments, a unanimous perspective likely held by a wide array of others, be it critic or consumer.
The feature length Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me acts as a prequel to the TV series written by Lynch and Mark Frost. It was directed and co-written by Lynch and Robert Engels and was released in 1992, at a time when the television series was still widely considered unfashionable and played out. On release it was greeted to a rapport of negative reviews with one critic even describing it as ‘this isn’t the worst movie ever made, it just seems that way’. It remains something that has become contested in recent years, as the elapsing time has given it space to distance itself from the original series, especially the stigma surrounding the latter part of Series 2 that explored issues that focused on developing surreal concepts, that in turn demanded attentive patience to its development from the audience. This, unintentionally distanced itself from the mainstream ‘water cooler’ audience, who in turn wanted immediacy and expected pay offs more in tune with the quirky murder mystery elements of the first series and immediacy of traditional sitcoms. These ideals conflicted with Lynch’s vision for the narrative which by design was never meant to reveal the killers’ identity.
Duality is one of the key elements that form the landscape of Twin Peaks. It is a place situated between an idyllic town located in the Pacific North West and a mysterious, darker underbelly, with spiritual forces at play. This is a consistent presence that is promoted across the series, but arguably more so in the film as it outright believes and acknowledges its own mythology. Both the series and film act as a testament to Lynch’s ability to craft and weave these dual worlds with a sincerity and believability, whilst perfectly meshing the divide between the banality of suburbia and the more outlandish properties of surrealism with additions like The Red Room and the spiritual manifestation of Bob, that act as a representations of a wider spiritual plane. It lends to tropes explored previously in Lynch’s Blue Velvet where the surface of an American suburbia is subverted to a transgressive intensity that is steeped in shadows. Fire Walk with Me sees a complete overhaul of tone and mood, as it resembles more of a doppelganger to the series. In comparison the film shows us what the series tells us, using references to flashbacks and poignant iconography from the series, to further provide explanations and clarity on the events. Unlike the optimism represented through one of the series main character Agent Dale Cooper focus is instead shifted solely to Lara Palmer and her numerous interactions within the midst of these darker aspects, at play below the superficiality of Twin Peaks. The viewer is subjected to an overall tone that is replaced with a hopelessness, further intensified to those who watch the series’ first, as they are aware of Laura’s fate but when, and how is an experience they have yet to witness and is ultimately explored within the film.
What Fire Walk with Me does is gives the audience the story from the perspective of Laura Palmer as they trace the last 7 days of her life. Lynch specifically makes a decision to focus on an un-filtered portrayal of the psychological effects of sexual abuse at the hands of her father Leland. Something that is presented with such horrific realism alongside the intensity of the cinematography that smothers the viewer within its darkness. The film builds in tension and stretches further from the groundings of reality to the fringes of the spiritual as we follow Laura’s spiral into abuse, exploitation and subsequent death.
Laura’s destruction dominates Fire walk with me, it’s a trauma that is thrust upon the audience without any exterior distractions where the viewer is forced to immerse themselves into her claustrophobia as she is dealt unfathomable issues and is left with a besmirched fragility. As the film progresses Laura becomes a passage between two worlds, a duality between darkness and light, as the viewer trespasses on the ever omniscient workings of the spiritual world at work under the surface, it’s this darkness overrides any semblance of optimism. At times the film makes for an uncomfortable watch but the subject matter relies on such an honest portrayal to succeed in respecting the taboo subject matter. Viewers of the series have to somewhat re-orientate their perspective of what Twin Peaks is, as supernatural and fantastical act as components to something that degenerates more into the realms of horror.
Fire Walk with Me provides a very different atmosphere to the series, a smothering darkness that inhabits every moment with some of the most graphic and uncomfortable examples recounting Laura’s last moments, that are particularly chilling only enhanced more so by Ray Wise’s maniacal schizophrenic acting of Leland Palmer to Sheryl Lee’s continued portrayal of Laura which provides a performance that has sadly been overlooked due to the initial reception of the film on release. I would advise the viewer to watch the series’ first as they both function as one, each supported by the other. Although, it does work as a standalone entity, I can only emphasise the importance of watching them chronologically.