Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Director: David Lynch.
Screenplay: David Lynch.
Starring: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Chris Isaak, Kiefer Sutherland, Kyle MacLachlan, Moira Kelly, James Marshall, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Phoebe Augustine, David Bowie, David Lynch, Eric DaRe, Miguel Ferrer, Pamela Gidley, Heather Graham, Peggy Lipton, Jürgen Prochnow, Harry Dean Stanton, Lenny Von Dohlen, Grace Zabriskie, Frank Silva, Victor Rivers, Rick Aiello, Gary Bullock, Calvin Lockhart, Frances Bay, Catherine Coulson, Michael J. Anderson, Walter Olkewicz, Al Stobel, Julee Cruise.
“The man behind the mask is looking for the book with the pages torn out. He is going towards the hiding place”
Only two years after winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Wild at Heart, David Lynch decided to revisit the town of his much loved TV series Twin Peaks and explore more of that mystery. Only this time at Cannes his film was booed and jeered out the door. Critics hated it. However, if you’re a fan of the TV series then this prequel is pretty much essential viewing.
Twin Peaks’ homecoming queen, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is a struggling teenager who, by day, is a sought after and cherished member of her small town community. But she leads a double life and, by night, she has an obvious sexual promiscuity and spiralling cocaine habit which explain the circumstances leading to her demise – ending where the television series began.
From the opening shot of Fire Walk With Me, Lynch makes a bold statement on what to expect from the film. He depicts a television with no reception before quickly smashing it with an axe. It doesn’t take much to understand the symbolism. This film is not in the same style or the quirky, off-beat approach that the TV series had. This is a much more violent and sinister revisit to Twin Peaks.
Maybe this is the reason why critics gave it a mauling. Although most of the criticisms seem to stem from it being indecipherable. As is often the case with Lynch, though, answers don’t come easy and if you haven’t seen the television show then this film will, admittedly, make no sense whatsoever. As an avid fan of the show, I personally think this is a superb companion piece and one of Lynch’s most criminally underrated films.
As much as its tone is darker, it still flirts with the Twin Peaks vibe. The majority of the characters from the series reappear and Lynch also introduces some new one’s that fit into the story perfectly; Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak) and his forensic partner Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) dominate the opening of the film as they investigate the murder of Teresa Banks in the town of Deer Meadow and how her death could have implications on future murders. Their segment of the story contains some classic Lynchian moments – as well as Lynch himself making another welcome appearance as the hard-of-hearing FBI Chief Gordon Cole.
From there, we move forward a year and back to Twin Peaks, for the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life. It’s here that Sheryl Lee takes centre stage. She had little to do in the series but here Lynch makes her the focus of the film and Lee embraces the chance. Her performance is absolutely superb. She conveys a wide range of emotions and fully captures the despair of Laura. Her struggle is a harrowing and heartbreaking experience and feels, very much, like a tangible tragedy.
Along the way, we also get a glimpse of some familiar characters and places; Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper makes a brief appearance as does The Man From Another Place and, of course, Killer Bob. We visit The Black Lodge and The Red Room and a genuinely unsettling scene involving the appearance (and disappearance) of David Bowie’s Agent Philip Jeffries.
Surreal paintings, a dancing lady with a blue rose, backwards taking dwarves, log ladies and oscillating uvulas. This is quintessential Lynch and his vision of Twin Peaks and the duality of Laura Palmer’s life is an altogether nightmarish one. His usual exploration of the depths of the human psyche is, once again, the major theme as he explores the psychological torture of individuals struggling with good and evil, loneliness and abandonment and the downward spiral of Laura, in particular, weighs devastatingly heavy.
It can often be overlooked how much of horror this film is. It’s not one in your conventional sense, though. It deals more with the evil within an everyday person and has dark forces at work but it doesn’t have the archetypal spectre dressed up for a particular day of the festive year. They don’t wield weapons or are seemingly indestructible. The evil at work here is what lingers under the facade of people and it’s this psychological depth that makes Lynch’s film a masterclass in absolute terror.
If your a fan of the series then this should appeal very highly. Otherwise, it’s probably a Lynch film that you’ll want to avoid. Either way, the critics got this wrong. Only those with a lack of familiarity or love for the cult show should find fault here.
Trivia: The zigzag pattern on the floor of the Black Lodge is similar to the pattern on the floor of the lobby of Henry’s house in Lynch’s Eraserhead. The Black Lodge version of the pattern is much larger, though.