On Saturday night, I got to see Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on the big screen in Tribeca, at the 92Y. The showing was intended to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the release of Fire Walk With Me. Can you believe it’s been twenty years already? I was seven when the show first came out and nine when the movie was released so, I had no knowledge of the series. I actually didn’t become interested in Twin Peaks until the last two years but I’m so glad I found it.
The night started with a phone call from Sheryl Lee, who played Laura Palmer on the t.v. show and in the movie. Honestly, the call kind of sucked. The organizers had a cell-phone on speaker and held it up to a microphone so the call was going in and out. I really wish that they had used a landline with a speakerphone.
What I got from the Q&A is that Sheryl hasn’t seen the movie since it was first released. She has warm memories about filming and says that David Lynch had an almost hypnotic effect on her when she had to do some of the more difficult scenes. Ms. Lee also said that he gave her the space to make sure her work on her scenes was just right.
The organizers were able to find a fairly good print of the movie and it did look pretty good. So, on to the review with one caveat.
There are spoilers ahead. I’ve decided not to reveal who killed Laura Palmer, in case you want to watch the series yourself and follow along, but it’s basically impossible to discuss the movie without mentioning spoilers for the show. So here’s your chance to turn back.
The movie is a prequel to the television series. The television series, at it’s most simplistic, was about trying to solve who killed hometown sweetheart and homecoming queen Laura Palmer. The movie goes back in time about a year before Laura is killed and shows the death of the victim preceding her, Teresa Banks. FBI Special Agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and his new partner, Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) are ordered to investigate the case.
The first part of the movie that’s about the investigation of Teresa Banks’ death plays like a film noir with mystical undertones. Agents Chester and Stanley are like old-fashioned G-men going against stubborn local authorities and Banks is like a troubled femme-fatale, although she is very much humanized in death. The movie shows how Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) became involved in the case and deals with one of the main themes of the t.v. series, duality and the literal doppelgänger. People currently use the term doppelgänger to mean any double or twin but it has darker connotations of evil and misfortune.
Your first see Agent Cooper in the movie when he’s speaking with Gordon Cole about a troubling dream he had. He then goes out into the hallway, looks at the security camera, and then goes to watch the security footage of himself. This happens several times, until a man emerges from the elevator.
It looks like Cooper has a doppelgänger. No wonder he’s troubled about his dream. Now I wonder if he was being called to Twin Peaks and to the Black Lodge.
The movie then jumps to the week before Laura Palmer’s death. What secrets are behind the homecoming queen’s smile?
If you’ve watched the show then you pretty much know what you’ll see. You see Laura juggle her boyfriends. She seems to keep Bobby Briggs around because he’s the high-school coke dealer and Laura has a bit of a habit. She also deals with her other boyfriend, James, who seems determined to save her. You know, James looks a bit like Taylor Lautner. He’s like a proto-Taylor only James’ eyes aren’t all close together like Taylor Lautner’s eyes.
You also see her become more aware of the supernatural presences in her life, specifically the spirit BOB that has molested her since she was twelve. If anyone is living a double life, it’s Laura Palmer. She appears to be the all-American girl on the outside, a bright overachiever who’s beloved by the community. But she also is an addict who’s turned to prostitution to pay for her drugs and to deal with the supernatural force that’s been sexually assaulting her.
Here’s another scene dealing with the idea of having a double. Laura wakes up in the night and sees a figure in a picture that she recently got, a picture that didn’t have a figure in it.
She gets up and goes to her bedroom door.
In the picture, you see Laura entering through a different door.
There’s a sense that Laura exists in a place where reality is mutable and different worlds can bleed into each other. Hence, the horror, and the horror that BOB has attached himself in some way to the Palmer family.
What I like about this movie is that you see more of Laura Palmer than you do in the entire series. Sheryl Lee brings a vulnerability to the character, who alternates between childlike and womanly. There are also moments of genuine horror. Anything to do with BOB scares me. The last twenty minutes, where you find out exactly how Laura died and how her friend, Ronette Pulaski was injured. Those are a very creepy twenty minutes.
I like this particular scene. Laura’s killer places a mirror on the floor. She looks down into it and instead of her reflection she sees something that she doesn’t like and screams. We then see shots of Laura, not from the killer’s perspective, but from the mirror’s perspective. It makes you think about which Laura is real–the Laura inside or outside of the mirror–so which Laura is being killed?
As a visual artist, I love this movie because the imagery is so lush. In fact, that’s part of why I love the show. I especially like the design and look of the Red Room, a kind of waiting room to the Black Lodge. Here are some shots I like;
MIKE is a spirit from the Black Lodge involved in a dispute with BOB over garmonbozia–pain and suffering, which takes the form of creamed corn. I really think that the Palmer family was just trapped in the middle of a dispute about garmonbozia.
I like this movie a lot but it honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense as a standalone film. One of my friends has seen the movie without seeing the series and I don’t see how that doesn’t bother her. I say watch the series first. Sadly, it was only two seasons long and the last episode left with major cliffhangers for pretty much every major character. I guess it’s better to let go of a show when you still love it, though. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I hated the last two seasons and don’t even talk to me about the season eight and nine comics. Seriously, Fox, if you cut Terra Nova short, I will never, ever believe in television again.
As I watched the series, I started to love the whole town and its resident weirdos. Sadly, you don’t see most of them throughout the movie, although the Log Lady makes an appearance. I guess that that’s my main complaint about the movie. I want to know if Audrey Horne and Pete Martell survived the bank explosion. Does the good Cooper ever escape the Black Lodge? You will never, ever find out.
Still, I love this movie almost as much as Cooper likes coffee.