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Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

(David Lynch, USA, 1992)


 


The image of a television screen tuned out to static snow figures prominently in David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. It is a fitting emblem, since this strange mongrel of a movie is essentially an elaborate postscript by Lynch to the television series in which he invested so much of his often feverish, sometimes juvenile imagination.

In the original Twin Peaks saga, Lynch achieved something quite remarkable. He created a fictional universe that just kept growing, with seemingly every character interconnected in some murky way, and every action hinting at a dark secret. As the FBI agent investigating the gruesome death of prom queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) had to abandon all rational methods and put himself at the mercy of omens, intuitions and mystical visions.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is the prequel to the series, showing the seven days leading up to Laura's death. Lynch presents his coke-snorting, promiscuous, possessed heroine as a troubled hysteric, but can make little sense of either the character or her plight. Although the film is clearly aimed at fans of the series, Lynch clumsily attempts to recreate the famous mystery of "who killed Laura Palmer?" for any stray viewers innocent of the outcome.

Lynch revisits aspects of the series, but in a puzzlingly arbitrary way. Certain lingering mysteries are finally answered, and some of the most chilling poetic elements (such as the extraordinary hallucination sequences) are retained. But many of the original characters who were central to the story are absent without explanation – and the star cameos that replace them (such as David Bowie's walk-on) are pretty ridiculous.

The film is like television in another way too: it alternates between static longueurs and sudden, frenetic rushes of images and sounds. Lynch connoisseurs will, of course, want to devour this last, lunatic spasm of Twin Peaks, but even they will be scanning in fast forward mode for the rare moments of illumination.

Postscript 2005: As it turns out, Fire Walk with Me has – as the larger Twin Peaks association diminishes and the film comes to stand on its own – aged well. It now assumes a prominent place in Lynch's career, partly due to the passionate defence argued by Michel Chion in his BFI book on the director, as well as its belated appearance on DVD. Its set-pieces are indeed remarkable, and the film now better reveals its subterranean current of lyricism. This is especially well shown in the scene where a besotted teen stumbles backwards through a schoolyard after his girlfriend has smiled at him – and, for a few magic moments, the sympathetic motion of all the other kids walking through the frame, plus the sudden, subtle, walking-bass beat in Angelo Badalamenti's floating score, transform the action into a fragment of a Stanley Donen musical like The Pajama Game (1957) or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

MORE Lynch: Mulholland Drive, Lumière and Company, The Straight Story, Lost Highway

© Adrian Martin May 1994/May 2005


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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