Monday, February 6, 2012


To Celebrate the Upcoming 20th Anniversary of Fire Walk with Me's Theatrical Release,
Again We Address its Status as One of David Lynch's Most Undervalued Masterpieces
"I was excited to discover the existence of a Twin Peaks prequel movie called Fire Walk with Me, but the movie seemed little like the TV series I had grown to know and love. The movie is much darker and disturbing than the series and many of my favorite characters are missing entirely. Isn't it best to ignore the prequel or just look at it as an entirely separate David Lynch project altogether?"
–A Recurring Question by Many Twin Peaks Fans

Spoiler Warning: Do not read further until you watch Twin Peaks (1990-91)
A show noted for its sense of mystery—now available on Netflix Instant
We empathize with the fans of the TV series Twin Peaks (1990-91) who are frustrated by some of the changes made when the story shifted from television to film. We addressed these changes and relevant criticisms at length in our first article on Fire Walk with Me (1992). And although we understand where these negative sentiments come from, we disagree with the common conclusion that one should exclude the prequel from their viewing of the series. We propose a new approach to watching Fire Walk with Me that may help you better appreciate its place in the grand interconnected narrative of Twin Peaks and make it required viewing each time you watch through the series.
It's One Thing to Hear Laura Palmer's Story Recounted in the Series, But a
Different Thing Entirely to Experience it for Yourself
We feel any approach to watching Twin Peaks excluding the prequel is a mistake and will limit your ability to comprehend and feel the full power of a complete Twin Peaks viewing experience. Without the added perspective of the prequel, the story's epic scope is partly obscured and makes your attempt to unravel the labyrinthine plot far more frustrating than it needs to be. And given the TV show's abrupt cancellation, Fire Walk with Me not only provides a cathartic denouement after 30 episodes of unresolved tension but also places a hopeful capstone atop an otherwise bleak and horrific story.
Fire Walk with Me's Opening Credits Play Over a Static-Filled TV Screen 
Near the End of the Sequence the Camera Pulls Back Until it Reveals...
...the TV Set Being Obliterated and Teresa Banks Being Murdered Soon After
David Lynch did not end Fire Walk with Me's opening title sequence on a destroyed television set for no reason. The director wanted to communicate viscerally that we need to leave behind our preconceived notions about what Twin Peaks is and get ready for a different kind of ride, because he is about to show this story from a different perspective. The constraints of television are gone and we are now in an artistic medium that David Lynch has complete mastery of, cinema. Twin Peaks fans' ultimate opinions of Fire Walk with Me can frequently be gauged by their reactions to this opening shot.
Fans of the TV series who anticipated a simple extension of the series to the big screen will be frustrated immediately. While many people going into the film desire a reconstituted episode of the program extended to feature length, Lynch makes it clear this not on the agenda. Series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost had spent the last two years innovating new ways to push the frontiers of artistic expression on primetime television, inspiring the next generation of TV show creators thereafter. Now it was time for Twin Peaks to do the same for cinema. And David Lynch took advantage of what cinema does best and completely immerses us into the emotional core of Twin Peaks: the life and death of Laura Palmer.
At an Important Moment, the Log Lady Offers Laura Comfort and Counsel
Twin Peaks Season 3 Probably Would Have Had to Feature Bits and Pieces
of Several Fan-Favorite Characters, Like Audrey Horne and Pete Martell
For those who complain about the feature film's change of cast and not including the complete array of main characters from the original series, we would remind you the myriad cliffhangers at the conclusion of the series indicated a great many of them had not survived. If Twin Peaks had been granted a third season or David Lynch had decided to make an immediate sequel to the series, there would have likely been drastic changes to the cast anyway. We wonder if this did not partly motivate Mr. Lynch to make a prequel in the first place. He may have wanted to give as much of the show's original cast as possible the opportunity to be part of the first film in the planned movie trilogy. Unfortunately, some of the actors best served by this narrative choice declined to return for the filming of the prequel anyway.
Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is Singled Out as a Potential Threat by
the Long-Lost FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie)
Agent Jeffries is Likely Referencing a Change in Cooper that has Yet to Occur
As we detailed in our previous article on this film, David Lynch had to adapt to scheduling and creative conflicts with several beloved actors from the series who chose not to return in the new Twin Peaks film trilogy. Among them were Kyle MacLachlan who played the most prominent role of the series: Special Agent Dale Cooper. At Lynch's urging, MacLachlan briefly reprised his role for a few key scenes to help wrap up his character's arc and help set up new FBI Agent characters to take on Cooper's investigative mantle in the other planned sequels.
Special Agents Sam Stanley (Keifer Sutherland) and Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak)
But it is worth mentioning that a vast majority of the original series cast did return to film scenes for the movie, but David Lynch wound up with a rough cut approximately 4 and 1/2 hours long and had to make tough decisions about which scenes were most relevant to Laura Palmer's journey while still setting up for MacLachlan's absence in the next films by granting enough screen time to properly establish the new FBI characters who would later return for more prominent roles in the next two sequels.
So for these reasons, and more, Fire Walk with Me dances to the beat of a different (yet similar) drum than the TV series. We understand why some fans might initially mistake the movie as a separate entity from the series, since it possesses an identity all its own. But there are more things that connect these mutual works of art than do not. And simply because the film is not strictly beholden to the format and structure of the original TV series does not make the prequel disconnected from its origin. The most important anchors are still present and the prequel's sweeping lens explores much that had only been hinted at in the series.
The series and prequel film have a symbiotic relationship that require both to be viewed with each other for maximum clarity and dramatic impact. The TV show provides the fundamental building blocks to give context for the symbolism of the feature film, and the feature film adds several vital layers of nuance to the Twin Peaks saga as a whole. Neither the TV show nor the film are truly complete without the other. And in a beautifully story-specific way, Fire Walk with Me can be thought of as the doppelgänger (or shadow-self) of the TV seriesa distilled portrait of the darkness lurking under its surface.
For this reason, many who love Fire Walk with Me tended to approach the film from an oblique angle, without previously being invested in the stories and characters of the TV series. Of course, these audience members also had to have a strong stomach for surrealism and ambiguity since the prequel film is even more obscure without the context of the TV series to give it greater clarity. But those who like David Lynch's films tend to gravitate to this style of storytelling anyway, making Fire Walk with Me a potent magnet to attract new viewers to the series rather than the other way around. In fact, this article's author first watched the prequel on IFC, which inspired him to search for the series on DVD ten years ago.
With no context for the series going into the prequel, it is a little easier to just be open to a new film experience and appreciate it for the bold work of art it is. There is no reason one should not love both the TV series and the movie, since both incarnations of Twin Peaks help enrich the emotional impact and aid in the comprehension of the other. And together they form one artistic work that presents the most beautiful dream and terrible nightmare found on television or film. Twin Peaks epitomizes the highest form of art: man's conflict with himself.
First Shot of the Town Twin Peaks in Fire Walk with Me (1992)
For the feature film, David Lynch bypassed the town's outer persona and exposed the evil lurking just below decent society's surface. It is this dark and disturbing world that Laura Palmer is familiar with better than perhaps any other character in the show. But rather than steep us in darkness for darkness's sake, David Lynch has a purpose for this harrowing journey. Deputy Hawk intimates what this purpose might be in the TV show's final season. Watch "0:14 - 1:22" for the relevant portion in the video clip below:
Agent Cooper: "Have either of you fellas heard of the White Lodge?"
Deputy Hawk: "Where’d you hear of it?"
Agent Cooper: "Well, it was the last thing Major Briggs said to me before he disappeared."
Deputy Hawk: "Cooper, you may be fearless in this world, but there are other worlds.... My people believe the White Lodge is the place where the spirits that rule men and nature here reside."
Sheriff Truman: "Local legend, goes way back."
Deputy Hawk: "There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every soul must pass through there on the way to perfection. There you will meet your own shadow-self. My people call it The Dweller on the Threshold…but it is said if you face the Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul."
In Fire Walk with Me, David Lynch guides us through the Black Lodge on the way to perfection in the White Lodge. There we must confront the darkness and terror inherent to Laura's struggle for control of her own willpower in the face of the brutality unleashed on her by the unmitigated evil of the monstrous abuser BOB. And in so doing, David Lynch helps us confront our own fears and find our way out of that terrible place to achieve a well-earned catharsis at the film's conclusion. At the end, we qualify to move on with Laura into the White Lodge where she is reunited with the one person who fully understood her courage and her pain, Dale Cooper.
"In Heaven... Everything is Fine."–Lady in the Radiator, Eraserhead (1977)
Windom Earle Offers Dale an Opportunity to Sacrifice Himself to Save Annie
Dale Willingly Makes this Sacrifice and Windom Stabs Him in the Same
Manner Caroline Earle was Killed in Pittsburg
Leland/BOB Risks Exposure Now that Laura Understands their Relationship
Laura Fell in Love with James and Kept Him as a Secret Boyfriend with the
Hope of One Day Escaping BOB's Grasp Once and For All
Now Laura Comprehends the True Nature of BOB and Believes He Cannot be Stopped.
 In this Heartbreaking Scene, Laura Understands that BOB Will Kill James, Possess Her
 as He Did Her Father Before Her, and Cause Unthinkable Harm to Numberless Future
Potential Victims in Twin Peaks. Laura is Determined to Save Them at All Costs. 
Both Laura and Dale faced their worst fears in mortality, temporarily lost their souls after staring too long into the abyss, but both ultimately passed through their trials in the Black Lodge by confronting their shadow selves and making a courageous sacrifice to save those whom they loved. In the process, Laura and Dale qualified to ascend into the White Lodge where they ultimately reunite, their struggles in life now ended. While the conflict with BOB still rages on with those they left behind in Twin Peaks, they can now enter their place of rest having fought the good fight. For them, the war is over and they won.
Laura's Guardian Angels Return to Greet Her as She Achieves Transcendence
Fire Walk with Me (1992) is one of the most powerful films we have encountered. And no odyssey into the world of Twin Peaks (1990-91) is complete without experiencing the film that serves both as the beginning and the end of this amazing story. Do what David Lynch did and smash to pieces your preconceived notions about what Twin Peaks should be before going into the prequel. And prepare for a bizarrely innovative and beautiful exploration into the heart and soul of a most intriguing woman and heroine: Laura Palmer.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13 (KJV)
Experience Laura's agony. Feel her hidden layers of compassion. Uncover her dark secrets. And discover her inner light that she tried to keep hidden from everybody she knew, but which periodically peeked out to help bind the lives of everyone in town who knew her and loved her. Fire Walk with Me is the story of Laura Palmer. Twin Peaks is the story of those whom she died to protect. The prequel is best understood by those thoroughly schooled in the TV series, but best appreciated by those who approach it with a fresh perspective, prepared for a vivid dream.

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  1. David Lynch is my favorite director with Blue Velvet being my personal favorite film. I was therefore very excited about Peaks when it first aired and i am actually watching them again right now. While i do love Fire Walk With Me(i saw it 8 times in one week at the theater because i knew it was going to be gone soon) i believe Lynch made a mistake by going back and telling us about events that for the most part we already knew about. I would have loved to have seen some new ground covered and a conclusion to the unfortunate cliffhanger we as fans are stuck with forever. The Laura Palmer story had been concluded and i saw no useful purpose in going backwards. I do love the film though but i have no problem admitting my problems with it.

  2. I hope this article would have illustrated several useful purposes in reexamining Laura's struggle and sacrifice in greater detail for the feature film.

    And frankly, if ten years ago I had stumbled on to IFC and saw a feature film sequel that simply carried forward all the characters and story threads from a TV series I had never seen before, I doubt I would have engaged with that film on such a personal level.

    It is difficult to speculate about such things, but I suspect that without the power of Laura's struggle to draw me in, I may not have ever had the desire to watch the TV series afterward. After all, the soap opera elements of Twin Peaks are easier to pull off correctly over an expansive season of television rather than in a brief feature film.

    I am impressed with David Lynch's bravery in choosing to instead address directly and succinctly the innate horror of parental abuse bubbling under the surface of Twin Peaks. It is a topic rarely depicted so accurately and compassionately in media, even 20 years later.

    I was rather upset when the TV series never really took the time to explore the townspeople's reactions to discovering Laura Palmer's secret life of abuse and the terrifying implications of her murder, but instead began a 6 episode-long romp through soap opera silliness.

    Although, after that rough patch, Lynch and Frost's sure hands steadied the series again in time for the show's final six episodes. But the horror of Laura's life and death was still glossed over too casually after it was revealed on the show.

    And because the TV series failed to fully confront the ramifications of this topic in its original run, I can understand David Lynch's desire to correct that glaring problem later when offered a chance to take the story to the big screen. And if he hadn't, then chances are I may have never seen the brilliant series Twin Peaks at all.

  3. I've always taken the Twin Peaks story as told through the eyes of three distinct individuals: The TV show is seen thru the eyes of Cooper. While it's all strange, it's coming from a place of wonderment, not fear. The first portion of FWWM is seen through the eyes of Chet Desmond. Who knows? Perhaps had Chet come to Twin Peaks he would have perceived Norma to be much more like Irene and Sheriff Truman much the way we see Sheriff Cable. And it's that final piece of the Twin Peaks saga - the last seven days of Laura Palmer - that we experience the very real horror that Laura experience... Not from a place of wonderment, but through the eyes of a tormented, confused and abused teenage girl.

  4. Great post. When I first saw FWWM (after watching the TV series on borrowed VHS), I didn't like it because it was not what I expected. It seemed too dark and disturbing. But on further reflection, I thought about the movies subject matter, the terrible abuse and death of Laura Palmer, I realised that this movie had to be as dark as it was. The second time I watched it, I found I had a new appreciation for it. Each time I have watched it, I like it more and more.

  5. Any word on a special edition of FWWM for it's 20th anniversary?
    I would kill to see the full 4 1/5 version.

  6. I have seen the Twin Peaks saga several time, and also FWWM.
    Lynch is so smart in representing a psychologicaly and phisically abused teen-ager.