By Christian DiMartino
When first viewing Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, it took about ten minutes before realizing that a grave mistake had been made. Not because the film, critically trashed during its release and infamously booed at the Cannes Film Festival, was bad. Yet the grave mistake made was that, silly me, I had never seen a single second of Twin Peaks the series. In my mind, this seemed like a sensible idea. Having seen the two X-Files movies before seeing the show, me from five years ago didn’t see the issue. Me from five years ago did see the issue though once the film started, seeing as I had no real knowledge of any of the characters, or even what the show was about. This is David Lynch we’re talking about. I should have known better, and rather than devote any more attention to it, I mentally checked out and decided that I would revisit it whenever I was better prepared.
Alas, here we are.
Here is a film that received pretty scathing reviews, but currently sits at a 7.3 on IMDb. Who to trust? The critics, who view a movie as a movie, or the people. Some of us Lynch believers will go along with anything he brings to the screen (even in its extremely messy glory, there is something of somewhat value in Dune). My guess is, the critics who loathe this film approached it the same way I did my first go, because if you haven’t seen a second of the show, then what are you doing here? Quite frankly, it’s like watching the 7th Harry Potter movie first, and expecting it all to make sense.
Having now seen Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is an effective, chilling little number. It is not one of Lynch’s best, and it is devoid of the humor featured in the show. Having said this though, the action being focused on in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me occurred off-screen in Twin Peaks, and judging from what was said about Laura Palmer in the show, her life was anything but humorous. Kyle MacLachlan appears briefly here as Agent Dale Cooper, but he is a secondary character, if that. Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee, is the star here. Where the show focused on her in a somewhat indirect way, the film places her front and center.
The film is essentially the missing pieces of the series. The series revolved around the aftermath of the death of Laura Palmer, a teenage beauty queen who was also, as we discover through the show, a drug addict and something of a nymphomaniac. Seeing as the show aired on ABC, there was probably a good chance that this side of the story would never fully be realized on television. Lynch doesn’t hold back here though.
The film opens with another murder in a neighboring town, before jumping forward a year to show us the life of Palmer in the days leading up to her death. She is, again, something of a nymphomaniac and a drug addict, hanging around the sleeziest parts of an otherwise picturesque town. She is also being haunted by… something. If you haven’t seen the show, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss what that something is. Yet what is haunting her are forces that even the show didn’t really get to explain, mostly due to its untimely cancellation after season 2.
This film, clearly, wasn’t for everyone. I liked it, even if it isn’t the easiest movie to sit through. Knowing what I know about the show now, it’s a much easier film to take in. Having said that, the film is a little uneven. Early into the movie, David Bowie (yes, David Bowie) makes an appearance that appears to be of importance (maybe he is a Black Lodge ghost?) but he is never mentioned again. Good portions of this film appear to have been left on the cutting room floor.
The stuff involving Laura Palmer appears to be in-tact though. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me earns its R-rating with scenes of rape and sexuality. Truth is, if Laura Palmer hadn’t been murdered, she probably would’ve killed herself. Why Lynch chose to tell this story rather than continue his series (Season 2 didn’t exactly end on a complete note) is a mystery to me, but it is an engaging story. The performance by Sheryl Lee is something to admire too. Every so often, her line delivery can be a little off, but she basically has to carry a film on her shoulders, which is no small feat.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is perhaps for true believers only. For us though, it does quite nicely. It’s not quite great Lynch, but it’s a haunting, bizarre yet fascinating little movie. Even if you find yourself hating it, chances are you’ll at least be won over by the cinematography and the splendid score by series and Lynch regular Angela Badalamenti.