Director: David Lynch
It IS happening again…. finally… After all these years, Twin Peaks is coming back later this month for a third and final season. It might well be all too much (18 episodes, ALL directed by Lynch himself) – but I can’t wait. And my threshold for disappointment is very high. It would need to be very bad indeed for me to fault it (says he who loves Inland Empire, a film that even staunch Lynch fans find impenetrable).
The Glasgow Film Theatre currently has a David Lynch season, this being the highlight. One of the selling points of this screening (apart from being LATE on a Friday night) was that it was a 35mm print. But… em… that just meant it was VERY crackly and the sound was quite badly distorted. I didn’t realise they meant the actual print from 25 years ago. It made me appreciate the benefits of digital restoration, which I think suits Lynch better.
Still, it’s a film that needs to be seen on a big screen. You need to hear Laura Palmer’s horrific screams and the house band in the Pink Room at full blast on big cinema speakers to get the full effect.
The thing that struck me watching Fire Walk With Me this time round was how obtuse it is – Lynch seemed to have absolutely no desire to pander to his then-loyal Twin Peaks audience. He was certainly on a mission. I remember at the time I wanted this film to tie up all the loose ends the TV series left hanging, so I was hugely disappointed. It took until Mulholland Drive ten years later for me to appreciate Lynch again.
But, like all works of creative genius, it makes sense in retrospect. All those elements we THOUGHT we wanted were diluted and siphoned off into lesser TV series – the science fiction to The X-Files, the cosy off-beat humour to Northern Exposure, the supernatural mystery element to Lost… and so on. And the things we didn’t know we wanted – the sense of dread, the black nightmare void, the COOLNESS, the backwards-talking dwarf, David Bowie telling us we’re all living in a dream – were all present and correct. These are the things that have lingered and given Twin Peaks its timelessness.
The weakness of Fire Walk With Me, on first viewing, seemed to be that we already knew Laura Palmer was going to end up dead, wrapped in plastic. What use was a prequel, telling us what happened up to that point? Where’s the tension? But I now see that’s the strength of the film. Like Titanic, we know where we’re going to end up, but it’s the slowly brewing dread and inevitability that keep us watching. Every scene is charged with the knowledge of fate.
I’m not going to pretend this is an enjoyable watch. The most “enjoyable” bits are all in the slightly humorous first half hour with Chris Isaak, Keifer Sutherland and Harry Dean Stanton. After that it’s a two hour anxiety dream.
But it’s Twin Peaks, dammit. When Twin Peaks clicks with you, it makes you feel like you’ve been slipped the code to a secret, hip world. Bowie is right, we ARE all living in a dream, and a dwarf with a magic ring is the only thing that can wake us up.
Roll on season three!
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
… any of David Lynch’s films, before or since.