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20 Years On: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Reassessed
Petra Davis , October 20th, 2012 06:54

The third Twin Peaks UK Festival takes place at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith today. Events include an anniversary screening of the iconic TV series' big screen prequel, which Petra Davis analyses in-depth here

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(NB: to avoid long exposition of a complex and sometimes contradictory narrative, this piece at times assumes familiarity with the Twin Peaks mythos. The world of Twin Peaks is sprawling; for those who might need them, I have provided endnotes below. Warning: spoilers.)

"We live inside a dream." Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie)
"Life is full of mysteries, Donna." Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the original release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch's lengthy prequel to the earlier TV series anatomising small-town corruption, sexual abuse and murder. Twin Peaks' referential mix of surrealism, melodrama, horror and screwball humour (1) had won critical and popular acclaim, and though the second season had faltered following news of its network cancellation, expectations for the film were high. The show had ended mid-arc, with its white knight, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), possessed by an evil spirit, and many characters in mortal peril (2). Fans were anticipating a resolution Lynch was apparently in no mood to provide. The film begins with an axe buried eloquently in a TV set. It takes a full half-hour of backstory elsewhere before relocating to the familiar setting of Twin Peaks (3). It abandons some characters completely and underserves others. It replaces a lead with a relatively unknown actor (4). Most stubbornly of all, it largely deserts knowing humour for sheer horror. A forensic investigation of trauma, Fire Walk With Me is one of the most harrowing films you'll ever see. Despite its early unpopularity, it stands with Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive as a dislocated masterpiece of the Lynchian canon.

At the time of the film's premiere at Cannes, Lynch had recently been much fêted, receiving the Palme d'Or for the relatively flimsy Wild At Heart two years earlier. The festival assembled an eager audience of jurors, directors and critics for the May 1992 premiere of Fire Walk With Me. The response was unparalleled in Lynch's career. "It's not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be," proclaimed Vincent Canby in The New York Times. "Its 134 minutes induce a state of simulated brain death, an effect as easily attained in half the time by staring at the blinking lights on a Christmas tree." Critics largely hated Fire Walk With Me: Canby's vitriol was matched almost everywhere it was reviewed. The Cannes audience booed the film, not just at the end, but regularly throughout, and some audience members left the theatre in disgust. A youthful Quentin Tarantino – making his directorial debut that same year – was filmed leaving the screening saying mournfully, "I loved him. I loved him," and declaring that he'd never watch another Lynch vehicle.

Well, I loved Lynch too, in fact never more so than in his work on Twin Peaks' various manifestations: the series, the books, the tapes (5), and the sprawling online fanworld (6) that accompanied them. At the time the series was first screened in the UK, I was a teenager living in a small seaside town notorious for drug abuse, sexual exploitation and suicide. The show's thesis – that acts of violence have consequences far beyond the immediate – was a useful fiction. In the rape and murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) I found an analogue for what I saw in my indigent hometown. I knew plenty of adults who were violent to children, in their various ways; I knew plenty more who rationalised that violence. I knew desperate teenagers by the busload. In Twin Peaks, I was grateful to see the complex consequences of abuse conveyed well: the gallows humour of survivors, their toughness, their intense sweetness and their terrible fear; the corruption of those who collude, their awful habit of denial. At its best, the series acknowledged a kind of violence mainstream discourses were loath to admit. At its worst, with its narrative tricksiness and doubt, it ran the risk of trivialising it.

Twin Peaks offered both moral and metaphysical grounds for violence. It seemed to see evil as both present and ambient. The reveal of Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), Laura's father, as her murderer, came in a violent set piece mid-second season. Leland is shown seeing the face of BOB (Frank De Silva), an evil spirit who inhabits a transdimensional space called the Black Lodge, in the mirror. He then beats his niece Maddy (also played by Sheryl Lee) to death in his living room. The scene's graphic violence is offset by domestic detail: a record player skipping, Maddy's attempts to hide behind chairs and lamps. The balance between the moral and the metaphysical readings is careful; both Leland and BOB are implicated. Compare, however, Leland's death scene shortly after. Here, BOB is the problem, the metaphysical reading dominates, and Leland's absolution comes at the cost of any responsibility for murdering his daughter and niece.

(Trigger warning: extreme violence)

Exonerating Leland is a mistake not repeated in Fire Walk With Me. Widely criticised for misogyny at the time of the TV series (Roger Ebert had eviscerated Blue Velvet for the humiliation and violence doled out to Isabella Rossellini's character, and contemporary feminists from Suzanne Moore to riot grrrl zinesters had taken issue with Lynch's portrayal of rape and murder as originating from Elsewhere rather than from patriarchy), Lynch steps away from the cognitive dissonance of those around her (7) and chooses to focus Fire Walk With Me on Laura's experiences, presenting events from her perspective. Here, Laura's absence in the series is replaced with a searing presence. Headshots predominate – Lee's giant, defiant blue eyes occupy the screen - and Laura carries the vast majority of lines. We're finally offered a Laura who speaks for herself, tries to protect those around her, and faces her ordeal with considerable courage, a Laura played by Lee with astonishing range, empathy and depth. In Laura's attempts to reconcile her conflicting perceptions of what's happening to her, we once again see balance between the worldly and the otherworldly: she experiences both her father's abuse and BOB's intrusions as real. She describes them herself with the language available to her: angels, fire, falling. She insists on the validity of her own reading, and the film concurs: it presents her view as absolutely real and absolutely perilous. This becomes more clearly legible as radical when we consider how commonly trauma survivors, particularly young women, are disbelieved and pathologised. Need we really imagine a psychological reading would serve Laura better?

Lynch takes considerable technical care with maintaining his two worlds. Editor Mary Sweeney uses abnormally long overlaps to fade between scenes, creating a liminal space where other kinds of action become possible. Light and sound from outside her world overcome Laura in moments of gnosis. Moments from the Black Lodge and from the future of the narrative interpolate themselves. Ever conscious of the psychotropic sonic, Lynch, here in the sound designer's seat, mixes white noise, treated vocals and tape loops to imply the quotidian intrusion of the metaphysical world into this. It's a technique that's both mystical ("Is it true?" Laura asks tearfully of her childhood painting of angels at the table, as white noise encroaches and the world swings away – "Is it true?") and solidly rooted in slasher horror's use of sound to as a clue to the villain's hidden presence.

Here, however, Lynch's laden sound design does not simply aim itself at the audience: it's almost constantly audible to characters, through performance (Julee Cruise's gorgeous ‘Questions In A World Of Blue' marks the moment Laura's best friend Donna (Moira Kelly) watches her tearfully consent to sex work (8)) or otherwise. The gurgling laugh of a hostile police receptionist (Elizabeth Ann Macarthy) in Deer Meadow (9) reappears in a dream sequence, slowed and treated. The whooping of the Man From Another Place (Michael J Anderson)(10) in Cooper's dream (11) carries static along overhead wires to threaten a wary Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak). A masked child from the Black Lodge (Jonathan J Leppell) whispers clues to Laura from feet away as she stands mesmerised in the street. Agent Jeffries (David Bowie) brings the electric confusion of Elsewhere to the F.B.I. headquarters, emerging like a thundercloud from a lift. MIKE (Al Strobel), BOB's former accomplice, runs down Leland and Laura as they drive from Donna's house, generating a storm of treated sound that overwhelms them both. These moments have their parallels elsewhere in Lynch, particularly in Lost Highway's terrifying Mystery Man scene. The characters' vulnerability to sound usually reserved for the audience is a sonic fourth wall breach with consequences for us too: how porous are the boundaries around our own realities? We are not permitted the reassurance of distance, no vantage point is offered. In the overlapping worlds of Fire Walk With Me, our externality as viewers is under threat.

Fire Walk With Me has been re-released a number of times on various formats, usually with the promise of deleted scenes appended (Lynch shot over five hours of usable footage before editing down to a judicious 2 hours 14 minutes) but, despite an enormous appetite for further exposition among Twin Peaks fans, these scenes have never appeared. The film was originally intended to be the first of three Twin Peaks features, but Lynch refuses to be drawn on how he would have proceeded with the idea. Despite innumerable conventions, interviews and Q&As, none of the cast or crew seem willing to fill in lost sections of the story. But to require resolution of Fire Walk With Me is to mistake its intent. At one and the same time a compelling portrait of sexual abuse and a meditation on the metaphysics of evil, the film remains an honourable account of an intractable problem, a stubbornly inaudible last word.

  1. Twin Peaks draws heavily on film noir, soap and cop show conventions. Though often credited with innovating lengthy story arcs and metanarrative on the small screen, in fact it has some provenance in the surreal British TV of the 1960s, The Prisoner especially.

  2. In Twin Peaks' second season finale, Cooper (Kyle MacLachan) emerges from a lengthy sojourn in the Black Lodge, a transdimensional sacred site, possessed by BOB (Frank De Silva), the same evil spirit whose possession of Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) had led him to rape and murder his daughter Laura (Sheryl Lee). At the same time, several characters are caught in an explosion in a bank vault, another lies comatose after being attacked by the man he cuckolded, and yet another is hospitalised after being kidnapped, taken to the Black Lodge and viciously beaten. Footage inside the Black Lodge, featuring its iconic Red Room and inverted speech, here and here.

  3. Though its sense of place - the giant, brooding forests and mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest - was one of the strongest elements of Twin Peaks, in fact the series was largely filmed on a soundstage, intercut with stock location shots. By contrast, much of Fire Walk With Me was filmed on location in Snoqualmie, Washington, and the woods assume their proper mystique. See two scenes of Laura in trouble among the Douglas firs, here and here.

  4. Lara Flynn Boyle, at the time a very high-profile young actor, declined to reprise her two seasons in the role of Donna Hayward, Laura Palmer's best friend, in Fire Walk With Me, and was replaced by Moira Kelly, later of Chaplin. Kelly does well with Donna, to whose clueless sweetness she adds a little jealousy and competitiveness, tenderness and sexual curiosity.

  5. See this list of Twin Peaks books.

  6. See Spectrum Magazine and for genuinely disturbing levels of geekery.

  7. Lynch's portrayal of collusion has much to teach us at this particular cultural moment: the simultaneous knowing and not knowing seems genuinely characteristic of those complicit in abuse, as has once again become clear with the Jimmy Savile allegations.

  8. "We all knew she was in trouble," bellows Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), Laura's cokehead boyfriend, at her funeral early in the series, "and we didn't do anything! Save your prayers, man. She would have laughed at them anyway." Although the series is often criticised for underselling sexual abuse, in Fire Walk With Me and elsewhere in the Twin Peaks canon the complicity of the community in sexually exploiting Laura is far more clearly shown. At one point in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (written for authenticity by Lynch's daughter Jennifer), Laura lists the people she's slept with since her abuse began, aged 12. The list runs into the mid-60s; the vast majority are men decades her senior.

  9. Deer Meadow: a small town near Twin Peaks, scene of the murder of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley), a teenage sex worker, by Leland Palmer in the first moments of Fire Walk With Me, and the murder's subsequent investigation by Agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland).

  10. The Man From Another Place: the dismembered arm of BOB's murderous accomplice MIKE (Al Strobel), represented by a dancing, whooping Michael J Anderson in a red suit. Fan of formica tables and creamed corn (‘garmonbozia', a form of sorrow consumed by residents of the Black Lodge), owner of a ring capable of conveying humans Elsewhere.

  11. Throughout the series, Agent Cooper is shown using dreams to solve the mystery of Laura's murder. Here, in his first dream, we are introduced to the Man From Another Place, to MIKE and BOB, and to the Red Room:

Oct 20, 2012 2:19pm

Thanks for this... this was so right on. I actually saw the movie first, and later when I watched the series I remember feeling uncomfortable when Leland was so cleanly absolved, even though I was just in high school and didn't exactly know how to put words to it at that time.

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Oct 20, 2012 2:26pm

I'm always reminded of this when any discussion of Twin Peaks comes up:

Nailed it.

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Oct 20, 2012 7:28pm

Savannah: I'm glad you felt that. For me the most horrifying parts of the film are Laura dealing with the gradual realisation that it's Leland that's doing this to her. The scene where she runs from the house and hides under the bush; the scene at the dinner table; her screaming DADDY as he's running the girls through the woods to the train car. There's a moment, very rarely discussed, where Lynch significantly departs from series canon, from Leland's claim in the police cell ("when he was in me, I didn't know; and when he was gone, I couldn't remember,") - the key moment is In the train car, he says to Laura tearfully "Your diary... I always thought you knew it was me." Very important.

I love this film. It's a completely truthful piece of art.

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Oct 21, 2012 1:41pm

I liked the movie very much,regardless of what critics said. And I think it's differences from the series only work for the benefit of the film itself. Chris Isaak was also great...

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Oct 21, 2012 9:02pm

I've always felt 'Fire Walk With Me' was judged a little too harshly. Certainly not Lynch's best but it's got a lot to offer. I'll never look at a ceiling fan in the same away again.

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Lucia Lanigan
Oct 21, 2012 9:37pm

A pretty typical response to a Lynch film from me here, but while I remember this as being *the* most incredible thing back in the day, when I watched it again this year it was a different film again. It does all the good things Petra praises it for, and it definitely includes lots of Lynch's best *bits* (the strobe-lit club scene, everything Bowie heralds, the white mask kid/monkey/man - I've since seen a Native American mask I'm sure that was inspired by). But somehow it doesn't add up to *that* strong a film overall, for me, and I struggle to say why. Whereas Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire do (while they don't, for other people).

I'll always get a warm glow for knowing that episode two of the first series of Twin Peaks not only got broadcast, but to a large audience. It's one of the purest pieces of surrealist art ever, an absolute wonder.

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Oct 22, 2012 9:01am

"Trigger warning"

Yes I was shocked that a discussion of a violent film contained violence.

"Need we really imagine a psychological reading would serve Laura better?"

I think Agent Cooper answered that one when asked whether it matters if Bob is real or not. As do you here:

"Exonerating Leland is a mistake..."

Privileging subjectivity tends to benefit patriarchy, as it has the most resources to bring to bear on producing and recuperating it.

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Oct 22, 2012 11:33am

Very good read, thanks. I was all consumed by Twin Peaks at the time of it's inital showing. I found BOB to be a terrifying character, hiding in bedrooms, crawling over living room furniture, grinning madly in mirrors. Frightened the pants off me and made the walk home from my friends house after watching it a panicked 10mins (the route was through a park with close trees/shadows).
I loved Fire Walk With Me at the cinema and re-watched it last time it was shown on TV. The two girls being marched through the woods by torchlight was horrible yet compulsive viewing. So many scenes linger long in the mind after watching Twin Peaks in general. Such a shame that the second season completely lost it's way and only just got back on track for it's great finale in the Lodge 'otherworlds'.
Out of interest Petra, what seaside town are you from? I'm from one myself and they can be quite dark places at heart.

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Oct 22, 2012 4:53pm

In reply to dirigible:

"Trigger warning"
Yes I was shocked that a discussion of a violent film contained violence.

- Sure. But that's by far the most violent scene in the series, and not everyone will have watched enough of the series to know quite how violent it was capable of getting. I just wanted to make sure, in a piece tacitly dedicated to the many survivors of violence I know and love, that I didn't trigger.

"Need we really imagine a psychological reading would serve Laura better?"
I think Agent Cooper answered that one when asked whether it matters if Bob is real or not. As do you here:
"Exonerating Leland is a mistake..."
Privileging subjectivity tends to benefit patriarchy, as it has the most resources to bring to bear on producing and recuperating it.

- hm... maybe. The 'into the light' scene is really uncharacteristic, though, not of Lynch necessarily but of the careful balance between the two readings throughout the series. That's why I was unsurprised by the film's redaction. 'When he was in me, I didn't know, and when he was gone, I didn't remember' and 'your diary... I always thought you knew it was me' speak to totally different levels of collusion.

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Oct 22, 2012 5:09pm

"The gurgling laugh of a hostile police receptionist (Elizabeth Ann Macarthy) in Deer Meadow (9) reappears in a dream sequence, slowed and treated."

Where and is which dream sequence is this? I've seen FWWM many times & have never caught it.

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Oct 23, 2012 6:37pm

Great article, glad to read it. Fire Walk with Me is far from perfect, but even with more than a few cringe moments, it's filled with great, bizarre, masterful scenes that stand up today where much of the series does not.

The booing at Cannes is often mentioned - that always seemed to me to be something of a backlash from the praise he'd received in preceding years. Wild At Heart had won the Palme d'Or when Blue Velvet was overlooked; Fire was booed when Wild at Heart was perceived as over-rated.

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Dec 7, 2012 12:17pm

Thanks for this... this was so right on. I actually saw the movie first, and later when I watched the series I remember feeling uncomfortable when Leland was so cleanly absolved, even though I was just in high school and didn't exactly know how to put words to it at that time. Weird interview. Interviewer is being purposefully antagonistic, which makes him come across as a dick. But eventually it draws some good stuff out of Ice T. House cleaning Scottsdale

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Joel Bocko
May 13, 2014 8:40pm

Fantastic, powerful analysis of a great movie. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but its reputation has just been skyrocketing in the past decade as people really appreciate what it did instead of what they wish it had done. I suspect a big - but usually unacknowledged - factor in the backlash against the series was down to viewer resentment: after enjoying the quirky atmosphere and thrilling to an absorbing but safely-distanced murder mystery, the show rubbed everyone's faces in the true damage caused by abuse. Maddy's murder remains one of the most shocking things ever shown on television - I'm sure there have been more violent scenes (although it is pretty violent), but I doubt there's been anything which matched its depiction of emotional horror. It's also telling that, after teasing us with hints of Laura's "bad girl" qualities (Sheryl Lee has a great quote about this term applied to Laura) the show unleashes Leland/Bob on the sweetest character on the show as if to say this violence has NOTHING to do with the victim inviting it. I've seen the sequence numerous times over the past few months as I've been working on a series of Lynch-related posts and a video essay, and I still find it very hard to watch which is all for the best.

Of course the movie served as a culmination of this process, and gave Lee the chance to offer one of the greatest performances in screen history. That's not hyperbole; I'm hard-pressed to think of many other actors who leave themselves so open and vulnerable in allowing the audience to share their suffering. It angers me that she was mostly rewarded for this bravery with a mixture of indifference, hostility, and mockery (Vincent Canby's catty review, with snide exaggeration of Lee's age by 10 years, always comes to mind). Although there were some plaudits too (an Independent Spirit Award and many otherwise hostile reviews at least acknowledged her feat), she hasn't gotten the career she deserved.

Next month I am putting up a post on my blog called "Gone Fishin': A collection of writing on Twin Peaks." As the title suggests, it is provides selections from nearly 70 different articles, reviews, and essays documenting the reception, backlash, and reclamation of the series and film over 20 years. Laid out chronologically, I've found these samples really offer a sense of the show's rise and fall although obviously my selection is based on the topics and reading that interest me (I included a lot of pieces I don't agree with too). I will definitely be adding quotes from this piece as well, and encourage you to visit when it goes up June 9 (I'll provide links in a separate comment since I'm not sure of this site's policy).

Finally, while the show's and film's approach to revealing Laura's killer and exporing the ramifications of her abuse could be seen as a bait and switch by angry viewers hoping for lighter entertainment, in fact I believe it was more of a natural evolution. This is borne out by the larger context of Lynch's career, which indeed moves from viewing victims and outsiders with some distance and/or trepidation (even in the compassionate Elephant Man, the villains are all grubby working-class types while Merrick's protectors are members of the Establishment) to identifying with/exploring more deeply both victims of abuse and the tormented psyches of their abusers.

Also deserving credit in the transformation of the show's focus is Jennifer Lynch, David's daughter, who wrote The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer - the first time Laura was given a voice in the Twin Peaks saga. Although Lynch himself may or may not have read it, Sheryl Lee certainly did (she treated it like the Bible while shooting Fire Walk With Me) and it was the beginning of a process ending with the film (and its angry reception).

Why this change occurred is anybody's guess but the usually cagey Lynch has been pretty frank about his growing affection and concern for Laura Palmer, a character initially invented as a hook to get viewers into this small-town world. Yes, the network made him reveal the killer earlier than he would have liked but while this was a bad thing in many ways, destroying the delicate balance of the series, it may have been a blessing in disguise because (like the character in Otto Preminger's Laura) Lynch was falling in love with his character and had to free her from just being a silent corpse on the TV set. The epilogue of Fire Walk With Me is deeply compassionate in this sense - as if he, as only a creator can do, is giving her the peace and joy she could never receive in her own life.

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Joel Bocko
May 13, 2014 8:42pm

In reply to Joel Bocko:

My blog, by the way (which will be featuring the quote round-up in a month), is Lost in the Movies: I am also engaged in a monthlong conversation on this film with fellow blogger Tony Dayoub, and the links to that can be found at the top of the page.

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Bobby Peru
Jul 5, 2014 2:52pm

I'm just a big fan since the begining and TPFWWM is my favorite movie. Look what i'v done, for fun:

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Aug 14, 2014 8:37pm

Your view is a very common one. It seems to be the one most discussed in blogs, forums etc... these days. There is nothing new here just the same elaborations that every “intellectual” Twin Peaks viewer seems so proud to make.

I will play Leland's advocate. I think that it is very likely that FWWM, while teasing during the start with the possibility that it was only Leland, ultimately proved that BOB was real. After Laura discovers BOB's identity she seems to believe that BOB was only an imagination she created to protect Leland. She seems to have abandoned what she thinks of as a lie. She never mentions BOB again. The only flash we see of BOB in the train car before the placement of the mirror is possibly from Ronette’s perspective, actually, as he circles the tied up girls. As the Giant said Ronette saw BOB that night not Leland. Further proof that BOB is real. I think the bit with the mirror proved to Laura it wasn’t in her head and was meant to prove it to us too. Laura is genuinely shocked that her reflection is BOB's. This is letting her know that she was right initially when she believed that BOB was real. After this scene the blue light flashing that indicates the supernatural returns. If BOB wasn’t real or he’s just a part of Leland or the evil that men do what exactly was going to happen in the train car? I’m confused. When he is killing her he is screaming “NO!” and “Don’t make me do this!” as if this wasn’t the planned course of action. What was his action meant to be if BOB didn’t exist? What purpose does the ring serve?

You also like to mention the "Your diary… I always thought you knew it was me" as contradicting Leland's deathbed confession and state that the murder of Maddy implicated both Leland and BOB. This is not the case. The Lynch penned Log Lady intros state for that episode that Leland was in pain as well: “Pain for the victim. Pain for the inflictor of pain.” Something I find hard to reconcile if any part of him wanted to kill Maddy. We see the contrast between Leland’s pain with BOB’s pleasure illustrated quite well. When Leland was dying he expressly made it clear that while his conscious mind didn’t have a clue what was going on inwardly some part of him did. Why else does he say about BOB and the others “He said he wanted lives…” and “They said if I didn’t give them Laura they’d have me kill her too”. Obviously he was in some form of communication with BOB while he was possessed but unable to remember it in his conscious thoughts. Also remember that before BOB smashes Maddy’s face into the painting he says “Leland says you’re going back to Missoula, Montana”. It is as if Leland had demanded that Maddy be allowed to return home and BOB acquiesces with a cruel joke. I don’t see why the part with the diary in the train car doesn’t show this visually. BOB and Leland are momentarily split. This is the Leland that was conscious of the possession. He thought that Laura knew he was BOB but the diary proved to him that she didn’t. It would have been better for her if she had thought it was only her father and this is why Leland is so sad when he makes that confession to Laura. He wanted her to know. BOB wanted her because she saw BOB, shown by his appearance after Leland’s words when he tells Laura “I never knew you knew it was me. I want you.” The diary proved to BOB that Laura knew it was him and not her father. And this is when things accelerated.

Speaking of the diary, you can’t take the Jennifer Lynch written diary as a fact. Her father contradicted it in his work time and time again. The published diary claims to have been a gift to Laura when she was 12 from her parents, I think. Lynch had Laura state that it was from Harold Smith. "You made me write it all down". Seeing as Laura only met Harold when she started the Meals on Wheels she would have had to have been 16 or 17. The murder Bobby commits is also extremely different from both the novel to the film.

I think that most viewers, male and female for different reasons (it gives the men a woman to protect and save and the women another reason to admonish patriarchy), have this undeniable urge to see Laura as a victim and no matter what may be claimed when TP and FWWM is taken as an allegory for incest it makes her into one. She is not courageous because she chooses death instead of the belief in herself and the realization of free will. The story becomes highly offensive. It suggests that a victim of incest should die so they end the cycle of abuse. There is no mistaking, Laura’s death is portrayed throughout the film and series as a good thing. The angels even suggest it freeing the girls hands so Ronette can open the train car door and Laura can wear the ring, the wearing of which leads to her death. I’m sorry but I would not love the series that was such a part of my childhood if I found out it supported such a viewpoint and I’m aghast why so many others would openly support it and call it a masterpiece. It would make me, personally, sick to my stomach and I would feel betrayed and lose my love and respect for David Lynch, something I do not want to happen because I love that man to pieces. I would feel just like Laura does when she sees Leland leaving the house.

However, suppose BOB was real for a second. Suppose Leland did not want to do any of those things but he exists as an example of what Laura would be forced in to doing had she become BOB. Not simple trips to the Power and the Glory. Not corrupting Bobby into selling drugs for her. No. These are acts that no part of her wants to commit because BOB is real and he wants to be her. Her will would no longer be her own. She would be the vehicle they said Leland was and is supported by the scorched engine oil smell when BOB is at his worst. When BOB is taken as real Twin Peaks offers us Laura Palmer not as a victim but as a hero, even more so than Dale Cooper who fell to BOB. This is where Twin Peaks gets its power. I believe when Laura wears that ring, which I believe promises her to MIKE as his next host so BOB can not have her, she is not a victim but has finally gotten the better of the being that not only made her life a living hell but made the life of the father that loved her into one as well.

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Aug 24, 2014 11:16pm

"(Trigger warning: extreme violence)"

I would have never guessed from the rating.

"Rated R for strong violence, sex and drug content, and for language"

Is your intended audience adults or 7th graders? 7th graders aren't going to be watching FWWM.

Regardless of that nonsense, this is an overlooked gem that showed the darker origins of the Twin Peaks story in a mesmerizing and immersive manner.

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Joel Bocko
Sep 4, 2014 11:31pm

In reply to Erin:

Re: Erin (sorry, the site won't allow me to reply directly to your post w/o signing in & I'm having trouble with that - so hopefully you're able to see this comment),

I see where you are coming from but I think a literal reading of Bob does not necessarily let Leland off the hook. Lynch generally isn't interested in making artificial distinctions between the "realistic" and the "supernatural" so what we get in Fire Walk With Me is more allegorical than the Bob/Leland presentation on the show but NOT metaphorical...if that makes sense. The Lodge spirits clearly have an actual existence in the mythology of Twin Peaks, but as the film reveals their relationship to their human hosts is much more complex than straight-up demonic possession would suggest. I believe, and I think the film bears this out, that Leland is not simply a helpless, powerful puppet of Bob. I also don't think that would be dramatically very interesting, and would Laura's resistance less compelling - if poor Leland was not responsible for what he did, Laura's own unwillingness to let Bob inside would be less powerful because it would lack a dynamic contrast.

Anyway here is my reading of the film's mythology. It is a spiritual allegory in which the mythology DEFINITELY is meant to be taken as "real" in the world of the film but it's ALSO about incest, and Leland's responsibility for the abuse of his daughter. And in the end, Laura is even more the heroine - not simply the victim - because of this:

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Joel Bocko
Sep 5, 2014 12:20am

In reply to Joel Bocko:

Sorry, that was rushed and a bit jumbled. Just to clarify: in my reading of the film, Bob is definitely a real spiritual presence but Leland's relationship to him is more in the nature of a partnership than possession. Leland seems quite conscious of his actions, if also in a kind of denial about them, and most importantly he is responsible for his behavior. Just as Laura would be if she let Bob in.

To me, the ring represents Laura's compassion, her love rather than her fear (since the latter is what Bob thrives on). I think she summons the angel to save Ronette (who, as you note, opens the door and allows the ring in) just as earlier, in a scene conveyed with similar lighting and cutting, she saved Donna in the Pink Room. Her death is a byproduct of her unselfish action, not the desired or even necessary outcome: it's Bob's only response to the realization that he can't take advantage of her fear and despair, the way he did her father. This is of course wildly open to interpretation but it's the reading that makes the film most dramatically and spiritually satisfying to me.

It also gives the film and the series a coherent theme: overcoming fear, embracing love, and most of all facing up to the truth, however this case Leland's very real abuse of his daughter. It's also worth noting that Lynch, who is famously tight-lipped about his work, has baldly stated on several occasions that Fire Walk With Me is about incest (at least twice: once in an interview with Chris Rodley in Lynch on Lynch, in which he also describes Bob as "an abstraction with a human form" and later in the recent Between Two Worlds conversation with the 3 actors who played the Palmer family).

Frankly I don't see the contradiction between Leland being responsible for the abuse of his daughter and Bob being an actual presence in the world of the film. To me, this raises the stakes and is entirely consistent with the allegorical nature of all Lynch's films - in which he eschews the simplistic dichotomy of realistic vs. supernatural to create something far richer, more complex, and more compelling.

Hopefully that reply makes a bit more sense than the previous one!

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Feb 26, 2015 7:24pm

Bobby wasn't a cokehead at all. He only sold drugs, he didn't abuse them.

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Sep 25, 2015 2:20am

It's a flawed masterpiece to be sure, but I'm always baffled by the level of hatred FWWM received when first released. Hadn't these people a) seen the series and b) seen a Lynch film before? It's not THAT far removed in tone and style from some of the darker episodes of the show. The more willfully obtuse elements (Jeffries, the ring) would have been explored (if not explained) in subsequent films had this one been a financial success.

As others have suggested it may well have been more of a backlash against Lynch than the movie itself.

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Dec 3, 2015 9:50am

Ok I'm not going to go into this movie and the thoughts provided by others who in my opinion either don't get Lynch or don't understand that Lynch was and is a visual artist and more times than naught the story and dissection of it's meaning falls well behind the mood and feel brought on by color, music, intensity of acting even if the direction of said plot lines/and meanings therein make about as much sense as some of the comments I've seen in a negative light about this particular film of Mr. Lynch's. This is a side point but Roger Ebert can judge my dick "yes I know he's dead" and get off his moral high horse when he's lambasting Lynch's particular view on women, violence and the outcomes for all involved. I know Mr. Ebert liked to let every one know how well educated he was and how important his opinions were but alas he forgot his job depended on a little thing called free speech and freedom of expression which I believe Mr. Lynch works with liberally. Dammit so much for a short comment I haven't even really gotten to my point if you can believe that. Laugh it up I know I'm running quickly from the mouth and yet this director seems to evoke passionate feelings from all whether they be a fan or not. Ok, breathe and compose and here it is, this is in response I read somewhere on this thread basically implying that the movie didn't stay true to the tone of the show by not including some of the more lighthearted moments and quirky humor the show was well known for and liked because of. Did you forget the premise of the show people?? Murder, deceit, drugs, rape, possession, incest. Ummmm funny or just hilarious ?? I find the show itself centered in a dark place and because of the nature of television shows and the time needed to fill a slot and the amount of characters needed to pull the show together inevitably there's going to be a variety of tones to a show and yes Twin Peaks benefited from the variety and did a great job balancing them all out but when you're in Lynch's shoes think of getting bullied into answering a mystery you wanted to have go on for seasons into the future and now you have a chance to give true fans a real insight into the main characters life and event's leading up to the shows beginning you have to cut the fat out and the fat in my opinion would've been a forced humor that I'm guessing for Laura really shared no part in her life during those last few weeks or her tortured and thoroughly hellish existence. I hope somebody feels what I'm flexing in my fingers as I type this quickly I must admit I didn't plan on a comment nearly this long and I'll end it here. Thanks and enjoy for what is and not what could be or you'll lose something in every Lynch film you watch. *Bows out trips on the ring and closes eyes......

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