Shortly after ‘Twin Peaks’ came to an end as a television series we got news that David Lynch was making a ‘Twin Peaks’ movie. This seemed fanciful and yet in 1992, ‘Twin Peaks: Fire walk with me’ duly appeared. The film got almost universally negative reviews and yet any committed ‘Peaks’ fan just had to see it. I prevaricated for a while until I realised that all the negative reviews meant that the movie’s cinema run wasn’t going to last long. My mate Serge and I went along to a multiplex in town and shared a ‘cinema’ about the size of a large wardrobe with (appropriately) two teenaged girls who sat behind us, whispering and giggling throughout the film.
As for that……The opening half hour of the film lulls you into a false sense of familiarity. The film begins with the murder of Teresa Banks in Deer Meadow some time before Laura’s death. From what happened in the TV series, we can guess that Leland is the killer but all we actually see is the TV in Teresa’s trailer being smashed – very symbolic.
Due to a sulking Kyle McLachlan, Lynch rewrote the opening sequence with Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland as FBI agents investigating the Teresa Banks murder instead of Agent Cooper. Deer Meadow is a kind of ‘anti-Twin Peaks’; the local sheriff’s office is incredibly unhelpful, the local diner is a sleazepit…. Even so, it’s all within that recognisably quirky Lynch style. After carrying out an autopsy that links Teresa Banks to Laura Palmer via the presence of a typed letter inserted under one of her fingernails, Isaak’s Agent Desmond appears to vanish into thin air and though Cooper tries to track him down, he has no success.
At the trailer park in Deer Meadow: Kyle McLachlan as Agent Cooper, with Harry Dean Stanton looking amazingly like Spike Milligan.
The movie then relocates to Twin Peaks and features the last seven awful days of Laura Palmer’s life. There is absolutely no humour here; no cherry pies or Dictaphone messages to Diane. The film rapidly becomes one of the bleakest pieces of celluloid that I have ever witnessed and yet is totally compelling for all that. Sheryl Lee is absolutely riveting as Laura and Ray Wise is again outstanding as Leland. Apparently, many of the cast from the TV show appeared, but did not make the final cut due to time constraints. In truth the antics of Andy & Lucy or Bobby & Shelly would not have been appropriate here.
Laura with James Hurley – all the accessories, none of the insights…..
Ironically, one of the TV cast who does have a crucial role to play in the movie is Donna Hayward, who tries in her own way to ‘save’ her friend Laura from her seemingly inevitable doom. It must have been all the more galling for Lynch that Lara Flynn Boyle, who played Donna in the TV show, would not reprise her role in the movie, due to either ‘scheduling difficulties’ or the fact that the script for the movie required her to appear topless in one scene – believe what you will….Moira Kelly takes on Donna’s role, but it somehow just isn’t the same…
Forced by running time issues to concentrate almost exclusively on Laura’s growing plight seems only to redouble the movie’s power. Lynch takes on the issue of incest that was only alluded to in the TV show and shows the appalling impact it has on the lives of all concerned. As we know from Cooper’s investigations at the start of the TV show, Laura’s life is unravelling in a series of drug-fuelled encounters with random men, not to mention competing teenaged lovers in James Hurley and Bobby Briggs…..and then there are her nocturnal visits from Bob… It really is grim stuff at times.
Windom Earle meets his match in Bob…..
I left the cinema somewhat bewildered that evening and I don’t recall that the film had offered me any sense of closure. All I knew was that it was actually a much better movie than any reviewer had been prepared to admit. It was also a movie that I would need to revisit because there were so many things that it was simply impossible to assimilate on one viewing.
Although ‘Twin Peaks: Fire walk with me’ has been released on videotape and subsequently on DVD, enabling us all to become pause-button experts, I’m not sure that it’s ever been properly re-assessed. Originally, the film was the first of three Twin Peaks movies that Lynch intended to film that would bookend the TV series and help to resolve many of the red herrings and loose ends that were scattered around. However the initial negative reaction to the movie, both from critics and at the Box Office, have caused Lynch to describe the whole ‘Twin Peaks’ Project as being ‘as dead as a doornail’.
Recently, though, I heard that Kyle McLachlan, whose career effectively went into a nosedive after ‘Twin Peaks’, has been talking up the prospect of putting together a whole series of 5-minute ‘Twin Peaks’ podcasts where he will reprise his role as Agent Cooper. This seems to be without any involvement from David Lynch, so I guess we can probably forget it.
But that’s not really the end of the story. For some years I have been the happy owner of the whole ‘Twin Peaks’ saga, first on video and now on DVD. I also happen to be the father of an intelligent and curious daughter with a strong interest in movies and a taste for post-modern weirdness. At about age 16, said daughter discovered ‘Twin Peaks’ in a major way – and proceeded to introduce all of her friends to it as well. Suddenly, the house seemed to fill up with gangs of teenagers embarking on marathon viewings that would stretch into the early hours, involving much between-episode hysteria, usually in the kitchen– ‘Oh my God, WTF is going on with James & Laura?’ ‘Is Leo going to get Shelly?’, ‘Where can we get Cherry Pie at this time of night?’ ‘Ben Horne is, like, so TOTALLY Bob…’ and so on.
I’m actually torn, because whilst I am grateful to Messrs Lynch, Frost et al for what they gave us, it seems to me that there was a potential for so much more. Maybe one day, someone will pick up this particular torch and breathe life into it again.