Twin Peaks Pt. 3: “That gum you like is going to come back in style”

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. 

The prequel: “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”

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. 

I get this a lot.

 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.

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7 responses to “Twin Peaks Pt. 3: “That gum you like is going to come back in style”

  1. selphiealmasy8

    I don’t think that FWWM is about incest nor does it show the effects it has on a family. Any comment by Lynch about such a thing would be due to the large fact that most appraisals of FWWM seem to commend it on a level that seeks to ignore the supernatural aspects of the story. They like it if it centers on a dark and wholly realistic subject like incest. Otherwise they don’t understand it and think that the paranormal aspects make it silly. I have a friend who commented that in the 1990’s America simply wasn’t ready to see a father rape his daughter so BOB was introduced. This ignores the fact that many TV shows and TV movies focused on this tabboo theme with much sucess. I cite the 1984 movie “Something About Amelia” as an examples.

    From the interviews I have read, I think that Lynch was the force on the series that sought to make it supernatural, no matter what his fans may think. When the other writers tried to explain things away such as the dream at the end of episode 2, Lynch was there to reinforce them and make then real. Lynch loves mystery and he is open to certain elements that his fans may laugh at. I particulary found an interview with Mark Cousins funny concerning Cousins complete disbelief that Lynch believes in Angels. It was as if the interviewer believed he knew the interviewee better than he did.

    The appalling impact seems negated in the film since it is primarily about Laura’s discovery that BOB is possessing Leland. I have always taken the scene when Laura is devastated to see Leland leaving the house and realize he may be BOB has proof that she never really suspected her father before. Akin to her asking the Angel picture if it was true. If Laura had tried to protect her father and her sanity by creating BOB I doubt she would be so intent on discovering his identity. I believe she would also attempt to try to repress the whole incident as many incest survivors do. The sad statement in the train car from Leland, regarding her diary, that he always thought she knew it was him and BOB’s subsequent claim that he never knew she knew it was him and that he wants her, showed this as well. Laura was special. She knew it was BOB and not her father. This is why BOB wanted her, particularly after having read her secret diary which proved she had seen BOB and knew it was him.

    The film is a fantasy and a wonderful one at that. I saw Twin Peaks when I was 11 years old. I had a semi abusive father I had just escaped from at that time and never once saw BOB as anything but BOB. I’ve watched it many times since and at any moment when I have tried to look at it as BOB simply being the darker side of Leland the whole Lynch directed and written episodes fall apart. I had never seen FWWM until years later when I was trying to view the series as an allegory for incest. When I saw FWWM I knew that Lynch intended BOB to be real, not Leland and that Laura was in danger of being possessed. It was better for her to die than to be the monster that tormented her for so long.

    Why else would BOB/Leland place the mirror in front of her and only kill her when she is wearing a ring given to her by a one-armed man who is BOB’s enemy? Why else would an Angel free Ronette’s hands to open the door so that man could throw the ring in and why would the Angel also free Laura’s hands to wear it? Lynch uses the dreaded deus ex machina well and God bless him for that!

    It is far more interesting to debate why Cooper gives Laura the wrong and possibly selfish advice to not take a ring even Divine grace seems intent on giving to her. While many fans believe that Dale guides Laura from the Red Room (purgatory) to the White Lodge (Heaven) this seems highly improbable from a man who has shown he has no control over the Lodges. It seems much more likely that the Angel was coming for the girl anyway. It is significant that it disappeared from her painting when she didn’t take the ring and returns when she has. Afterall, it was after looking at the picture, playing in the background the strains of “The Voice of Love” Laura remembers the painting given to her, the one that opens the way for her supposed to taking the ring. At the film’s end when VOL plays again, Laura has only been in the room for a few seconds and the Angel arrives only when she has come. Lynch has stated the Red Room changes depending on who enters it. Laura is the new arrival there. The Angel arrives for her and her alone and it remains a question if Coop can even see it.

    MacLachlan has no right to continue the series without Lynch, especially when being so stubborn about his character during season 2 and his reluctance to be in FWWM. Twin Peaks is Lynch’s child and he understood it far better than anyone else. May he be able to hold on to his personal vision of Twin Peaks for as long as he desires.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this; I guess you have thought about this a great deal and I have nothing but respect for your views. I’m not sure that I said that FWWM is about incest, though I may have done. I think it is about incest actually, but it’s about a lot of other things as well. Overall, it’s about the horrendous end of Laura’s life and of what that means to the community of Twin Peaks. Laura is, after all, the Homecoming Queen, the brightest and best of her generation, a symbol of renewal for the whole town. And yet, and yet…Laura is fatally flawed, corrupted, resigned to her fate – incest is just one of the issues she has to deal with. Lynch takes the ‘Peyton Place’ template of small–town America and gives his characters inner lives which aren’t necessarily what we might have expected (certainly not in the UK) from such an innocuous place – just the same as the small town featured in ‘Blue Velvet’. As for the supernatural, I don’t see how anyone could argue that Lynch doesn’t believe in it…we have the Black Lodge/White Lodge, the bizarre disappearance of Agent Desmond, Cooper’s vision of the Giant, Bob and other aspects I may have forgotten. But I think we should be careful about ascribing too much ‘joined-up thinking’ to Lynch & Frost about the way they developed the enveloping mythology of the town and its inhabitants. By Series 2, I think there was a ‘make-it-up-as-you- go- along’ philosophy in operation with some real ‘red herring’ subplots like The Mayor and his bride and James Hurley’s misadventures on the road. Part of this at least stemmed from uncertainties about how long the Series would continue for; I don’t really think they had the time or the leisure or indeed felt the necessity to concoct a truly coherent supernatural backdrop. ‘Twin Peaks’ was, after all, as much about mood as it was about narrative and just the suggestion of strange goings-on in the woods, Project Blue Book, and Bob’s sub-satanic rituals was probably enough to throw a convincing enough shadow over proceedings. In any case, these things tend to lose their allure if you shine too strong a light on them. I could go on, but it’s getting late and I need my sleep. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  3. selphielmassy8-

    According to Lynch, the movie is about “the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest. It also dealt with the torment of the father-–the war in him.”

    This is from the book “Lynch on Lynch”.

  4. Thanks Daniel; great quote…..
    It’s rather as I suspected, then….

  5. “According to Lynch, the movie is about “the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest. It also dealt with the torment of the father-–the war in him.”

    I had read this before I posted my reply. This is why I said:

    Any comment by Lynch about such a thing would be due to the large fact that most appraisals of FWWM seem to commend it on a level that seeks to ignore the supernatural aspects of the story. They like it if it centers on a dark and wholly realistic subject like incest. Otherwise they don’t understand it and think that the paranormal aspects make it silly.

    The thing is with Lynch on Lynch I don’t know how angry David was. Remember this book is filled with interviews from 1993-1996. FWWM had failed. The critics hated it, the viewers hated it. Everybody practically hated it except for the Japanese who couldn’t figure it out. When you are angry you say things, particularly to make other people look bad. It would be easy for Lynch to take the “Oh nobody liked it because it was about incest and they are so socially irresponsible” stance, even if this wasn’t his intention when he made it.

    This would be especially true if FWWM was made in a supernatural vein and Lynch saw this as being WHY it wasn’t well received he could turn on it in a minute, blame the viewers for not being “understanding” or “tolerant” enough to accept it. The reception of FWWM had hurt him and I believe that in that hurt he could have turned on it and on the viewers.

    Once again, there had already been tons of films, tv, and novels about incest that was well received and well handled.

    Do I believe that David Lynch would reveal as much about any of his work as he did in Lynch on Lynch? No. I believe he was in a dark place at that time in his life. There are many inconsistencies in the book with other interviews that David has made and if David had been so open about the true meaning of FWWM I find it hard to understand why he doesn’t just say it when asked these days. Instead he evades.

    AgentCoop, I wasn’t trying to ascribe to any joined up thinking of Lynch and Frost. I think that Lynch was on a completely different page than the others and believe that Lynch was a leading force in the supernatural area. He was the one who called up Frost as said there would be a Giant in Dale’s room. He is the one who believed that Josie would be stuck in the Great Northern, although he wanted a door knob I think. This is why I believe that he felt that it was supernatural.

    This is the bottom line. Do I believe that Leland could have raped Laura despite his love for her? Yes. I believe that. Do I believe that Leland would have killed Laura? No. Sex does not always begat violence and just because a man would molest his daughter I don’t believe that he would end up killing her.

    Do I believe that the show and the film showed that BOB was real and that Leland was innocent? Yes. There is too much evidence for it. Once again, Laura near the end of FWWM seems to accept that it has been her father all along. BOB seems to almost be dead to her. However, those moments in the train car prove to her and the audience that he is real.

    Otherwise, frankly, I would find FWWM offensive. It would suggest that death is the only way to escape from incest and abuse. I do NOT believe that David Lynch would have had Laura Palmer die unless it was necessary. He loved her too much for that.

    • Wow, long time between posts! I had to revisit all the stuff you and I and others posted on this last year to refresh my memory about who’d said what.

      OK, anyway, welcome back. Thanks for posting again and here are just a few observations on your latest comments….

      I agree that some people probably favour the non-supernatural aspects of the story because they can’t deal with Lynch’s take on the supernatural. Even so, those people would probably have to admit that the supernatural elements are a vital ingredient of the overall story – what would TP be without Bob and the White/Black Lodge, without the Giant and the Dwarf and other such characters and episodes? Lynch’s whole starting point is with Cooper, the FBI gumshoe who is so much more than his suits and shiny shoes. From the first moments of the story, we are invited to review our stereotypical image of FBI agents, Sheriff’s deputies, Homecoming Queens etc. The owls – and much more in TP – are not what they seem. For Lynch, there are clearly more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any conventional philosophy of TV thrillers and that’s why people still remember TP 20 years later. Even so, there is something of everything in the series – especially comedy, which helps to prevent the whole thing from becoming too portentous and serious.

      As for Leland/Bob and Laura, I think it’s clear from the script that Bob is an inhabiting spirit (according to the One-Armed Man) and that once he takes control, his ‘vessels’ are just puppets, incapable of stopping him from doing whatever he wants. Having said that, there are clear signs from Leland after Laura’s death – hair turning white, manic cheerfulness suggesting some kind of derangement – that either Bob is struggling to supress the ‘real’ Leland or is having trouble maintaining the facade of ‘being Leland’; probably the latter. Bob’s evil has a manic quality to it; not for him the insane detachment of Windom Earle – as the One-Armed Man says: ” He is Bob, eager for fun. He wears a smile, everybody run.”

      I’m sure you’re right that Lynch loved Laura – didn’t we all? She continues to crop up in his subsequent films – Laura Dern in ‘Inland Empire’ and Patricia Arquette in ‘Lost Highway’ both have Laura-ish tendencies. Lynch’s heroines have become almost as distinctive as Hitchcock’s. However, without Laura’s death there would have been no ‘Twin Peaks’ and for all your ruminations on the nature of Bob and the degree to which Laura believed or didn’t believe in him, I think we must accept that there was a degree of what Kant defined as ‘praxis’ in ‘Twin Peaks’ This involves the application of theoretical hindsight or as Tony Wilson succinctly put it, doing something then inventing a rationale for it later. My impression of Lynch is that he is often quite instinctive as a Director and will often ‘try something’ just to see if it fits into the overall pattern of things – probably at the editing stage. That’s really what I meant when I talked about an absence of joined-up thinking. For example, the sundry comic weirdnesses of ‘Twin Peaks’ – the Log Lady, the romance between Andy & Lucy, Nadine’s drape obsession, the doughnut/coffee/cherry pie fetishism, David Duchovny as a transvestite FBI agent, Ben Horne’s Civil War breakdown – these and numerous others all strike me as being a series of inspired one-offs, rather than part of any coherent, planned ‘cosmology’, yet they all seem to ‘fit’ the overall scheme of things.

      You write: “Once again, there had already been tons of films, tv, and novels about incest that was well received and well handled. ” Really? I must have been watching something else in that case. To my way of thinking FWWM was one of the first attempts by mainstream Hollywood to deal with this topic, but there again, I can’t say that I have actively sought out movies that deal with incest. The way I see it, Lynch returned to the ‘Twin Peaks’ saga because he wanted to use the relatively greater freedom of film to deal more explicitly with the incest motif that had only been alluded to in the TV series. I think that he would have had more control over the plotline of the movie than he did with the TV series and also wouldn’t have had to dance to the tune of the network/studio in quite the same way in terms of meeting deadlines. I think for that reason it’s more reasonable to ascribe a more considered approach to Lynch in the writing, directing and editing of the movie than would have been the case with the series. Most people who came to the movie via the series were repelled by its relative bleakness on first viewing and only came to appreciate its merits after revisiting it on one or more occasions. As for Laura’s death, I think that there are hints of redemption for her at the end of the movie when she seems to have made it to the White Lodge with Cooper and an angel to protect her, although like so many aspects of the whole saga, it’s all down to personal interpretation.

      Thanks again for your post…..

  6. Excellent review and interesting discussion.

    Personally, I don’t see any way around the conclusions that a) the supernatural elements are not just in Laura’s head and b) the film is about incest, and Leland is at least partly responsible for the abuse of his daughter. I don’t see these two elements as being contradictory, although initially their juxtaposition bothered me. Although I disagree with many of his/her conclusions (and it’s worth noting that Lynch has described FWWM as being about incest in the recent Between Two Worlds documentary), I agree with Selphie that Lynch wanted to tell a redemptive rather than purely tragic story. Notably, he added the angels in production (they were not in the script) and also added the ring to the train car sequence either during shooting or through inserts and trick editing afterwards. Both additions provide a sense of Laura’s triumph over Bob.

    However I’ve always found it difficult to make sense of the conclusion which seems, as you put it, conditioned primarily by the pre-existence of the show and Laura’s sealed fate. While I always loved the movie – even, on some level, when I was conflicted about it on first viewing – I’ve never been able to see the silver lining (except in a fatalistic sense) until recently. Now when I watch the movie, I like to see Laura as “summoning” the angel to save Ronette in the train car, perhaps on a subconscious level, but motivated by a sense of compassion and concern (which very explicitly echoes her rescue of Donna in the Pink Room – throughout the movie, Ronette & Donna are established as doppelgangers for one another). This fits in with the theme of love battling fear in the series, and gives Laura an a more active role in her own fate. I have no idea if this is what Lynch intended – although as you note, intentionality is kind of beside the point except in a general sense when it comes to Lynch. But it works within the framework of the movie and gives me an in to appreciate a conclusion I’ve always struggled with.

    It’s such a great movie – on its own terms and also as a conclusion to the series. Whether one calls it praxis, theoretical hindsight, or ret-conning, it’s really extraordinary how Lynch incorporated random inspiration, input from others, and outside circumstances (like the forced reveal and show’s cancellation) and created something holistic and integral. Very much like what he did with Mulholland Drive, turning an abandoned TV pilot into an acclaimed motion picture with its own conclusion.

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