After David Lynch’s cult television series Twin Peaks ended in June of 1991, Lynch went on to direct a prequel film titled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me which was released the following year. Many fans of the series expected Lynch to tie up loose ends and were disappointed to realize that he does nothing of the sort. Lynch was not interested in a resolution but rather, wanted to delve deeper into the character of Laura Palmer and her final days before she was brutally murdered.
I understand some of the criticism surrounding Fire Walk With Me. It is not an easy film. It was panned by critics, fans of the series, and casual viewers when it was released in 1992. It was even booed at the Cannes film festival. In the years since its release though, Fire Walk With Me is beginning to become recognized for the masterwork that it really is. One must separate their feelings for the television series when viewing Fire Walk With Me, an uncompromisingly dark film. Fire Walk With Me is more bizarre and much darker than the series. The offbeat humor that was such an integral part of the series is largely absent in the film. Like many pieces of great art, Fire Walk With Me is difficult to watch. It is an emotionally draining experience. It took more than one viewing for me to appreciate its true power.
Fire Walk With Me blurs the line between reality and fantasy and Lynch’s dream imagery is an important part of the film with images so bizarre that they will be puzzling for many viewers. I personally love the film’s ambiguity. Despite its refusal to answer lingering questions from the series, the film does expand on the Twin Peaks mythology. The world of Twin Peaks is a fascinating one that the film revisits.
However, the film does not open in the town of Twin Peaks. Instead, the opening prologue depicts the investigation of Theresa Bank’s murder. Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Isaac, and Harry Dean Stanton give solid performances in these scenes, which provide an intriguing start to the film.
On a technical level, the film is stunning. Lynch is a truly skilled filmmaker. This atmospheric film has a haunting beauty that cannot be denied. Some of my favorite shots include car lights penetrating a forest at night, a slow motion close up of Theresa Banks emphasizing her ring, and a pan of the ground outside a seedy bar, which is covered with cigarette buds and beer bottles.
When discussing Fire Walk With Me, one must give mention to the incredibly strong performances from Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer and Ray Wise as her father, Leland. In her early twenties during the making of Fire Walk With Me, Sheryl Lee gives it her all. It is an operatic performance that must have been extremely difficult to play. It is disappointing that Lara Flynn Boyle did not return to play her character, Donna Hayward who was such an important part of the Laura Palmer story. However, Moira Kelly gives a solid performance as Donna.
Laura Palmer was dead during the entire television series. Her death was the impetus for many dark events in the small town of Twin Peaks. The secrets underneath the town’s seemingly inherently good surface became unearthed. Lynch has always been interested in the underbelly of small town America in his work and Fire Walk With Me is evidence of that.
Angelo Badalamenti’s score for Fire Walk With Me is simply fantastic. It is difficult to imagine Twin Peaks the series without Badalamenti’s music and the same is true for the film.
In many ways, Fire Walk With Me is a horror film and a terrifying one at that. Many of the events depicted in the film were either described or surmised from the television series. Watching these events as they happened does not disappoint. Laura’s murder, for instance, is every bit as terrifying as one might imagine. For all of the film’s horrors, though, there is a glimmer of hope at the end.
In conclusion, Fire Walk With Me is an intense film experience and certainly not for everyone. It is an examination of the dark side within and the evil in the world. In the television series, viewers first learned of the Black Lodge, which exists in another place in space and time. The veil between this world and that world is very thin in Fire Walk With Me, evidenced in the interruptions of scenes by electricity and other visual cues. In Fire Walk With Me, evil penetrates a small town and the life of a troubled high school girl and there is no escaping from it.
Rating (out of ****): ****
Now, a word on the so-called missing pieces that were recently released as part of the complete series blu ray box set. The missing pieces are one hour and forty-five minutes worth of deleted and extended scenes that were cut from Fire Walk With Me and have only now seen the light of day. The footage is great and provides further insight into the film. Many of the original cast members appear in these scenes and not in the final cut. I understand that a lot of the footage is extraneous to Laura’s story and therefore, was cut. Some of the footage relating to Laura’s story though, is simply fantastic and would have made Fire Walk With Me an even stronger film. This footage includes some humor that would have been a nice addition.
My favorite scenes that were cut include a dinner scene with the Palmer family, who are happy, silly, and wonderfully weird. The scene is a nice contrast to the other dinner scene that makes it into the film which is dark and unsettling. I also love the scene in which Cooper speaks to an unseen Diane from the doorway. It would have been a better introduction to Cooper than the one in the film and shows the Cooper that fans loved from the series: quirky and idiosyncratic. I also love the extended scene with David Bowie’s Special Agent Phillip Jeffries, which makes a little more sense. The scene, as it appears in the film, is nearly incomprehensible. There is also an extended scene of the gathering of spirits above the “convenience store.” It is a much more terrifying version that the one featured in the final film. There is another scene of Laura hiding in the bushes by her house, about to leave to see James. She sees her father approach the house, uncertain if he sees her or not. It is an incredibly tense scene.
There are so many great moments in the missing pieces, but I think the film would have benefited from the inclusion of the ones I have described. The missing pieces also include a couple of brief scenes that take place immediately after the end of the television series. Even though they do not provide any resolution, these scenes are great nonetheless.