Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★★★★

David Lynch's quasi-prequel to his tremendous Twin Peaks series was much maligned upon its initial response, a reaction which the director struggled to cope with for some time. Fire Walk With Me, a retrospective on the last seven days of licentious teen Laura Palmer's life, adopts a distinctly macabre tone to that of the series and this is something that appeared to polarise initial audiences. The two series that preceded this film were imbued with a joviality that dovetailed well with the show's darker elements, a tonal blend that FWWM shifted away from to become a much more unsettling affair.

One of the main gripes that critics of FWWM have directed at Lynch is the lack of series regulars in the film. One of the key successes of Twin Peaks was the depth of characters that inhabited the fictional town; it's almost a certainty that any fan you speak to (myself included) will have their own favourite character and this is testament to the vision of Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost and the originality of their creation. The absence of key characters from the series - in particular those with a capacity for comic relief - means that there is no escape from the unrelenting bleakness of FWWM.

This is something that recent Blu-Ray boxset The Entire Mystery adresses, with the circa hour and a half of deleted and extended scenes featuring many of Twin Peaks' most treasured alumni. It also adds greater linearity to the original cut of FWWM, which was altogether more skewered and difficult to follow. Lynch's tendency to jump to and fro in time and from one reality to the other (see bizarre David Bowie cameo) meant that FWWM concluded in an unsatisfingly ambiguous tone that did little to allay the inquisition that followed after ABC cancelled the show.

And yet, these supposed shortcomings are what makes FWWM such a fitting extension to the Twin Peaks legend. Like any and all of Lynch's work, there is no finite answer to the show's many mysteries; and this is the main contributor to its remarkable longevity. The entire Twin Peaks story, which spouts from the brutal murder that is documented by FWWM, is shrouded in a mysticism that mesmerises viewers and keeps you coming back for more (roll on 2016).

It is the tragic demise of the Palmer family that is the natural core focus of FWWM, a topic in need of address given the lack of retrospect in the television series. Lynch has described the murder of Laura Palmer as the tree from which the many other narratives of Twin Peaks sprouted and it is well known that it was a crime that he intended to never have solved. The reveal of the murderer at the halfway point of series two, though one of the great standalone episodes of Twin Peaks, was something that hindered the show and minimised the impact (and relevance) of the events that followed.

So it was an altogether rational choice to return to the scene of this heinous crime and to unveil the context within which this atrocity occured. Laura Palmer is a character that was seldom seen in the television series (par for the course given she was dead from the very beginning) and it is therefore most welcome to be granted an introspective of her fractured and tragic life. Sheryl Lee gives a truly outstanding performance as Palmer, one that radiates with an unsettling blend of promiscuity and sadness and helps pacify the more unedifying elements of FWWM.

Lee's performance is accompanied by that of Ray Wise, whose take on the doleful life of Leland Palmer is one of the exemplary features of Lynch and Frost's story. Wise's ability to emanate both empathy and horror makes the character of Leland one of Twin Peaks' most memorable - and my personal favourite - and raises a number of pertinent questions on morality and the fissures between good and evil. Are Leland's actions that of his own or do they truly belong to the evil spirit known as Killer BOB?

It's a question that is initially raised by FBI agent Albert Rosenfield in the wake of the revelation that it was indeed Leland that butchered his daughter and one that cannot be definitively answered. We may well have seen BOB possess more than one of Twin Peak's central characters (I'll keep schtum on who in case you're yet to watch the entire series) but can we be 100% sure that he is an all powerful entity and not just an embodiment of the psychological fractures of pressurised men? It makes for disconcerting contemplation and an indefatigable interpretation of evil; one is never likely to forget the inhabitants of the Black Lodge.

Whilst the darker elements of Twin Peaks are still at large come FWWM's conclusion (the Entire Mystery boxset adds upsetting clarity to season two's major loose end), we are given a holistic conclusion to the narrative arc of Laura. The image of her beaming at the ascension of the angel that was absent in her darkest hour is one that this viewer found both uplifting and emotionally taut. It's been confirmed that Sheryl Lee will reprise her role as Laura in the upcoming reboot and we can now at least hope that she will do so in a more wholesome manner than she was allowed to first time around.

Such assurances cannot be granted to Special Agent Dale Cooper, whose story is left unfinished (to say the very least) come the crescendo of both the Twin Peaks series and FWWM. There are solid foundations then for a return to Twin Peaks and one can only gleam upon imagining the myriad of possibilities that the show's return can offer. FWWM, particularly when watched with the aforementioned new content, can be considered an unfairly maligned piece of work that was well ahead of its time; another feather in the cap of a director that rewards his audience with every viewing.

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