Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★★★½

Included In Lists:
Strong Performances - Sheryl Lee

“Who killed Laura Palmer?” was always the question that ran through my mind as the David Lynch and Mark Frost’s series progressed through its first season. It gripped me with the mystery of Laura’s death and with it, was fascinated by the ripples that her death has caused a seemingly gentle town. As much as I admired the characters that filled the town of Twin Peaks, it was Laura Palmer that held everything together. By this I mean, it was in the mystery of this individual that excited me to return time and time again, extending beyond the simple motivation of unlocking the individual responsible for her death, but rather the essence of who Laura is, how she has touched and hurt those around her, her significance when she was both alive and deceased.

It was in the arrival of the second season, of which initially rides the strength of the series’ initial momentum, and eventually losing its grip on me, significantly in fact, as the mystery of Laura began to completely surface. No longer did I feel as interested in understanding the adjusted lives of those that populate this town, new sub-plots rarely carry the same spice as they used to, and a sense of eagerness and strain from the writers could be felt with each passing episode until it eventually reached its premature end.

Though by the time I had finished the series, I was no longer riding the wave that defined its opening season, there still existed a sense of excitement to explore David Lynch’s prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a film that explores the events that preluded the opening of the television series, highlighting the experience that Laura was enduring and it's seeming connection with murders that may link to her case.

The idea of retreading Laura’s life may seem redundant to some, as it was in the act of obscurity and ignorance that adds to the sense of horror that permeated the town, but that certainly would have been the case if I didn’t think the performance by Sheryl Lee and David Lynch’s vision was able to convey more than what the show already did. Lee not only brought forth a stellar performance, a quality that was severely uncapitalised in the episodes she was featured, but it allowed the complexity behind this character’s existence to even be more empathetic, and through Lynch’s sharp vision in reflecting Laura’s experience, we feel greater the horror that internally rumbles within her mind and the eventual arrival of her eventual passing is further traumatising for its viewers, since we have now established a connection with the character that is comparable to the links that she shares with her closest relationships.

Fire Walk With Me hones the series’ surrealism and addresses it further, allowing greater depth to the visual cues that Lynch provides, while also entering into a branch of excess in his filmmaking that hasn’t been felt since his debut film. Never a film from the director has ever made me feel this uncomfortable, feeling an extreme sense of fright, terror, and danger that simultaneously propel my hand to extend and somehow aid Laura, while also finding myself tightly shrunk in order to avoid the film’s swallowing atmosphere.

Lynch also used this opportunity to further draw the fragility of Leland (Ray Wise), Laura’s father, while also reinforcing the rationale that he carries for his actions and perceptions. We see the twisted mind that he frequently dons, and how that aura begins to frighten Laura and amplifying the claustrophobic danger that lingers within what’s supposed to be her primary source of comfort, the confines of her own home. Through this, Lynch was able to explore more on the surreal aspects of the series, refining the link between Bob and Leland, realising more of the former since the series refuses to simplify his existence through reductive exposition.

It is true, much of the film’s work has already been attended with the general appeal of the show that it has generated with its fans, requiring little for the film to actually endure through forced exposition, allowing itself to remains tightly focused on the portrait of Laura Palmer. There was a hint of the excitement of certain characters come in and out of the frame, but the director never lets it get to the point of pure indulgence and senselessness, there is constantly a palpable progression in Laura’s journey, learning more and more about her persona and her traumas as it treads along. It helps significantly that Lee has brought forth a powerhouse of a performance, and that alone would be enough to warrant this film as a must see from the director’s filmography.

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