Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★★★½

“Fire Walk with Me” is the prequel movie to David Lynch´s groundbreaking TV show “Twin Peaks”, and I don´t think I was ready for this. What an overwhelming experience.

The first part in Dear Meadow features some of Lynch´s trademark quirkiness and is fun to watch, but as soon as the story of Laura Palmer begins, “Fire Walk with Me” becomes a striking tonal departure from the show. It´s still unmistakably “Twin Peaks”, yet so much bleaker and darker. There are no soap opera elements or campy charm like in the series, just pure psychological horror and devastating drama with supernatural elements as well as more explicit depictions of sex, violence, drug use, and disturbing terror. And this time, Lynch has total creative control, and he uses it masterfully. I was completely immersed in this world thanks to the intriguing plot, captivating aesthetic and atmosphere, surreal imagery, fascinating symbolism, and brilliant use of sound. By the way, “The Pink Room” could possibly be the sleaziest score ever made, I love it (as well as the scene it´s used in).

“Fire Walk with Me” expands the mythology of the show in an interesting way and fills in some gaps, but the thing Lynch was most interested in was to tell the story of Laura Palmer. She starts the whole story and is a strong presence in the first 1 1/2 seasons but so far, we only know her from the perspectives of others. With this movie, Lynch wants to do her character justice and show that she´s more than a plot device, she is a real human being. And man, does he succeed. Dale Cooper is still my favorite “Twin Peaks” character, but this film made Laura Palmer the one I feel the most sympathy for. She definitely has a special place in my heart.

At its core, “Fire Walk with Me” is an incredibly nuanced, empathetic, and resonating meditation on abuse, trauma, depression, and self-destruction as well as a damning indictment of the darkness that hides underneath the surface of idyllic small-town America. Nobody could hear Laura´s cries for help, since everyone is occupied with their own lives. It´s been a while, since the fate of a fictional character had such an impact on me. You already know how the story ends, and this gives the film such a strong sense of tragedy, sadness, and despair as well as a crushing feeling of helplessness and inevitability. You want to help Laura but you know you can´t.

“Twin Peaks” leaves you with many questions, but the biggest question I had after watching this film was “Why is Sheryl Lee not a major star?” For real, her performance is a revelation. Utterly bone-chilling, enthralling, and powerful. Up there with the best acting I´ve seen in a Lynch film and a performance that will linger in my mind for a long time. The second standout is Ray Wise, who is also extraordinary. His character is also more ambiguous than in the show, since it´s not clear how much darkness was already present in Leland and how much is Bob´s doing. At least that was my impression. In any case, this tragic and disturbing father/daughter relationship will haunt me forever, and the two actors are a big part of that.

David Lynch was forced to reveal the secret of Laura Palmer´s death in the show against his will, and a part of season 2 suffered from that. Yet this decision also gave us this movie in the long run, so I can´t really complain about it. “Fire Walk with Me” is mesmerizing, heart-wrenching, intense, unsettling, yet also profoundly beautiful. In my opinion, it´s up there with “The Elephant Man” as Lynch´s most emotionally affecting work. It goes to dark, dark places, yet Lynch´s compassion for Laura Palmer permeates the screen at all times. The movie left me emotionally drained but satisfied.

For completists, I also recommend the companion piece “Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces”. It´s a collection of deleted scenes, some of which add more context and some of which are just fun to watch. And as far as I´m concerned, time in Twin Peaks is time well spent.

“Fire Walk with Me” also sets up plotlines for “The Return”, which is very exciting (I´m not done with the season, yet).

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