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August 29, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

The mystery that's been set up for us in the first act is collapsing; at this point the movie shifts focus, prefiguring the bifurcated structure of later Lynch films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr., both neo-noirs that rupture and reconstitute themselves halfway through.
Anatomy of a Fascinating Disaster: Fire Walk With Me [Replete with Twin Peaks/FWWM spoilers and a fake Breaking Bad spoiler.]
posted by griphus (57 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is also an article about the 20th anniversary of FWWM

BONUS FACT: I LOVE FWWM
posted by shakespeherian at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am still holding hopes for Twin Peaks 2015: 25 years later. It's when Laura Palmer (spoiler!) said she'd next see Agent Cooper.
posted by brina at 10:10 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


That FWWM could emerge out of the corpse of a supernatural soap opera and be as compelling as it is amazes me. I have never seen a more empathetic tale about the cyclical nature of abuse and how it destroys both abuser and victim.

SPOILER

In the traincar when Laura finally puts on the ring and Leland shouts "Don't make me do this!" to whom is he shouting? BOB or Laura?
posted by infinitewindow at 10:11 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think one can draw a straight line from Twin Peaks to LOST and a host of other modern television mysteries, in that the answer is, there is no answer. What is the Black Lodge? Nobody knows. What is the real nature of the Smoke Monster? Nobody knows.

Moreover, nobody can possibly know, because the writers made a deliberate decision to be open-ended.

So, when you ask:

to whom is he shouting? BOB or Laura?

The answer is, you'll never know. No one will know. Not even the show's creators or writers. Because they deliberately intended it to be literally unknown.

I mean, we don't know really the mystery of Edwin Drood because Dickens died. That's understandable.

But we don't know anything about LOST because not only did Damon Lindelof decide not to tell you, he decided not to even think of it himself.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno, I often think that line could be applied to BOB and Laura. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation.
posted by Kitteh at 10:27 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I wonder whether any version of a Twin Peaks film would have been satisfactory, considering the expectations and anticipation it had to bear at that time—especially considering that it had to be packed into a commercial running time. (I would love to see a version based on the lengthy shooting script.) Perhaps it would have been better to have foregone Fire Walk With Me and instead have shot a film after some distance of time—for instance, as noted above, the 2015 date—though I suppose that recent X-Files film doesn't say much for films based on properties that ended years ago.
posted by kaisemic at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks, perhaps in part because of their narrative and other flaws. For some reason, I am drawn to films that almost make sense but have fatal flaws in the logic or narrative. I also love that Fringe exists in the same universe as Twin Peaks and that Walter Bishop knows and considers Dr. Jacoby to be a friend and colleague.
posted by The World Famous at 10:38 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm always amused by the fits of rage fans of one fiction or another, regardless of the media, can get in when the author(s) decide there is no explanation for something big in the fiction. I like my fictional universes to be like that, it's like having a a little blister on a fingertip that you are helpless to stop prodding every few minutes until it inevitably bursts and makes things even worse. The narrative black holes keep me intrigued, humbled, and coming back for more, if for no better reason than obsessing some more over the blister.

(Also: perhaps Leland is shouting to Lynch himself?)
posted by Iosephus at 10:40 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think one can draw a straight line from Twin Peaks to LOST and a host of other modern television mysteries, in that the answer is, there is no answer.

Hard to say. I think that Lynch was conscious about not having an answer, but I think that Lost started off as something the writers thought they were going to explain, but then ended up just making it up as they went along, getting a lot of loose ends left in the process, much like the alien-abduction subplot of The X-Files.

I like my fictional universes to be like that, it's like having a a little blister on a fingertip that you are helpless to stop prodding every few minutes until it inevitably bursts and makes things even worse. The narrative black holes keep me intrigued, humbled, and coming back for more, if for no better reason than obsessing some more over the blister.

I realized that I had no interest in enmeshing myself in what were effectively abusive relationships.
posted by deanc at 10:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also probably true that Lynch isn't a great match for the sort of slowly-parceled-out mystery that Twin Peaks is, because the way that he works is heavily intuitive and doesn't come equipped with a lot of detailed mapping out of narrative trajectories and concrete answers to questions. Fortunately there are plenty of things to love about Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me that have nothing to do with sussing out the specifics of how the supernatural mythology functions on a logical/practical level because that's neither what I'm much interested in nor what the show/film provide.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:03 AM on August 29, 2012


...the way that he works is heavily intuitive and doesn't come equipped with a lot of detailed mapping out of narrative trajectories and concrete answers to questions.

Now I am just picturing David Lynch in the woods with a chalkboard, throwing rocks at bottles:

*KTHINK*

"Okay, another five minutes of James Hurley playing the guitar it is. I don't like it any better than you do."
posted by griphus at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm totally down with ambiguous/unsolved endings if I get the sense that they were planned that way, but most of them seem like easy outs for writers who have painted themselves into a narrative corner and don't want to or can't paint their way out.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 11:07 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


...imagine if The Simpsons Movie had opened with 30 minutes of prelude set in a grim Shelbyville that turns out to be populated by half-lobotomized Homer/Bart surrogates.

Don't mind if I do.

I, too, loved Fire Walk With Me. But I haven't seen it since it was in the theater, so I really don't feel like I can comment much about it. This article is prompting me to finally remedy that.

What I remember most about it is the act of seeing it. It was the first time I'd ever driven myself to a movie, I think, and I know it was the first time I'd ever been to a movie alone. I was 17 years old and had just been kicked out of the school I'd attended the previous two years. I was stuck back in the same small town I thought I'd escaped from and was on probation for the same stupid act I'd gotten kicked out of school for. (Actually, that hadn't happened yet, but it was the plan.) But I was still able to see a movie like that in the theater of the mall movie theater where I grew up. And somehow, that meant everything was going to be okay. I guess I might be the only person who was comforted by viewing Fire Walk With Me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:14 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have tremendous affection for Fire Walk With Me. The sequence with David Bowie and the security camera is one of the most terrifying things I've ever seen.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:15 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a pretty good article. Firewalk With Me is my favorite Lynch film, and I think it shows the cruel weirdness of America very, very well. It plays against the idealized version of the same country and location that we get in Twin Peaks in much the same way that Frank's gang plays against the American good-old-boy-detective who lives in the picket fenced house in Blue Velvet.

I would love to see Lynch take the mythos back up on TV again. There's probably never been a better time for a return to form - although between the original TP and Mulholland Drive I can see why Lynch would be reluctant to ever get back in to Television.

...imagine if The Simpsons Movie had opened with 30 minutes of prelude set in a grim Shelbyville that turns out to be populated by half-lobotomized Homer/Bart surrogates.

I give you: The exceedingly strange and NSFW series: Hommer Simpson.
posted by codacorolla at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the article:
Lee is playing a vast range of stereotypes and archetypes here, all of which still seem to have sprung convincingly from one character's soul; this is, among other things, one of the bleakest, cruelest movie about teenage self-actualization ever made.
Yes. As David Foster Wallace said, Lee deserved an Oscar basically just for even showing up on set.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Most stories don't end in the protagonists' deaths, so they're open-ended in that respect. More could happen; but usually, the writer decides it isn't important.

The type of story that gets singled out as "ambiguous" and "open-ended" is that which uses a mystery (not necessarily the kind with a crime) as a source of suspense and character motivation, then doesn't solve it. The mystery-as-MacGuffin.

I've enjoyed stories like this, but it's hard to pull off. I find that I only like it when the mystery has one or more driving questions that are interesting in general, and not just insofar as they keep the tension tense. You might say philosophically interesting, but actually I might be satisfied with the sort of question that leads to good fanfiction when answered.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:32 AM on August 29, 2012


Well, I'm not gonna talk about Judy. We're not gonna talk about Judy at all, we're gonna keep her out of it.
posted by brevator at 11:34 AM on August 29, 2012


Ive always dreamed of a Chris Isaak spin-off series, Chet Desmond PI. Love the long prologue with him.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bookhouse, thank you for confirming that your username is indeed a Twin Peaks reference. I've often wondered.
posted by brina at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really happy to see so much love for FWWM, one of the most devastating things Lynch has ever done. It seems like a recent phenomenon. For a long time all kinds of people (even Lynch fans) hated on it loudly and publicly.
posted by naju at 11:55 AM on August 29, 2012


So, I loathe David Lynch as a director; mostly, I think he's a hack, although Mulholland Drive was excellent, and I simply adored "Fire Walk With Me", which I saw before I went back and watched the whole series. And the reason for my enjoyment of the latter is what infinitewindow says:
I have never seen a more empathetic tale about the cyclical nature of abuse and how it destroys both abuser and victim.
It's so very, very true. In most cases, Lynch's dream-narrative surrealism is annoying, overly obtuse, and pointless. But in this case (similar to the "decoupage of LA stories" in Mulholland Drive) using this surreal, off-kilter approach is magnificent.

If Lynch- or anyone else- had made a straight-up movie about Laura Palmer, abuse victim and bad girl, it would have screened like a sappy Lifetime/Oxygen movie. But having the BOB character, the odd dialogue readings and pauses, the disorienting feel, did so much to give depth to the cycle of abuse, and the tragic story of how a molesting father can destroy a daughter's life. To me, I prefer to see BOB as a coping mechanism; he's not in Leland's head at all, but rather is a manifestation of how Laura would see her own father, how she would try to understand her dad becoming her worst enemy. Surely, the only reason he does these things is because he's possessed by something outside of his control, right? And I watch, and think how many children of abusive alcoholics have had the same thought, the same rationalization?

I think FWWW is a stupendous, haunting film, and from the level of emotional resonance the best film Lynch has ever made.
posted by hincandenza at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've always thought the only way Twin Peaks could end was with the burning of the Great Northern hotel. All of the ghosts, all of the secrets, all of the answers burned away, because the cost of knowing was simply too great.
posted by SPrintF at 12:04 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


*runs finger anose to Brina*
posted by Bookhouse at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I give you: The exceedingly strange and NSFW series: Hommer Simpson.

That series is the greatest thing I have seen this year.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:04 PM on August 29, 2012


The Bowie sighting is #10! It's the one aspect I don't particularly want explained but want... more of.

I personally think he's a high-level Tremere who has succumbed to final twilight.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2012


The thing I love about the Bowie bit is that it very solidly moves the town of Twin Peaks from Nexus Of Weirdo Lynchy Things to Just Another Town In Weirdo Lynchy World. If anything, Twin Peaks is more normal than whatever goes on on any given day at the FBI.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:17 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing I love about the Bowie bit is that it very solidly moves the town of Twin Peaks from Nexus Of Weirdo Lynchy Things to Just Another Town In Weirdo Lynchy World. If anything, Twin Peaks is more normal than whatever goes on on any given day at the FBI.

Yes! The FBI in Twin Peaks is entirely X-Files or Fringe division, and it is involved in the Twin Peaks murder case because weirdo Lynchy things are right up its alley.
posted by The World Famous at 1:20 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had the unfortunate experience of seeing FWWM before I had ever seen Twin Peaks or really knew anything about it. The only Lynch I'd seen before was Dune (which I mostly didn't remember at the time) and Wild At Heart which I enjoyed some, but by general impression of Lynch at the time was that he was "weird for weird's sake," and FWWM turned me off to him for a long time. Then I saw Mulholland Dr., and within a couple weeks I was halfway through Twin Peaks and the rest of Lynch's filmography. The only bummer for me when watching Peaks was that I knew about Leland/Bob, so the mystery wasn't so mysterious.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:39 PM on August 29, 2012


I want to see, read, or hear a million more stories involving Lynch's FBI. What a fantastic construction. I believe several people have tried to grab on to what Lynch had going with them, but even with his prototype, nobody (that I know of) has managed to come close.
posted by nathan v at 1:49 PM on August 29, 2012


I am also somewhat firm in my belief that Diane is the name of Cooper's tape recorder.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Yes! The FBI in Twin Peaks is entirely X-Files or Fringe division

With Denise Bryson and Fox Mulder!
posted by Lucinda at 1:54 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Blue rose file definitely = x-file. Loved early x-files, hate Fringe, but would have adored a series on Lynch's FBI.

I also saw FWWM before Twin Peaks and found it completely inscrutable. Went back the next night for a second viewing, which isn't something I do often.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:05 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian, non-canon sources (My Life, My Tapes) indicate that Diane is not the name of his tape recorder, as he dictates to Diane the vital stats of his new "Big Little Recorder," including price with tax.

"I decided to pass on the rent-to-own option, Diane. Leasing may be the fast track to an appearance of affluence, but equity will keep you warm at night."
posted by infinitewindow at 2:06 PM on August 29, 2012


Non-canon counterpoint: The insert booklet for the Twin Peaks Original Soundtrack CD has headshots of the main characters with their names underneath, and there's one for Diane which is a photo of Cooper's hand with the tape recorder in it.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:09 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: I am also somewhat firm in my belief that Diane is the name of Cooper's tape recorder.

THEN WHO WAS EARPLUGS?
posted by SomaSoda at 2:23 PM on August 29, 2012


Or what infinitewindow said, I guess.
posted by SomaSoda at 2:24 PM on August 29, 2012


WHAT IF there's a Diane/Cooper dual-consciousness thing going on, same as with Leland/Bob. The tape recorder is the medium through which Cooper is able to interact with his other personality-entity. What if then you guys.
posted by naju at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


WHAT IF there's a Diane/Cooper dual-consciousness thing going on, same as with Leland/Bob. The tape recorder is the medium through which Cooper is able to interact with his other personality-entity. What if then you guys.

Oh man, there's a huge spoiler if I say what it is, but this is the essential plot point of another Twin Peaks inspired piece of media.
posted by codacorolla at 2:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh man, there's a huge spoiler if I say what it is, but this is the essential plot point of another Twin Peaks inspired piece of media.

I dearly want to know what piece of media it is so I can watch it, but I don't want to know what it is because I don't want it spoiled. OH NO I AM TRAPPED IN A LOOP. Like David Bowie in FWWM? Kinda? Sorta?*

*Which HOLY CATS that scene gives me the all-over shudders. I'm gonna go watch it right now.
posted by Elsa at 3:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it Twin Beaks?
posted by griphus at 3:21 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know Lynch has stated that he has no interest in exploring the Twin Peaks world any further, but wouldn't now be a great time to return to the series? Have it take place 20 years later. It could hinge on Cooper's dream taking place when he was older. Maybe he finally escapes the black lodge to find all the havoc his doppleganer has caused?
posted by brevator at 3:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My language-fetish is showing through here, but I just want to say that I love the phrase 'rupture and reconstitute'. So horripilating, so evocative.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:06 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wait if Twin Peaks was the 1950s in the 1980s, would the 20-year-later series be the 1970s in the 2000s?
posted by griphus at 4:37 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Donna: Do you think that if you were falling in space... that you'd slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?
Laura: Faster and faster... until after a while you wouldn't feel anything... and then your body would just burst into fire. And the angel's wouldn't help you, 'cause they've all gone away...


It's just heartbreaking. To turn Laura Palmer of the series from object to subject in the film is one of Lynch's greatest accomplishments.

When I realised they were making a film and it was going to be a prequel, I was majorly disappointed. How could they not make a sequel and answer the riddle of that final image of the series? Once I saw the film, the decision to make a prequel works even better. It makes the whole narrative cyclical and never answers that final image of the series, which is fine by me. Unanswered questions keep the narrative alive in my mind.

For me, the film also makes me wish that Sheryl Lee got more roles after - because FWWM proves she an amazing actor.
posted by crossoverman at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know Lynch has stated that he has no interest in exploring the Twin Peaks world any further, but wouldn't now be a great time to return to the series? Have it take place 20 years later.

What I hate about fake aging in movies: the actor always looks way older when he actually reaches that age than he did in stage makeup. see: elizabeth mcgovern (once upon a time in america/downton abbey), emperor palpatine (star wars VI/I), kyle maclachlan (dale cooper/the captain)

(not that these actors don't look great for their age, but stage makeup is no match for time's spatulaed-on age glop.)
posted by camdan at 8:13 PM on August 29, 2012


I really enjoyed the Twin Peaks TV show, but I seem to be alone here in thinking that movie was a mess. Oh well.
posted by cccorlew at 8:29 PM on August 29, 2012


spoiler alert. deadly premonition.
posted by Yowser at 4:31 AM on August 30, 2012


You're not alone cccorlew, but the only Lynch filum I have really enjoyed was Dune (Blue Velvet was ... okay).

This thread makes me want to rewatch Twin Peaks (It has been... well, the night of the OJ verdict was the last time I saw the last episode... odd night that).

For fans, I assume the best order is the series and then FWWM?
posted by Mezentian at 4:56 AM on August 30, 2012


Definitely the series and then FWWM. The film is predicated on you knowing who everyone is and having any idea/curiosity about the weirdo metaphysical Black Lodge space which just sort of pops up without explanation in the film.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:09 AM on August 30, 2012


If you've already watched Twin Peaks, there's really no reason to watch the second season in full. Call me blasphemous, but there's a lot of filler in S2.
posted by griphus at 7:04 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


The filler is what makes S2 so interesting!

Theoretically
posted by shakespeherian at 7:11 AM on August 30, 2012


I'm really confused, what film are you guys talking about? "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" may be my favorite horror movie of all time.
posted by dubitable at 8:31 AM on August 30, 2012


The film is predicated on you knowing who everyone is and having any idea/curiosity about the weirdo metaphysical Black Lodge space which just sort of pops up without explanation in the film.

I'm just saying, if you don't know what's going on, and disconnect the movie entirely from the series (as I did when I watched it), it makes for a really freaking terrifyingly creepy experience.

It helps if you watch it super-stoned late at night alone on a projector screen in the dark.
posted by dubitable at 8:36 AM on August 30, 2012


I really enjoyed the Twin Peaks TV show, but I seem to be alone here in thinking that movie was a mess. Oh well.

As I've mentioned on AskMe and elsewhere, I think FWWM is a mess, but a mess with some deeply affecting moments, some terrifying scares, and a much sounder framework than I saw the first time through.

As I say in this blog entry:
The opening of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me serves as a warning to the audience. Credits play over a staticky TV, promising us appearances by a host of names familiar from “Twin Peaks”… then that TV is smashed in a shower of sparks as a woman’s voice screams in the background. This nasty little vignette frames the ensuing story. The film relies upon the viewer’s familiarity with the cozy-quirky world of the TV series, but even as it employs the mythology and grammar of the show’s world, the movie viciously rejects the comforts we found in the drowsy little town of Twin Peaks.
For me, FWWM feels like a well-deserved rebuke from Lynch to many of the fans of the series --- including me. He spun for us the haunting tragedy of a young girl utterly destroyed by [SPOILER REDACTED] and we chortled and joked about cherry pie and doughnuts and damn fine coffee and excellent water pressure, or shuddered at spirits in the woods and (literal)monsters in the home.

We ignored the much more tangible, all-too-common household tragedy that pervaded every episode. She was wrapped in plastic, put away on a morgue shelf or into a grave, or frozen forever smiling in a Homecoming Queen portrait in a trophy case, and we liked it that way.

Fire Walk with Me strips away the comforts and the cozy jokes. It points out to us how inhospitable and downright cruel the world can be, and how little anyone cares about a dead woman who is not the Homecoming Queen and golden girl.

Then it brings back to life the girl we only knew as a photo, as a corpse, as a series of stories and memories, and gives her agency and action. Laura --- the actual living, breathing Laura --- is shattering. She's unpredictable, she's dangerous, she's terrified and terrifying. She's a tragedy playing out before our eyes while everyone who loves her pretends she's fine. The movie is a reprimand --- to us, to them --- a chance for Laura to be an entity, not an object.

That said, I do think that some aspects of the film just plain don't work. But overall, I find it devastating: haunting and tragic and enlightening. For me, it is a necessary coda to the series. If "garmonbozia" and creamed corn is the toll for seeing the larger story play out, I'll pay it every time.
posted by Elsa at 12:12 PM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, because of this thread I ordered the movie as well as the Golden Box edition of the DVD on Amazon. Since I saw the movie first, then the series, I'm curious how the movie rewatches with more understanding of the slapdash mythos of the series (when I watched the movie knowing nothing more about Twin Peaks than it was a weird little show I missed that became a pop culture joke of sorts, I found it stood on its own quite fine).
posted by hincandenza at 1:12 PM on August 30, 2012


For me, the movie was much better AFTER I had watched the TV show a couple of times. Watching it before I'd seen the show, it was ... mystifying and disjointed. For me, at least.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:57 AM on September 7, 2012


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