Thursday 26 April 2018

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me


Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me
USA/France 1992 Directed by David Lynch
Warner Brothers Blue Ray Zone B

Warning: Spoilers for anyone who’s
never seen any episodes of Twin Peaks.

And so onto the theatrical movie release of the ongoing Twin Peaks saga.

I remember my friends and I rushing to see Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me at the cinema when it was released. I’d absolutely loved the first two seasons but I remember being sorely disappointed by this big screen continuation. I’d had no idea that the movie was going to be a prequel (of sorts) to the original series so was expecting to see all of my favourite characters thrown back into the mix and with some kind of closure, or at least acknowledgment, of the cliff hanger style nature of the final episode of Season Two (reviewed here).

Instead, the majority of the movie is set over the last week before the very first episode. There’s not much of the series’ main protagonist... Kyle McLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper... in this at all, which is to be expected in a prequel, since he doesn’t enter the narrative of the story in the show until two thirds of the way through the first episode. Although, he does appear in this movie in other ways, through the use of dream sequences involving Laura Palmer.

Laura Palmer is the main protagonist in this as Lynch’s camera puts her under the microscope, with Sheryl Lee reprising her role and giving a truly astonishing performance. No matter what I’m going to go on to say about this mis-fire of a movie, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Lee literally carries the film and gives so much of herself over to this role.

Now, there’s no way that you should ever be tempted to watch this movie before seeing the first two series... even though it technically takes place chronologically before them. There are two main reasons for this. Reason one is that it gives away the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer (or killers, depending on your view point of host and controlling, demonic spirit) right from the outset so, if you see this first it kinda knocks out the ‘whodunnit’ nature of the original story. Secondly, it becomes apparent in one scene that some of the ‘visions’ Laura has of ‘The Black Lodge’ are from the future and not of the chronology of when the film is set. This is made apparent when we see the corpse of Agent Cooper’s girlfriend Annie, played again by Heather Graham, appear in Laura’s bed, warning her that the good version of Agent Cooper cannot escape from The Black Lodge. So, again, this relates directly back to the last episode and is something you are not going to want to go into the series knowing at this point.

The film starts off with a fairly bold statement... as the opening credits play over a static field from a TV set and, once they are done and the camera pans back to identify that’s what we’ve been watching, the TV set is destroyed by an axe. I guess that’s David Lynch’s way of breaking with the TV format and drumming home that this is a proper, cinematic experience he’s going for now. Which is a shame because... well I’ll get to my problems with the film in a minute.

The first half an hour of the film focuses on two characters completely unknown to us... two FBI agents investigating a murder, played by Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland. After this, Agent Cooper takes over the case when one of them goes missing and although we see Lynch, McLachlan and Miguel Ferrer returning to their roles from the TV show, the scene is brief (Lynch also appears in the first half an hour, though). There is a sequence with David Bowie but, again, this is all, along with the first half an hour, thrown away and goes nowhere. My understanding is that the brand new TV show, which I’m about to dig into, picks up a few of these pieces, although this opening stuff actually takes place ten years before the rest of the movie.

After about 35 minutes, we finally get back to Twin Peaks, with the familiar Angelo Badlamenti signature music kicking in but... it’s not quite the Twin Peaks we’ve come to know and love from the TV show. For a start, Lara Flynn Boyle’s Donna Hayward, Laura Palmer’s best friend, has been replaced by another actress, Moira Kelly. She does a reasonably good job in the role but, the effect of seeing somebody else replacing such a regular face was kinda jarring at the time. Of course, I’ve since seen Lynch deliberately switch actors backwards and forwards in a role within the same movie, something I suspect he picked up from Luis Bunuel when he did it (although the name of the film escapes me)... but back then it seemed like the wrong thing to do here. I am more accepting of it nowadays, to be honest.

I think my main problems with this film are that... okay, it’s really, really dull. I like Laura Palmer and it’s a pleasure to watch such a fine performer as Sheryl Lee practicing her craft but the film is incredibly slow and it really, as you might expect, just reiterates stuff we already knew from the slow solution of the case in the original series. There are cameos from a few of the regulars from the original show (I remember people cheering and clapping in the cinema when people like The Log Lady turned up on screen) but not enough of them and they really don’t add much to the story.

Also, in spite of Lynch’s axing of the TV at the start of the movie, which we will see again and make more sense of later in the movie, it still looks really small scale to what you might be expecting in terms of size and spectacle. Admittedly some of the interior sets of the familiar houses seem a little more opened out and Lynch really uses the widescreen ratio to highlight the use of vertical divisions of multiple rooms being seen simultaneously within a frame but... no, it mostly doesn’t look or feel like it gains anything from being a cinema release and that’s pretty sad. Especially when I do admire the director so much and loved the original show. Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me is not a film I’d really recommend to anyone, although I understand it’s kinda essential viewing, along with the original shows, if you want to watch the new series (I think David Bowie maybe returns for a short while in that one?). So, a lot of a disappointment then and, alas, still not a film I can appreciate as much as the TV show that spawned it.

However, I am really looking forward to diving into the brand new series sometime very soon so, you know, I’ll report back on that one as soon as I can.

Twin Peaks at NUTS4R2

Twin Peaks Series One
Twin Peaks Series Two
Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks Series Three - Limited Event Series

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