Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me - Film Review
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a 1992 psychological horror film, directed by the legendary David Lynch. It serves not only as a prequel to the events that take place in the cult show Twin Peaks, but also as a sequel, narrating the last seven days of Laura Palmer and giving insight in the murder of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley), as well as explaining the fate of Agent Cooper after he ends up trapped inside the Black Lodge. It stars Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, Chris Isaak, David Bowie, Ray Wise and Kyle MacLachlan. It didn’t do well, commercially speaking, and it wasn’t well-received by critics either, mainly because Twin Peaks had been cancelled a year before the movie came out and it had lost its momentum. People had lost interest in the world of Twin Peaks, and when the film was out they expected to see what they had seen for two years on the show, and they didn’t. The film didn’t have a lot to do with the series, basically because things were different before Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) died, and also because the plot is focused on her story, not on the stories of the surrounding characters in town. People missed the humour of the show, and don’t get me wrong, I kind of did too, but at the same time, I understood that most of it had to be cut out, because it wouldn’t have blended well with the terrible events surrounding Laura’s character.
I became a fan of the show last year, and I first watched the film this Spring. I think I’ve seen it three or four times now, and the more times I watch it, the more I enjoy and appreciate it. That is what happens with a David Lynch film, you have to watch it more than once. Because his films are complex. They make you think. He manages to fit a piece of art into a two-hour-long feature film. I like Fire Walk With Me. The reason why is because I love Laura, and Sheryl Lee’s brilliant performance.
For the first half an hour we see FBI agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) investigating the murder of Teresa Banks. His character was created for the movie (it was Cooper who was going to investigate the case, but MacLachlan initially refused to appear in the film, and ended up only shooting footage for five days) and so we knew nothing about him before the film came out, but I think his on-screen time was very enjoyable. We then see Cooper on the FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, predicting that Teresa’s killer will kill again, and it will be a ‘blonde, sexually active high-school girl’, and we also see him in the Black Lodge.
Oddly, David Bowie appears briefly on the movie as FBI agent Phillip Jeffries. I don’t understand why he appears as one of the main actors on the credits for publicity of the film when he only appears in one scene. He’s David freaking Bowie, but Dana Ashbrook for instance, who is not featured as one of the main actors, appears in more scenes that him and plays an important role on the film.
Then, we get to the town of Twin Peaks. Everybody in Twin Peaks knows Laura, the homecoming queen, but only on the surface: no one really knows what she is going through inside. On the outside she is a high-school student and helps Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) and Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) on Meals on Wheels. She also dates Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook). But what people don’t know is that she is a cocaine addict and a prostitute, and that she is cheating on Bobby with James Hurley. They also don’t know that she’s been a victim of incest since the age of twelve. Other actors that appear on film that we saw in the show are Heather Graham as Annie Blackburn, Catherine Coulson as the Log Lady, Peggy Lipton and Madchen Amick, among others.
There are two scenes on the film that blow my mind: one of them is the one in which Laura arrives at the Roadhouse to meet two clients, where singer Julie Cruise is performing ‘Questions In A World Of Blue’. At the door she runs into the Log Lady, who warns her of her fate, and Laura breaks down in tears seconds after. When she finds out that her best friend Donna Hayward (Moira Kelly) has chased her to the Roadhouse, it only makes things worse. Though strong, Laura is broken inside. Another one is the ending, in which Cooper comforts a depressed Laura in the Black Lodge, right after her death. All of a sudden, an angel appears and she weeps with joy, like Donna’s father had predicted in a deleted scene from the film. The music, the lightning, the colours, the look in Laura’s face and Sheryl Lee’s acting make it a memorable ending scene. But I would say that the most remarkable scene from the film is probably the one in which Donna asks Laura that if she were falling down in space, would she stop after a while or go faster and faster, to which Laura responds 'Faster and faster. And for a while you wouldn’t feel anything. And you’d burst into fire forever. And the angels wouldn’t help you, because they’ve all gone away.’
It is true that the success of the film was against all odds with Twin Peaks falling down and the plot containing incest and murder, but that doesn’t mean the film lacks quality. Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise’s performances are magnificent, and so is the soundtrack. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I watched it. A friend of mine, who was a fan of the show, had hated it, and told me that it was a waste of time. The friend I was gonna watch it with told me that it was really worth it because it was very cool to see how Laura was so ahead of the rest of the characters. And I knew the film had been a commercial and critical flop, but I was very interested in knowing how Laura really was. And I was not disappointed when I watched it. By the beginning of the second season of the show I had made my mind up that Twin Peaks had become scary. And the film could only be scarier. I was very focused on Laura’s story and so I didn’t feel like something was missing. Even though Sherilyn Fenn’s character Audrey and Lara Flynn Boyle did not appear on the film, Sheryl Lee alone made up for it. And I personally liked Moira Kelly’s portrayal of Donna. I think she encapsulated the innocence of the character before she lost her best friend. We see a very different Donna from the one on the show, she doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t wear Laura’s glasses and she doesn’t bite James’ finger.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a hard film to watch. It is disturbing, depressing and violent. But as everything Lynch does, it’s also beautiful. It’s a piece of art that has been created with a lot of care and detail. I think it was Naomi Watts that said in an interview that when you watch a David Lynch film, you take it with you when it ends, it remains in your head and it takes you to another place when you watch it. And I couldn’t agree more. Everytime I watch Fire Walk With Me, I keep on thinking of Laura after the movie finishes, or I feel like her. I feel tremendous empathy and simpathy for her character. And while I don’t snort cocaine nor do I sell my body to strangers, I feel identified with her to an extent because of some personal experiences and I think that is the main reason why I am a big fan of it. Because I can see a piece of myself in Laura.
I invite you to watch this work of art with an open mind.