NOTE: This is a revised review that best represents my current thoughts on the film as opposed to my previous review. You can read the original right here.
Twin Peaks is one of the most influential television series ever made but the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me has never enjoyed the same sort of acclaim – having been met with harsh reviews and also having flopped at the box office. I’m fairly biased in the favour of Twin Peaks as it is my favourite television series of all time but throughout the show you could always tell that Lynch had a particular love for the character of the deceased Laura Palmer. In fact, there are few people whose entire mystery has impacted an entire culture the same way that Laura Palmer has done so, and no one understands the effect her death has left upon many that same way David Lynch does. Yet few people knew her as a person too, which emphasizes the tragic beauty of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
As many would remember from the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, the circumstances surrounding the death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) were often the greatest mystery that the series poised for two whole seasons. While Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me may be a prequel film that explores the final week of the life of Palmer, it also tells a whole other story to the Twin Peaks lore – perhaps not one that provides all the answers you would be asking following the series finale. Exploring the traumatic circumstances that have led to the start of the series as we knew it, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me may be so much more grim by comparison although it is still one made out of love, for her experiences carry a greater resonance that goes beyond the surreal realms of Lynch’s body of work.
Laura Palmer for many was an enigma, the impact her death had left in the town of Twin Peaks had made her almost something of an entity. Adored by many during her lifetime, also having been the school’s Homecoming Queen, she carried an image that was envied by many. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, David Lynch provides you a chance to see Laura Palmer not as an ethereal beauty of sorts, but a regular person just like those you see on the streets. This is where Lynch and Sheryl Lee have been granted more room in order to flesh out the impact that Laura Palmer left behind on many, by exploring the traumatic experiences that she had lived through. Yet knowing everything that she had been made to endure during her short life, there’s nothing more tragic than getting a picture in your head of her own experiences, and how she saw everything first hand.
It is clear from the first moment where Laura Palmer appears onscreen that no one loved her more than David Lynch truly did, and no one better captured that sense of ethereal beauty she created than Sheryl Lee. There’s never a moment of her performance that doesn’t feel as if you could envision anyone else playing a character like Laura Palmer. To Sheryl Lee, Laura Palmer isn’t a character, she’s a memory that has long been implanted into the minds of an entire culture – despite her troubles having been invisible to those around her. This isn’t so much about Laura Palmer’s suffering, but the greatest tragedy to come forth from her story is how little she was understood. In Sheryl Lee’s performance, you see someone who is so open, so free, it’s so beautiful to witness from start to finish, but most importantly you saw someone that you probably knew – repressing their greatest pains away.
When watching the television series, the more you knew about the circumstances regarding Laura Palmer’s death, what only came forth was a picture of great evil as it haunted her for her whole life. For her whole life, she had been a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence – but who was there to hear her cries for help? Who had been there to help comfort her, following the fact that she went through something that no other human should ever put up with? Yet most importantly, who is there for Laura to trust, when even the faces she knows up close cannot be trusted? Even as we visit many places or characters that we’ve familiarized ourselves with through Twin Peaks, it’s that notion that she remained an invisible object of sorts that made Laura’s experiences so tragic. Her trauma is best represented by the forms her demons take, which emphasize the more surreal aspects of a David Lynch product, but also the images our fears pervade us with – taking on many forms both familiar and unfamiliar to us.
Most importantly, if anything else makes Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me so harrowing, it isn’t the way in which Laura Palmer had been suffering, it is the fact her voice still remained so invisible. In Twin Peaks, she may have been an object at the center of a mystery, yet in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, it soon feels as if she is a more realized human being – albeit one who is continuously suffering. It may not answer all the questions that you would have following the finale of the series, but what do they matter in relation to Laura Palmer’s story? They’re mere questions in a world of blue, one where the innocent are made to suffer endlessly, because to us they still remain invisible. But ultimately, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is also where it appears as if David Lynch is finding peace with the spirit that Laura Palmer had left behind. The only question worth asking is whether or not her suffering truly has been put to an end, or not.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via New Line Cinema.
Directed by David Lynch
Screenplay by David Lynch, Robert Engels, from the television show Twin Peaks created by Lynch and Mark Frost
Produced by Gregg Fienberg
Starring Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan
Release Date: August 28, 1992
Running Time: 132 minutes