Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★★★★

In David Lynch's filmography, there isn't a film as divisive as this one.

Though most of his fans agree that Mulholland Drive ranks amongst his best, and Inland Empire is an overlooked masterpiece, Fire Walk with Me is usually described with either overwhelming praise or detailed in near-disgust. Even with fans of the show Twin Peaks, upon which this film is a prequel/sequel, most of the fandom is split, many toting that it is a Lynchian masterwork, many others branding it as a flawed mess that satisfies nobody.

After experiencing this film for the first time on February 24, the day fans commemorate as "Twin Peaks Day", I can gladly say that my opinion proudly resides in the former camp.

Fire Walk with Me works beautifully as a bookend for the series despite the events within the film taking place before the main series timeline. As per usual, David Lynch weaves a tale that thrives off of duality, feeding off of the dichotomies of the town and its inhabitants. Light against dark, physical against spiritual, sanity against insanity. It's no wonder that this film alienated and split the opinions of so many people, because at the end of the day, Fire Walk with Me is the most esoteric tie-in film since Anno's End of Evangelion.

Although one must watch the show to fully comprehend and appreciate this film, Fire Walk with Me never fails to proclaim itself as its own work of art. Despite the dependency on established lore, the film's themes and the way the narrative plays itself out should be appreciated as its own entity entirely, not as a mere companion piece.

Lynch utilizes all of his skills in this film. It's dreadfully apparent that the man cares about the story he wants to tell, that he wanted this film to not only differ from the television show, but to completely fulfill and encapsulate what the show was truly about. The direction of the film is chilling, the editing at many times designed to horrify. Lynch proves once again that he is a master at fading the line between reality and fantasy as his surrealistic approach to storytelling takes its forefront here, delivering messages through cryptic visions.

From those visuals, down to the dialogue, and even the aspect ratio, Lynch is trying to stress that this film is not the Twin Peaks we are used to. Whereas the show is Twin Peaks through the bright, optimistic eyes of bold, innocent Dale Cooper, Fire Walk with Me takes a look at the darker underbelly of the town and the evil trying to consume it through the eyes of Laura Palmer.

Lynch takes full advantage of the film's R rating. Contrasting it greatly from the show's squeaky-clean exterior of the town, Laura's world is darker, a world of depravity, abuse, and horror. Lynch exchanges comfortable wide-shots for more intimate close-ups, capturing every emotion these characters convey. Instead of naughty suggestion, he shows every single sexual act. He writes the dialogue with plentiful profanity, breaking the illusion of the town being completely innocent. Indeed, Fire Walk with Me is very antithetical to the show, but again, Lynch is careful to use this to his advantage, and to make sure that at its heart, it is the same town we have known and loved for the past two seasons of the show's doomed runtime.

The main component to this film's success is found in its protagonist Laura Palmer. From the very first episode of the show, Laura has haunted Twin Peaks. Everything revolved around her character, her influence. Her light, her darkness. But we never truly got to know her. In this film, Lynch takes the central figure of the show and makes her the central character.

Not only do we see the world through her eyes in this film, see why exactly she is channeling the darkness that consumes her and threatens to consume the entire town itself, we see her last days as a tragic downturn. The spiritual world warns her of her coming doom. Her own mind reaches the precipices of its own sanity as she herself realizes that her end truly is near.

I have never felt so connected to a character in all the years I've watched film. Lynch's visual storytelling is poignant, illustrating Laura's pain. I felt the angst and hurt she suffered. The facade she had to wear as her soul is torn apart. The burden on her young shoulders.

None of that, however, could have been accomplished if it wasn't for Sheryl Lee's absolutely breathtaking performance. In the show, she is usually playing a dead body, or an otherworldly harbinger for things to come. But here, she gives one of the most raw and heartfelt performances I've ever witnessed.

There is no denying that Lee cares for Laura as much as Lynch does. Capturing the girl's psyche and pain with every scene, every line, Lee shatters the expectation for intentionally-wooden acting that we are used to in the show. There are no light-hearted facades when Laura Palmer faces the darkest demons of her soul and the town that she resides in. In this film, Laura Palmer is helplessly, vulnerably human.

The chemistry of Lee's acting, Lynch's evocatively cryptic direction, and Badalamenti's chilling score is awe-inspiring. There were moments where I couldn't help but gasp at the events Lynch captured on screen. He succeeds to tell his story of this high school girl on a purely visceral level, encapsulating the entire experience of the show with a film that is almost completely different from what we're used to; he weaves the pain and suffering of Laura Palmer and snaps it all together into a cathartic experience.

Fire Walk with Me truly is a masterpiece and most definitely one of Lynch's best, and most passionate works to date. It's a beautiful testament to a three-dimensional character that carried an entire television phenomenon on her shoulders.

There is much to be said about this film, perhaps too much. But it's definitely an overlooked achievement that fully utilizes the full capabilities of the visual medium, and in the midst of its darkness, despair, and evil, Lynch plants a beautiful message of euphoric hope.

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