Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★★★½

Bob is real! He's been having me since I was twelve.

Throughout the Twin Peaks television series, Laura Palmer remains a two-dimensional image - her prom photo, a VHS recording, a flashback memory - of the angelic, small town popular girl. As ScreeningNotes has explained, however, in a David Lynch film there is always something underneath or behind the surface. Fire Walk with Me reveals the Laura Palmer behind the image, a young woman who, in contrast to the permanent presence of Laura-as-image (even when the show "solves" her death, the image still lingers during the end credits), is privately slipping away into nothingness.

Regardless of Bob's ontology as an avatar of pain and sorrow or some other force of nature (any sort of strict definition like that is hopeless in a Lynch work), his metaphorical value in relation to Leland Palmer is unmistakable. Juxtaposed scenes of Leland interrogating Laura about her "dirty hands" (a traumatized Sarah Palmer meekly trying to deescalate a situation she's clearly witnessed too many times) and tearfully kissing her head as he professes his love are easily recognizable as child abuse. Possessed by Bob or not, Leland is a manipulative, domineering, monstrous figure that has not only mentally traumatized Laura, but, it's implied, incestuously raped her from an early age. Watching Laura be steadily unraveled by those realizations over the course of the film, falling deeper and deeper into self-destructive behavior and psychological distress, makes Fire Walk with Me one of Lynch's most tragic and humanistic works. How can your heart not break as you watch Laura come apart at the seams?

Yes, there are "angels" and children in masks and a protracted procedural opening, but what truly surprised me about Fire Walk with Me was how direct it was in its depiction of mental, physical, and emotional trauma. Whether Laura's visions of Bob and the other Red Roomers are actually her peaking behind the curtain of reality or signs of her mental breakdown from a lifetime of intimate abuse does not really matter, the resulting emotional resonance is the same. Lynch makes her more than just an image, more than another statistic or victim. He engulfs us in the nightmarish ramifications a lifetime of abuse can cause.

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