I wrote this for the 20th anniversary of Fire Walk With Me. I was going to update it, but decided it is more fun to see how much Twin Peaks has changed in only 5 years. I have added new commentary in parenthesis. One thing that has not changed in 25 years, FWWM is my all time favorite Lynch movie and one of my top 5 films of all time. It is beautiful, moving and has the single best acting performance ever captured on film. Let’s find out if I said the same thing 5 years ago…
For this essay, I thought I would focus on FWWM’s legacy in the world of David Lynch. This movie has been reviewed many times and 20 years later we are still trying to figure it out. How cool is that? All of his movies are a bit of a head scratcher, but this one should be a breeze. It is set BEFORE the series ever begins, so we already know the plot as back story. Also, it is based on a character that an entire book was written about, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Still it was a shock and surprise to critics and Lynch fans back in 1992. This year being the 20th year, there have been all kinds of revivals on the subject of Lynch films and characters. I believe FWWM is the best David Lynch movie ever made. It is his masterpiece. It has everything a Lynch film needs.
1. Horror – BOB behind her dresser drawer is the scariest thing ever. (My sister called me after seeing this scene literally screaming and crying.)
2. Creepy characters – The old woman at Fat Trout Trailer Park makes her presence felt in less than 30 seconds of film.
3. Dreams – Laura’s dream where she ends up in the picture hanging on her wall haunts me to this day. (OK, how freaking cool is it that now we know she is actually inside the Convenience Store? I often thought it was the gateway to the Red Room, never considered she was above the Store. I don’t ever remember anyone else saying that either- SR 2017)
4. Split story structures – Lynch loves to drop us into a linear story and then rip us out with his bare hands. The scene with David Bowie cuts together years of a story in a few moments.
5. Love – (Yes, all of his movies are about love.) When BOB leaves Leland for that brief moment before bed and he visits his daughter’s room to tell her that he loves her is a moment of the purist love of all.
If it is quintessential Lynch, then why is it not beloved like Blue Velvet or lauded with awards like Mulholland Drive? Simple, movie watchers are dumb. OK, maybe that is a little harsh. How about I say uneducated? (Again, look how things have changed. No critics or Twin Peaks fans say they don’t like FWWM. In just 5 years time that has totally been washed away. SR 2017)
The trick to FWWM is being very knowledgeable about Twin Peaks. That is asking a lot of someone who just popped in a DVD to watch after the kids went to bed. (DVD? Streaming is the future, Scott – SR 2017) Critics who say Lynch just throws things up on the screen that make no sense have not paid close enough attention. In a very early scene of the movie, FBI director Gordon Cole shows Agent Chet Desmond a dancing girl named Lil.
She dances in place with one hand in her pocket and shows her tailored dress off while wearing a blue rose. Chet looks at it and moves on. In the following scene his partner, Sam, asks him about the dancing girl. Chet goes on to explain each detail of the girl and how that pertains to the case. To me (and I admit, I didn’t get this the first time I watched the movie) this was Lynch telling us: Everything I show you matters and has a meaning. The dancing was referring to leg work. The tailored dress referred to drugs. The Blue Rose? He can’t tell us about that. (I can, in 2017 we know what the Blue Rose is. It is a magazine that…oh, it also is a Task force that Gordon was on the first case of. See, we know so much more in 5 years. SR 2017) Leaving the viewer intrigued. The jaded viewer may say, that is dumb, why have that dancing girl? It is weird just to be weird, even if they explain it. Except, we know that Gordon Cole has a hearing problem and talks loud. It makes sense for him to give his direction with code. Everything in a Lynch movie means something.
On a personal level, I have to admit an oddity. I watched this movie every year on my birthday. Creepy I know, but why? The reason plain and simple is Sheryl Lee’s performance.
The story of Laura Palmer is really fascinating. If Laura doesn’t die none of us meet her. She had to die to bring Twin Peaks to life. She had to die to escape a horrible existence. The reason you watch most movies is to see the end, but this movie you know the end before you hit play. She dies. Come to think of it, why isn’t this movie the number one grossing movie of all time instead of Titanic? Everyone knew the boat sank, everyone knew Laura Palmer dies. It is inevitable. It takes the idea of fatalism and the meaningless of life to levels that Kierkegaard never dreamed of. I see all of that in Sheryl Lee’s performance. I believe that her performance in this movie is the best female acting job ever put on film. (I had a feeling I thought this 5 years ago. SR 2017) Her huge cry when she goes to Donna’s house asking if Donna is her best friend. Her amazing smile of innocence when she simmers an angry Bobby outside of the school. Her abusive and scary behavior as she threatens Harold Smith. Her losing all control as her father and the One Armed Man argue in the car. Her seductive actions at the Roadhouse where she can even make the name BUCK seem sexy. I can not think of another role for a woman that covered so many levels. And if you know Sheryl please tell her the Red Room is awaiting an interview about this acting job. (OK, this is just mean. 5 years later and still nothing. I feel like I am in a play called Waiting for Ga’Lee. SR 2017)
So why are we still obsessed with this movie 20 years later? (25 now) Simple. It is art. 20 years means nothing to Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte. 20 years isn’t a drop in the bucket to Bach’s “Wachet Auf.” I believe that FWWM is a moving painting. It is a piece of art that needs to be looked at, studied, and is meant to horrify us. It is a reflection of a society that hides its darkness under small town goodness. I know that this movie still causes rifts in the Twin Peaks fan base; although over the last couple years it is not as controversial as before, but I will make a bold statement. If you don’t love FWWM then you are not a Twin Peaks fan. (Wait till I find out that when Twin Peaks: The Return happens, it will actually all happen again. SR 2017) What you are is a television fan, and that is OK. But when you truly have Twin Peaks in your blood, as in owls, scorched engine oil and Douglas Firs in your veins, then FWWM is just the cure you need to help wash away the dreck of movies that will be released this year. (And it gets so much worse once Hollywood only makes Comic book movies. SR 2017) Movies you will see, forget and never ask the question: why the hell did that monkey just say Judy? I thought we weren’t gonna talk about Judy.
I have to admit, 5 years later, I stand behind that essay. There are only 3 hours left of TPR and I would still say FWWM is my favorite section of Twin Peaks. When TPR references FWWM I think the show comes alive. Probably by the time most of you read this, we knew who Judy was. I kind of like that 5 years ago, I didn’t even think there was a chance I would ever find out. Happy Birthday, FWWM. You don’t look a day over 20.
Scott Ryan is the managing Editor of the Twin Peaks Magazine, The Blue Rose. Order the Dougie Special to get all 4 issues. All Day August 28th The Blue Rose Facebook Page will post a picture an hour to celebrate #FWWM25