‘I am a true Lynch fan. Fuck “Blue Velvet”, everyone loves it. The real Lynch is not “Twin Peaks” the series, but “Fire Walk with Me”, and “Dune”, of course.’ -Slavoj Zizek
I’m not sure about Dune, but this, the later cinema prequel to the TV series, directed by Lynch, letting his subconscious and experimental side run absolutely hog wild.Several key scenes seem to have been apppoached with a ‘let’s try it’ mentality, more akin to that of an artist privately attempting new techniques in his studio.
Fire Walk With Me (and how evocative was that phrase?) represented my first contact with the show- starting in the wrong place, I know, but my younger self was too captured by a TV screening to let it pass without a glace. A glance was all I got, initially, as my taping of the film cut off almost exactly after the half hour prologue investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks, leaving me much more than intrigued (I was practically salivating over the possible solutions to all the mysteries. My imagination was truly held captive.)Little did I know that, of course, even after seeing the film in full (a couple of years later, with another TV showing, I think), even after seeing the series in full, that those questions would still be hanging in the air (to be honest, though, without seeing the show, even the most basic things confused me- I thought, for instance, that Deer Meadow, the corrupted town at the beginning, was Twin Peaks itself, and the unhelpful folks in Hap’s Diner were maybe series regulars). After this, I tried to find the series, fairly unfashionable at the time, I think, and available only on overpriced, bad quality video cassettes. Until eventually viewing the whole thing on DVD, I think I only got a couple of episodes into the second season before I stopped buying them for one reason or another. But the programme, at my age then, had already tapped into my brain like nothing before or since.
Today, I think the least successful parts, perhaps surprisingly, are those that are most indebted to the TV programme. This is largely because several of the show’s regulars are fairly weak actors (e.g, James Hurley, Leo Johnson- even Sheryl Lee fails to convince me in her big moments of anguish). These scenes also reprise music cues familiar from the serial. The best parts are those that just let go of story and completely embrace dream logic, the stand outs being Laura Palmer drifting in and out of a painting, and an oddly realistic* scene in the nightclub from hell (not actually a nightclub from hell- it’s supposed to be, but it isn’t. Your average town centre nightclub is the nightclub from hell. This one actually looks pretty appealing. It’s got great music for a start). The post murder passage of the culprit into the Black Lodge is some of the greatest near non-verbal purely expressionist/surreal filmmaking I’ve seen.
I would like to know where it was supposed to be headed. Not so much what happened after the evil Cooper left the Lodge (I think that the series, as bad as it was in the second season when Lynch wasn’t around, would have squandered this, and it would have ended up being completely cringeworthy- and it is telling that Lynch avoids almost every aspect of the terrible, idiotic Black Lodge mythology that the series came up with in his absence. Indeed, his thoughts on the series lowpoints are largely unrecorded. He has only stated that when he wasn’t around, Cooper started wearing flannel shirts, something he didn’t think appropriate), but what happened to Chester Desmond? What was going on with David Bowie? Who is Judy? Why does Lynch cut to shots of telegraph poles? It is interesting that a Lynch story left unfinished is fairly similar to that of one completed, in that it seems to make no more or less sense, narratively speaking. Lynch, when interviewed, is usually right: to be told what is going on is to kill some small part of us. The mystery is the thing.
*Side note: Lynch films always contain at least one scene that is more realistic than any in so called ‘normal’ films. In this, it’s the nightclub. In the show pilot, it’s the bit where the morgue attendant mishears Agent Cooper telling him to leave the room. In Wild at Heart it’s probably the car crash bit with Audrey Horne talking about “sticky stuff” in her hair…I’m sure there are others.