TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME: The Innocent and the Martyr
When I was a child, I suspected that my parents and their peers had been initiated into the adult world byway of a terrible, revelatory truth, revealed to them by their own parents and that they conspired to protect all children from. I believed that this disclosure was what I was “too young to understand” in their brazen jokes and what they nostalgically discussed over sour coffee whilst they watched me and my friends play, blurry-eyed for the days where they didn’t know. I believed that at a predetermined age – 18, perhaps – I would be sat down and given the total, immutable truth of maturity; revealed from under my nose and air-tight, no more than a sentence or two yet totally defining of the decades ahead of me.
Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me feels like the premature revealing of that secret, set against a childhood already damned off-kilter as the adult world bares down: a nebulous truck running the red light and bursting its exhaust fume tether. This is the sheer, aggressive film-making that Lynch wields to sledgehammer the boundary between child and adult with a velocity destined only for tragedy. He tells the final days of Laura Palmer; some infernal adolescence burning unbearable melodrama and love and drugs and trauma.
In all the exploding television sets and fuzzing, static knells, one might feel that Fire Walk With Me is Lynch’s insurgence against the format that he has the greatest love/hate relationship with, waiting an impatient 20 years for the rest of us to realise the great possibilities of 'auteur TV'. In many ways it is exactly that spiky rebuke, but it is also a flattening of his usual themes into something purer, a hellfire mesa, steeped by a forested maw that is at once pushed further to irrelevant borders and raked for its sordid undergrowth. You see, where Blue Velvet frames its voyage into the Jungian shadow as a downwards trajectory towards shared depravity, the original Twin Peaks series’ evil is peripheral. The townsfolk do all they can to buttress tendrils of darkness on the borders of their placid idyll and the core mysteries of the show reveal those blind spots already infiltrated through sin, deception and madness. Conversely, Fire Walk With Me rejects Lynch’s traditional interweaving of the (semi) rational and the phantasmagorical, instead letting them run uneasily parallel on the same axis pulled to tearing. Both the surreal black lodge and Laura’s trauma exist exclusive of one another, on separate courses, and realising which bitumen pool she has her feet dipped into is part of Fire Walk With Me’s great tragedy. The rivers bend away and one cannot sail both without being torn asunder.
One of the greatest injustices of this world is Sheryl Lee’s performance not being recognised for the ingenious parcel of chaos that it truly is. She reckons with madness on the same volcanic scale as Isabelle Adjani in Possession, in which make-believe doubles back on itself to become some half-lucid state of insanity, the shadow of performance, a truth too disturbing for the four walls of a grainy screen. Lee elevates the Palmer of the original show from flittering haunt to a Christ-like figure, pinned on the cross of her own life to pass in martyrdom for a town of sinners. Yet Fire Walk With Me’s rendition of Laura Palmer is the Lynchian equivalent of this saintly transcendence, a determinedly destructive force that will go screaming into the next world like an extra body part pulled tooth-and-claw from the Frankenstein arcadia that it was grafted upon. And so we are left to wonder if she deserves her salvation, and if it is salvation at all; whether she has moved past her world or whether it has abandoned her. Trauma acts as the liminal threshold to a twisted deliverance, and Lee ascends flailing to this mirrored firmament on black wings and with black lips.
Admittedly, my childhood conspiracy was founded upon a solipsistic worldview and fed by an overactive imagination. Yet, fascinatingly, it turned out to be somewhat accurate, albeit not sentenced by one sacred tablecloth trick… Over time, staggered and staccato, we do struggle from blind innocence, accepting one more brick upon our increasingly weighty load and reaching a tacit weightiness with the world around us. We cross a threshold but the threshold is cavernous, gaping and long.
The traversal and encumbering process is both impossible to describe, unclear when it began or ended, and yet one of the most memorable times of our lives, heightened and burning vivid in vertigo. This in-betweenness is the sunken gossamer that Lynch dips his cup into, and what we drink in Fire Walk With Me is an accurate portrayal of the adolescent surreality that overspills boundaries at every hazardous corner. Lynch's layering of this time of life with an equally crystalline, demonic pulse triggers a subconscious manifestation, some primordial remembrance whose sinister incantations conjure a summoning beyond mere intention. Laura Palmer's face becomes a sign of the occult, her life an accidental witchcraft whose destruction at the stake is transcribed here. And in a revelation that is as beautiful as it is harrowing, we realise that the painful flames will only give her more power.