I can see why, if the original run of Twin Peaks is your Holy Grail, Fire Walk with Me grinds some people’s gears. In some respects, it’s the complete antithesis of the show: purposely brutal, elliptical, graphic, morose, and very much David Lynch reclaiming his demon child from being further damaged by the cartoonish machinations of the show’s second season. Fans who demanded answers got few (if any). Fans who demanded the light touches of Andy Brennan, Lucy Moran, Pete Martell, et al. got nothing of the sort (they had to wait until 2014 and The Missing Pieces for any semblance of levity). The modus operandi here is bleakness and blackness, slicing the air like a hot, wet, gleaming knife. The victim is one Laura Palmer, brought to heartwrenching life by an untouchable Sheryl Lee after being but a gaping, murdered absence in the TV show. Her unimaginable suffering is a visceral manifestation of the pure evil of the Black Lodge and its inhabitants, something the show could only gesture at; seeing this film, Lynch convinces you that his nightmares would stop the heart if they ever seeped into our real world.
But some nightmares are here with us. Some fathers do abuse their offspring. Some mothers do look the other way, even when they know there is darkness lurking in their household. Drugs control us in ways we do not wish to contemplate. And people disappear without a trace, without anyone ever knowing why. This mixture of supernatural and earthly wickedness, ever blending and interacting in amorphous combat, ever preventing true enlightenment, is totalised in Fire Walk with Me, and Lynch’s deliberately unyielding approach (especially compared to the gauziness of the original series) opens new portals that are now being realised in the 2017 revival. Once Dale Cooper opened those iconic red curtains and stepped into another dimension, so, too, did the Twin Peaks franchise, and the literal bridge—this excruciating, infuriating, fascinating, beautifully cathartic film—was the only way to up the ante. I cannot wait to see where Lynch takes his revival, but one thing’s for sure: Fire Walk with Me is essential in every way, shape, and form.
May you forever rest in peace, dear Laura.