3 out of 5
Directed by: David Lynch
If Twin Peaks the series is an interpreted daydream – a studio-monitored retelling of a much weirder story – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is the dream uninterrupted, churning into nightmarish vignettes and extended experimental sequences that are rightfully now called Lynchian. There’s precedence for this within the TP world already, hinted at by the director’s out-there conclusion to the series, which was much more waywardly constructed than anything prior, even from the first season, but like that episode, which touched base with most of the various town inhabitants for a moment or two, Fire Walk With Me doesn’t completely shed the characteristic cheekiness of the show, despite being a much more horrific affair overall.
Purporting to cover events leading up to Laura Palmer’s death – the discovery of which is the initial focus of the show, for those venturing to the movie first – Fire, perhaps more accurately, is Lynch’s gut response to seeing his and Mark Frost’s concept taken so far off the planned reservation by outside manipulators. It was announced almost immediately after the show’s cancellation, and while it does, indeed, show us the week before the mentioned event, overall you get the sense that you’re watching a condensed (even at 2+ hours) summary of the series’ core episodes. It’s easy to get lost in the WTF-ness of it all, of Lynch following his muse through scenes of disappearing David Bowies and extended Black Lodge sequences, but just as the director likes to drive home how one thing inhabits another – how a man can represent an arm; how a seemingly caring father can turn into a menacing aggressor – if we follow the vibe set out by these moments, one can really get blanketed by the emotional mire Laura finds herself in: the escape provided by drugs and sex necessitated by an abusive household. This exploration is the film’s most effective aspect, and is truly chilling watching things become unhinged.
But surrounding this we witness Lynch’s other habit of letting the camera roll, and because there’s a larger picture to cover here – filling in A to B to C links not provided by the show – we linger on scenes that are harder to contextualize, or that would’ve made for better fodder in a project that wasn’t inextricably linked to 30 hours of background material (i.e. the TV episodes), and this really prevents Fire from having the same impact of other Lynch nightmares like Lost Highway: the story / emotion he wants to tell is both linear and abstract, and doesn’t really end with the film’s end – and in a way doesn’t begin with the film’s beginning, either, as Twin Peaks was a study of the after effects of this murder, but along the way we (and apparently Lynch) got more invested in exploring all the dreck surrounding that murder, necessitating a build-up with a different murder and a different investigation and a different detective…
…Which was always part of the mythology, but just like how the show sort of misleads in suggesting that it’s a mystery when it’s not, including that mythology setup misleads in the same way, when it seems more to suggest the perpetuation of a particular evil…
Fire Walk With Me isn’t the best example of Lynch’s dream state, but it has moments and emotions that rank up there with his best, and because he’s so famililar with the world and characters by this point, it feels – in a way – more focused and confident than, say, Blue Velvet. It ends up being too big of a pot of concepts to confine to its runtime, resulting in something ultimately unsatisfactory as a standalone experience, though it does function as an appreciated, deeply-considered addendum to the show.