On February 23rd, 1989, Laura Palmer died.
And we all heard about it.
That’s the date, in the fictional world of Twin Peaks, that the high school homecoming queen met her end… The pivotal event that was the moment that triggered the core narrative of the classic TV series. It was a series that I was, and am, an obsessive fan of. I love the show, warts and all, and it has been my pleasure to let some of the people involved in the series know that in person. I’ve written about it before, and if things work out, I’ll be writing about it again… A lot.
The series lasted two years, and then… They made a movie.
It’s been almost two decades since the world’s first prequel/sequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, was released in theatres. Realizing this fact made me feel really old, and it also made me wonder if the movie still “holds up.” Thankfully, it does, as I was recently able to purchase and watch the film on blu-ray.
“Blu-ray?!”, you may be thinking, “I didnt know was out on blu-ray?!” Yes, Fire Walk With me is finally available in high definition… if you live in Australia of the United Kingdom, that is.
Here’s some thoughts on the film, this video release, and some screenshots. There be SPOILERS here, so if you haven’t watched it before, please STOP reading right now and watch it. And if you have never seen Twin Peaks before, then I am even more adamant that you stop reading and watch the show THEN the movie. It’s a great series and you don’t want it to be spoiled by the likes of me.
(Though my friend George insists that the proper way to watch it is to stop the film the instant the Welcome to Twin Peaks road sign appears, then to watch the series all the way through when Laura’s killer is revealed and dies, and THEN watch the rest of the movie. Haven’t tried it, but may someday.)
I have long contended that Twin Peaks is the spiritual sequel to Lynch’s earlier film Blue Velvet, and I think that you could show both fils to someone with no previous exposure to the TV series and they would not have any problem considering them as thematically aligned and linked. Both films feature a beautiful woman tormented by a demon. Both feature the woods as a character, and both films tear off the thin veneer of civilization off to expose the darkness that dwells beneath it.
Is Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as good as Blue Velvet? Nope, but neither is Wild at Heart, or anything else that Lynch has done as a filmmaker. But, after rewatching it, I can say that it is definitely better than many people claim it is. It is an unflinching and powerful movie, a series of scenes that are disturbing and amazing at the same time. One scene, involving an uncomfortable dinner table conversation between Laura and her father (the amazing Ray Wise), reminds me of similar uncomfortable conversations I myself have had with my own father in the same context… and that familiarity makes it even more uncomfortable to watch.
The movie, focused on the last seven days of Laura Palmer, starts without showing Laura at all… Instead showing what happens after the body of Teresa Banks is discovered, in a small town that is the dark doppelgänger of Twin Peaks, Deer Meadow. A real treat is to see Special Agent Chet Desmond (played by Chris Isaak) deal with the people of this community, knowing that it is far removed from the friendly quirkiness of the locals we saw in the series. After we learn more about Teresa and her life, and Desmond mysteriously disappears, we are suddenly removed from that story and brought back to Twin Peaks, and we see that last week in all its uncomfortable detail. Many of the events in the film were referred to in the series, and as a fan it’s fun to “connect the dots” to these previous moments.
I won’t discuss the various surreal aspects of the film, nor will I provide or attempt any anaylsis or theorizing on my own. Suffice it to say, if you know what David Lynch likes to do in his movies, you will see plenty of it on display here. It’s quite a ride.
While it’s a powerful piece of work, it’s definitiely not perfect… So let’s cover what I consider its two main flaws.
I have to say that the biggest problem with the movie is with its lead. Sheryl Lee does her best to make us care for Laura Palmer, but the dramatic contrivances of the plot (the aforementioned references in the TV series) forces her to come off in many scenes as… Well, kind of a bitch. It’s not that she doesn’t play all her scenes with passion and give her all… but I have to say she probably would have been better if she had more experience as an actor. With a couple of more acting jobs under her belt she could have had the wisdom to underplay some scenes, to better affect. Ironically, watching her work reminded me of another actor, in another favorite film: George Lazenby, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Like Lee here, Lazenby gave a heartfelt performance that was… Good, just not quite great enough for a lead performance.
There is another deep flaw in the film – there is no whimsy, and very little of the quirky humor we saw on the show. This was a core part of the TV series’ “tone”, and I think the lack of this turned off many of the series’ fans when it was released. What we got on TV was a dark, quirky mystery with interesting characters… What we got in the movie was a David Lynch film, one that started out with a dramatic shot of an ax destroying a TV series, an obvious message to the viewer that this wasn’t a TV show anymore. The thing is, as the old saying goes, “ya dance with the one who brought you,” and by being so divergent, and so dark… Well, the movie didn’t live up to some viewers expectations.
(Some “inside baseball” stuff, here: over 17 scenes were shot with the many series regulars we did not see in the film, and these scenes were cut over, reportedly, “running time concerns.” I’d wager that these scenes just didn’t align with the darker tone of the film as well, so they were cut for thematic reasons.)
So, final thoughts: Fire Walk With Me is solid film that fits well in Lynch’s filmography, one that doesn’t get the critical atention it deserves. I’m very happy that this new blu-ray release will have people (at least in some countries) revisiting it and the town of Twin Peaks once more.
The blu-ray disc
It’s a beautiful anamorphic transfer, and looks as good as it did when I saw it in theatres years ago. It has no extras except for the electronic press kit (EPK) that was made and released at the time the film came out, Transferred from 3/4″ video tape, these series of interviews and scenes look good considering the source material. The previously mentioned 17 scenes that were cut from the theatrical release, alas, are not included. Additionally, while David Lynch films traditionalliy does not have DVD or bluray chapters, this release does. Finally, the trailer is only available in the EPK and is not in HD or anamorphic.
Here’s screenshots of the movie, the EPK and the packaging.