(Twin Peaks, Season 2 and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)
In August, Lynch and Sweeney broke away from their bundle of joy for twenty-four hours and flew up to Washington’s Snoqualmie Valley for the American premiere of the film, which had already been playing to big crowds in Japan. A local Washington group, headed by Snoqualmie’s Vicki Curnutt, thought it would be great to have a summer festival honoring Twin Peaks and its fans. Combining efforts with New Line Cinema, the film’s distributor, the group presented “Twin Peaks Fest 92” on the weekend of August 14–16. New Line flew in actors Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Moira Kelly, Catherine Coulson, Al Strobel, and Jonathan Lepell for the event. The esteemed visitors amiably mingled with the ten thousand fans who gathered from around the world to talk about the show, buy Peaks-related souvenirs, and sample a number of activities such as a celebrity look-alike contest, tours of filming locations, a cherry pie-eating contest, a climb up Mt. Si (one of Twin Peaks’ peaks), the Log Lady Relay Race, and a raffle of the old gray sedan in which Agent Cooper first drove into Twin Peaks. There were also several soldout events which allowed smaller gatherings of fans to have “Dinner With the Stars” and “Breakfast With the Stars,” all leading up to the big film showing in the funky old North Bend Theatre just across from the Mar T Café. This would be an unusually racy, R-rated evening for the movie house, which normally showed Disney and other family-oriented fare. The whole weekend had a mildly subversive air about it, as the churchgoing, flag-waving towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie were swarmed by people obsessed with a fiction that centered on sex, drugs, incest, and child-murder.
Lynch had been scheduled to appear at earlier festival events, but he kept his participation under tight control, flying in late on Sunday afternoon, talking to no media representatives, and, with Mary and the actors, only showing up a few minutes before the film screening at 8:00 p.m. The premiere was long-ago soldout, but throngs of people crowded the sidewalk outside the theater hoping for a spare seat and at least a glimpse of the celebrities as they pulled up in long black limousines, with the mountains of Twin Peaks filling the twilight background.
Lynch stepped out of the car, waved to the cheering crowd, and stepped into the sweltering, non-air-conditioned theater, his hand outstretching to whoever would first take it, that person being a local boy who tore tickets on the weekends. The director said “Glad to meet you” to his impromptu greeter and, with Mary, took a seat in the far right back section of the auditorium, on the aisle. The director, Sweeney, Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, Catherine Coulson, Al Strobel, and Jonathon Lepell were each dressed in formal black (no tie for Lynch), but Ray Wise, perhaps to counteract all the darkness he portrays in the film, wore a white suit and tieless shirt. In contrast to Lynch, the actors sat halfway down toward the screen, surrounded by adoring fans, who included Pat Cokewell, owner of the Mar T Café and maker of those heavenly pies.
The seats filled quickly, and as everyone exclaimed about how bloody hot the room was, Lynch said a few words before the film. A tall dark figure against the white screen, he stood onstage and, with a wide smile, acknowledging the standing ovation. He spoke with confidence to the large group, and his natural humor bobbed to the surface. “Thank you guys very much. This really reminds me of a theater in Los Angeles called the NuArt, where I once stood in front of a packed theater and talked a little bit about Eraserhead. You’ve got a great theater here. [Audience laughter, assuming he’s being sarcastic.] No, I’m not kidding you—this is, ah—it smells—and it—it’s definitely the real thing.” [Much crowd laughter.] Then he treated the group to a classic Lynchian non sequitur, beginning a convoluted story that went on and on and led up to the reason he and Mark Frost originally decided to shoot Twin Peaks in the Snoqualmie Valley: “‘I’m still not sure where we’re going to shoot it, Mark.’ So I said, ‘Call me,’ and he said ‘Okay’—now before the film, I want to introduce some members of the cast.” [Audience laughter over another abrupt Lynchian swerve away from revealing information.]
Lynch introduced his actors and had them join him on stage, as the crowd whooped and applauded, and he acknowledged, “in the back, my girlfriend, Mary Sweeney, the editor of the film.” He closed by thanking all the Washington communities that had helped make the film possible and said, “the cast, Mary, and I are all very happy to be here and we truly hope that you love Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” The Lynchian paradox was palpable: This well-mannered, funny, and endearing master of ceremonies was proudly ready to plunge us into his carefully wrought creation, which many critics would characterize as a depressing miasma of moral degradation.
However, thanks to the complexity of human nature, the audience jammed into the North Bend Theatre was ready and eager to take the dive with Laura. The buzz of voices faded as the auditorium grew dim—but then a woman’s voice called, “Lights! Turn on the lights!” As though in a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover depicting a small-town community project goof-up, Twin Peaks Fest organizer Vicki Curnutt took the stage to do two things she’d forgotten. After directing a round of applause at the festival’s many volunteers, she called Lynch back to the stage. Since he hadn’t been around to attend that afternoon’s Celebrity Awards Ceremony, she handed him his trophy: a varnished wooden plaque with a rope hangman’s noose attached to it. He chuckled along with the crowd’s laughter and applause, and added, “Things were a little slow at Cannes this year, so this really hits the spot.”
At last, it was night in the room, and Lynch’s darkness would flow. The director could not have handpicked a more receptive audience for his work. They were thrilled to be the first in the country to see the film, and, especially to have key cast members and Lynch himself in the auditorium with them breathing the same hothouse air. As the film opened, the crowd cheered and clapped for every actor’s name and technical credit name, and when each actor first came on the screen, no matter how far into the movie it was, they exploded again. Lynch was sharing less of this experience with the crowd than they thought, however. Like parents who have tucked their audience in bed so it can have a dream of Laura Palmer, Lynch and Sweeney tiptoed out the back after the first few minutes unreeled, so they could hasten back south to their dear little Riley.
The first thing we see is one of Lynch’s visual abstractions signifying mood and emotion, like a black smudge of malaise that haunts an oppressed character in one of the artist’s drawings. Here the screen is filled with a vibrating blue storm of electrical particles that roil within the frame of a TV set like the churning black insects beneath the idyllic lawnscape of Blue Velvet. In the earlier film Lynch used insects to represent the evil hiding within our environment and our own psyches, and in Fire walk With Me, electrical energy, the wires that transport it, and the Palmer’s humming ceiling fan, allow malevolent forces to invade our world and wreak havoc. A moment after watching the angry swarm of blue energy we hear a woman scream “Nooo” for the last time in her life, and then the ugly thud of a death blow. Filtering his feelings about electricity through the childlike-wonder part of his sensibility, Lynch restores a sense of primal magic and menace to the invisible force that hums within galaxies and the neurons in our heads, flows into our homes to heat us and cook our food, and which can kill us if we’re not careful.
Michael J. Anderson remembers a moment during the filming that illustrates Lynch’s mystical feeling about electrical vibrations. They were shooting a scene in the Red Room where The Man From Another Place holds a ring up to the camera.
The generator blew out in this scene. So they plugged in another generator and tried to run the scene again. And it blew the generator again. So they plugged in a third generator and this time Lynch made some changes: “Well, this time say this part first and then this part, and instead of being over here, stand over there and point this way.” Now, he didn’t change the power requirements, he did not adjust the lights or the camera or anything. He merely moved the pieces of the scene around a little bit. When we hooked up the third generator it ran, and kept on running. I heard David say, “Yep, I thought that might have been it.”
In 1997, Lynch spoke about how the massive concentration of electrical lines can cause tumors to grow in the heads of people living near the wires. “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not, you know, whacking you.” (The workers who strung the original power lines of Thomas Edison’s pioneering electrical company said they were afraid of “the devils in the wires.”) The director’s first major fictional linkage of electricity with danger and evil occurs in his unproduced screenplay for Ronnie Rocket, which he began in the mid-1970s. Inspired by the concept of alternating electrical current, Lynch imagined a story in which a villain reverses the flow of power so that he can control a large city by zapping people with “bad electricity.” This terrible rain of negative power makes people confused, dizzy, and unable to talk straight, and when the rain becomes a deluge, some start to eat their own hands and feet, and others burst into flames. Like the motif of a man simultaneously braking and accelerating a car in his earlier unproduced One Saliva Bubble, which Lynch eventually utilized in Fire Walk With Me, the director uses the Ronnie Rocket idea of bad electricity in his Twin Peaks movie, though in a more subtle way. In Ronnie Rocket, the villain overtly employs the electricity as a weapon, while in Fire Walk With Me it is a darkly poetic signifier of evil’s intrusion into our world, a warning of disturbance in the air when BOB’s dimension hungrily invades the one we live in.
The blue-electricity TV screen that opens the film is linked to the murder of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley), which FBI agents Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak), Sam Stanley (Keifer Sutherland), and, later Dale Cooper (Kyle Mac- Lachlan), come to investigate in Washington State. Lynch uses this first, thirty-minute portion of his film, before he takes up Laura’s story, to show us the depth of the mystery that his detectives are confronting and to indicate the limitations of their investigative skills.
In a fanciful, yet straightforward way, Lynch spells out, through his character of FBI boss Gordon Cole, his sense of the correct proportion between phenomena we can decipher and happenings that are beyond our understanding. Enacting the same artist-to-audience relationship that Lynch has with his viewers, Lynch as Gordon Cole presents Desmond and Stanley with a performance-art piece for them to decipher. This puzzle is Lil (Kimberly Ann Cole), a gawky, pinch-faced woman in a red dress who makes odd, dance-like motions. The seasoned Desmond helps Stanley read her messages: They’ll have trouble with the local authorities on the Teresa Banks case, the sheriff is hiding something, there’ll be lots of legwork, the case involves drugs. But, Stanley wonders, what about the blue rose pinned to Lil’s lapel? Desmond replies, “I can’t tell you about that.” What a succinct summation of Lynch’s ethos: By paying close attention we can comprehend much that we encounter in life, but the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. That botanically impossible blue rose, that bit of the Beyond that remains a mystery, will forever tantalize us and arouse our questing souls.
Desmond and Stanley enact a condensed version of the investigative process that Twin Peaks’ TV lawmen played out over many episodes. The two make careful observations, perform forensic science, and talk to witnesses, but they’re nowhere near a solution to Teresa Banks’ murder. Then Desmond follows his intuition into blue rose territory, revisiting the trailer where the victim lived, getting an eerie vibration from the number six electrical pole, and, at dusk, finding Teresa’s lost ring beneath a strangely shining silver trailer. Having plugged into some ineffable energy circuit, Desmond vanishes from the film.
After Lynch gives us a patriotic Eagle Scout image of the Liberty Bell, he shows that more mysteries are gathering at Philadelphia’s FBI headquarters. For the audience members who viewed the whole Twin Peaks TV series, the experience of watching Fire Walk With Me creates the almost subliminal sensation that we’re simultaneously seeing things that happened both before and after the TV show. And this feeling perfectly synchronizes with the fluid, dimension-interpenetrating sense of space and time that permeates Lynch’s film. So when we see Agent Cooper crisply stride into Gordon Cole’s office, it’s as though he’s snapped out of some of the sartorial and touchy-feely emotional excesses that Lynch didn’t like about Copper’s second-TV season presentation, those character modifications that happened while Lynch was disengaged from the production. Cooper is hyper-alert this morning because of a troubling dream about February 16, and his nocturnal subconscious agitation takes daytime substance in the form of long-lost agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie), who unexpectedly shows up at the FBI building.
Jeffries comes in via a veritable Blue Rose Highway, whipping out of the elevator through a blue archway and striding down an azure carpet into Gordon Cole’s office. When he enters the room, it becomes charged with metaphysical turbulence. We’ve never seen Cole and Cooper so unsettled, and as the deeply shaken Jeffries spews out fragmentary impressions of the things he’s witnessed, a strange reality takes over Cole’s office and fills the screen. The agent mentions someone named Judy that he’s not going to talk about (more blue rose material) and says “we live inside a dream” (a truly Lynchian sentiment) as we see what he saw at “one of their meetings” above a convenience store. Assembled in the dilapidated space are Twin Peaks’ extra-dimensional BOB and The Man From Another Place, sitting at a table covered with pans of creamed corn, which they call “garmonbozia.” Across many cultures, corn has been seen as a sacred food since ancient times. It is a vegetable composed entirely of edible seeds, so when we eat it we are literally and poetically consuming the kernel of life, gobbling up the future in the present moment. In ancient Mexican and South American lore, corn symbolizes death as well as life, and is linked with blood sacrifice. BOB may dine on garmonbozia, but his primary occupation is consuming the lives, souls, and futures of human beings; and at the end of the film the corn takes on the connotation of “pain and sorrow.” Twin Peaks is also concerned with the point at which life and death meet and change places, and Fire Walk With Me is a journey leading to Laura’s blood sacrifice—and beyond. It was Lynch’s intention to imbue the creamed corn with sacramental power, and Michael J. Anderson (The Man From Another Place) says that Lynch “got quite upset” when the actor spilled some of it. “He didn’t get angry, but it was like a big concern came up and he got down and talked to me, and he goes, ‘Now you don’t want to spill this at all. Not even a little bit. It’s like gold.’ And then he just stood there like, ‘Do you get it? Can you grasp what I am telling you?’ He was very serious. It wasn’t a joke.”
Among those present at the convenience store gathering Jeffries witnessed are Mrs. Tremond (Frances Bay) and her grandson (Jonathan Leppell), the pair who Donna encounters on TV in her Meals-on-Wheels route. The boy, who’s a clairvoyant magician, wears Lynch’s favorite blacksuit-and-white-shirt outfit, and was played by the director’s son, Austin, in the series. The film’s grandson wears a white plaster mask that lifts momentarily to reveal a shadowed monkey’s face. The mask and what it hides are another statement of Lynch’s belief in a multifarious reality, in deep truths concealed by facades. Looking underneath the detestable surface behavior of Elephant Man–exploiter Bytes, Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth, and Marietta of Wild at Heart, Lynch finds love—a quality of primal grace and goodness—that’s been twisted and perverted into evil. Most often, however, the director delves into the darkness hidden beneath benign surfaces, thus projecting the balance he sees in the world around him. The monkey behind the mask signifies Lynch’s characteristic linkage of animalism with evil, and is a metaphor for monkey man BOB’s dwelling within Leland. Jutting out from the mask’s “third eye” position on its forehead is a crooked stick of wood, indicating that the BOB-possessed Leland’s spirituality is earthbound and blocked. Only when he is released from BOB in death is Leland able to “go into the light,” where he sees his beautiful, shining Laura. In her poem, young Harriet Hayward had also seen Laura glowing after death. For Fire Walk With Me, Lynch reshot the iconic image of Laura’s dead blue face being unwrapped from its plastic cocoon and, as he did two years earlier on a cold Washington beach, he carefully placed a glimmering grain of sand in the region of her third eye. Leland tragically succumbed to BOB’s domination, while Laura heroically defied it, and thus her forehead’s spiritual eye is ready for an illuminated divine vision.
Jeffries’ remembered experience with this otherworldly crew seems to bleed through the reality of Gordon Cole’s office in a cloud of blue static like the film’s opening TV screen. As the spent and screaming agent finishes his narration, Lynch stresses his notion of electrical-atmospherical disturbance being a sign of transport between dimensions by having Jeffries vanish amidst more blue static and a shot of power lines against blue sky. In the Fire Walk With Me script, Lynch specifies that Jeffries is standing in a Buenos Aires hotel one moment, and the next he’s in Gordon Cole’s office, and then suddenly back in Argentina. In the film, the director pumps up the mystery quotient by having Jeffries materialize from nowhere and everywhere. It’s interesting to note that the numerals in Jeffries’ hotel room number add up to nine, as do Cooper’s at the Great Northern Hotel, and to recall our discussion of the cosmic, circling, yin-yang energy that impels nine to become six: the universal constant of dualistic poles trading places and realities transforming. With his white tropical suit and burnt-out, shellshocked manner, Jeffries is like one of novelist Graham Greene’s or Joseph Conrad’s northern men whose life falls apart in southern climes. Lynch wants his characters, and us, to hit the road, delve into mysteries, learn all we can, and gain enlightenment from the experience. But he also knows that this path is fraught with dangers, and he makes Jeffries a man who bears the psychic wounds of too much traveling. Earlier, Fat Trout Trailer Park manager Carl Rodd sounded a cautionary note about voyaging when he talked with agents Desmond and Stanley. Lynch juxtaposed a shot of eerily twittering power lines against blue sky with the haggard, bandaged face of Rodd, who spoke like a haunted man: “I’ve already been places. I just want to stay where I am.”
When Cooper travels to Washington State to investigate agent Desmond’s disappearance, he visits Carl Rodd’s trailer corral and is drawn to what looks like an unremarkable patch of earth where a trailer was once parked. We know what Cooper doesn’t, that this is where Desmond touched the ring and was lost to sight, that the trailer belonged to two members of Twin Peaks’ otherworldly cosmology, and that the “Let’s rock” written in red on the windshield of Desmond’s car is a phrase the little Man From Another Place will say to Cooper in a dream twelve months from now. Cooper, the magician who longs to see, can recognize investigational elements that give him “a strange feeling,” but he can’t perceive what they mean. This state of mind mirrors Lynch’s comments about how his own process of art-making proceeds in a “strange, abstract way,” in which he lets his feelings guide his creating hand and only later sees how the assembled elements coalesce into intellectual meaning.
Agent Chester Desmond: vanished. Agent Phillip Jeffries: vanished. The murder of Teresa Banks: unsolved. Even Cooper, the detective’s detective, must concede that the FBI’s quest has reached “a dead end.” In The Wizard of Oz, which Lynch loves so much, Dorothy and her three male companions reach a roadblock on their odyssey to Oz when they’re told that they can’t enter the city that they’ve been striving so hard to reach, and which holds the Wizard’s special knowledge that they seek. But, when the officials see that Dorothy is wearing ruby slippers, the doors are opened. And, likewise in Lynch’s world, there is often a means of entry, a gateway to deeper mysteries, that is waiting to be recognized. The investigating men can take us no further into the dark wonders of Fire Walk With Me. To proceed all the way to the end of the night, we must walk and die with Laura Palmer, the saddest schoolgirl in the world.
As Lynch opens Laura’s story, he presents images that make a quick transition from sunny innocence to dark experience, as he did at the start of Blue Velvet. Teenage Laura and her best friend, Donna, wearing their 1950s-echoing plaids and sweaters, walk to school down the same sidewalk they’ve trod for years and years together. At school they link pinkie fingers to say goodbye—and then Laura’s snorting cocaine into her brain and weeping and saying, “I’m gone, long gone” as James, one of her boyfriends, touches her naked breast. In Blue Velvet, a shadowy, insectoid force churning beneath an idyllic small town invaded the daylight world when, like a bug bite to the neck, Jeffrey’s father was stricken with a seizure. In Fire Walk With Me, the darkness seems to have already been gnawing at Laura for some time; she must have been doing some harrowing traveling to feel so “long gone” at such a young age.
It is a measure of Lynch’s commitment to his artistic vision that, in Fire Walk With Me, he strips away all the user-friendly, trademark Twin Peakson-TV elements that viewers love (detectives, pie and coffee, humorously quirky characters) and focuses the world through Laura’s pained, sad, and desperate consciousness. The second law of thermodynamics states that everything in the universe will eventually run down, wear out, fade away, melt; that unless new energy is introduced from an outside source, things will devolve from order to chaos. Lynch has spoken of his poignant feeling that there’s an underlying “wild pain and decay”65 gnawing at the world, of how even bright new buildings and bridges carry the seeds of their own dissolution. The director says that “it’s the scariest thing” to see the forces of entropy consuming a human being, especially one as beautiful, gifted, and loved as Laura. She’s the community’s golden girl, but Lynch shows us that this radiant seventeen-year-old is “dying on the inside.
Since age twelve, BOB has been a plague on her body and mind, creeping through her bedroom window in flashes of blue light and thrusting himself between her legs as she moans with eyes closed like a troubled dreamer. She sees BOB as the animalistic man with long gray hair, whereas most people viewing the film, because of their experience of the TV show, already know that her sexual partner is her BOB-possessed father, Leland. Part of Fire Walk With Me’s drama hinges on Laura coming to this shattering realization late in the film. For now, BOB is not content to feed on her sexuality, he also wants her soul, her personhood, and much of the film is devoted to Laura’s attempt to cope with this threat. Enthralled beneath the ceiling fan outside her bedroom, which whirls infernal energies into her life, Laura hears BOB hiss, “I want to taste with your mouth.” She lives with BOB using her sexually, but she fights against his hunger to penetrate and own her soul. Lynch, in his screenplays for Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, uses the verb “open” to denote one person having transgressive sexual access to another (Bobby Peru leers at Lula, “I’ll open you like a Christmas present.”68) In the Twin Peaks TV series, when Leland lies dying, the terrible knowledge that he killed his own daughter and was possessed by BOB finally comes flooding into his conscious mind. Even though the young Leland had invited BOB in to play his wicked games, the dying adult’s language of recollection connotes a homosexual rape: “He opened me and he came inside me.” By implication, BOB joins a list of Lynch’s villains (The Elephant Man’s Bytes, Dune’s Baron Harkonen, Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth) with homoerotic appetites, for if Fire Walk With Me’s evil entity gains possession of Laura, he will be having sex with the men she beds.
Those who perform dark deeds in Lynch’s work often do so with an ecstatic glee that embodies the Marquis de Sade’s idea that “crime is an enchanting affair, for, in truth, from the flames by which it licks us is kindled the torch of our lust. Only crime is sufficient, it alone inflames us, and only crime can ravish pleasure through all degrees of our sensibility.” Hearing this idea, BOB would certainly grimace and grunt his agreement, but Laura would burst into tears. She is sexually promiscuous, sells her body for money, has a major cocaine addiction, and laughs when Bobby blows Deputy Howard’s head open, yet her night prowling brings her no pleasure or solace. So, as her friend Donna entreats, “Why do you do it?”
In Jennifer Lynch’s book, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, young Laura often hears BOB’s disembodied voice like her own private cult leader giving her affirmations from hell. “I’VE BEEN HERE FOR YEARS AND YEARS, YOUR BELIEF DOESN’T MEAN A THING. YOUR OPINION IS NOTHING. THINNK ABOUT IT. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE. YOU GO FUCKING AROUND WITH PEOPLE. DRUGS ALL THE TIME. YOU’LL BE SIXTEEN SOON. YOUR LIFE IS SHIT AND YOU’RE NOT EVEN SIXTEEN YET. LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. YOU ARE NOTHING.” Ironically, Laura has devolved into this degraded state by trying to elude BOB, reasoning that it was her sweet innocence that first attracted the long-haired invader through her bedroom window, so if she acts like a depraved slut, he will leave her alone. To her despair and horror, she learns that she can’t loosen his grip on her no matter what she does, and that the manipulative BOB thrives on toying with her autonomous sense of self and personal volition as “an experiment.”
In his film, Lynch characteristically avoids the detailed verbal sparring matches between BOB and Laura that Jennifer Lynch includes in her book, preferring to keep his villain and heroine’s minimal exchanges on the primal level of an animalistic predator stalking his prey: “He wants to be me or he’ll kill me.” By not spelling out the motivation for Laura’s bad-girl behavior, Lynch frees us to hypothesize that BOB’s intrusion into her life at a crucial stage of her psycho-sexual development has twisted her sense of identity so that she feels unworthy of leading a normal, wholesome life, and that the dark, shadow side of her nature is her true self. She can be kind and giving and loving to those around her, but she feels she doesn’t deserve the same in return and she uses her sexuality to manipulate and gain power over others. If BOB wants to be her, then she must already be BOB-like. She feels that her angels have all gone away at the same time that she has turned away from them. The girl who feels “long gone” parties until dawn with a fellow night-denizen who calls himself “The Great Went,” as in Go all the way to death; a fellow whose motto is “There’s no tomorrow.”
As nihilism and despair make Laura’s world a permanent midnight, she becomes fictional kin to Blue Velvet’s Dorothy, another victim of deeply wounding sexual-emotional abuse. In the earlier film Kyle MacLachlan’s Jeffrey strove to keep Dorothy from embracing death, and in Fire Walk With Me his Agent Cooper, appearing in Laura’s dream, warns her not to take the ring that’s linked to Teresa Banks’ murder and Agent Chet Desmond’s disappearance. Lynch, through his alter ego MacLachlan, again shows his urge to protect victimized women. And he again illustrates the fluid nature of space and time in Twin Peaks, for the Cooper that Laura sees is from the future, the “good Dale” who’s trapped in the Red Room, while his dark self provides the TV series with its final, chilling images (BOB grinning back at him in the mirror). Jeffrey was able to prevent Dorothy from losing her mortal life, but Cooper can’t stop Laura’s death. Lynch as he did with Henry in Eraserhead and The Elephant Man’s John Merrick, has a higher destination in mind for Laura, a rewarding realm beyond our temporal world that she, like Henry and Merrick, can only reach through the portal of death. In her dream, Laura quakes with fear when the ring pops into her hand for a moment, but her journey toward spiritual fulfillment has already begun.
Hungry BOB, with his ability to get inside your head and poison your house, is the force of willful control that Lynch fears, and that some of the director’s characters resist unto death. Poor Leland Palmer has yielded his psyche to BOB, and actor Ray Wise shows the inhabiting entity’s shadowy presence creeping into Leland’s pleasant face with superb subtly. One afternoon Laura encounters BOB in her bedroom tampering with her diary, and then sees Leland emerge from the Palmer house. Her conscious mind panics and tries to deny the thought that BOB and her father are one and the same, but her being begins to absorb this terrible possibility. Laura at this moment is an interesting contrast to Wild at Heart’s Lula, who never gained the conscious realization that her mother killed her father. Like Agent Cooper, Laura’s soul moves her to want to see and to know, and when BOB next comes through her window at night, she focuses her mind while he has intercourse with her and furiously demands, “Who are you?” And, as BOB’s grunting face fleetingly transforms into Leland’s, her most devastating suspicion is confirmed. Lynch includes a few precious moments of loving tenderness between Leland and Laura in the film, thus poignantly giving us a measure of how much emotional treasure BOB has stolen from the Palmer family. Ray Wise and Sheryl Lee deserve surpassing praise for their rich, complex, and emotionally draining incarnations of Leland and Laura. Every moment of their relationship is heartfelt, and indeed Wise for months carried Lee’s photograph in his wallet with the pictures of his own family.
The don’t-fence-me-in dynamic of Wild at Heart propelled Lula away from her dictatorial mother and out onto the road, where she found her maturing sense of self, sexuality, and love while traveling with Sailor. Laura tries to define her identity apart from her father by seeking the solace of friends, lovers, and drugs, but Leland is also BOB, and BOB is everywhere. Taking a road trip away from Twin Peaks would only bring her to the same dead end. Like Eraserhead’s Henry and The Elephant Man’s John Merrick, she must find physical escape and spiritual deliverance close to home.
A true friend with a heroic sense of loyalty, Laura does her utmost to keep the darkness that’s engulfing her from tainting and endangering those she loves, such as Donna, James, and Harold Smith, the keeper of her secret diary. Lynch has—either consciously or not—put Laura in a position that, with poetic resonance, echoes the mythic stance of Tibetan Buddhist nuns who, in ancient tales, personally engaged and grappled with devouring demons in order to keep the world safe from harm. However, Laura is not a sacrificial lamb with a martyr complex. Her primal need is to save herself from BOB, and to do so she must die. Like Henry, she must follow a trail of subconscious promptings, reading her dreams and the clues in the wind, and finally committing an act that obliterates her temporal self. Henry picked up scissors and killed his baby, and Laura slides that fateful ring onto her finger.
A derelict train car that no longer travels is Laura’s point of departure for her journey beyond death. As the air crackles with blue electricity, the bound Ronette Pulaski is freed when she prays for deliverance and her guardian angel appears. Laura feels she’s in an abject state that’s unworthy of prayerful help: she’s seen her guardian angel vanish from her bedroom picture, and the angelic figure of roadhouse singer Julee Cruise asks in her song, “Why did you turn away from me?” Laura has fought to keep BOB from invading her psyche, and in the train car she glimpses what it would be like if she lost the battle when she sees the fiend glowering back at her from a mirror. This horrifying vision gives her the final jolt of courage she needs to leap into the unknown, and she slips on the ring.
Lynch, rather than simply having Leland be BOB’s unwitting pawn at this climatic moment, makes him tragically semi-conscious of the horror he is about to perpetrate, as he matches his daughter’s screams with one of his own: “Don’t make me do this!” Lynch visualizes Laura’s murder as an abstraction in which we see short-duration images separated by flashes of light and blackness: Leland thrusting a knife, BOB thrusting a knife, a passage of various views of Laura’s pale face spurting blood from her mouth, her golden broken-heart necklace, her face finally not moving. This last shot, which Lynch frames upside-down, with her forehead at the bottom of the frame and chin at the top, recalls a shot he composed for his 1968 film The Alphabet. In that student work, he had positioned a woman’s face in the same topsy-turvy way and added a false nose on her chin to make it look like the bottom of her face was actually the top, as if to say, “Appearances can be deceiving.” In the twenty-four years sine The Alphabet, Lynch had not composed a close-up of an inverted face until he filmed Laura, whose dead face paradoxically hides the truth of her deathlessness.
After killing Laura, BOB propels Leland into the extra-dimensional realm of the Red Room, where he’s confronted by the only entity he fears: Mike, his former partner in crime. After moving Leland’s body to bow respectively to Mike, then emerges from his host and the two stand facing Mike and the little Man From Another Place. When Mike had decided to spurn BOB and live on the side of good, he took off his arm, which was tattooed with the powerfully evil symbol that’s still inscribed on BOB’s arm and which adorns the ring that Laura chose to wear. Mike’s discarded arm was transformed into the Man From Another Place, who can still exhibit a malevolent streak. But now Mike and his “arm” speak in unison, demanding that BOB give back the sacramental corn (“garmonbozia”) he stole. Garmonbozia also means “pain and suffering,” some of BOB’s choicest food, so giving it up is true punishment for the demonic entity. BOB accomplishes Mike’s demand by touching Leland’s shirt, which is stained red from the bloody murder-scene towels he stuffed inside it. BOB then pivots his hand away from Leland and, with a throwing-away gesture, splatters Laura’s blood onto the zig-zag-patterned floor.
BOB, one of the scariest fictional manifestations of evil to be portrayed in late-twentieth-century culture, has been, at least for the moment, subdued—though he’s certainly back at full power to wreak havoc in the TV series that’s still to come in some alternate time stream. Still, in our time frame, this movie comes after the series, and its conclusion allows us to depart the world of Twin Peaks in a glow of exaltation. In counterpoint to the hours of fear, pain, sadness, and dread we have lived through in the Twin Peaks experience, Lynch leaves us with the feeling that a hard-won measure of justice had been attained. As the Man From Another Place, following the proper ritualistic protocol of his realm, lovingly sucks up the golden garmonbozia corn between his full lips, we see the face of the monkey that was hiding behind the mask in Philip Jeffries’ recollection-vision of his harrowing encounter with the extra-dimensional denizens. The mask is now gone, and the simian face smiles slightly and softly says, “Judy.” Throughout his career Lynch has linked animalism with evil, and in the Middle Ages the monkey was a symbol of the devil, heresy, lust, vice, and paganism. The simian was related to the Fall of Man and represented a distorted, debased aspect of humankind. And in Lynch’s dear The Wizard of Oz, menacing flying monkeys abducted Dorothy and her friends and delivered them to the Wicked Witch. In Jeffries’ vision, the monkey behind the mask suggested BOB, with his ravenous animal appetites, hiding within Leland. But now the garmonbozia has been returned and consumed, Laura’s burden of pain and sorrow has been lifted, and the face of animalistic energy wears a benign expression and speaks the name (“Judy”) of she who is perhaps the ultimate authority/spiritual figure in this dimension. Is BOB a bad boy who eternally disobeys a maternal goddess? Or is it just that Lynch knows that when, in his beloved The Wizard of Oz, one of the little Munchkin women comes up to Dorothy (Judy Garland), she looks at Garland and says, “Judy” by mistake.
Lynch maximizes the evocative power of his Twin Peaks lore by not spelling out its details too clearly. Fantasist writer-director Clive Barker has emphasized that in his Hellraiser films he doesn’t tell the audience where the monstrous villains, the Cenobites, come from: There’s a mythology, a cosmos, that we only glimpse. As Lynch says, “it leaves you room to dream.”
At any rate, BOB will soon be back in potently evil form, riding the black wind of night, manipulating Leland like a puppet, making him kill Maddy, then making Leland smash his own head to death, extracting Windom Earle’s soul, and guiding the dark aspect of Agent Cooper into an unsuspecting world. But Laura will not be his. As the Roman philosopher Seneca (4 B.C. –65 A.D.) said, “He who learns how to die unlearns slavery.”73 Defying the forces that would control her soul, Laura had courageously chosen her own spiritual path—but where does it lead?
The iconic image of the plastic wrapping being pulled aside to reveal Laura’s cold, dead blue face with its glittering grain of sand in the “third eye” position of the forehead melds with a familiar zigzag-patterned floor and ruddy curtains, and we find ourselves in the Red Room, where a more grown-up-looking Laura wearing a long black dress sits in a comfortable chair. Standing beside her, his hand on her shoulder, is Dale Cooper the Good. She has a blank, lost look, but as blue-white light illuminates her face and draws her gaze, a smile begins to form, mirroring Cooper’s beneficent smile. With a childlike expression of wonder, Laura receives all the grace and love of the universe, and she sees the white-winged guardian angel that had faded from her bedroom picture now, magnificently, floating in the dark air above her. Throughout the film, she has wept with shame, loneliness, fear, and despair, but now, for the first time, she cries tears of joy and laughs as though she would laugh forever.
The felicitous meeting of Laura and Cooper in the Red Room has a beautiful poetic resonance. The abject victim/courageous heroine and the questing detective, both longing to see, have followed their dreams, intuitions, and deeply felt impulses and reached this point together. The translucent walls of the Red Room are like the enclosing membranes of a heart, and in this ruddy chamber Laura sees both Cooper, her loving protector, and her winged female angel, and Cooper watches Laura his dark muse and dream lover finally find the light. Will they gaze on until the next heartbeat, or as long as the world spins? These are Blue Rose questions.
This moment, which gloriously culminates David Lynch’s Twin Peaks saga and perfectly balances his craving for both knowledge and mystery, is one of the director’s most magnificent achievements. Surely, he felt, fans of the series would empathize with their dear Laura’s last seven days of degradation and abuse and glory in her well-earned spiritual triumph. And Twin Peaks novices would be intrigued by this in-depth psychological exploration of an incest-infested home and be swept up in the romance of all the lowdown nightlife, the evocative dream sequences, the surreal Red Room, and the one who lurks in the dark woods and behind the eyes of Leland Palmer. How much more wrong could David Lynch be?
Greg Olson/ David Lynch/ Beautiful Dark