Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1st)

Discussion of Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me

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LostInTheMovies
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Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1st)

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sat Apr 25, 2015 4:56 pm

I'm interested in how viewers see Fire Walk With Me when taken as a standalone film - can it be seperated from the series and viewed on its own? Particularly, if YOU saw it before the series how did it impact you?

I've noticed that the conventional wisdom ("Fire Walk With Me will make absolutely no sense if you haven't seen Twin Peaks") doesn't hold for most FWWM-first viewers I've encountered. If they aren't put off by Lynch's style in general, they usually seem to accept all the unexplained elements (the Little Man, the one-armed man, the Red Room etc) as "Lynch weirdness" (and let's be honest, quite a bit of it is just as perplexing, maybe more, once you've seen the series!). Bob is usually accepted as a metaphor rather than a supernatural reality and Laura Palmer's story tends to stand on its own without any needed support from the show. Even the Deer Meadow stuff can make sense to viewers without series knowledge; John Thorne told me that one of his friends (who hadn't seen the movie) felt that the primary question of the film was "Who killed Teresa Banks?" and it was an investigation of THAT question and not "Who killed Laura Palmer?"

But I'm also interested in hearing from people who saw the show first and still feel the movie works as a standalone. Do you feel it ALSO works as part of the series, or is it better when separated from the show?

While responding to Nightsea on another thread, it occurred to me that Fire Walk With Me is kind of a Venn diagram of (at least) 3 different films:

1) the "Twin Peaks movie" echoing & relying on knowledge from the series - which is obviously how most of us on this board discuss it

2) "a David Lynch film" creating bold textures and palpable moods, paving the way for the second stage of his work by emphasizing fractured identity, dual narrative structure, a female heroine, a dreamlike defiance of physical reality and spiritual allegory through a deeply subjective, impressionistic style

3) a harrowing, psychologically realistic story about an abuse victim, guiding us through the discovery that her abuser is her father through her point of view

Back in '92, it was very hard for (almost all) critics and (most) viewers to navigate these overlapping categories. Viewing it as the "Twin Peaks movie" created a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't paradigm: many fans were shocked that it was so different in tone & style, while critics who had burnt out on Twin Peaks condemned the film as a cynical cash-grab based on a forgotten fad, rather than a genuinely-felt art project for its director.

If approached as a Lynch film, Fire Walk With Me seemed messier than the more disciplined Blue Velvet (it is) and maybe even the more narratively-focused Wild at Heart (I'd probably argue that one is messier in many ways). And Lynch was so deeply unfashionable that year, so even if he'd produced as tightly controlled a film as Eraserhead, he probably would have been attacked.

And seeing it as a psychodrama about abuse - which goes remarkably unaddressed in most of the contemporaneous commentary - makes many, including a lot of critics who should know better, very uncomfortable. If presented in a certain context, either an afterschool special or a Serious Arthouse Film, it can be digested but if the viewer comes expecting something else there's a good chance this aspect will send them reeling. The response of most critics in '92 was to emphasize how "lurid" all the sex and drugs and violence were and fail to contextualize it socially or psychologically.

Since then, I think all three categories have contributed to the film's rehabiliation as well. Many Twin Peaks fans have rewatched and re-evaluated it because it's linked to the series they love, whereas they might have forgotten it otherwise. Lynch's reputation fully rebounded in a decade, causing many to reconsider their original opinion, and his later films have made many viewers understand better what he was going for in '92 (as noted above, so many of his later techniques/motifs really get their start in FWWM). Finally, the abuse aspect has probably helped the film more than any other. The film's courage in approaching this theme remains fairly unique two decades later, especially in the context of a pop culture phenomenon like Twin Peaks was. Most re-considerations of the film foreground this element (whereas few at the time deigned to mention it - a notable exception being Sheryl Lee who rather pointedly said, at the first Twin Peaks fest no less!, that the subject of the film was incest).

I mean, just think: could we ever imagine a feature film devoted to the life of Dora Lange? (That's the True Detective victim, btw - and needing to say that kinda reinforces the incongruity.) Granted, it's a very different story but that's the point. It's ALWAYS a very different story, about the investigators, never the victim even though abuse, drugs, and mental illness are often revealed in the background of such victims. Twin Peaks the show remains unique in itself for the way Laura, even while dead, is a major character and the show's universe seems to revolve around her for a while. She isn't JUST a MacGuffin as most "dead girls" are. But for the film to take this even further, and show the story through her eyes, remains a pretty radical tactic. So I would say while the other factors have contributed to its slow comeback, this is probably the most significant.

That said, it seems like people have only been able to accept the movie by separating these categories from one another, often emphasizing one approach above the others. So it is linked up to the series with various clues and callbacks are analyzed in depth, but its existence as a film in its own right gets obscured (sometimes this develops as supernatural mythology obscuring the psychological realism of the story and/or losing the connections to Lynch's more obscure/esoteric works). Or it is contextualized as an expression of very Lynchian themes but incest isn't broached and/or the film is presented as a complete rejection of the show (the axe hitting the TV, etc). Or, finally, it is discussed as a serious film about abuse, but the supernatural elements hanging on from the show, and Lynch's use of spiritual allegory, are glided over.

When I first saw Fire Walk With Me, it was definitely the third aspect - the seriousness of the approach to Laura's abuse - that shook me and actually made me kind of resent the other two elements (especially the series connection) because it felt like they were obscuring the strongest material in the movie. I entered into it straight off a viewing of Twin Peaks, and couldn't wait to see that world onscreen. Likewise, having seen several Lynch movies and knowing already he was one of my favorite directors, I was thrilled to get another chance to enter his world. My favorite parts of the show were probably the unexplainably surreal sequences, the supernatural mythology, the spooky gothic romanticism of the Laura mystery, and the heightened absurdist humor. Yet as I sank into the horror of Laura's world - the "wash your hands" scene was particularly effective here - and the film's emotions washed over me, these favorite touchstones seemed more like baggage than accessories.

Sheryl Lee's performance and the power of certain sequences (the Pink Room, Mike's assault in traffic, Laura's final school day) left such a strong impressions that I had to consider the film a masterpiece. But for years afterwards, it seemed to stand quite apart from the show to me except inasmuch as it served to subvert it, using it as a springboard to explore something completely different. And as I watched many fans of the show attack it, it felt like one had to choose between series or film, or just separate them completely in the discussion, which was a shame because even if the film was my favorite part of the saga, Twin Peaks the series remained my favorite TV show.

It was only with the release of The Missing Pieces last summer that I was able to truly see Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me as existing within the same world, not just alternate universes but part of a continuum. My Journey Through Twin Peaks videos really directly grew out of that "conversion experience." Since then I've focused a lot on Fire Walk With Me's place within the Twin Peaks canon but I think there's still part of me which can step back and see it as its own film too. Down the line I will be revisiting the film as part of a "Favorites" series exploring the films that have had the biggest impact on me. And I expect in that context - alongside classic westerns, European art films, Hollywood blockbusters, avant-garde shorts, and Betty Boop cartoons - its "standalone" qualities will jump at me once again.

Like everyone else, of course, I sometimes find it difficult to reconcile the many lens through which it can be viewed. And I'm not sure that's such a bad thing, really, as long as one remembers not to ONLY stick with one lens (at least if they are interested in taking in all the different aspects and not just locking down on one view).

Anyway...that's my take, what's yours?
Last edited by LostInTheMovies on Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:38 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby N. Needleman » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:10 pm

I actually first saw FWWM on Bravo at like 3 AM, back in the late '90s. This was back when that network was very, very different. :P It was actually my first re-exposure to TP as a teenager, after I'd basically been too scared of BOB to watch the show beyond mid-late Season 2 during the original airing on ABC when I was 8 or 9 years old. It had been at least 6 or 7 years.

Shortly after I saw the film, Bravo re-aired the whole series with the Log Lady introductions, and I was able to rewatch everything and watch the series in its entirety for the first time. (A couple years after that, I started inoculating my college friends with the terrible VHS tapes.)

Anyway, going into FWWM I knew what had happened to Laura, and at the end of the show - I had watched the show up through episode 15-16 or so and some bits and pieces afterwards, I had read the diary and felt very connected to Laura by that, and I knew what had become of Cooper. But I hadn't really seen much the back end of the show, so it was really like rediscovering that whole world in a very different way, from another door. I was watching the film in the middle of the night, and it was admittedly edited and broken by commercials, but I was completely thrown by it and staggered. I loved it, it was a tour de force. I did think it easily stood alone. But I think it works very well both ways.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby Dalai Cooper » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:13 pm

ha, seeing it 1st seems insane to me but I will try to consider it as a thought experiment

I think one of the 1st things to go will be additional layer to the revelation of the killer/rapist: that not only is it laura's father, it's leland. Ray wise is barely introduced in the film, and as brilliant a job as he does playing an abuser in denial, it's missing that extra punch of it being the same pathetic grieving dad we grew to love in the series.

as far as the imagery goes, it might be worthwhile looking at it the opposite way and asking, how would a viewer approach inland empire or mullholland dr if they had a distracting "mythology" in their mind throughout?
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:52 pm

Dalai Cooper wrote:ha, seeing it 1st seems insane to me but I will try to consider it as a thought experiment

I think one of the 1st things to go will be additional layer to the revelation of the killer/rapist: that not only is it laura's father, it's leland. Ray wise is barely introduced in the film, and as brilliant a job as he does playing an abuser in denial, it's missing that extra punch of it being the same pathetic grieving dad we grew to love in the series.


Very true. I've heard some people suggest that the scene with the happy Palmer family would have helped here. Maybe so, though it's hard to imagine it fitting with the tone of the film as it exists. Either way, yeah, the shock value is lessened.

I think the other area where FWWM suffers as a standalone film is Cooper. If he had been part of the Deer Meadow sequences it could still work as its own thing (albeit a pretty unconventional "own thing", structurally speaking). But when we ONLY see him in Philadelphia and then Laura's dreams, he really seems tacked-on. This isn't so true when watched in the context of the series - having Cooper around, especially in that touching final appearance, really gives the film a sense of closure, linking Laura's spiritual triumph to Cooper's spiritual failure.

But if seen alone, yeah, I'd imagine it would be "Why are we cutting to this FBI dude in the middle of Laura's story?" (actually, even taken as part of Twin Peaks, that cut kind of annoys me!). The ending could seem especially egregious in this regard. We've just spent two hours experiencing the world through Laura's eyes, her angel has finally returned and...there's some random person in a suit, whom we met in a few brief early sequences, standing next to her? Huh? Lol...

Also my reading that Laura's triumph over Bob comes from saving Ronette is only possible with the full context of the series available. In the film itself, it just looks like she's dead when we last see her.

My take on Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film is that it is flawed and uneven (and not entirely satisfying as drama) but it contains so many brilliant sequences and such an incredible lead performance that I would categorize it unreservedly as a cinematic masterpiece. But that's me: I tend to privilege power over perfection. I think the film next to Fire Walk With Me on my top favorites list is Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, so there you have it!

as far as the imagery goes, it might be worthwhile looking at it the opposite way and asking, how would a viewer approach inland empire or mullholland dr if they had a distracting "mythology" in their mind throughout?


GREAT point. I've heard StealThisCorn note this in particular with MD since it was supposed to be a series originally. If other writers and directors had come in, would they have anchored all the strange characters and situations in some sort of otherworldly cosmology? (Of course, MD would also have been different from TP as a series because this time Lynch would have been sole showrunner. I honestly can't imagine how the hell that would have worked!)

Diving into the way the psychological & supernatural elements interact in Twin Peaks the show & the film - and how they both bleed into a larger spiritual allegory - has actually made me look at Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, etc in a different light. Rather than see the Mystery Man or the Creature Behind the Diner as purely psychological constructs I'm now more prone to see them as having some existence outside of the protagonist's mind. Not so much as goblins or even specificially interdimensional beings per se but as stand-ins for larger, external spiritual forces that exist beyond the individual's own imagination.

David Lynch Swerves, with its emphasis on the quantum and Vedic correspondences in Lynch's work, has also inclined me to think of the bigger picture. In a sense "it's all a dream" DOES seem a bit too easy (although I still think Mulholland Drive really pushes pretty hard in that direction). It's about the psychological war within the characters, yes, but also about their places in a larger cosmic drama.
Last edited by LostInTheMovies on Sat Apr 25, 2015 6:14 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:52 pm

Duplicate post. Admin, please delete!
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby Dalai Cooper » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:56 pm

LostInTheMovies wrote:I think the other area where FWWM suffers as a standalone film is Cooper. If he had been part of the Deer Meadow sequences it could still work as its own thing (albeit a pretty unconventional "own thing", structurally speaking). But when we ONLY see him in Philadelphia and then Laura's dreams, he really seems tacked-on. This isn't so true when watched in the context of the series - having Cooper around, especially in that touching final appearance, really gives the film a sense of closure, linking Laura's spiritual triumph to Cooper's spiritual failure.


yeah and annie's line about the good dale being trapped in the lodge, so catch-in-the-throat for fans, is completely meaningless without context!
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby MasterMastermind » Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:30 pm

I don't think it would be as powerful, but FWWM probably would hold up on it's own. Also, I definitely take a sort of metaphysical and fantasist reading to much of Lynch's later work, especially MD and IE. Twin Peaks probably has a lot to do with that.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby Nightsea » Sun Apr 26, 2015 2:57 am

Dalai Cooper wrote:Ray wise is barely introduced in the film, and as brilliant a job as he does playing an abuser in denial, it's missing that extra punch of it being the same pathetic grieving dad we grew to love in the series.


One scene does survive in Fire Walk With Me that elicits at least a little bit of sympathy for Leland, harkening back to his portrayal in the series. I want to say that it follows the "Wash your hands!" scene. He comes into Laura's room, visibly distressed, and conveys to Laura how much he loves her. Laura is moved and taken aback by it, considering his actions at the dinner table earlier. I almost interpret the scene in another way too. Leland is grieving for the loss of their relationship as it used be– innocent. He could very well at this point and time suspect, even if on a subconscious level, that something terrible is about to happen to Laura, and that he'll be the one to do it (he checks her fingernail/hand yet again I think). He's grieving over her as if she's already gone. I'm glad that this one relatively calm moment of clarity between father and daughter remained intact within the film. Yes, it's still obvious even in this scene that he's off his rocker, but the scene also shows that he loves her and is fighting his own demons as well.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby WILDSTYLE » Sun Apr 26, 2015 12:43 pm

Has anyone ever gone the opposite way from most of the fanedits, and produced a version of FWWM in which everything not related to Laura is stripped away- and some of the deleted Laura related scenes are included? I wonder how the film would play if we could discard some of the less relevant, but commercially-necessitated elements (Coop above all, and also Jeffries, because being able to bill it as a David Bowie movie must've ensured they got the financing they needed). Obviously it's important to retain the seemingly nonsensical (to a first time viewer- but scary as hell) Lodge sequences, as well as some of the Deer Meadow stuff, as that's a part of Laura's story, in the same way the nonlinear sequences of MD and IE are key. But any of the stuff involving Coop in Philly is really not important to the FILM at all- at least not so far- and is only important to the series in the sense that it provides welcome reacquaintance with certain characters and meaningful closure on the whole experience. Indeed, one of the real reasons we anticipate a 25 years later edition of TP is to go deeper into the Coop/Laura metaphysical (or even physical) connection, whatever it may be. That was something the series hinted at many times, starting in the dream sequence of episode 2, but it was never explored very much. In the film itself, it's really just Lynch providing a little necessary fan-service (and bringing back Lynch's own favorite character and Lynch's own doppelganger) when Coop is present in the Lodge with Laura and the angel, suggesting he is also Laura's savior somehow. Well, actually Coop is never her savior (which is probably why they never shot the scene where she asked him when he'd save her) but maybe Lynch is her savior. That is my preferred interpretation of both the angel and Coop's presence- the angel is cinema, giving Laura redemption through art, and Coop is a doppelganger of David Lynch- which is like washing away all the hurt of the broken TV at the opening. I can believe in angels if cinema is the angel!
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sun Apr 26, 2015 2:26 pm

Re: WILDSTYLE,

From what I hear, there is a fanedit out there that does that (also including Laura scenes from the Missing Pieces I think) but I haven't seen it personally. It's interesting to think that what began as an attempt to square a circle - shoehorning Coop & other aspects of the larger TP story into what was essentially Laura's personal tale - quickly became his preferred narrative method: telling two seemingly different yet interrelated stories in a single film (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire). One of many ways in which practical storytelling challenges in Twin Peaks & FWWM ended up setting the template for Lynch's later works.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby N. Needleman » Sun Apr 26, 2015 2:36 pm

I love the opening, I think it's essential. There's so much mystery, so much of a broader universe in it that slowly narrows itself down to one young girl in trouble.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sun Apr 26, 2015 2:59 pm

As for the angels, I think that's definitely part of it. Especially considering that Lynch seems to have incorporated the angels after discussions with his actresses who felt the ending was too grim and Sheryl Lee in particular wanting Laura to experience some hope. It's like the "Lynch-God" (a term I heard once and liked) bestowing his blessing in his creation and almost apologizing for bringing her such suffering (think like God showing Noah the rainbow after the flood). I'm sure all of Lynch's characters are special to him but Laura seems to have been extra-special.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby MasterMastermind » Sun Apr 26, 2015 3:13 pm

N. Needleman wrote:I love the opening, I think it's essential. There's so much mystery, so much of a broader universe in it that slowly narrows itself down to one young girl in trouble.


And it really drives home the question of Who Killed Teresa Banks.
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby mukuro » Sun Apr 26, 2015 7:48 pm

I think I like it more as a standalone film. The tone and feel of the movie is so far removed from the TV series that it feels seriously disjointed. That may partially be due to the fact that the lions share of the TV series was only loosely controlled by Lynch(he directed only 3 episodes, right?).
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Re: Fire Walk With Me as a standalone film (&/or seeing it 1

Postby fearltd » Sun Apr 26, 2015 7:50 pm

mukuro wrote:I think I like it more as a standalone film. The tone and feel of the movie is so far removed from the TV series that it feels seriously disjointed. That may partially be due to the fact that the lions share of the TV series was only loosely controlled by Lynch(he directed only 3 episodes, right?).


Lynch directed eight hours of the series...

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