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Still mesmerizing thirty years later, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” may just be David Lynch’s rawest and most expressive work to date.

Now more than thirty years old, David Lynch’s 1992 prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me remains a masterpiece. It may have explored Laura Palmer’s troubled and darkened journey, but as a stand-alone film, it shows how trauma shapes the reality of one’s own world.

The Last Days of Laura Palmer

Fire Walk With Me

Blue electric waves on the TV, luminous music, and the sound of screaming. Cut to a body wrapped in plastic floating in the lake. Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and coroner Agent Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) battle all the eccentric locals within Deer Meadow, Washington, in a quest to find out more about the murdered teenage drifter, Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley).

Lynch’s bizarre world of mysterious characters takes in all the magic of Fire: the strange dialogue, the pauses, the stares, the sarcasm, and tone-deaf strangers in repeating responses. My favorite idiosyncrasy is the tendency to ask questions immediately coupled with answers, as when waitress Irene (Sandra Kinder) exclaims, “Want to hear what the specials are? We don’t have any.”

All these nuisances stage the mysterious tone of what is to come.

The micro “T” paper is discovered under Bank’s ring fingernail. Agent Desmond soon vanishes after locating the missing emerald ring.

The trees sway from a stern wind. The forest is essentially its own character, both bewildering and beautiful — the dark unknown.

The past, current, and future all become scrambled. It’s a dark world that Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) can telekinetically connect to, the “Lodge” of puzzling supernatural spirits inhabited by Bob (Frank Silva) and the Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson).

One year later, Prom queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is walking to school; she’s sexually promiscuous, living a double life, and snorting cocaine in the bathroom before class.

Fulfilling her societal role of the beauty dating the jock, Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), she secretly carries on a tender affair with loner James (James Marshall). Her best friend, Donna Hayward (Moira Kelly), is mystified by all her secrets. Replacing Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna, Kelly’s softer performance is careful not to emulate Boyle’s.

At home, the path is no more straight and narrow than her social life.

Laura’s diary pages have been torn out.

The hallway fans and panning shots of whirring noises predict a dangerous atmosphere. A dark and dirty menacing predator hides in her room and comes through the window at night to sexually abuse her.

Laura’s father, Leland (Ray Wise), is captivating with his wild and scary emotional ranges. Fussing over Laura’s “dirty hands” and fingernails (great foreshadowing), he heartfully apologizes to Laura for his latest sin. Laura looks to the Angel in the painting given to her by the Chalfonts (Frances Bay, Jonathan J. Leppell), representing a victim’s state of confusion in the face of abuse and the betrayal of a trusted protector.

Entangled into a darker world of prostitution as payment for her addictions to dealer Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz), Laura’s descent is tragic.

She fluctuates between fiery hot and icy cold while among her friends, Donna, Bobby, and James.

Tagging along for the ride to an unknown sex bar, Donna is drugged for her protection. Cinematographer Ronald Victor Garcia captures the sexual curiosities and the vulnerability of Donna’s innocence against the lighting and hypnotic guitar riffs of “The Pink Room.”

Darker by the day, Leland is confronted with madness by The One-Armed Man (Al Strobel) amidst flashbacks showing his indiscretions.

Mary Sweeney’s editing of Laura’s last day at school is profound. The beauty of dissolves and the clocks that help visualize time moving slowly forward, masterfully reflecting the agony of holding in all those ruinous secrets.

Under the full moon at the train car, the eerie and intense act of murder is committed as the perpetrator shouts, “Don’t make me do this!” Laura’s wrapped body floats on the lake.

In the red room, Laura looks upon the Angel (Lorna MacMillan) with Dale. There is the release of tears, laughter, and safety. This moment would connect us back to the television series and set us up for season three twenty-five years later.

A Lasting Legacy

Twin Peaks was more than a quirky and bizarre Friday night soap opera. It became a cultural phenomenon.

The Twin Peaks Festival was held in Snoqualmie, Washington, where it was filmed with a global following for twenty-six years until its closure in 2019. Wrapped in Plastic, a magazine celebrating the series as well as Lynch himself, published seventy-five issues until 2005. Jennifer Lynch authored The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, reaching number four on the New York Times best-selling list for paperback fiction in 1990. There is now an incredible audiobook performance by Lee narrating the diary.

Accolades to co-writers Mark Frost (Executive Producer) and Robert Engels for carefully developing Laura’s multiple timelines. This gave Lee a disciplined perimeter to create emotionally.

Lee’s role as Laura Palmer was also an Oscar-worthy one. Unfortunately, that type of film would not transpose to the level of acceptance until Lynch’s style was taken seriously with Mulholland Drive. Cannes Film Festival premiered the film, and thankfully, the Independent Spirit Awards and Saturn Awards honored Lee’s performance with nominations in 1993.

The soundtrack for Fire Walk With Me feels like Angelo Badalamenti’s most emotional and personal work. The late maestro was the king of haunting and sultry with his scores. Who could ever forget Julee Cruise’s mesmerizing “Questions in a World of Blue” ballad at the Roadhouse?

Casting Director Johanna Ray knew how to bring in an eclectic ensemble cast together for Lynch’s unique world.

Sadly, several Twin Peaks family members have crossed over to the sycamore trees. R.I.P key players: Angelo Badalamenti, Frank Silva, Julee Cruise, Jack Nance, Miguel Ferrer, Walter Olkewicz, Peggy Lipton, Al Strobel, Warren Frost, Catherine E. Coulson, Don S. Davis, Frances Bay, and Pamela Gidley, among many more.

The Missing Pieces, a ninety-minute documentary of deleted scenes, is a bonus feature I recommend for serious fans.

But honestly, Fire Walk With Me is perfect the way it is, focusing on Laura’s last days and the characters connected to her, making the narrative more linear.

As an avid Twin Peaks enthusiast, I watched Fire Walk With Me twice in the theater back in 1992 and recently, with Sheryl and Dana Ashbrook both in attendance. There are more Kleenexes and emotions emerging from the audience today. With a budget of 10 million, the box office yielded less than half of that at 4.2 million. But what tanked at the box office has now earned its weight in gold with fan loyalty and appreciation. It has become the soul centerpiece for the series and still leaves its mark thirty years later.

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