Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Directed by David Lynch
One of the many positive effects of the impending return of Twin Peaks to the television airwaves is in bringing—on its 25th-anniversary year, no less—Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me back into wider public consciousness, thus opening it up to the reassessment it so richly deserves after its lackluster reception back in 1992. Naturally, David Lynch being the uncompromisingly idiosyncratic auteur that he is, the opening half-hour of this prequel to the groundbreaking 1990-91 TV series is full of his familiar quirks: ironic twists on genre tropes, conventional dialogue scenes played deliberately for eerie affect, and some of the most surreal imagery this side of Salvador Dalí and Maya Deren.
But if, in the TV series and in features like Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, Lynch could be accused of using black humor as a crutch to evade the darker aspects of his inherently disturbing material, in Fire Walk With Me he eventually drops that ironic distance almost entirely as he shows us, step by horrifying step, what Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) went through just before the murder that riveted a whole nation for one-and-a-half TV seasons. More than making the evil lurking underneath the picture-postcard surfaces of an all-American town truly, unsettlingly visceral, Lynch forces us to confront the physical and psychological struggles of a teenager with a tragic awareness of the evil not only around her, but inside herself.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is one of the greatest horror films ever made precisely because its horrors come from within as well as without. Only in death is Laura Palmer finally able to escape, with Lynch sending her off with a profoundly heartfelt vision of spiritual transcendence, of our heroine—having finally made peace with the dueling sides of herself—achieving grace through purifying laughter. Kenji Fujishima (May 12, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm at BAM’s “Peak Performances”)