|Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2002|
The films of David Lynch are an acquired taste. Some people find them lyrically nightmarish, while others – even fans of cinematic bad dreams – can be entertained by some of the quirks and impressed by the creepiness, while still so irritated by the bouts of character hysteria and irrationality, and the ultimate impenetrability of events, that they fail to be won over. Once in awhile, of course, Lynch either functions as a hired gun (his film "The Elephant Man" is a case in point) or simply more or less colors within the lines of linear narrative ("Wild at Heart," "Blue Velvet"), but his surreal streak is pretty dedicated.
Reportedly, even the conventions of network series TV didn’t make Lynch completely fall into line, which may be why his suspense/quasi-supernatural drama "Twin Peaks" (co-created with Mark Frost) only lasted for 29 episodes, despite critical acclaim and a fan base that’s still passionate over 10 years after the end of the original run. Not having seen much of the series, I cannot write authoritatively about how well the 1992 feature film "Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me" recaptures the tone of the show, though from all reports, it seems pretty much in keeping with what went before.
Or rather, "Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me" is in keeping with what came after, at least storywise. At this point, a number of feature films have been made from TV series (the "Star Trek" franchise is the most obvious example), but all of these take place as sequels to the events in the televised version. "Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me" is instead a prequel to the TV show, depicting incidents, real, surreal and possibly supernatural, leading up to the series’ central event, the murder of beautiful high school girl Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).
In "Fire Walk," directed by Lynch and written by Lynch & Robert Engels, after a shocking (visually, aurally and dramatically) murder in Chapter 1, two FBI agents (Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak) eventually travel to the small, outwardly pretty but inwardly seething Washington State town of Twin Peaks to investigate. There they find vague clues about the vanishing of a colleague (David Bowie) who has been missing for a year. When the two FBI agents also disappear, FBI agent Dale Cooper (series regular Kyle MacLachlan) is sent in to find out what happened to them. Cooper, mildly psychic, foresees that more murders will occur. Meanwhile, Laura is having terrible problems of her own: a control-freak father (Ray Wise), a cocaine habit and nocturnal visitations from a lustful, threatening wild man called Bob who may or may not be real. Laura and Dale both have visions of a strange, red-curtained room where ominous figures talk in slowed-down, subtitled speech.
Done straight, this could all be engrossing, but Lynch and Engels like to go off on tangents for effect. They also present central character Laura as someone we can’t get to know – she cries, screams and freaks out so much that while we pity her when she’s victimized, we never feel much actual sympathy for her. As we spend a lot of time with Laura, the fact that she’s not good company will be a problem for a number of viewers, though others will enjoy Lynch’s trippy set-ups and unpredictable visuals. An interpretive dance in Chapter 2 that’s a source of information for the two FBI agents actually grows more whimsical and appealing as it’s explained to us, and there are other moments of amusement, excitement and real fear, but for those who ultimately like something a little more linear even in their nightmare fare, these high points tend to be flattened by the overall bad acid trip effect of the pacing and the details.
The dialogue on the DTS track is almost consistently low in the mix, except when characters are deliberately raising their voices – which happens often, either because they want to seem important or because they’re dealing with other characters who are hard of hearing. Dimensional effects are rare, with perhaps the most distinctive being some jolting gunshots and a school bell heard in Chapter 30 that hews to the right main; there’s also a nice encompassing jet plane roar in Chapter 21 that becomes a realistic low drone. Crashes during a fatal assault in Chapter 1 are startling and horrific (primarily in the center and mains). Chapter 10 has a fairly realistic elevator rumble and Chapters 15 and 18 have a sudden, scary speaker-rattling jolt during what appears to be a burst of character possession. In Chapter 19, dialogue modulation is a little poor – a character’s screams result in a bit of electronic screech, though a similar scream in Chapter 32 sounds fine and human without any kind of congestive effect in the speakers.
Visually, the DVD transfer looks good, allowing for deliberate special effects that cause the picture to fog, blur and break up like a TV screen displaying video static in places. Chapter 8 has lovely, differentiated greens in an establishing shot of the forest, and Chapter 24 has powerful color separations in a sequence where a blue spotlight carves out its own territory in a screen otherwise awash in red light.
The special features here include a lengthy videotaped documentary of interviews with many of the cast and crew (though Lynch is absent). The actors talk about their overall careers, as well as their "Twin Peaks" experiences. Oddly enough, the DVD does not include a feature that is virtually standard – there is no chapter search/scene selection, so moving to specific chapters can only be achieved with the skip forward/backward buttons on the remote.
"Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me" will likely delight those who loved the series. For others, this is a reasonable diversion you’re in the mood for ambiguous fare that succeeds in being often unsettling and occasionally scary, though never gripping.