Time: 134 minutes
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer
Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
David Bowie as Special Agent Phillip Jeffries
Moira Kelly as Donna Hayward
Chris Isaak as Special Agent Chester Desmond
Harry Dean Stanton as Carl Rodd
Director: David Lynch
In the folksy town of Deerfield, Wash., FBI Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak) inexplicably disappears while hunting for the man who murdered a teen girl. The killer is never apprehended, and, after experiencing dark visions and supernatural encounters, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) chillingly predicts that the culprit will claim another life. Meanwhile, in the similarly cozy town of Twin Peaks, hedonistic beauty Lara Palmer (Sheryl Lee) hangs with lowlifes and seems destined for a grisly fate.
Twin Peaks was one of those shows I was late to watching, but once I started, it quickly became one of my favourite TV shows. I knew that the initial run of the show wasn’t the only piece of Twin Peaks media, I then moved onto the film Fire Walk with Me was next, a prequel to the show with particularly emphasis on Laura Palmer before her death. It was also received poorly upon its release but gained a cult following over the years. I heard some great things about it but Fire Walk with Me really surprised me. Its not only one of David Lynch’s best, but also one of my favourite movies.
As I said, Fire Walk with Me is a prequel to Twin Peaks and in hearing that, some might be tempted to watch it before seeing the show, but I wouldn’t recommend that. While its certainly possible to watch the movie first, it just wouldn’t have the same effect; it plays a lot better when you know about the characters and how they intersect with Laurie, along with knowing what happens. Besides, for those not familiar Twin Peaks, much of the movie would probably come across as a bit baffling considering it plays with strange elements which are quite common through the show (The Black Lodge being an example). Given that Twin Peaks was cancelled after the second season, David Lynch seemed to intend this movie to also serve as a sendoff, and I think it works well as that. Most other filmmakers would’ve just shoved in fan service, but Lynch knows what he is doing. The movie initially begins with a focus on FBI agents as they investigate soon to be killer of Laura Palmer. I like this section, but initially I was wondering the purpose of this segment, especially as I thought that Laura was going to be the main focus of the film. It took away from the flow of the movie a bit, but it eventually paid off, and after 30 minutes it shifts to Laura Palmer.
Fire Walk with Me is very much Laura Palmer’s story as it shows her downward spiral and her final days in life. The show in its two-season run presented you an image of Laura Palmer, we spent two seasons not knowing about Laura except for what people remember about her. The movie on the other hand actually shows you what happened with her and everything that she went through; the show might’ve mentioned what happened, but as shown here, it was way worse. You can tell it is Twin Peaks, but the tone in the movie is incredibly different to the show. Twin Peaks leaned into the comedic and weird elements. FWWM stays with the darker elements and discards the melodramatic and humorous tone of the show, playing everything straight. Fire Walk with Me really has some of Lynch’s darkest work, it definitely wouldn’t have worked as a show at the time, especially with network television filters. It is constantly unsettling, there is a sense of dread right from the start, especially when you know what happens to Laura. Connections to the TV series aside, it is a breakdown of the human psyche, and it’s an emotionally devastating one at that. Laura’s death is not treated as some big twist or spoiler, but instead as a tragic inevitability, and this is indeed Lynch’s most tragic film.
The acting is great from everyone. You get some newer Twin Peaks actors involved like Kiefer Sutherland, and even David Bowie makes an appearance. A large part of the cast is made up of returning Twin Peaks actors, it even finds a way to utilise Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Out of the supporting cast though, its probably Ray Wise who stands out the most as Leland Palmer (Laura’s father), he’s phenomenal here. With all that being said, this really is Sheryl Lee’s movie. We’ve only seen little bits of her as Laura Palmer in the first two seasons of the show, but here she delivers quite possibly the best performance in anything that David Lynch has made. Laura was a bit of an enigma in the show but in the movie she’s a fully realised human being, and Lee brought that incredibly well. It feels so real and raw, and she perfectly conveys Laura’s emotions and struggle with inner demons. Sheryl Lee definitely deserved a lot more acclaim for her work here.
While you can tell that the movie is very reminiscent of the show, its still distinctly a David Lynch directed movie. There’s a dreamlike atmosphere but it definitely leans more on the nightmarish side. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the imagery is memorable and disturbing, while not falling into being for cheap shocks. Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti returns to make the score for this movie, and as expected he gives some great work here. It is softer, but fitting for the tragic story, with the opening theme particularly setting the tone for the rest of the movie.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a fantastic film. It’s a great prequel to the main show, and was in itself a fantastic and disturbing portrayal of trauma and grief. Dark, surreal and harrowing, its riveting, visually stunning, and is very well performed, especially from a phenomenal Sheryl Lee. I highly recommend watching it after watching Twin Peaks, and I consider it to be one of David Lynch’s best work.