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The Cycles of Abuse and The Symbolic Keys to Laura Palmer's Murder.,
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This review is from: Twin Peaks - Fire Walk with Me (DVD)
This film should be viewed as an addendum to the entire Two Season epic television series TWIN PEAKS. (They've finally worked all the bugs out of the TWIN PEAKS - THE DEFINITIVE GOLD BOX EDITION, which is a worthwhile purchase for all Lynch fans.) When viewing David Lynch's brilliantly underrated prequel TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME, it is important to understand some key elements to Lynchean symbolism. David Lynch is an adherent of Eastern Vedic philosophy and meditation. Along with Eastern Vedic thought, Lynch also mixes shamanism and Christian mysticism into the much bigger cauldron of "The Perennial Philosophy." (A term made popular in 1945 by Aldous Huxley's book by the same name.) The Perennial Philosophy is the recurrence of all universal religious or mystical truths inherently found in most cultures.
The Dreaming World: To mystics and shamans of countless cultures, the dreaming world is just as important as, if not more important than, the waking world. It is the place where the subconscious is free to associate with the superconscious mind, or the source of all consciousness. Like the dreaming world, the waking world is also a construct of perception. Pictures, images, and symbols. This is why it is hard to separate the dream world, or non-reality, from normal reality in most of Lynch's work. Dreams and normal reality are one and the same. The building blocks of the phenomenal world are illusive and illusory constructs. The pictures and images we witness as reality are essentially the same as the pictures and images we witness as dreams or non-reality. They are only constructs of consciousness. They are transitory states of perception that rise and fall out of emptiness.
Like many other Lynch films, FIRE WALK WITH ME depicts the dual nature of a waking and dreaming world. These two worlds do not separate in The Lynchean Universe.
Not all, but some of the actors from the TWIN PEAKS television series, and most of the critics, felt that Lynch had lost something with this film that was a part of the original television series: the dark underbelly of evil that was hidden just beneath the surface of a small idyllic town in Northern Washington. They felt that the film was too "in your face." (See the documentary on this disc.) While it is hard to witness, it was important for Lynch to pull no punches in depicting the events of Laura Palmer's tragic murder. Although it appears as such, the abuse and destruction of Laura Palmer is not a bogeyman lurking beneath her bed. It is the beast in man displayed in full form, breathing his foul stench into the face of the innocent. It is the curdled cream that floats to the top of a festering cup of evil coffee. A damn fine cup of evil coffee. It is not a story to be presented delicately or to be brushed under the rug to make it more palatable. It is a story of abuse that happens everyday. It depicts the harrowing, violation, and destruction of an innocent girl. Because of Sheryl Lee's brave and amazing performance, it is an extremely effective film. Psychologically and emotionally.
The film begins with the investigation into the murder of Laura Palmer's friend Teresa Banks, and takes place one year before the final days of Laura's life. The beginning of the film seems tacked on and unrelated to the events that take up the majority of the film one year later. But, this prologue is not superfluous. It is important to understand the symbolism of The Disappearing Agents. (See below.)
The symbol of The Doors: Doors are used by Lynch as symbols for entering into and out of subconscious memories, the hidden aspects of the psychological mind, the dreaming world, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.
The symbols of dream color: Dream colors are important to understanding Lynch. In dream sybolism, the color "blue" symbolizes truth, eternity, emotion, the feminine, and Heaven. Blue angels respresent guardian spirits or the super-ego. Blue light represents truth, enlightenment, Heaven, Nibbana (blowing out the FIRES of greed, hatred, and delusion), or Nirvana. I don't fully understand the meaning of the Blue Rose. Agent Cooper, referring to the murder of Teresa Banks says, "This is one of Gordon's Blue Rose cases." What does he mean? As blue can also represent sadness, it may signify the murder of a lonely girl, unclaimed by family or friends. The color "red" symbolizes power, anger, hatred, the id, primal and sexual urges, the masculine, and Hell.
The symbols of The Black Lodge and The Red Room: The Black Lodge represents the purgatory of samsara, ignorance, or the blinding ego of the self. The Red Room in the Black Lodge represents the lowest level of the self in The Black Lodge. The id, the primal self, animal urges, suffering, murder, or Hell. (Briefly, because it is not mentioned in FWWM, The White Lodge represents escape from samsara, egoless enlightenment, Nirvana, or Heaven.)
The symbols of The Demons: Bob is not presented as a symbol, but as a physical entity. Bob is an entity that feeds on fear, pain, and sorrow. "Garmonbozia." As a symbol, The Demon Bob represents the id, primal animal instinct, suffering, and/or pure evil. The Boy in the Mask (The Jumping Man) represents the fusion of the Leland/Bob personality. The monkey behind the mask represents Leland's primal self. Bob as his dark half. The incestuous and animal urges of Leland's id. The dwarf, or Man from Another Place represents the missing arm of The One Armed Man (Philip Gerard). The dwarf is The One Armed Man's connection to his base or animal self, The Red Room, and to Bob. He is still partly trapped in that world by his own karma. (At one time, The One Armed Man committed atrocities with Bob. Or, was possessed by Bob.) Other demons may represent other hidden aspects of the primal mind.
The symbol of Bob as psychological denial: Unfortunately, Laura is in many ways a victim of forces beyond her control (rape and incest). This makes her journey even more frightening and sad. The manifestation of Bob represents Laura's psychological denial of her incestuous rape by Leland. The memory of Leland raping Laura since she was 12 years old, is replaced with the image of Bob as her attacker. Instead of fleeing from the years of abuse, Laura hides her true self inside her secret diary. As do most victims of abuse, Laura escapes psychological and physical torment into a world of self-abuse, drugs (cocaine), alcohol, and prostitution. (Sometimes victims of abuse will cut themsleves, which thankfully, Lynch does not portray here. )Years of abuse become psychological transference. Laura feels she doesn't deserve love on any level. She is empty and worthless. She becomes a self-loathing symbol of sexual lust, perversion, and desire to men. In the days proceeding her death, her choices are becoming limited, and her destiny is almost etched in stone. A force of karma that must be played out. In the most profound scene of the entire film, before heading into the hedonistic Pink Room, Laura receives a warning from The Log Lady about the path she has chosen to continue upon, which is only partly, of her own making. It is heartbreaking.
"When this kind of fire starts. it is very hard to put out. The tender bows of innocence burn first and the wind rises - then all goodness is in jeopardy."
Eventually, Leland/Bob finds Laura's diary, steals her true self, and shatters her identity completely. Only after many years of psychological trauma and denial, does Laura finally realize that Bob is actually her father Leland. Innocence is completely destroyed. Laura gives in to utter abandonment and fear, which leaves her defenseless against her total destruction. That fear is completely devoured by Bob, who only exists to feed on fear.
The symbols of The Pictures: The original picture that hangs upon the wall of Laura's bedroom depicts children being served food by a guardian angel. This picture represents the love, warmth, comfort, and protection of home, which is disappearing for Laura. The other picture given to her by The Demons from The Black Lodge, which she later hangs upon her wall, depicts an empty room with an open door. This picture represents the Door to Hell. The disappearance of the guardian angel from the original picture on her bedroom wall symbolizes a point of no return for Laura. Laura's descent has taken her so far down the road to Hell that her guardian angel spirit (also symbolized by Agent Dale Cooper) can no longer save her from her fate, karma, or destiny. The second picture or symbol, supplants or usurps the original. Once Laura is pictured inside the door, there is no return. She will die.
The symbol of The Guardian Angel: A recurrent symbol for Lynch. By the end of the film, Ronette Polaski's guardian angel appears to her, as Laura is being murdered by Leland/Bob, and spares her from Laura's fate. (Ronette is later found alive in the TV series.) Only after Laura dies is she visited in the Red Room by her guardian angel and Agent Cooper. She then realizes that her pain and sorrow has reached an end. She will be released from puragtory, samsara, and suffering. A better world awaits her on the other side.
The symbols of The Green Ring and The Disappearing Agents: Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak) is transported to the Black Lodge after finding The Green Ring under the trailer and bending over to pick it up. Like the Door to Hell picture, The Green Ring symbolizes a path of no return. When Laura puts it on, she will die. Green symbolizes a "going out," traveling, or leaving this world. The disappearance of Agent Jeffries (David Bowie) and Agent Desmond symbolize the good men who investigate these horrible crimes. They are transported into a psychological Hell, from which there is little or no escape. These are men that risk their own sanity and psychological well being in their battle with evil forces, and their search for justice. (In the series, while inside The Black Lodge, Agent Cooper agrees to trade his soul to Windom Earle for Annie Blackburn's. Annie's murdered image appears briefly in FWWM. Cooper himself becomes possessed by Bob at the end of the series. Too bad we never got to see where that journey would lead.) I choose to believe that the disappearing agents are Lynch's symbolic homage to them. They are the brave ones that walk around inside the psyches of these demons. Sometimes, they never return from the Hell of what they've seen. Hence, their disappearance in this film.
There are animals rapists, demons, and monsters that walk among us. FIRE WALK WITH ME is an amazing metaphor for the destructive power they possess over their innocent victims. The victims can either be total strangers, or the immediate family members of these evil beings. The abused often become the abusers, and if not completely destroyed, often continue a neverending cycle of abuse and destruction. These themes are as just as profound today as when Lynch made this film. These monsters continue to walk among us.
The DVD includes a great documentary with the reflections of the cast and crew on the entire TWIN PEAKS phenomenon. It also includes some online features which I have not perused. As with most Lynch films, the DVD is not divided into chapters.
A very powerful film about a very dark subject. And, one of Lynch's best.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 9, 2009 8:50:40 AM PDT
You make a good case for a movie I did not think highly of when I saw it, I will revisit; there is a rumor Lynch was compelled to hack this down from a longer version that may have been better than this one; I felt on my single viewing FWWM had a disjointed, choppy quality that was separate from Lynch's usual dream-like storytelling.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2009 8:01:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 9, 2009 8:23:03 PM PDT
Thanks, Tom. A lot of people dislike FWWM. Understandable. Being a huge fan of the series, I thought it was a wonderful prologue. It's one of my favorite Lynch films. It is bone chilling.
The film is almost 2 1/2 hours. After having a moment of clarity about the disjointed beginning, it became almost a perfect film for me. I marked one continuity error. Lynch never shows Leland/Bob placing the micro letter under Laura's fingernail. Maybe it was cut. I may be nitpicking. I'm not sure it was that important to the narrative. Lynch jump cuts from Laura's murder to Leland dragging her body out of the train car. This event obviously happens off camera.
The dream image that struck me as odd and brilliant was showing Annie Blackburn's murdered body in Laura's bed. She says, "The good Agent Cooper is in The Black Lodge. Write it down in your diary." As far as I can recall, Annie was not murdered and had not even met Agent Cooper yet. I must assume this was a future warning to Agent Cooper who would later read Laura's diary in the series. Awesome detail.
Had a chance to view MD and LH again. I did make sense out the main theme in MD. It was kind of an epiphany. It is a film about psychological transference. You are lead to believe that one actress is the same character in and out of her dream, but she tranfers her image to her lesbian lover, which I thought was quite brilliant after all. Some of the symbolism still eludes me. I figured out almost the entire film the second time I viewed it. I was wrong, it does make sense, but it's an extremely complicated film. It doesn't possess the cinematic brilliance of some of his other work. As another reviewer said, (and I'm paraphrasing), it does come off as a very under-produced television show. For some reason it has a very dull television sheen to it. If that makes any sense.
However, you were right about LH. I think it's a better film than MD. I did obtain some very good clues to it's meaning from one very astute reviewer here on Amazon about it's dream narrative. But, what really surprised me was the way Lynch composed most of that film. Wow. Brilliant. The first time I viewed it was on a rented pan and scan video tape when it first came out. Ho-hum. Recently, I tried to view it again after many years, from a non-Hi Def broadcast on some movie channel. I fell asleep. Then I bought the DVD. Holy mackerel the DVD looks gorgeous on my plasma! Beautiful work. I really enjoyed it. I think that after a few more viewings, it may become a favorite. Too bad Patricia Arquette's performance is not as good as the rest of the cast. But, what a great set of knockers... Phew! I don't remember those scenes. No wonder you were tripping when you met her. I would have probably drooled on her.
Thanks for the heads up.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2009 6:30:26 AM PDT
Like most movie stars when met in the flesh, Patty A. was cute but somewhat ordinary looking. My favorite encounter with a starlet when I was working in the same record store was when Winona Ryder came in and approached me at the counter for product info. This was in her early '90's peak, circa Age of Innocence and Reality Bites, when I was totally enamored of her. She was actually more stunning in the flesh than on screen. I found myself physically incapable of waiting on her, grabbed a clerk to do the job and fled to the back room rather than stand there gawking and stammering while she tried to order the latest Sub Pop limited edition vinyl 45.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2009 9:23:01 AM PDT
Haha. Did she try to steal anything from the store?
I've done a lot of extra work, and had a scene in a movie with Mel Gibson that was summarily cut. (Too weird, or I just suck as an actor. The director wrote me a letter saying it wasn't my performance, but I think he was lying just to be nice.) Actresses always look better in person. Everyone does. TV and film can really alter a person's appearance. I was really floored by how gorgeous Julia Roberts was in person. Really stunning. And Kelly Lynch.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2009 2:10:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 10, 2009 2:15:41 PM PDT
I pondered then avoided the shoplifting joke,out of chivalry,which I am a great believer in. And she could have made off with half the store, for all I cared.
Stars in person... in the early '90's, I was going to a sunday bbq at someone's house I didn't know, and the mom-in-jeans bringing the groceries into the house next door was Diane Lane, who was so astoundingly gorgeous that I walked into a tree while attempting to negotiate the driveway while gawking. I really must have looked like Jerry Lewis. She laughed. It may have been the best moment of my entire life.
Posted on Dec 10, 2009 1:29:49 PM PST
I saw this movie when it was first released - I was about 16 at the time. It was so intriguing and so oddly captivating. I bought the vhs tape when it became available and probably watched it a dozen times. Wanted to say thanks for shedding new light on some of the remaining obscurities within the film. Your review is spot-on and full of useful and poignant insight. I have no choice but to view FWWM again.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2009 8:12:58 PM PST
Thank You, FT.
I'm glad I could shed some light on understanding Lynch.
Go forth and enjoy.
Posted on Jan 6, 2010 10:59:00 AM PST
Mark Blackburn says:
Good review! Informed, informative -- fun to read too!
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2010 8:32:10 AM PST
Thank You, Mark.
I appreciate that. Much thought went into the writing of this review.
Posted on Aug 30, 2010 9:39:48 PM PDT
Miss Selenie says:
I am currently revisiting this movie as it as long been one of my favorite movies. I found it heartbreaking and Sheryl Lee's performance is unbelievable! My two favorite scenes are 1) after Leland tells Laura he loves her, she looks up at the angel picture and asks, "Is it true?" and 2) when she screams, "I love you, James!" and runs away. I just wanted to say thanks for a really thoughtful, insightful, articulate review. It makes of a lot of sense! :)