Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
May 13, 2017 8:11 PM - Subscribe

A young FBI agent disappears while investigating the strange murder of a transient teenage girl in rural Oregon. One year later, in a small town not far away, another teenage girl born into privilege is living a double life, on the verge of losing herself totally in a blaze of sex, drugs, abuse and degradation.

The film was booed upon its premiere at 1992's Cannes Film Festival, panned by critics around the globe, and turned away audiences in droves. Now that Twin Peaks: The Return is one week away from premiering worldwide, perhaps it's time for a re-examination. Certainly it's time to discuss it on FanFare!

Available in the United States through Hulu with the Showtime add-on; other territories may have it available for streaming through other services. If you have a physical media copy of this, well, aren't you lucky.
posted by infinitewindow (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This film was compromised by the backlash against the second season of Twin Peaks and its stars' reluctance to be typecast or held back by the show's mindshare. And yet, despite the obvious last-minute alterations, the cast and crew succeeded in sewing together the complicated pattern of small-town quirks, generational feuds, simple pleasures and otherworldly intrigues of the show into a garment that fits its heroine very well indeed. The film is the hidden emotional core of the series; fearless love even in the face of sadistic doom, a sacred spring resurgent in spite of being buried under unspeakable secrets.

While it's not the intersectional feminist work many hope for today, the film was firmly #YesAllMen some fifteen years before the first hashtag. This is the framework of criticism that interests me most these days.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:29 PM on May 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Crazy! Just did a rewatch around the same time you posted this. So much doesn't hold up as a traditional movie for me; the pacing of the first 20 minutes or so before you enter Laura's world feel like a parody of a television show.

Somehow, I missed the release of the deleted scenes from the movie and I feel like a bad internet person.

David Lynch loves a dead woman.

Sheryl Lee was an Olympian screamer in the movie.
posted by armacy at 5:54 AM on May 14, 2017

Friends and I saw this movie opening weekend and had the theater to ourselves.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:27 AM on May 14, 2017

I just finished watching the blu-ray a few minutes ago. This was the first time I'd seen the proper version with subtitles during the loud club scene. My UK VHS version never had subtitles. For years I thought that was deliberate.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 12:27 PM on May 14, 2017

I was watching with subtitles on recently (for non-deaf reasons) and saw some dialog I'd never heard clearly before: the accusations of Gerard at the traffic light, and Bob's delight in the train car at being discovered. "I never knew you knew it was me!" he cackles; I'd only ever heard "you knew it was me!"
posted by infinitewindow at 3:58 PM on May 14, 2017

Just rewatched again last night at one of the filming sites as part of a relaunch event, then rewatched The Missing Pieces today. My feelings about the movie have always been conflicted and they remain so. I have seen it multiple times but even as a diehard fan I don't watch it often. I don't think the film can stand on its own without the context of the show. Those who approach it simply as a film without having seen the show, or those new viewers who watch it first will find the already challenging material to be even more so. There were definitely unprepared viewers present last night and we lost some after the convenience store scene and even more after the Pink Room. Yet, if one must watch the show first then you may find that the film lacks the very elements you have fallen in love with.
I don't share Lynch's need to depict Laura's last seven days. Sometimes a little mystery is better than seeing all and knowing all. All of that said, I do feel that the film is powerful and tells a powerful and emotional story. It introduces interesting new mythology (that will be relevant in season three). On the whole, it does indeed add to Twin Peaks. loses viewers in so many ways. It loses the viewers who don't have the context of the show. It loses the viewers who don't find the quirky humor and familiar characters. It loses the viewers who are shocked by the material (sex, drugs, abuse, strangeness, etc.).
The Missing Pieces improves things a fair bit. Most characters are restored (except for the Hornes). Some humor is restored. Some plot developments are stitched together more fully. I haven't watched it all in one extended cut - I'm not sure it would work.
In the end, I like the film. I don't know that I would tell random strangers that it is a "good" film, but it is essential for the Twin Peaks fan.
I have some other comments about the depiction of sexual abuse, but I'm not sure I would share them in this particular forum. And this comment is already long enough.
posted by kreinsch at 6:01 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kid and I are set to watch this on Wednesday (we finished the series today).

I know I'm in the minority, but I actually appreciated FWWM as a standalone movie. Separated from the mythology of the show, it's about a young woman who has been sexually abused by her father for years and tries to cope by psychologically disassociating her father into Leland and Bob. And lots of cocaine. It is really powerful and hard as hell to watch.

But even within the mythos of the show, I think it's important. Laura Palmer was always dead on the show and we never really got to know her as a living person. Everyone loved her. Why? She was self-destructive. Why? Once the killer was revealed, things moved on quickly. Oh, her dad repeatedly raped her before he killed her, but he was possessed by an evil spirit so whatever and hey look, Windom Earle!

It's an uncomfortable movie and I think it should be.
posted by Ruki at 7:48 PM on May 14, 2017 [9 favorites]

I just watched this this weekend too. It doesn't make any sense to me to try to watch it outside the context of the show, but I still think it's a good movie all in all, albeit not one that I feel up for watching very often. It's got maybe one of my favorite single shots in it where Donna is being taken out of the Pink Room and we see from her perspective all the beer bottles and cigarette butts on the floor of the bar, and it's got a lot of my favorite scenes from the series as a whole, like the confrontation with Mike and the crazy David Bowie bit at the beginning. "Who do you think this is there?"

It also puts an interesting spin on the show overall, suggesting that the whole "Bob" thing is not really a case of demon possession so much as a coping mechanism that Laura comes up with to deal with the horrifying abuse she suffers at the hands of her father (who was himself abused by the original Bob out at his lake house, or so the show heavily implies). The demon bit can be read as a metaphor for sexual abuse and how victims become victimizers in their turn.

I can see how audiences would be upset by this movie if they were going in expecting a bunch of kooky hijinks and Dick Tremayne, Men's Fashion and wound up instead watching the harrowing story of how a high school girl is driven to drugs to escape her abuse and ultimately raped and murdered by her own father.

I don't share Lynch's need to depict Laura's last seven days. Sometimes a little mystery is better than seeing all and knowing all.

I agree with you about the mystery part - I'm currently reading Mark Frost's Secret History of Twin Peaks, and it's basically "you know what would make Twin Peaks more interesting? If it was The X-Files, and everything happened because of UFOs!" But I think the movie did do a much better job of depicting Laura Palmer as a character than the show did, and it gave Sheryl Lee a chance to demonstrate her acting chops in a way she never got to do on the show.

I normally find James Hurley scenes to be about as useful as a waterproof towel, but the infamous "like a turkey in the corn" scene actually did demonstrate how Laura tries on different roles with different people - with James she's trying on "lovesick teenager" and not doing a terribly good job, with Bobby she's the bad girl, with Donna she's the domestic best friend. It's easy to read this as another attempt to escape, and try to be a different person who the abuse isn't happening to. By the end, with her father revealed as the abuser and her mask starting to slip, she tells James "your Laura disappeared. It's just me now." I don't know if I would find the Laura Palmer on the show to be nearly as convincing of a character without the depiction in the movie.
posted by whir at 10:03 AM on May 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think sometimes that this might be the saddest film ever made.
posted by dng at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

It is very much a deeply sad movie.

I probably won't rewatch this till season three gets its time in. It was too much a sucker punch the last time.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 9:24 PM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just watched last night, only the second time I've seen it. The first was when it actually came out. I remember not really liking it then, not really getting it, but now I think I understand why. Back then there was no easy way to re-watch any of the show before seeing the movie, and I see now just how deeply you need to remember parts of the show to recognize them in this. Like the old lady and the little boy - it's the lady with the creamed corn from meals on wheels, who when they go back to her house hadn't lived there in years.

I was reading an article yesterday - can't seem to find it now - which made the connection that the arrival of Agend Desmond at the sheriff's office is like a twisted reverse image of Cooper arriving in Twin Peaks. Blond, quirky, high-voiced receptionist, bumbling deputy, and gruff sheriff. The pattern is the same but instead of the honest and cooperative folk of Twin Peaks, here they're corrupt and oppositional. I don't think I understood that sort of connection to the series originally, since most of the show was no longer fresh in my mind. I see it much better now.
posted by dnash at 8:38 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Due to Kid's schedule, we only got to watching this today.

"I never knew you knew it was me!" he cackles; I'd only ever heard "you knew it was me!"

Isn't the line actually "I always thought you knew it was me."? The subtitles for the show were horrible, so I can't imagine the movie subtitles would be much better.
posted by Ruki at 5:46 PM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ruki, Leland says "I always thought you knew it was me" just before BOB chortles in his glee.

I cannot imagine watching this with my parents or a child (I have no children). I first saw it when I was fourteen and have been grappling with it ever since, the way people sometimes do with Things and Events. How did Kid handle it?
posted by infinitewindow at 11:16 PM on May 21, 2017

How did Kid handle it?

We had a long talk before we watched it. I warned the Kid that the movie was dark and difficult and not like the tv show. We talked about sexual assault and all of it. We paused frequently to talk things through.

Kid handled it fine. The important takeaway was the ending. In life, Laura Palmer thought she was bad and broken but the angel proved otherwise, which made Laura laugh and cry in delight. So we talked about that after, and I think it's a good life lesson for a 15 year old. Bad things happening to you does not make you a bad person.

Kid and I are very close, unusually so for a teenager and parent at this point in life. I was only 22 when Kid was born, and I often say that we grew up together. I've been open about my life and past traumas, and Kid has replied in kind. I'm 38 today (it's my birthday!) and I wouldn't feel comfortable watching any of this with my mom even now.
posted by Ruki at 12:09 PM on May 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

I LOVED this movie as a teenager and was mystified as to why it was so universally hated. I hadn't watched it in years after having an INCREDIBLY AWKWARD second date where we were going to hang out at my apartment and watch a movie and my date chose THIS because she "had heard it was an interesting movie" and we were sitting on opposite ends of the couch, not making eye contact. I don't remember where I broke but I finally yelped, "OH MY GOD, CAN WE WATCH SOMETHING ELSE?!?!" and my date was like, "THANK CHRIST, YES." So, you know, it's not for everyone. Hee.

But I agree: it is so, so SO sad. I rewatched it last week and was just devastated. I had to pause it so I could sob during the scene after Leland freaks out at Laura over her "dirty fingernails" and then I guess he comes back to himself and goes to her room to tell her he loves her and he's crying and she's crying and it's just so tragic.

And I think the "dirty fingernails" scene is a good example of Lynch's sort of over-the-top direction where it really WORKS. Ray Wise is being so nasty and intimidating and so different from how Leland usually presents and Laura is just sitting there with her mouth hanging open in a rictus of horror and Sarah is screaming and it's just A LOT but it works.

And rewatching the movie, I find myself again wondering what they were going with in the character of James Hurley. Like, did they have a clear vision of the character and just cast a not-so-great actor? (Sorry, but he's just not good.) Or were they never sure what the wanted? He never comes off really as a bad boy, he never comes off as particularly sexy, I guess he seems nice? but dumb? I don't know.

And it could just be that I really like Moira Kelly and generally dislike Lara Flynn Boyle, but I really like Kelly's Donna in the movie.

I'd forgotten David Bowie was in it until he came staggering in! It was lovely to see him and what a wacky little performance. I loved it.
posted by Aquifer at 10:53 AM on May 30, 2017

The one "missing piece" that I sorta wish had stayed in the final film was a scene with the Palmers the day before the scene Aquifer mentions. Laura gets to play Slightly Rebellious Teenager, Sarah gets to play Attentive Concerned Mother, Leland gets to play Goofy Loving Dad, and everyone gets to laugh and be happy speaking broken Norwegian around the dinner table.

None of the Palmers are any of these characters, of course, and the released film eschews this depiction for a much more dramatic psychosexual introduction of Leland. Wise's retort "How do you know what she likes?" chills me every time.

Any interest in a separate post about The Missing Pieces? Should further discussion of the deleted scenes stay in this post?
posted by infinitewindow at 5:16 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just got around to re-watching this last night, and was surprised about how differently I understood it this time, as opposed to when it first came out. It is a really tragic portrait of an abusive family. There is that scene where she does a pile of drugs before going to bed, and we joked about it, like why would you do that when you are trying to go to sleep? But then the scene with bob happens, and it became clear that she did it in order to not disassociate when her abuser approaches, to be able to finally clearly face that is has been her father all along. It felt like a lot of the rest of the movie snapped into focus at that point.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:44 AM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I recently watched the original series and then this movie and was pretty disappointed. The things I liked about the original series were the quirky characters and humor. So much of that was missing for me. I believe it certainly misses Agent Cooper. For me his character was the heart of the show and obviously missing in the movie.
posted by Justin Case at 1:23 PM on September 5, 2017

I have just rewatched it this evening for the first time since the week it was released in 1992 (I am finally getting around to watching The Return and there were a few things that I knew vaguely were from FWWM that I was missing some context for, 28 years on).

I liked it much more this time than I did on my sole previous viewing but it really is a bit of a misfire, I think. The mixture of mysticism and small-town crime story works well when given the expanse of a season or two to play out, but trying to cram both into two hours is not successful. I feel like I could have watched either of the movies here with more satisfaction: either the one with garmonbozia and the teleporting David Bowie or else the harrowing tale of Laura Palmer’s final days, but together... well, I like liquorice and I like sharp cheese, but I can’t imagine they’d work together.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:55 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

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