Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

US movie (1992). Francis Bouygues/Ciby/Twin Peaks Productions. Pr Gregg Fienberg. Exec pr Mark Frost, David Lynch. Dir Lynch. Screenplay Robert Engels, Lynch. Based on The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer * (1990) by Jennifer Lynch, itself based on the tv series Twin Peaks. Starring Mädchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Michael J Anderson (Man From Another Place), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Phoebe Augustine (Ronette Pulaski), David Bowie (Phillip Jeffries), Lenny von Dohlen (Harold Smith), Pamela Gidley (Teresa Banks), Chris Isaak (Chester Desmond), Moira Kelly (Donna Hayward), Sandra Kinder (Arlene), Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer), Lynch (Chief Gordon Cole), Kyle MacLachlan (Special Agent Dale Cooper), James Marshall (James Hurley), Frank Silva (Bob), Harry Dean Stanton (Carl Rodd), Al Strobel (Philip Gerard, the One-Armed Man), Kiefer Sutherland (Sam Stanley), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer). 134 mins. Colour.

While the thrust of much Genre Fantasy is to render everyday the fantastic, that of the Twin Peaks tv series was to fantasticate the (possibly) mundane; although TP:FWWM (shot in tv rather than wide-screen format) might thus be regarded as a piece of Magic Realism, it is likely better treated as a fantasy of Perception or, taken more literally, as a self-parodic (> Parody) Beauty and the Beast fable, where Beauty is Laura Palmer and the Beast is both her father Leland and his bestial aspect, Bob (i.e., where the Beast lurks within the man rather than, as in the purer form of the fable, the man within the Beast). Recursive elements abound, many traceable to old movies; the most profound subtextual reference is to the Orpheus myth (debatably via the Jean Cocteau movie Orphée [1949]). TP:FWWM is also an exposition of Godel's Theorem, in that much of its axiomatic matter occurs off-screen.

Only the veneer of this very complicated movie can be summarized here; the discussion below should be read in conjunction with the entry on Twin Peaks. College girl Laura Palmer, Homecoming Queen, part-time prostitute and coke-addict, is both child/woman and virgin/whore, an incarnation of the Goddess. She has been debauched since age 12 by a mysterious entity called Bob; that entity she now discovers is (at least, identifies with and perceives as) her father Leland. (She may have created Bob to "hide" a real incest or, conversely, grafted her father's image onto a "real" or subconsciously generated Bob.) That Bob has possessed her in more senses than one (> Possession) is made explicit when she confesses part of her truth to friend Smith: for a moment she becomes a yellow-toothed Vampire Bob, grunting the enigmatic words "Fire ... Walk ... With ... Me". One day an old woman and a masked child present her with the picture of a room to hang on her bedroom wall; later she Dreams herself into the picture where she finds both woman and child as well as the Red-Velvet Room in which wait Agent Cooper and the dwarfish Man From Another Place. In the mundane reality her life spirals downwards into sexual and other degradation. Forewarned of her doom by seeing an Angel vanish from a picture, she joins harlot Ronette in a shack for an orgy with two drunks. Leland arrives, batters one man insensible and whips the two bound girls to a disused railway carriage, where Gerard is too late to stop him beating the girls savagely, Laura to death: dying, she sees herself in a mirror as Bob, then watches her angel-self ascending to Heaven. At last she is in the Red-Velvet Room, where Leland and Bob are seen definitively as two separate individuals, and where Cooper stands with her as, laughing hysterically, she continues to watch her heaven-bound angel-self.

Laura is, of course, the core of the movie: from her first appearance she is rarely away from centre-screen. It is trendy to disparage Lee's performance, but in fact her portrayal of a multiply functioned role is magnificent. At one level she is the person who has lived forever behind Masks which are now repeatedly cracking; she is both the college queen angel and the female Devil incarnate (explicitly in a sequence set in an Inferno-like nightclub), albeit a Devil with vestiges of conscience, capable of switching in an instant between these polar-opposite roles (or, indeed, "twin peaks"); she is a child distraught when her father ticks her off for failing to wash her hands before meals, yet a duplicitous harlot trading on her "innocence"; she is both an idealized image of Woman and a real woman; she is a person onto whom roles are projected by others, rather than a personality in her own right. It seems evident that Lynch's purpose is to reconcile in his own mind all of these aspects of Woman, a task which he finally fails to perform. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.