David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” was met with both praise and disdain from fans of the previously released TV show “Twin Peaks,” and perhaps rightfully so.
Although the film was a prequel to the events that happened in the series, fans may not have been prepared for the contrastingly dark world of Laura Palmer. While the TV show examined the quirky but mysterious lives of townspeople amid Laura’s death, the movie focuses strictly on the world of Twin Peaks, seen through Laura’s eyes. There’s far more violence and sexuality in the film, which may have turned off viewers, but surely Lynch could never show the depth of Laura’s world on television. In this sense, “Fire Walk with Me” should be considered Lynch’s dedication to Laura Palmer, and fans of the series should be grateful that the director was willing to divulge her story on screen.
The first quarter of the film surrounds the death of Teresa Banks, while the remainder focuses on Laura’s life one week before her demise.
While the series only vaguely touched upon the depth of Laura’s character, such as that she had secrets and was living a double-life, we never feel true sympathy for her beyond the fact that she was murdered. If you’ve seen “Fire Walk with Me,” hopefully you’ve at least recognized why Laura had so many secrets (“Life is full of mysteries…”). She wasn’t a bad person, but had been fighting forces beyond her control since she was twelve.
While I’m going to get into theories regarding the film’s plot in a separate article, we can surmise that the film, at minimum, was portraying Laura’s breaking point. Not only was reality veiled by her traumatic experiences with Bob, which in turn led her to lead a double-life, but people close to her were starting to get hurt by her lifestyle. Everyone loved Laura, but Laura knew she was deceiving them by pretending to be someone she wasn’t; as a result she turned to sex and drugs, and a vicious cycle ensued of guilt with no escape. A flash of Laura’s remaining goodness came through when she made Donna leave the club. No matter how harsh Laura was, she didn’t want Donna becoming like her, attracting evil to herself. As we see in the television show, Donna helps unravel several clues about Laura’s death, which could not have happened if Donna fell prey to the same devices as Laura.
Above all, through the dream sequences especially, we see that Laura somehow realizes the significance of the green ring (another symbol which I’ll discuss at more length in another article). In short, the green ring symbolized death for whoever wore it, but in Laura’s case, death meant freedom. Whether or not Laura knew she would die, in her subconscious she knew that taking the green ring would save her, and others, from a fate far worse (in short, Bob possessing Laura). With all the suffering she endured, Laura longed for release- at least from any world where Bob could continue traumatizing her.
Thus, “Fire Walk with Me” seems a testament to Laura Palmer’s pain, and what tragic events could have transpired in Twin Peaks had Laura stayed alive. Still, this film isn’t for the faint of heart, and is probably Lynch’s most visually-disturbing film yet. If the TV show was like a surreal soap opera, “Fire Walk with Me” is a deranged horror film. Lynch tries to warn us of this from the beginning, where we see a TV set being smashed, and the events that occurred in Deer Meadow- a far less cozy and far more dangerous-looking place than Twin Peaks.