Fire Walk With Me
D'ya think that if you were falling in space...
that you'd slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?
Faster and faster... until after a while you wouldn't FEEL anything
and then your body would just burst into FIRE.
And the angels wouldn't help you, 'cause they've all gone away...
* * *
...a couple of thoughts on Fire Walk With Me
Do not read unless you're familiar with Twin Peaks
In the supplemental material on the Fire Walk With Me DVD, Peggy Lipton makes a comment that I think sums up a lot of what frustrates many people about the second season of Twin Peaks and FWWM, which was that she felt that the film lost something because the horrors were not underneath the surface anymore. Of course, she's right, but the story of FWWM is that of Laura Palmer, not the effects of her death (which is what Twin Peaks technically was). Many viewers of Twin Peaks lost interest in the second season when it became apparent that this was not a soap opera centered around her death, but that much more enigmatic and disturbing things were going on.
In a sense, one can see FWWM being a gateway from the pre-Twin Peaks Lynch and the post-Twin Peaks Lynch. Although there are some strange goings on in Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart and the first season of Twin Peaks, for the most part they have linear storylines. The second season of Twin Peaks reflected a move away from that, a move that solidified in Fire Walk With Me. After that film, Lynch's work (with the exception of The Straight Story), has tended towards a much less linear model into the realm of dream logic. Both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive no longer have "plots" per se, but instead are surreal ruminations on identity.
What FWWM is about is Laura's gradual realization of who Bob is and what he wants from her. This involves recognizing within herself the own capacity for becoming Bob as Leland has*. Her gradual realization of the truth and growing horror she has is what propels her towards her eventual demise. Yes, I said propels. By the time we see her in the film, she has already become a self-destructive creature, unable to connect with those she is closest to. Finding out that Leland is Bob destroys any sense of a positive destiny. She chooses to put on the ring because there is nowhere for her life to go. By causing Bob/Leland to kill her, she can avoid both being possessed by Bob and also to put an end to the perpetual suffering that she can not see an escape from.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a very sad film. Laura's death causes the undercurrents of Twin Peaks to rumble, and some things to come to the surface, but poor Laura was a victim from before she could understand that she was. This is something that one doesn't really find much in Twin Peaks, where most of the people are damned by their own doing. Laura never had a chance, and as she begins to realize that what Bob wants is to be her, it is almost as sickening as the realization that it was Leland all along. Everything else in her life is and always has been distorted in her life. While Ronette Pulaski is a prostitute in order to feed her cocaine habit, Laura is because sex is an area where she can wield power over other people. She always felt that Bob was not a "man," per se, but understood that he was something much more sinister, which is why finding out that there is an actual person behind Bob, and that it is her own father, is what freaks her out so much.
And so, when Fire Walk With Me ends with an image of a laughing Laura, finally having found peace in death, I think that it is a sad but ultimately just moment. While the other citizens of Twin Peaks could hide their problems and personal demons, Laura would never have been able to for long; the only time we ever see the "public" Laura is at the beginning of the film, after Coop muses to Diane that while he knows the killer will strike again, who knows where or when. We see a montage of Laura and Donna going to school to the familiar Twin Peaks theme. Not long afterwards we see that her public image is almost the opposite of what her inner person is. This is why the film does not follow the lighter elements of the television series, and also why on the last day of her life she is at once the most vulnerable we've seen her, and the most abusive. No, FWWM does not have a solvable mystery about it, which Twin Peaks did, nor does it have the wide variety of characters. It is totally focused on Laura, and her story is one of the town's darkest.
It is therefore not so strange that she would see her spiral towards self-destruction in the mythical terms that one sees in the quote above (this is a common theme in Lynch's films, the most obvious being Sandy's "robins" monologue from Blue Velvet). This exchange is one of the most telling in the film because Laura is basically admitting to a certain numbness about the world... one which is shattered when she learns who Bob really is... and when Donna discovers the secrets of her night life. Numbness has given way only to garmonbozia (pain and sorrow).
* This is true regardless of whether you think that Bob is a construct that Laura creates but who transcends linear time because the Black Lodge does not exist in "normal" time (as I do) or that he is possessing Leland in order to get to Laura (as suitboyskin does).