“Through the darkness of future past
The magican longs to see
One chance out between two worlds:
Fire walk with me”
Before even embarking on Twin Peaks I had been warned that, despite it being a prequel (of sorts), Fire Walk With Me was best left until the end, and, before I go any further I would suggest the same to anyone else who hasn’t yet seen the full TV series.
Well, now I’ve watched it all, I can entirely see why as, without a knowledge of the ins and outs of at least the basic ‘who killed Laura Palmer’ thread this would be entirely nonsense – and even with that knowledge it teeters perilously close to this anyway.
Over the years though I have often learnt that this is something that director and co-creator David Lynch does and, most of the time, he seems to hold things together just enough.
Plot wise the film starts of with FBI Regional Chief Gordon Cole (Lynch) getting the call that a body has been found that matches an ongoing investigation so he calls in Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) to investigate. This turns out to be a precursor to the Laura Palmer case and is instantly drenched in the paranormal goings on that gradually built across the TV show.
Here we encounter the first problem of the film. The slow build of the TV series, in a recognisable generic context, served to draw the viewer along as their expectation was confounded time and again, but in stages. Here no real convention is set as from the off this is clearly not the campy soap/Americana setting of the show, but there isn’t time to establish anything else before we are plunged back into the Red Room.
Thrown into the midst of this is a nearly unexplained cameo from David Bowie that, while it’s always nice to see Bowie, just serves to further escalate the weird and ends up seemingly over clarifying the essential mystery of the show. Though this being David Lynch things are never actually fully explained (thankfully).
The second part of the film takes us to Twin Peaks itself and charts the final days of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) that lead into the TV series, with the odd reflection or interjection from Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the Red Room.
Unfortunately, what made the TV series work so well, once again the generic conventions of a murder mystery and soap, are missing and the feel is much more that of a teenage horror, but it never quite coalesces entirely to riff on that satisfactorily. Though the denouement heads for Suspiria–like levels of Grand Guignol surrealism.
The other issue is that, of course, if you’ve seen the TV series, you already know what’s going to happen.
Where Fire Walk With Me becomes most successful is in its further deepening the creepiness of Killer BOB (and his alter ego) as he becomes a primal and feral presence as we see him both in the Red Room and ‘real world’ contexts.
In the end Fire Walk With Me feels like a piece of fan-fiction filling in gaps that didn’t need filling in, and reading Lynch’s own comments on why he made the film (since I watched it) I’m not surprised I felt this way.
While the filling in of the gaps is entirely unessential it is interesting to see Lynch’s own view of this, but there were points where I couldn’t help wondering whether this even counts as canon to the TV series or whether it is purely a flight of speculative fancy.
While an engaging two hours, with some genuinely horrific and disturbing scenes, Fire Walk With Me can’t help but feel like an add-on to something that didn’t really need adding too or further explaining. Though it leaves much unanswered and does ask a few more questions that, if we’re lucky, might be explored in the upcoming new TV series.