A young FBI agent disappears while investigating a murder miles from Twin Peaks that may be related to the future murder of Laura Palmer; the last week of the life of Laura Palmer is chronicled.
‘Fire Walk With Me’ is both prequel and sequel to David Lynch’s foray into making TV series with ‘Twin Peaks’, and it’s a further insight into the final 7 days of Laura Palmer. It’s an interesting watch because it’s trying to marry two types of expectations – those of the ‘Twin Peaks’ fans looking for answers and to spend time in that world again, and those of the David Lynch film fans, who are expecting a more typical Lynchian experience. To be fair, both Lynch’s films and ‘Twin Peaks’ share a lot of the same DNA, so this isn’t a huge stretch, but it makes for an interesting fusion particularly when non-TV show characters are introduced to the fold. It would be fair to say that ‘Twin Peaks’ went off the rails quite drastically in its second season once Lynch left the show, but the first 7 episodes still stand up as one of the most breathtaking and mysterious pieces of filmmaking on television. As someone who fell away from the show, I was fairly indifferent to the prospect of spending more time in that world, but the character of Laura Palmer was always captivating (despite Sheryl Lee never appearing in the show as Laura in the present) and this held a certain level of intrigue nonetheless.
All of this is what makes the first thirty minutes or so incredibly strange, as we follow officers we haven’t met before (Chris Isaak & Kiefer Sutherland) investigating the murder of a different girl in a place called Deer Meadow, with random cuts to a brief appearance by the long missing Agent Jeffries (David Bowie) and a bit of clarity about the mysterious supernatural powers of the area that lead to one of the agents disappearing. This all feels like a roundabout way of bringing Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper into the fold, and the first sign of the connection between the two cases comes out in a conversation between Cooper and Jeffries where they share the same mysterious dreams. The first time I watched ‘Mulholland Drive’, I liked some of the random drop in’s on characters that we’d never return too with no sense of closure, emphasising the dreamlike qualities of that movie, but it felt a little bit more disjointed here.
Where ‘Fire Walks With Me’ does succeed is in building on the mythology of the TV series and going to some darker places as we learn more about the demons haunting Laura Palmer in her final days. It encompasses some heady themes such as incest, rape & murder and this is all shown through the psychological unravelling of Laura as she approaches her demise, and in the internal conflicts her father, Leland (Ray Wise) faces. Ray Wise was one of the best performers in the TV show, and he’s excellent here, and Sheryl Lee brings Laura to life as well as could be expected. It’s a disturbing watch at times, and some of the disorientating sex scenes are deeply troubling, which is the point, I think.
Overall, I wasn’t really sure what to make of ‘Fire Walk With Me’. I thought the performances were mostly strong, and the focus on Laura and her father was powerful, if disturbing, but to an extent this never felt like a wholly necessary addition to the ‘Twin Peaks’ lore, nor did it have enough to stand alone as a film in its own right. 1997’s ‘Lost Highway’ is next on the agenda, as we move into the back half of Lynch’s career to date.
Directed By: David Lynch
Starring: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Frank Silva, David Bowie, Miguel Ferrer, Heather Graham, Chris Isaak, Frances Bay, Moira Kelly, James Marshall, Jurgen Prochnow, Harry Dean Stanton, Kiefer Sutherland, Grace Zabriskie and Kyle MacLachlan