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Film / Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

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"And the angels wouldn't help you, because they've all gone away."

Fire Walk with Me is the 1992 film prequel (and sequel) to Twin Peaks, and follows the events leading up to the death of Laura Palmer in the pilot episode. It is directed by the co-creator of the series, David Lynch. Production for the film started just after the series ended. The movie featured several cameos by characters from the series (including Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Cooper) and chronicled the final week leading up to Laura's murder and discovery in the series proper.

Released after the series' 1991 conclusion, the film follows two separate plot threads. The first, which takes place a year before the events of the pilot, follows a pair of FBI agents (Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland) who are investigating the death of a waitress in the town of Deer Meadow. The second begins after one of the agents disappears while following up on a clue, the film cuts to a year later, where high school student Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is balancing her perception as Twin Peaks' resident "good girl", a pair of boyfriends, hidden secrets and the unsettling behavior of her father, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise)...

The movie had a number of deleted scenes left on the cutting room floor, which were eventually stitched together years later as a standalone movie The Missing Pieces, included as part of the Blu-ray collection of the original series and released on a standalone disc alongside Fire Walk With Me under The Criterion Collection after the revival, The Return, finished airing. Lynch has described both Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces as being helpful to explain the story of The Return, at least insofar as one can actually explain the story of a David Lynch work.

Fire Walk with Me provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: If you haven't watched the series, it should come as a shock when Leland is possessed by BOB, who rapes Laura. Laura's mother is powerless to stop the abuse.
  • Acoustic License: Averted in the scene in the Bang Bang Bar, where everyone has to shout to be only barely heard - and are consequently subtitled just like the inhabitants of the Black Lodge.
  • Awful Truth:
    • Laura finding out that her father ripped pages from her diary causes her to have a Heroic BSoD.
    • Laura's mother Sarah Palmer clearly knows something's going on (which makes her scream of "What's happening in this house?" at the start of the series), but refuses to let herself put it together.
  • Berserk Button: At the bar, Laura snaps out of her general apathy and hedonism when she sees Donna in trouble, screaming and attacking the guy who's attempting to molest her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Laura is Doomed by Canon, but in the last scene of the movie, Laura appears reunited with Agent Cooper and her guardian angel in the Black Lodge.
  • Bizarro World: Deer Meadows is Bizarro Twin Peaks. The coffee is terrible, the local diner is depressing and dingy, the waitresses are surly, the Sherriff's a walking balding dickbag and his secretary and deputy are a pair of lazy and snarky assholes. Nobody's interested in solving the Teresa Banks case, and there seems to be no industry to speak of. The only thing they seem to have in common is their location and refusal to release bodies to the FBI.
  • Bondage Is Bad: It's certainly presented in as unsavory a way as possible.
  • Brick Joke: Unlike Chet Desmond, Agent Sam Stanley actually gets a brief mention in the show, during the pilot. Agent Cooper's notes to Diane that they shouldn't let Sam work the Palmer case, and that Albert Rosenfield has it "more on the ball."
  • Bring My Brown Pants: In The Missing Pieces, the porter at the Palm Deluxe hotel soils himself in fear after witnessing Philip Jeffries first disappearing into thin air and then reappearing just as suddenly shortly thereafter right in front of him in what is implied to have been a flash of fire.
  • Broken Bird: Laura. So, so much.
  • Call-Forward: The baby laxatives.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Played as dark as it can get.
  • Cry into Chest: Laura does this with her confidant, Harold Smith.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Almost inevitable whenever the Black Lodge is involved to some degree.
    • Philip Jeffries has been in the Lodge, and he seems to be struggling to speak intelligibly.
    • Philip Gerard's harangue at the street corner would sound like this even if Leland Palmer weren't gunning the motor. Sadly (or fortunately, depending on certain persons' point of view), the revving engine drowns out most of what he's trying to tell the Palmers, meaning Laura never gets to hear the one non-cryptic line in the whole tirade.
      Gerard: (screaming to make himself heard, showing Laura his ring) IT'S HIM! IT'S YOUR FATHER!
  • Darker and Edgier: Although it occupies the same disturbing universe as the series, the film is noticeably more bleak and explicitly violent, and F-bombs are dropped freely and semi-frequently. The focus is firmly on Laura, not the kooky surrounding cast of the series, the trademark eccentric humour is largely absent, and a portion of the plot takes place in what is essentially Twin Peaks' Evil Counterpart.
    • The Missing Pieces recopilatory movie of deleted and extended scenes show up more of the rest of the Twin Peaks residents and their little stories that was eventually explored fully in the original series, and its (more or less) Lighter and Softer than Fire Walk With Me, including with Sheriff Truman and co. antics, the Briggs parents, the Haywards, the Big Ed, Nadine and Norma love triangle and more. For people who missed the usual quirky Twin Peaks humor, don't worry, its in here fully.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Agents Desmond and Stanley lead a good part of the film at first... and then Desmond disappears without a trace and Stanley takes Teresa Bank's body back to Ontario. For the rest of the film, we follow Laura Palmer, whose life has already practically fallen apart, and see how things manage to get even worse from there.
  • Dirty Cop: The entire Deer Meadows sheriff's office.
  • The Dividual: Mike and The Man From The Other Place (who identifies himself as "The Arm") speak in unison when together in the Black Lodge.
  • Doomed by Canon: Laura Palmer is the main character of the prequel film. The movie's ending is a bit of a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Movie, Fire Walk With Me. The title refers to Laura's own troubled journey, but also has another meaning. Both Laura (revealed in The Return as the Chosen One) and BOB the Big Bad are associated with fire, alluding to how fire can both protect and destroy - the title refers to commanding its protective fire, made all the more symbolic by Laura's Heroic Sacrifice at the end.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: For the love of God, don't go in the woods.
  • Dying Town: With the movie's bleaker tone, washed-out colours, and so many familiar actors and locations missing, Twin Peaks starts to feel deserted and lifeless.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Looking back, this movie introduces a lot of characters and concepts that will be used 25 years later in Twin Peaks: The Return including:
    • The fate of Special Agent Phillip Jeffries and whatever went down in Buenos Aires.
    • Garmonbozia.
    • Annie's message about the Good Dale trapped in the Black Lodge.
    • Carl Rodd and his possible connection to the Black Lodge.
    • Teresa Banks' ring.
    • Blue Rose cases.
    • The Woodsmen.
  • Evil Counterpart: Deer Meadow is essentially the Mirror Universe version of Twin Peaks. Where Twin Peaks is a Quirky Town that represents everything charming, wholesome, and friendly about small Close-Knit Communities in America, Deer Meadow plays drastically plays up the Lovecraft Country elements and the darker sides of small-town America, being a dysfunctional Town with a Dark Secret mostly inhabited by small-minded and petty Jerkasses, who are overtly hostile towards outsiders.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Played with, on a number of different levels.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As a prequel, Laura's death is naturally inevitable. Strangely, she seems more aware of this than anyone else.
  • Future Shadowing: Who do you think that is there?
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first half is a Whodunnit? with Surreal Humor added in. The second half is a Psychological Thriller with Surreal Horror added in.
  • Heroic BSoD: Poor Laura.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The movie features much more nudity than the series, with a lot of topless ladies, Laura and Donna among them.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Sheryl Lee is excellent at crying. There's no single glittering tear, she properly sobs.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Between FBI agent Chet Desmond and the Deer Meadows sheriff's office. Much more pronounced than that between Cooper and the Twin Peaks office.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: By virtue of the fact that the film spoils that Laura is going to die on boxart in the plot summary.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Laura, in a Jump Scare at Harold Smith's house. In the Deleted Scenes, Leland as he enters the Black Lodge. It seems to indicate possession by BOB.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Visually alluded to in the scene in the railroad car, when the camera cuts from the scantily clad and sexualized bodies of Laura and Ronette to an angel, modestly clad in white. Made more confusing by the fact the angel looks a lot like Laura...
  • Magic Realism: In much the same vein as the series.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Leland, all the time.
    • It's suggested that Leland is somehow aware but in denial of what he's doing to Laura. It's clear that Leland, not BOB, is the one sleeping with Teresa Banks, probably because she reminds him of Laura. When Leland sees Teresa with Laura, he panics - because he might be found out or because he realizes what he's done?
  • Never Heard That One Before:
    Now... Irene is her name, and it is night. Don't go any further with it.
  • Noodle Incident: When we first meet him, Chet Desmond is arresting a bus driver and a pair of hookers next to an elementary school bus full of crying children parked on the side of a highway in Fargo, North Dakota. Why all this is happening is never made clear, and it probably never should be... though it does effectively foreshadow the shady underbelly of Twin Peaks's youth.
  • Our Angels Are Different: At the end of the film, Laura is reunited with her guardian angel in the Black Lodge. It's actually not that 'different' and is instantly recognizable as a straightforward angel.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: During Laura's nightmare, the bloodied body of Annie Blackburn shows up in her bed. And then starts talking.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity:
    • There are suggestions that the specific vision of BOB that we see may come from a man who molested Leland himself when he was a kid, although it's only one interpretation.
    • Much more prominently in Laura's arc. Her sanity is suffering after having been sexually abused by BOB/Leland for years. But also enforced in the interpretation where the Black Lodge is trying to make Laura lose her mind and give in to them (as Leland may have done previously), in which case it may have decided sexual assault was the best way to do so.
  • Redemption Equals Death
  • Right Through His Pants: BOB in the rape scene. Justified since it's actually Leland.
  • Secret Diary: Played with. Laura find that pages have been torn from her diary, but does not know who did it. When she finds out it was Leland, her father, the awful truth starts slowly to sink in.
  • Self-Deprecation: The scene with Lil the dancer and her bizarrely convoluted coded messages has been read as David Lynch gently mocking his own incomprehensibility.
  • Sex for Solace: Laura's crying on Harold's shoulder looks like it was going to turn into this, seeing as she suddenly started kissing him passionately, but then she stopped herself. Possibly due to the Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny messages in the rest of the film, and Laura's own difficult relationship with her sexuality.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: A running theme throughout.
  • Shocking Voice Identity Reveal: The Black Lodge denizens are revealed this way, in extreme, distorted closeup as the Man From Another Place introduces the group in their iconic backwards speech.
  • Split Personality: Played with. There's Laura the homecoming queen who helped organize meals on wheels, and then there's the Laura who prostitutes herself and is a coke addict. On the same note, the whole BOB/Leland split personality/evil spirit issue
  • Spooky Painting: The one Laura receives as a gift from Mrs Chalfont and the boy in the mask.
  • Spot the Imposter: Although it's implied that the Dale we see is the good one, Agent Jeffries isn't sure. "Who do you think that is, there?"
  • Spy Speak/Talking through Technique: Gordon Cole uses this to dispatch his agents. He brings out a woman in a tailored red suit with a Blue Rose pinned to it to dance awkwardly in front of Agents Desmond and Stanley while he introduces her as his mother's sister's girl. This means they're going into hostile territory, will get Jurisdiction Friction, that drugs are involved, they'll be doing a lot of legwork, and that the sherrif's uncle is in federal prison. As for the Blue Rose? Those cases are special.
  • Stepford Smiler: Laura. But seeing as this is David Lynch, practically everyone.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Chet Desmond was originally supposed to just be Dale Cooper. The end result, despite being a comparably brilliant FBI agent, is actually a very different character, though. For one thing, he's much less patient.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Played with. Laura would rather die than let herself be a conduit for BOB.
  • Trashy Trailer Home: Teresa Banks may have disappeared in a dilapidated trailer park that's home to both lowlife criminals as well as terrifying eldritch beings.
  • The Watson: Agent Sam Stanley is this to Chet Desmond.
  • Wham Line:
    • The film transitions hard from a comedic Whodunnit? to a surreal pychological thriller when these words are spoken (backwards):
      The Man From Another Place: The chrome reflects our image.
    • For Laura's part of the story, there's:
      Leland: I thought you always knew it was me.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Special Agent Cooper declares that, though all the leads in the murder of Teresa Banks and the disappearance of Chester Desmond have cold and all the clues have hit dead ends, he's absolutely certain that the killer will strike again, though who knows where or when...
      "Welcome to Twin Peaks"
    • Later, when Laura runs out of her house to escape BOB, she hides and waits for him to leave the house, only to scream in horror when her father walks out.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: Agent Chet Desmond vanishes from the film the moment he touches the ring. His disappearance is mentioned later, but remains unsolved. Given it's a Prequel to the first two seasons of the show, it's no surprise he's not yet been found.
  • What Year Is This?: Agent Philip Jeffries (David Bowie) demands to know this. It's implied that he's somehow Unstuck in Time.
  • Working the Same Case: The entire mood and tone of the film drastically changes when the action moves from Deer Meadow to Twin Peaks, but both stories are set in motion by the same killer. Judging by the deleted scenes and screenplay, Phillip Jeffries, Chet Desmond, and Dale Cooper all worked the same case.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When the angel appears to Laura when she is despondent in the Black Lodge, it is letting her know that she is worth saving and it never abandoned her.