"Devil's Advocates - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" Book Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Published by Auteur Press
Written by Lindsay Hallam
2018, 120 pages, Reference
Released on 26th July 2018
Working on the assumption – and though a fairly obvious one to make, it is still an assumption – that anyone buying a Devil’s Advocates guide will be the converted waiting to be preached to, University of East London’s Lindsay Hallam has created a clear, approachable and thoughtful guide to Fire Walk With Me, its challenges and its place within the Twin Peaks universe. Quality and clarity of argument, presentation and research make this a good companion for fans and the yet-to-be-converted to explore the story, imagery, characters and, particularly impressively, the complexity of the soundscape that made Twin Peaks such a compelling mystery.
While any director who wasn’t David Lynch would likely have relished his fan-base’s demands for explanations and continuations of the beloved (and lucrative) universe he’d created, Lynch resisted providing clearer answers in favour of suggesting bigger questions, a tradition that was to continue with Twin Peaks: The Return. Many of those questions were profoundly uncomfortable in the case of Fire Walk With Me, particularly around the presentation of Laura Palmer’s victimhood. Lynch’s choice to follow the last seven days of Laura’s life before she was so iconically “dead, wrapped in plastic” saw co-creator Mark Frost walk off the project and the eventual release was greeted with discomfort as well as disappointment at its premiere audience and beyond (although Hallam’s sources challenge the fabled jeering at Cannes). Hallam’s thoughtful, fluidly written and factually supported exploration of how Lynch’s intentions to explore Laura’s story from her own point of view combined with real-life factors such as Kyle McLaughlin’s absence (Agent Desmond, who carries the first section of the film before we arrive in Twin Peaks, was originally supposed to be Cooper and not a new character) to move away from where the fans wanted him to go – and why he sacrificed familiar characters to tread unfamiliar spiritual and ethical ground in Twin Peaks.
Intriguingly, Hallam points out the significance of viewer discomfort being all the greater for those who had bought in to Special Agent Dale Cooper’s initial idea of Twin Peaks: that the town represented all that was best about small town America. Agent Cooper first saw his own job as finding a way of drawing the evil out that had come to Twin Peaks. Instead, Fire Walk With Me gives the evidence for the narrative of Leland Palmer and his abuse of his daughter along with Laura’s own realisation that she has been in denial about Bob’s identity, that her father has been abusing her since she was twelve, showing that the evil Cooper chases was not an invading force but has been there all the time: “Rather than providing an escape from the harsher aspects of the narrative – that of the trauma caused by sexual abuse – the mythology expresses and embodies these traumas, and illustrates how such traumas create imbalance and disorder on a deep spiritual level” (p23).
Laura’s death is never patronised as any kind of happy ending, but Hallam raises interesting questions about what power and authority Laura might have taken back in her journey to join Cooper in the lodge and how she, rather than Cooper, is the figure of ultimate strength and agency. Though acknowledging and adhering to Lynch’s reluctance to pin down a definitive interpretation of any aspect of Twin Peaks, each suggestion in Hallam’s narrative is satisfyingly explored, with the result for the reader being that familiarity with the series is neither necessity nor drawback to enjoyment.
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