The following article contains major spoilers to the 1992 film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and the television series “Twin Peaks” (1990-1991).
When David Lynch’s followup to the hit ABC series “Twin Peaks” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it was destined to fail. The show had been cancelled after a highly disappointing Season Two, that saw a marked dip in quality. Lynch, who had never intended to solve the central mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, departed the show after the network forced the writers to reveal the identity of the killer. The show then swiftly lost steam (and its incomparable ratings) and it was not until the season finale, directed by Lynch, that it somewhat resembled its old, quirky, mysterious, suggestively dark self. That episode, as is well known, ended with a cliffhanger unlike television had ever seen.
Thus, when it was announced Lynch would be directing a feature on “Twin Peaks”, fans of the cancelled TV show awaited a conclusion that was never going to come. Lynch had decided the film would be a prequel to the series, telling the story of the last days of Laura Palmer. That itself didn’t seem like an endearing idea. Fans of the show wanted to continue with the story of Cooper back from his trip to the lodge and audiences that had gotten exhausted from the show didn’t want anything to do with these characters.
At the 1992 installment of the prestigious film festival, the movie was met with scathing, relentless criticism. Booing at the press screenings is hardly something unheard of, or even something to measure a film’s quality by, but Lynch, composer Angelo Badalamenti and co-writer Robert Engels were booed at the press conference. The reviews that followed were just as harsh, if not more. Vincent Canby of “The New York Times” said, “It’s not the worst movie ever made. It just seems to be.” Lynch was so disheartened, he once remarked, “The big news was that I’d finally completely killed ‘Twin Peaks’ with this picture.”
That initial response to the film is both understandable and perplexing to me. We know the ending to the story. Laura Palmer dies. There’s no escape from that horrific, tragic coda. Many critics commented that Lynch should have kept Laura Palmer dead. But what’s confusing is their failure to see how mysterious her character, or more importantly her perception was. For Lynch, and for many of us who understood his bleak and heartrendingly grand vision beneath the quirkiness and the humor of the suburbia, ‘Twin Peaks’ was about Laura Palmer, the dead girl who saw everything for what it was, and still managed to become an irreplaceable part of the community.