Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ELEMENTS OF TWIN PEAKS

Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is copyright of Lynch/Frost Productions, New Line Cinema, Ciby 2000, and MK2 Productions. These pages contain information copyrighted by other individuals and entities. Copyrighted material displayed in these pages is done so for archival and informational purposes only and is not intended to infringe upon the ownership rights of the original owners.

Oil. Before the Log Lady’s husband was killed, he brought home a jar of oil and told her that “Oil leads to a gateway.” Within the circle of Sycamore trees at Glastonbury Grove is a pool of oil which marks the gateway to the Waiting Room and the Lodges. The Log Lady’s late husband found this entrance and it is the place where he found the oil. It is unclear, however, if this had anything to do with his death or if it perhaps was a premonition of his death. Oil is associated with BOB and the smell of scorched engine oil is generated when BOB is in anger or in a killing rage (Ronette recognizes the smile of scorched engine oil from the night when Laura was killed, Maddy is wondering if something is burning in the Palmer’s living room just before she is killed, Cooper’s coffee in the Waiting Room turns into oil just before BOB arrives etc.). Some have speculated that oil is able to somehow store fear.

Fire. Fire and sickness are two recurring motifs in the films of David Lynch. Fire has been a theme that Lynch has explored since his first film experiment “Six Figures Getting Sick.” Fire, as a symbol of destruction and a metaphor for burning passion, is a powerful motif in Twin Peaks, both as an actual force and as a visual signature. There are numerous references to fire in TP: the FWWM chant, the smell of burning oil, burning of the sawmill, references to playing with fire, the Log Lady’s husband being killed in the fire etc. etc. The element of fire is a strong opposite to the elements of water and wood (both also prominent in TP) and its’ power of destructiveness is an obvious threat to human beings. Fire makes us feel afraid and powerless. Thus, it is strongly associated with the BL. A related motif is that of electricity and it has been speculated that fire and electricity may act as media through space and time.

Water. Water is another recurring element of Twin Peaks (the image of the waterfalls throughout the series; lakes in TP – both black and white – Black Lake and Pearl Lake where Leland spent his childhood; Teresa’s, Laura’s and Maddy’s bodies were all discovered in or near water; in the scene when Leland kills himself, the sprinkler system sets off and the whole scene is drenched in water etc. etc.). Water is a strong opposite to both oil and fire. Oil and water do not mix. Water is stronger than fire, because it is the only thing that can stop it. Water is also a metaphor for cleanliness, both moral and physical, and the process of purging oneself of evil. It is the pure force that is associated with the White Lodge and its’ inhabitants. Major Briggs once stated that fear and love open the doors to the Lodges. If fear is symbolized in oil and fire, then love must be symbolized in the element of water. 


Wood. These four elements are interconnected and interdependent and there are several interesting dichotomies (between oil and water, fire and wood, fire and water). There are many associations with wood: Ghostwood Forest (the thick, dark woods outside of TP, where Glastonbury Grove, Owl Cave and Dead Dog Farm lie within), constant feeling of a ‘presence’ in the woods (Sheriff Truman: “There’s a sort of evil out there. Something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want. A darkness, a presence”), insinuations that wood has the capacity to hold spirits (the Log Lady’s log holds the spirit of her dead husband, Josie’s soul was apparently “transferred” into the wood of the Great Northern Hotel) etc. etc. Trees surround TP in many ways: logging industry, Packard Sawmill, forests, log cabins, pine furniture etc. It is interesting to compare wood and fire – wood (trees) being a source of life, slow to grow but solid and stable, whereas fire is much more volatile, but its power is intense and once it takes hold it can spread by virtue of its own energy to do enormous damage. Some have speculated that wood is able to act as a vessel for the WL spirits, just as fire is for the BL spirits.

Electricity. Lynch’s obsession with electricity has informed his work ever since “Eraserhead” and there are numerous references to electricity abound in both the “physical” and the “metaphysical” world of Twin Peaks. The series contain many instances of electrical disturbance (such as the lightning during Cooper’s examination of Laura’s body), but it was in FWWM where Lynch was able to fully explore possibilities of electricity as the force connected with the lodge spirits. Some of the occurrences of electricity in the movie are: static on TV at the beginning of the movie, flickering blue light at Hap’s Diner, shots of power poles and lines in the trailer park, person seen from inside the mouth (The Electrician) saying “e-lec-tri-city” in the above the convenience room scene, static during Jeffries’ description of the room above, Cooper’s experience with the security camera and its images, Gordon Cole’s non-functioning intercom, static when the Tremonds appear to give Laura the picture of warning, the ceiling fan, the traffic lights, images of flashes and static in Laura’s bedroom, lights in Partyland etc. etc. etc. Some have speculated that electricity is the medium that lodge inhabitants manipulate in order to travel between the two worlds (i.e. as a means of movement between the worlds), while others suggest that electricity is just an indication that the lodge inhabitants are nearby.

Flickering lights. Flickering lights are a visual manifestation of Twin Peaks’ most prominent motif of DUALITY, of good and evil, of light and darkness abound in one being. There is no light without the dark and no good without evil – they are just opposite sides of one (and the same) coin. Flickering lights appear numerous times in TP (and also other films of David Lynch, since duality is the motif he most frequently explores in different ways), but most prominently in the Red Room scenes, where one’s duality is being put to the test and pushed to the limits.


Let’s Rock. “Let’s Rock” is a message that Cooper finds painted across the missing FBI’s agent Chet Desmond’s car windshield and is also a famous quote (the first words ever) of the Little Man From Another Place, in the Cooper’s first dream of the Red Room. This message might have several meanings, but since those are the first words Cooper comes across from “another world” we can assume that it can be interpreted as “Let’s play” or “Let’s get down to business (Let’s get down and dirty).” This way LMFAP is imposing himself and proving his power, challenging Cooper to fight against the “otherworldly” forces.

Whooping Sound. It is the sound LMFAP makes in Laura’s dream after claiming “I am the arm and I sound like this…” It can also be heard faintly in the background when Cooper is looking around at the trailer park and when Mike is racing up behind Leland and Laura in the traffic jam scene. There is also a scripted scene (but not in the movie) when Buck does an Indian whoop, which makes Laura freeze to horror after she is reminded of her ominous dream, while they are driving to the “Partyland.” Like the burning oil smell in the series, this sound might be some kind of indication that the lodge inhabitants are nearby. As a part of Laura’s warning dream, it also might be a premonition of events to come, such as the night at “Partyland” when she cruelly takes her best friend Donna on a dangerous ride to her dark side.

Fire Walk With Me. A chant spoken by Mike in the series (“Through the darkness of future’s past. The magician longs to see. One chants out between the two worlds. Fire walk with me.”) serves a special “invitation,” a hole through which spirits may cross from one world to another. The spoken words “Fire walk with me” give these “spirits” the ability to move from the Lodges to the world of TP. Phillip Gerard had a tattoo with the phrase on his arm which people read and thus gave Mike access to “inhabit” Gerard’s body. When he no longer wanted to partner BOB in their killing he cut his arm to prevent the easy access. That is why Mike repeatedly recites the poem: he wants to enable BOB to enter his world in order to confront him. And also, that is why BOB leaves the words FWWM after killing Laura, so that he will be able to return to the physical world when the note is found. It is also important to explain that the “future’s past” is every single moment – every “now” once was the “future,” and when it happens, it instantly becomes the “past.”

  
The Owls. The owls are not what they seem.” is one of the most famous quotes from TP. This actually represents the leitmotif of the series, because in the whole town of TP nothing is what it seems on the surface. This was also Giant’s message to Cooper – that he should look beneath the surface in order to solve the case of Laura Palmer’s murder. Everybody’s got a secret and no one is what he seems to be. Thus, the owls are not what they seem. There has also been some speculations that the owl imagery is connected with alien abductees and the Bluebook Project, but also that the owls are actually servants of the Black Lodge whose role is to scout for fear and collect it to the spirits of the BL.

Coffee and Cherry Pies. The role of coffee and cherry pies in the world of TP is a rather interesting one. Before Laura Palmer’s murder and the arrival of the FBI in town, the respectable townspeople could drink their coffee, eat their cherry pies, smell the trees and be lulled into never facing the prostitution, violence, incest and drug abuse that was taking place in their homes and in their woods. Coffee and cherry pies are two drugs that sustained the day time face of the town of TP. But in the last episode, coffee suddenly appears inexplicably thick – just like scorched engine oil. Coffee doesn’t do quite the same job anymore. Reality that has been swept under rug, has finally reared its ugly head.

In the end, it is important to remind that all of these elements are just symbolic representations (equivalents of the real level) that hold the keys of solving and understanding the reality of TP and, therefore, none of them can be taken literally and for granted.
 


© Written by IVAN BUKTA & NATASHA MILUTINOV, 2002/2003; NOVI SAD, SERBIA  

LITERARY SOURCES


1. Rodley, Chris. Lynch on Lynch. London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1997.

2. Nochimson, Martha P. The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.

3. Hughes, David. The Complete Lynch. London: Virgin Books Ltd, 2001.

4. Lynch, Jennifer. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

5. Frost, Scott. The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.



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