There are two basic levels of narration:
Good Vs. Evil. For every element of the real story there is an equivalent in the surreal version and the elements of the real and the surreal levels cannot be mixed.Black Lodge and White Lodge do not exist as separate worlds, they cannot exist separated from the material world. Both Black Lodge (BL) and White Lodge (WL) are only two different sides of Twin Peaks (TP) or any other place, for that matter. The all-present antagonism and dihotomy was expressed in the story of TP. Every thing/person/place basically has two different faces and nothing can be understood as explicitly good or evil (one of the references to that idea is the name of the actual place – TWIN Peaks). Those two places are “one and the same,” they make TP together and all three of them are dependent of each other. WL and BL cannot exist without one another, and together they cannot exist without TP. They are two possible realizations of TP, i.e. good and evil cannot exist without one another (poles can be explained and defined only as each other’s opposites). And even good and evil cannot exist only as abstractions that are not realized in a form of a material manifestation.
Spirits. All the characters who are usually understood as spirits actually represent personifications of some potential aspects of human nature. All of these aspects exist in all of us as latent and they have equal possibilities of development. Which ones will eventually prevail, depends only on particular situations in one’s life.
The Room Above The Convenience Store. We must pay attention to the key word here – ABOVE. Convenience store symbolizes something material, but also something that is necessary for satisfaction of basic human needs. Since that room is above, that means it represents something which is not of the material world. It is above the Convenience Store , because something abstract cannot exist without the material. In other words, material world is the condition sine qua non of the existence of the abstract. That is why it is said that these characters (“spirits”) live inside a dream. A dream is not material and it represents a product or a part of human conscience – just like these characters do. They do not exist as entities per se , but they represent products or aspects of human’s psyche. They live in the man himself and just like a dream, they cannot exist separate from him.
The Red Room = The Waiting Room. Neither BL nor WL were explicitly shown. Only the Waiting Room (WR) was shown. WR represent a critical point of one’s life when one has to face the dark side of oneself. The dark side surfaces due to fear or insecurity, and if one gives in to these fears, the dark side will prevail over him (that is actually the anihillation of the soul, since the necessary balance between the two sides is lost). The transfer to the BL represents the inability of preserving oneself, one’s own integrity during a temptation, e.g. when one’s strength and virtue are put to test. The WR is actually a test.
Time in WR does not go linearly-progressive. That is due to the fact that the only moments that are significant are the ones that are a part of the CIRCLE, i.e. the ones that influence future events and determine the future. Since the future is already inevitable and competely conditioned by events of the past (one thing inevitably leads to the next), therefore its own reflection can be seen in the WR. Causality, the relationship between cause and effect, is of crucial importance and in “Twin Peaks; Fire Walk With Me” they make a perfect circle in which none of the pieces can be altered, and the ending is as inevitable as it is. However, the characters are creating their own reality by their own actions, i.e. in every moment they suffer the consequences of their own choices. Therefore, one’s destiny is already preordained, but not by a force outside the individual, but by the interaction of the outside influences and one’s choices in the circumstances given.
THE PALMER FAMILY
It was on her 12th birthday when Leland Palmer bought a diary for his daughter Laura Palmer. It was that same year when he started abusing her. The purpose of the diary is the control over Laura. It represents a gateway into Laura’s introspection and a representative of her (non) realization of what is happening to her and who the person hurting her is. That birthday/dairy was a crossroad, although even before that moment there were some indications (since Laura is already mentioning a person named BOB) of what is about to be happening in the years to come, but it would be safe to assume that the actual molestion starts at that point – when Leland’s safety is guaranteed by the fact that in every moment he can be confident that Laura is not aware of his real identity.
Family can be defined as the basic economic, social, sociological and reproductive community. Family is the basic unit of modern society. “Twin Peaks” represents a pungent criticism of seemingly perfect and idilic rural middle class of America, in which all the basic and best values should supposedly be embodied. In that criticism, the leading point is family, which is not only the “holy cow” of that society, but is also its’ basic unity. Therefore, derangement of society is shown in its’ roots. And if the root of society is deranged, how could the system possibly work?
Denial is one of the elements of human nature and, in some normal limitations, it can be found in each of us in everyday life. However, denial in the Palmer family crosses all normal boundaries and takes deranged dimensions. In her denial, Laura goes so far that not only does she speak to no-one about what is happening to her or ask anyone for help, but she also refuses to admit even to herself that the person in question is Leland, and instead of him she sees BOB and she convinces herself that BOB is a real person. Sarah is obviously completely aware of what is going on, but she consciously chooses to shut herself from the fact that there is a problem in the family. The knowledge of what is happening and her incapability of making a change bring her to shattered state of nerves. She chooses passiveness to maintain the illusion of a perfect all-American family. At one point in her diary (page 142), Laura says that it disturbs her parents, especially her mother, if anyone mentions BOB. She says: “Sometimes I think my Mom and I could be the best of friends. […] But she comes from a family and generation that doesn’t really like to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. Maybe BOB makes her feel uncomfortable. Maybe Dad knows BOB too, but Mom won’t let us talk about him because it makes everyone… so upset… I don’t know.” This indicates the fact that all members of the family are aware of what is going on, but they refuse to admit it.
The atmosphere in the Palmer house shifts from one extreme to the other in a blink of an eye. For instance, a parallel can be drawn between two family dinners. In one, which occurs on Thursday night (in the sreenplay), there is the senseless conversation in which Leland teaches Laura and Sarah to introduce themselves in Norwegian ( LELAND: “The Norwegians are coming next week and I want you to learn to say what I just learned in Norwegian. So you can talk to them. I want you to learn to say, ‘Hello, my name is Leland Palmer’.” ; LAURA: “But my name isn’t Leland Palmer.” […] Leland extends a hand to each of them. An air of insanity seems to come over the Palmer dining room as they all begin to laugh histerically and talk in broken Norwegian). By contrast, on Friday night, there is the extremly unpleasant situation in which all members of the family finally take their masks off and start playing their true parts. It is at that point when we are, for the first time, openly shown how Laura’s role as the child in the family is violated by her father - in front of her mother, no less. There is a number of other indications of the true nature of the relationships in the Palmer family, which can be seen in entries from Laura’s diary:
· page 104: “I tried to talk to Dad at breakfast and he just sat there twitching, like he doesn’t have time for any extra thoughts. Doesn’t have time for the fucking suicide dreams his own daughter is having. Neither one of my parents will talk to me… What is this? Some kind of a dream?”
· Page 126: “I wanted to go home, sleep in my bed, be a little girl again. Fake an illness or cramps and ask Mom to take care of me. Read ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Stuart Little’, sip coffee while she turns pages, watches me.”
· Page 135: “BOB: YOUR PARENTS HAVEN’T KEPT ME FROM GETTING TO YOU, HAVE THEY? NEITHER ONE TALKS TO YOU THE WAY THEY USED TO. THEY STOPPED CARING A LONG TIME AGO. THEY PUT UP WITH YOU. NOTHING MORE.”
Leland treats Laura as his princess, perfect little daughter and at the same time, he molests her. However, as he is doing this he cannot admit to himself that she truly is a pure and innocent child and that she is not aware that he is the person abusing her. He needs Laura to take a piece of the blame in order to take that blame off himself, i.e. he needs to believe that she deserves it and that he is punishing her. By doing that he projects his own filth onto her. The only question is how it all began: did his and Sarah’s failed marriage encouraged him or did his actions cause the failure of their marriage?
One of the extremely important symbols when it comes to the Palmer family are flowers. The motif of flowers is found everywhere in the Palmer house: on wallpapers, paintings, bedsheets, on the door of Laura’s room, and maybe most importantly – on the front door of the house (a heart-shaped wreath!). All the flower motifs are, however, still nature – which symbolizes fake idyll, or something which should pose as beautiful and healthy but is actually already dead. On the other hand, there is the motif of the woods which stands for something very much alive, but ominous. The Palmer house must be compared with the Hayward house: at their front door there are plants on one side, and nothing on the other. This could mean that in the Hayward family there is no hidden side, no reflection, only what is visible exists.
(Incidentally, it is interesting to note that almost no children in Twin Peaks have siblings – Laura, Bobby, James, Mike, Maddy etc. The question is would the state of the Palmer family be different if Laura had a brother or a sister? Anyway, doesn’t an ideal all-American family have two or three kids?)
Laura Palmer is a perfect example of the idea that as long as a person doesn’t hurt other people, there is nothing he/she can do that makes him/her a bad person. Regardless of all she is doing (taking drugs, drinking, working as a prostitute, sleeping around), it still doesn’t make her a bad person . Everything she does, she does only to herself because she is trying to protect herself from BOB. All her actions are just reaction of a lonely, scared, little girl lost who does not understand what is happening to her or who she can ask for help. She is so innocent and pure, that she is unable to comprehend the situation she found herself in or its origin. As she cannot accept the reality surrounding her, her mind subconsciously creates a new one – one in which she cannot even see her father as her abuser, but instead of him creates BOB. Laura’s denial takes such a direction that she cannot see (let alone accept) that her abuser is actually her own father who, in each single moment, treats her like his princess (except in the dinner scene). Instead of that, she visualises BOB as her molestor, who she considers to be a part of the reality. This is not so much a result of her inability to accept and face the incredibly cruel reality which is thrust open her, as much as it is of her kindness and love towards her father. This is the reason why she cannot acknowledge the truth, which clearly imposes itself on a few occasions during the last few days of her life.
In the scene with Harold (Thursday), Laura says to him: “ You are not BOB, are you, Harold? If you are, you can kill me right now. Kill me right now if you are.” Laura is still not aware of BOB’s identity, but she can no longer put up with physical and especially mental abuse. It is becoming harder and harder for her to maintain the image of a perfect all-American homecoming queen. That is the first time Laura seems to suspect that BOB is not a real person (because if he was, how could he be Harold?).
She fights to preserve the purity of the people she loves and tries to protect them (James and Harold from physical and Donna from spiritual harm). That can be seen in two very important scenes: the aforementioned scene with Harold and the scene in which Laura sees James for the last time. She hurts the people she loves, but only in order to protect them from BOB, who must not find out about her relationship with Harold and especially her relationship with James. In both scenes, Laura chants: “The trees… the trees…” and from that we could conclude that in some way the trees symbolize protection or shelter to her.
She faces the truth for the first time when she comes back home (Friday) and finds BOB in her room and then right afterwards sees Leland leaving the house (NOTE: we should bear in mind that all the while Leland thinks that Laura knows that it is him, but that she enjoys being molested because she feels dirty). Instead of accepting the truth, she seeks shelter with Donna, who of course cannot help her.
The second instance when she faces the truth is in the family dinner scene when, for a moment, Leland takes off his mask by harrasing Laura to wash her hands. His insisiting does not make any sense, since he was the one who asked her to join him at the table as soon as she entered the house (of course he knows she did not wash her hands, since he did not give a chance to do so). She even says she is not hungry, but she is forced to sit at the table. The obvious irony lies in the fact that as the morally dirtiest characters he is obsessed with cleanliness.
That same evening he goes to her and admits his love for her (and by doing so, he fulfills the expectations of reestablishing the shattered illusion of a perfect family). She is confused again (she asks the Angel: “Is it true?”) and once again she cannot recognize the actual state of things, because her love for her father is awakened again. If we look at it this way, we most pose a question how frequent were the indications of the true identity of her abuser and did they become more frequent in time? Did they appear for the first time during the last week or did they just reach their peak at that point?
Her doubts are further reenforced when, in “Partyland” (Saturday), Jacques connects her father to the murder of Teresa Banks’s (NOTE: we should bear in mind that never before did Laura associated Teresa’s death with Leland or BOB), and especially when Leland and Laura meet Mike in the traffic jam scene (Sunday). Leland and Laura are full of distrust to each other: Laura because she is having doubts about BOB’s true identity, and Leland because he is starting to realize that Laura does not really know that it was him all along. In that scene, the two of them are miles away from the illusion of a perfect relationship between a successful lawyer and his precious daughter. All the while their hysterical behavior is in utter discord with the thing they are saying, it looks as though they are saying the wrong lines. This comes from the fact that although the pretense of their relationship has been smashed to bits, they are still trying to maintain it and they keep playing their parts, which turns the whole situation into a farce (NOTE: another Leland’s comment, ironic from our point of view: “Guy just pulls out of the blue… I mean… What is this world coming to?”).
At that point even Leland himself admits to Laura he was home on Friday when she saw him, but even then Laura still refuses the see the reality. That same night in her room, she is still wondering: “Who are you? Who are you REALLY?”. As an answer to that question, Leland fills the frame, remembering how he murdered Teresa.
The key scene of the film is Wednesday night (22nd February), when Leland rapes Laura for the last time. What Mike said comes true: “ The thread will be torn.” Laura reaches the point when she can take no more, when she is not able to straight for a single moment or to control her denial of reality. And since she cannot handle the truth, she is forced to make herself numb (the script says: “SLOWLY WHAT SHE ALWAYS KNEW DEEP INSIDE OF HER, BECOMES CLEAR“). Although in her vision BOB is dressed, in reality Leland is naked, for the first time he is completely stripped in front of her and all of his masks come off.
While having breakfast the following morning “the perfect family” finally breakes at the seams. Laura cannot take her father’s presence, Leland realizes that it was only last night that Laura saw his true face, and Sarah grasps that Laura has found out the truth. Still Sarah remains passive and continues to do nothing to answer her daughter’s cries for help. That day comes the final choice since it is far too late for everything else.
Laura cannot and does not want to disclose everything, because she would gain nothing by doing so. Her family is destroyed, she is in drugs and prostitution up to her neck, as far as she can remember she has been abused by her own father and her mother on the edge of madness. In the murder scene, LAURA DOES NOT FIGHT AT ALL. She literally gives in to her father, because that is the only way for her to keep her purity and innocence. Even if Leland hadn’t killed her, but was, say, arrested – HOW COULD SHE EVER RETURN TO NORMAL LIFE, ESPECIALLY SINCE SHE NEVER HAD ONE?!?!
Forced to experience life’s darkest side too early, Laura becomes bitter and cynical and knows too much for her age; on the other hand, she has to pretend she is a good, model, naive little girl. Almost everyone in town knows something bad about her, but they all keep silent and play dumb, using her for their own needs (or is she using them?) – e.g. Benjamin Horne, Josie Packard, Dr. Jacoby, Bobby Briggs, Leo Johnson and Jacques Renault etc. She only manipulates negative characters, while she treats positive characters with kindness and even tries to protect them.
Laura tries to free herself from BOB by becoming even worse than he is. Since she is a strong individual, she chooses to fight. Otherwise, she would’ve gone crazy or killed herself a long time ago – and that would have been the easy way out. However, not even she herself knows that her actions cannot kill the goodness within. Her actions are only self – defense and deep inside she remains kind and pure and fights to preserve the purity of her loved ones. In the scene with James, Laura finally shows him her true self and her life as it is and not as he would want to see it (NOTE: Laura’s distorted face on the rearview mirror of James’s bike): “Open your eyes, James. You don’t even know me. There are some things about me. Even Donna doesn’t know me. YOUR LAURA DISAPPEARED. IT’S JUST ME NOW.” The darkness and light inside her are fighting, one moment she kisses him, lets herself go, and the next she gives him the finger, when she realizes that Leland could find out about their relationship and kill James. All she wants is to get lost together, but it is impossible to get away from BOB, from the darkness he brought into her life, or the darkness she pushed herself into. “There is no place left to go. Is there, James?” James was her last opportunity for a normal life, but of course he could not help her. Realizing who BOB truly is, she puts on another mask and pushes James away from herself, in order to protect him from Leland. Consequently, the end as it is inevitable. Laura would rather sacrifice her own life than give in to her dark side, the BOB inside her. In a way, she has been in the Waiting Room ever since she was 12, since she is constantly in a state of fear even for her life, and in contact with suffering and temptation. This is exactly why she is the MOST POSITIVE AND THE STRONGEST CHARACTER. The others were either unable to endure the ordeal (i.e. they let their dark side prevail, e.g. Cooper) or they were never tempted in the first place (i.e. they did not have to face their dark side, e.g. Donna).
In the murder scene, in which the fan can be heard in the traincar (and that stands for the presence of the evil from the house), Laura’s hands are tied up at first, and then they come undone for her to take the ring. This action is actually a symbol of her final decision, her ultimate choice. Instead of giving in to forces of evil, she would rather die. She faces her dark side with perfect bravery and thanks to her pure heart and soul, she is saved from hell and all her sins are redeemed. Her angel comes back for her to light her way to the White Lodge and we are left with the feeling that she will continue to fight against the darkness, but FROM ANOTHER PLACE. The world is still in chaos, but Laura is finally safe with Cooper, as her protector, by her side. She has finally found her peace, the shelter she has been searching for her whole life.
LELAND AND SARAH
LELAND: “What is this world coming to?!”
We would have a hard time defining the nature of the couple’s relationship. Their marriage has obviously gone off tracks a long time ago, yet they still play pretend to have an idyllic marriage. The earliest notion of their failed marriage is already visible in Laura’s diary entries, which date back to when she was 12. In one of the first entries (page 11), Laura describes an occasion in which she walked in on her parents having sex: “I had a fever and went into my parents’ bedroom and saw them naked with Dad on top. I just left the room and Mom came to see me a few minutes later with some aspirin and 7-Up. She never said a word about it. Donna says they were definitely having sex, and I already knew that, but they didn’t seem to like it. They just seemed to be moving very slowly and not even really looking at each other.“
Leland Palmer has been abusing his daughter ever since she was twelve years old. A few years later, in “Fleshworld,” he finds a picture of Teresa Banks (from Deer Meadow) who reminds him of Laura. Teresa is actually how he sees Laura, and that gives him an excuse to molest his daughter. He contacts Teresa, who he hides his name and his true identity from. Leland and Teresa arrange a meeting with some friends of hers, but when he arrives there, he realizes that Teresa has brought his daughter. From his behaviour Teresa concludes that he must, in some way, be connected to Laura or Ronette, and later, from Jacques’s description, she finds out that Leland is Laura’s father. At that point she starts blackmailing him, and soon he murders her in order to preserve a wide-spread picture of himself as a successful lawyer, a perfect father and husband, with a perfect family.
In reality, Leland treats Laura as his precious little daughter, but on a few occasions the true nature of their relationship becomes visible: he acts like a jealous lover. When he sees her necklace, he asks: “ Did you get this from your lover?”, and when James comes to see Laura, Leland stands at the door “supervising” their conversation (that must be what occurred to Laura the last time she saw James).
All the while, Leland believes that Laura knows his true identity. That is why the last few days of her life represent a gradual, simultaneous discovering of the truth for the both of them. This belief of his stems from his opinion that she likes what he is doing to her ( NOTE: the dinner scene, “How do you know what she likes?”), and it can be seen from the fact that he has ripped out all the pages of her diary where there is any indication of BOB’s true identity.
Sarah is obviously aware of everything that is going on, but she consciously takes the easy way out and refuses to see the problems in the family. However, since she cannot completely repress her knowledge of what is happening, she becomes mentally unstable. When (in the script) she says: “No, this can’t be happening.” (when she realizes that she is wearing the sweater she has been looking for everywhere), the sentence obviously refers to the whole situation in her family. And then she says: “I’m gonna have ANOTHER breakdown.” If that is not her first breakdown, how come Laura never realized what is wrong, i.e. how come she never saw the connection between BOB, Leland, Sarah’s condition and her own behavior? If they seemed like a perfect family and the only thing that did not fit into that picture was her secret life her parents did not even know about, why was her mother in such a state?! When Laura hugs her mother trying to calm her down, Sarah backs out and walks away just as she always does (NOTE: we must mention the scene when Laura enters the house and calls “Mom?”, but gets no response. This scene is obviously a metaphore for the relationship between Laura and her mother, because it would normally be expected for a housewife to be home when her only daughter comes back from school).
Their whole reality, their family life, is a farce. With all Laura’s lies, Sarah worries about utter nonsense (e.g. Laura’s smoking – from the script) – which actually are the things that should worry the parents of a 17-year-old girl in a normal family. In one of these scenes, Sarah tells Laura: “You can tell me anything. I’ll understand”, which is another one of the Palmers’ statements that sound ironic from our point of view, because we know that Sarah constantly refuses to face the situation.
There are many indications of Sarah's instability that show her need to escape the real state her family is in, such as her chain-smoking habit, the visions and her obsession of obtaining the illusion of a family idyll. One of the most prominent Sarah's behavior patterns is her chain-smoking. Her smoking is so overdone that even Donna, on one occasion, comments this overuse as exceedingly unnatural: “If I had a nickle for every cigarette your mom smoked, I'd be dead.”
Throughout the movies and series, special emphasis was placed on her visions, the most important of which was the White Horse - in the movie it appears an instance before the rape scene, and in the series before Maddy's murder. The White Horse could be interpreted as her longing for freedom. The logical explanation for these hallucinations would be the effect of drugs Leland has been giving her for years (NOTE: Sarah’s silent concession is best presented through Leland’s gentle and discreet movement, with which he encourages her to drink the drugged milk). Although the visions are side effects of the drugs, they pose as a reflection of her inner state. The visions of the White Horse appear in these particular moments, for they are the breaking points of the Palmer family state. However, in both cases, the Horse remains unattainable and so does her liberation.
If one watches carefully, one can notice a number of carefully inserted details that bring about implications of her escapism. One of the most interesting ones is the book “How To Speak German,” which she is reading in bed, in the aforementioned scene before Leland rapes Laura for the last time. The title and the subject of the book seem utterly ridiculous and inappropriate in such unhealthy home atmosphere.
LYNCH: “There are many things I think that are out there that we don’t know about but sometimes, you know, you get certain feelings.”
LYNCH: “Things can go away and they can come back again, too.”
What is interesting is that the motif of angels appears only in the movie. It does not appear in the screenplay, the series, or the diary. The angels concept must be one of the last minute additions by Lynch himself. The first mention of angels emerges in the dreamy conversation between Laura and Donna (Thursday): DONNA: “Do you think that if you were falling in space you would slow down after a while or go faster and faster?” ; LAURA: “Faster and faster. For a long time you wouldn’t feel anything. And then you’d burst into fire. And the angels wouldn’t help you. Because they’ve all gone away.” Laura is obviously talking about the situation she is in, her downward spiral into darkness, which made her numb. Her answer leaves Donna feeling confused. Angels are Laura’s idea of the last straw, of a desperate person’s salvation. However, she feels disappointed and miserable. She is fully aware of her downfall and her bleak destiny (the inevitability of what is about to happen), that she does not believe that anything can possibly save her. That is why the angels have gone for Laura, and there is nothing to cling to.
On the picture in Laura’s room, an angel is feeding hungry, abandoned children , which is exactly what Laura is. She is nothing but a child who has been deprived of her childhood in the cruelest possible way; a child left on her own to face a problem she cannot handle. Before she leaves the house for the last time, the angel disapperers from the picture on her wall, leaving the children alone and helpless, which symbolizes the hopelessness of her situation. Laura is abandoned by her last angel, and there is no place left to go.
In the traincar, during the murder scene, Ronette is rescued by her guardian angel, but not before she repents and admits how dirty she feels (NOTE: the expression of anger/envy on Laura’s face). It is no accident that Mike shows up in the aforementioned scene, being the symbol of redemption.
But as Lynch says: “Things can go away and they can come back again, too.” In the end, Laura makes the right decision – and the circle is completed. She sacrifices herself for her father’s sake. She is fully conscious of her downfall and yet it it suggested throughout the movie, that she might find salvation should she take hold of the truth. When she finally does, the story can have its happy end. Laura’s angel returns to her to offer her an absolution and guides her to the White Lodge, where she will finally find her sanctuary.
MRS. TREMOND’S PICTURE
MRS. TREMOND: “This would look nice on your wall.”
The picture that Mrs. Tremond gives to Laura (Friday) represents a warning that the evil that haunts her lies in her own home. The Red Room, the Ring, the Man Behind the Mask – it is all closer than she realizes.
The door in the picture which leads to the Red Room (in which Cooper warns her not to take the ring) symbolizes the gateway to her subconscious. It is a reminder that she must find a path to her subconsiousness, so that she could grasp the truth. And the truth shall set her free.
The picture is a reflection which shows how close to the Red Room her own home really is. Metaphorically, her room in which the raping and the molestation take place is an entrance to the Red Room.
The picture could also be interpreted as a mirror that shows the true state of things. Laura, from the picture, sees herself asleep in her bed. Her helplesness and denial are being shown. Also, everything that happens in this scene could be connected to what Phillip Jeffries said: “We live inside a dream.” The Ring, the Red Room, Annie and Sarah’s voice calling her name (which show the circular passage of time, to be discussed later), that is all the things that belong to another world away from the real one, disappear when Laura wakes up.
COOPER: “Don’t take the ring, Laura. Don’t take the ring.”
The Ring, besides angels, is another concept that appears only in the movie. The Ring with the ‘Owl Cave’ symbol surfaces a number of times: on Teresa’s hand (when Laura recalls the events from The Blue Diamond Hotel; on the photo in her trailer, but interestingly enough, not on her corpse!); beneath the trailer, where Desmond finds it; on the formica table in ‘The Meeting Above the Convinience Store’ scene (LITTLE MAN FROM ANOTHER PLACE: “With this ring, I thee wed.”); in Laura’s dream of the Red Room (LMFAP offers it to her) and in her hand a moment after that; on Mike’s little finger in the traffic jam scene (another warning?); and finally, in the traincar, when the Ring suddenly emerges out of nothing for Laura to place it on her wedding finger (the same finger under the nail of which Leland found dirt where the letter would be discovered afterwards). The Ring also appears in the screenplay when Annie lies in the hospital, being rescued “from the Red Room.” The nurse sees the Ring on Annie, takes it, and puts it on her own finger.
Based on everything stated above, several conclusions could be drawn. First of all, the Ring is not a material object, but merely a symbol. Although there are some indications that it represents death, we would rather suggest that the Ring is another one of the numerous circular symbols in Twin Peaks (the fan, the Red Room, the sycamore trees, etc.). these symbols stand for the circle life, the closure of the circle, fundamental decisions and encircling of events leading to an inevitably conditioned end.
The ‘Owl Cave’ sign engraved on the Ring must somehow be connected to the BL; however, by no means should that be the reason to interpret the Ring as a symbol of evil. In the traincar scene, Laura makes a choice to take the Ring. This decision leads to her victory over the dark forces of the BL, because her purity remains intact. Indeed, in the movie’s conclusion, she doesn’t end up in the darkness of the BL but rather in ANOTHER PLACE…
MRS.TREMOND’S GRANDSON: “He is under the fan now.”
The fan is one of the circular elements which appears both in the movie and the series. The fan is found on the ceiling above the staircase in the Palmer house, between Laura’s and her parents’ bedroom. On the one hand, the fan can symbolize the circular movement of events, life and death. The circle. On the other hand, the fan is connected to electricity. There are indications that electricity is the medium that the inhabitants of the Lodges use for crossing from “The Lodge world” to “the physical world” of Twin Peaks. Bearing this in mind, one could suggest that they use, that is manipulate the electricity. Some of the other occurances that are references to electricity are: flickering lights, power poles and lines in the trailer park, the security camera in the FBI office, static on TV, traffic lights, etc.
On Wednesday night, Leland turns the fan just prior to raping Laura for the last time. We can safely assume that he did that every time, which gives the sound of the fan a special significance – it gives it an ominuos quality because it is realized as an omen of what is going to happen. The sound of the fan instantly indicates that something bad is happening. It even serves as an eery audio background during the traincar scene (how could there be a fan in an abandoned traincar?!).
When Mrs.Tremond’s grandson emphasizes to Laura that the man behind the mask is under the fan now, what he is actually saying is that the terror lies at home. What happens UNDER THE FAN is the thing of horror hidden underneath the surface. All these horrifying events happen right there (not in the woods!) right in front of the whole family, the whole town. UNDER THE FAN are those things that are not talked about, the secrets that must remain hidden.
Circles are one of the most frequently used symbollic elements both in the movie and the series. Some of the examples are: the Ring (not only the Owl Cave Ring, but also Cooper’s ring that the Giant takes from him just to return it when Cooper reveals the true identity of the murderor), the fan, the circle of twelve sycamore trees on the entrance to the BL, the circle that Mrs.Tremond’s grandson makes when jumping around in the parking lot of the Blue Diamond Hotel (and after that, the Owl Cave ring appears on Teresa’s hand), etc. These examples are innumerable, and they all point to the circular succession of events. Whatever point we choose as our starting-point, the circle will lead us right back to it. That represents the movement, happening, circulation of things, in a normal stream of Birth, Life and Death.
One of the keys for the deciphering the meaning of the circles is the sentence the LMFAP says in ‘The Room Above the Convinience Store’ scene: “And everything will proceed cyclically.” This draws us to conclude that all the events in Twin Peaks are in the relationship of cause and effect (ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER) and once they have happened they form a perfect whole, a circle in which all things are connected, i.e. the end is inevitably conditioned, which means that Laura’s death is the only possible ending.
It is impossible to step out of the circle, which represents the inevitability of events (Laura had to be killed for Cooper to come to TP, so that BOB could find a new “host” etc. etc.).
MIKE: “BOB is BOB. Eager for fun. He wears a smile… everybody runs…”
ALBERT: “Maybe that is what BOB really is. EVIL THAT MEN DO.”
Have you ever heard of a theory called Ockham’s Razor? It claims that we need not stretch for an explanation further than necessary. People make big mistake when they are trying to literally define BOB as a spirit who inhabits people’s bodies in order to perform his acts of evil. But in films of David Lynch you cannot take anything for granted just like that.
We have to realize that BOB is not real. BOB doesn’t exist. He is only a personification of the evil that men do or, more to the point, the DARK SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE that inhabits all of us. In that way, BOB is a part of us all, a hidden facet of our personality, potential aspect of our nature. As stated above, all of these aspects exist in all of us as latent and they have equal possibilities of development. Which ones will eventually prevail, depends only on particular situations in one’s life and one’s personality.
To say that BOB is the one who is responsible for Laura’s, Maddy’s and Teresa’s murder is just taking the responsibility of the man who committed these evil acts – Leland Palmer (note: this is directly implied in Leland’ ironic statement in the series’ final episode saying he ‘didn’t kill anybody’). Placing his blame on some kind of a concept of demonic possession is nothing more than an attempt to avoid his responsibility. If not in the series, this is clearly stated in the movie.
BOB is Leland’s alter ego, his mask, behind which he is trying to hide his sickness and find an excuse for the acts he has committed. But also, from the medical point of view, BOB can be seen as a reflection of Leland’s mental disorder (multiple personality syndrome). On the other hand, BOB is Laura’s mental projection, a creation of her mind which creates a new ‘reality’ to replace the one it can no longer stand. As previously discussed, her mind is unable to accept the true nature of her molester and therefore it creates a ‘mask’ in the form of BOB, meant to protect her from finding the truth. The truth she will eventually find out will bring to her end, but it will also set her free and take her to another place.
BOB is a powerful, primal evil which exists in every single one of us. It is manifested in Leland as a way for him to disassociate his evil acts from his normal everyday life. On the one hand, he is a molester, rapist, murderer and incest committer and, on the other hand, he is a renowned lawyer and a respected member of the community. BOB is his justification, his attempt at placing his blame on someone else’s back ( NOTE: interestingly and frighteningly, in a small town called Indjija – in my home country of Yugoslavia, Europe - a few years ago a man who brutally killed a family, defended himself in court, claiming that he was possessed by BOB while committing these crimes… BELIEVE IT OR NOT THIS REALLY HAPPENED!).
Finally, another important aspect of BOB is his mundane look (jacket, jeans, workboots). He is powerful, yet simple, suggesting that BOB COULD BE ANYONE. ANYONE OF US.
MRS. TREMOND’S GRANDSON: “The man behind the mask is looking for the book with the pages torn out.”
The whole world of Twin Peaks is filled with masks that are meant to cover up the real state of things, beginning with Palmer family and furthermore all citizens. On the one hand, there are materialistic masks (Mrs. Tremond’s grandson’s mask and the mask which Windom Earle sends to Cooper in the series) and on the other hand, there are symbolic masks which are used by “inhabiting spirits” as a way of hiding behind their “hosts.” It is true to say that all of the town people are hiding their real selves behind some kind of masks. On the surface everything looks beautiful, but behind the masks there is a whole another reality.
When the Tremonds gave Laura the mysterious picture, the little boy said to her: “The man behind the mask is looking for the book with the pages torn out. He is moving towards his hiding place. He is under the fan now.” The question is who is really talking about. Who is the man behind the mask? Is BOB the man behind the mask and Leland is the mask? Or is Leland the man behind the mask and BOB is the mask?
One can argue that Leland is BOB’s mask (i.e. who would have thought that such a perfect daddy hides so much evil underneath?), but also BOB is Leland’s mask before Laura (i.e. her projection, her perception).
It is important to mention that Mrs. Tremond’s grandon’s mask does not have any eyeholes (which disables one from seeing the truth) and that it also has suggestive phallic tendencies (connected with Leland, who is an incest committer). In the “room above the convenience store” scene, he takes the mask off the reveal a monkey’s face. The same one who will whisper Judy’s name in the end, thus making a connection between Phillip Jeffries, Cooper, Laura, BOB, Twin Peaks and the BL. All of them covering themselves, in one way or another, behind the masks.
CHET DESMOND: “I can’t tell you about that.”
Blue rose is an impossibility, something that cannot exist in nature, therefore its’ meaning is self-evident. Blue rose cases are codeword for those unusual, either unexplained or never fully explained cases which cannot be rationally or scientifically explained, usually involving some supernatural phenomena.
Blue rose is a symbol of otherworldly phenomena. Blue rose on Lil’s dress might be Gordon Cole’s message to Chet Desmond and Sam Stanley that should alert them to look beyond the rational in order to solve the case.
Blue rose could also be a reference to cases supposedly involving UFO’s as a part of “Project Bluebook,” referred to by Major Briggs and Windom Earle in the series.
Blue rose cases are also known as the X-Files cases, in another TV show.
COOPER: “How’s Annie?”
The character of Annie Blackburn appears in the movie as a part of Laura’s dream in which Tremonds are trying to warn Laura that terror lies within her home. In the dream Laura enters the Red Room (although we can see only her point of view) where Dale Cooper warns her not to take the ring. She “awakes” and sees Annie lying in bed next to her, covered in blood (in the same dress and the same condition in which she will be later found in Glastonberry Grove in the series’ final episode), who tells her: “My name is Annie. I’ve been with Dale and Laura. The Good Dale is in the Lodge and he can’t leave. Write it in your diary.” After that Laura finds the ring in her hand.
This is another instance which proves that time in the Red Room does not progress linearly. This is a message from the future, because it would not be a month before Annie arrives to Twin Peaks and finds herself in the Red Room kidnapped by Windom Earle, following her victory at the Miss Twin Peaks contest. This whole scene (with Cooper and MFAP in the Red Room and Annie’s appearance) was a part of the original film’s ending in which Annie is in the hospital room and she says the exactly same lines to the nurse, who then takes the ring from Annie’s finger. The nurse then enters the bathroom and “with an ancipatory smile, than a selfish laugh, puts the ring on her finger.”
Annie’s cryptic message serves as a premonition of things which are going to happen in the near future (i.e. Laura will be killed and Cooper and her will be found in the Red Room). The key words here are “Good Dale”, which are referring to the division which will happen to Cooper when he is faced with his biggest fears in the Red Room, while trying to save Annie. Cooper’s soul will be divided into two halves – the Good Dale and the Bad Dale – and only the latter will leave the Red Room and return to the physical world of Twin Peaks. The good part of agent Dale Cooper will find himself trapped in the Lodge where he will serve as Laura’s mentor in the film’s ending.
It is rather hard to decipher Annie’s last words. Laura has already given her diary to Harold, so she cannot write Annie’s message in it. One might suggest that Annie is asking for her help to release the Good Dale from the Lodge, but Laura is not capable of comprehending her message. That opens the question if Laura really is the person to who this message is addressed to. Will this message, if properly decoded in the future, lead to Cooper’s salvation some day? In 25 years?
ELEMENTS OF TWIN PEAKS
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 Glastonberry 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 Glastonberry 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 nonfunctioning 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 inhabitans 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
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