The world’s greatest literature – Oedipus and Hamlet – contain themes of incest. David Lynch’s best film (in my humble opinion that is) does the same. Fire Walk With Me is like one long, one hundred and thirty four minute nightmare. The whole time you long to wake up and breathe with relief, Thank god it isn’t so!
The way the film is put together, it’s basically up to the viewer to put the story together. We’re given plot fragments in a haphazard manner, bizarre happenings, strange, hard to decipher clues, evocative sequences and an endless stream of the film maker’s idiosyncratic images. A lot of what happens is almost impossible to figure out. But you don’t mind, because it all goes so well together and, most importantly, seems to make sense. For example, after one dramatic episode, we go to a mouth eating up a spoon full of (what I think is) corn.
The story is basically about how Laura Palmer is having a sexual relationship with her father. This is so delicate a matter that for practically the entire film the subject is danced around, but never stated definitely. For the one sex scene Killer Bob does the sex, then at a climatic moment the face of Laura’s father is substitued for Killer Bob’s, so we know it is an incest scene.
Sheryl Lee, who plays the surpremely messed up Laura Palmer deserves every award that you can give an actress. Laura Palmer must be one of the most complex characters written in the last twenty years or so. She’s at one moment daddy’s little girl, then she’s a complete bitch, then she’s off to a sleazy bar to have sex with strangers.
My favourite scene is when her boyfriend Bobby kills a drug courier who he thinks is about to fire a gun off at him. At first Laura is shocked, then she starts to giggle uncontrollably, then she’s thoughtful, then she giggles again and says in a singsong voice, You killed Mike. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it anywhere else in cinema.
One always is tempted to speculate that there could be something autobiographical in this film, with David Lynch at least musing on the psychology and dynamics of incest. But this seems impossible. Who knows why he chose this theme of incest? I don’t think he knows himself. I think he’s more of a divinely inspired artist. The idea literally came to him out of the blue, and he just ran with it.
David Lynch obviously has an enormous amount of sympathy for Laura, who goes through an absolute hell, not really of her own making. There are powerful demons driving her. In the last scenes of the film, where she receives some sort of redemption, everything that happens to her appears to have been pre-ordained. She just does whatever the fates have in store for her, like a heroine in a Greek tragedy.
I think this film was the high point in David Lynch’s career. It should really be coupled with Eraserhead, his other divinely inspired film. Nothing he’s done since I think has come close to the two above mentioned films.