Taking a closer look at David Lynch’s supremely underrated 1992 film scene by scene. Spoilers are a given, so don’t read if you haven’t seen. For my relatively spoiler-free of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in its entirety, click here.
Part 2: Agent Cooper, David Bowie and David Lynch’s most fucked-up dream sequence
After Agent Desmond disappears into thin air, we abruptly shift to the FBI offices in Philadelphia. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) walks into the room, and the Twin Peaks devotees who have been sweating it out so far can finally breathe easy. A long-lost familiar face. It’s no secret that Coop was the best character of the entire show, and we even get a brief, fuzzy synth-fanfare to welcome him back.
But now’s not the time for coffee or pie. Cooper’s cryptic first lines to Gordon are “It’s 10:10 AM on February 16th. I was worried about today because of the dream I told you about.” He then stands in front of a camera in the hall, checks the TV in the surveillance room and repeats until he finally sees his own image frozen on the screen staring back at him.
While this is going on, the “long lost” Agent Phillip Jeffries (played by David Bowie) exits the elevator and walks past Cooper’s frozen image towards Gordon’s office.
It’s all very confusing and abrupt, already the strangest part of an already strange movie, but the strangest is yet to come. Jeffries begins rambling about “Judy” while the screen starts to flash in static. A dancing demon is coming into view.
This leads us into David Lynch’s most truly fucked-up dream sequence. It’s…something else.
Jeffries makes a subtle reference to the season two finale (“Episode 29”) when he points at Cooper and asks, “Who do you think this is there?” Since the Black Lodge exists outside time and space, he probably already knows about Coop’s evil doppelganger.
Jeffries’ dialogue can still be heard during the dream sequence, which makes for a little sloppiness on Lynch’s part. The voice is so unmistakably David Bowie’s (“Oh believe me, I found something!) that it almost takes you right out of the scene.
We then get to see what Jeffries saw, or something like that. The Black Lodge inhabitants meet in a room above a convenience store (Judy’s?). The room is not the typical setting Lynch reserves for these kinds of scenes. No red curtains or high contrast. Instead, dingy walls and sunlight poking through.
However, the cast of characters are pure Lynch. Many of them we have seen before, many of them we haven’t. They are, in order from best to worst:
1. Jumping red-suited demon in white mask
He’s the first guy we see and the one that would freak me out the most. Why’s he jumping? Why’s he masked? Is he the grandson? Electricity? Nice suit, though.
2. Mrs. Chalfont
She doesn’t speak, but her (Frances Bay) stone-faced glances carry an aura of total mystery. Chalfont and her grandson appear to Laura Palmer later in the film.
3. Chalfont’s grandson
The Chalfonts appeared in season two to Donna Hayward, but never was the little boy masked (a mini-replica of the one the red-suited demon is wearing). And never was there a monkey under the little boy’s mask. Why not, right? And, yes, the monkey does appear in the film’s grand finale.
4. The Man from Another Place
Michael J. Anderson’s famous dancing midget is back, and he is the unquestioned ringleader of the Lodge. Always enigmatic, he calls the dish of creamed corn “Garmonbozia”, while also commenting on the décor (“This is a formica table, green is its color”) and referencing the mysterious ring (“With this ring, I thee wed”). Usually, he’s my favorite Lodger, but his strange backwards-speak got on my nerves this time around.
5. Woodsman 1/The Electrician
The one who backwards-slaps his knee three times.
6. Woodsman 2
The one to the far left, who looks a little like the figure behind Winkie’s diner.
7. Woodsman 3
The one who lives up to his name. (More woodsmen appear in season three, most notably in “The Return, Part 8)
9. Killer BOB
BOB feeds off of possessing, raping and murdering. He is evil incarnate and probably one of the most vile plot devices in network TV history. Legitimately frightening because of how horrid he is. And, with apologies to Frank Silva, he is ugly as camel shit.
Static flashes abound. Two things to be gained from this trippy dream sequence are that the Black Lodge spirits use electricity as portals to our world (explaining the emphasis on telephone poles, TV screens and, later, ceiling fans), and that “garmonbozia” is the food that they eat. It takes the shape of creamed corn, but it is really human suffering, or something like that.
I told you this shit was fucked.
I love it, yes, but it isn’t perfect. The non-Lynchian setting and the clashing voiceover are mistakes that Lynch usually doesn’t make when he goes balls-to-the-wall surreal. Likewise, the resolution is too quick. The red curtains appear, Bob and the midget exit, and suddenly David Bowie is screaming in pain. More lo-fi static flashes, jumpy edits and fast-motion shots of power lines. Bowie has disappeared in inglorious fashion. Another moment that feels like Lynch got lazy.
But the shock and awe of the entire sequence is what makes it what it is. So uncompromising and strange—if you’ve already given yourself up to this film, then you’ll love it. If not, it’s self-absorbed and self-parodic. Fire Walk with Me is the ultimate Lynch litmus test, with this uber-surreal pastiche as the centerpiece.
Bowie’s death in 2016 caused Phillip Jeffries to be portrayed as a teapot-looking, metal machine in Twin Peaks: The Return, which is just as confounding as this dream sequence. Wonderful, in it’s way, though.
The final scenes of this lengthy prelude find Cooper heading to Fat Trout trailer park to talk with Harry Dean Stanton and investigate Chester Desmond’s disappearance. The trailer—which belonged to the Chalfonts—where Desmond found the ring is now gone. Likewise, Desmond’s car has been graffitied with a crude message: “Let’s Rock!” (alluding to the first line The Man From Another Place says to Cooper in his “Episode Two” dream)
Cooper muses into his tape recorder and manages to leave us with one classic quip (“…but as the song goes, who knows where or when”) before the film reboots again. One year later, we’re back in Twin Peaks and the famous theme song is playing.
Everything’s back to normal, right?