My friends and I attended a Twin Peaks party recently. (That’s me on the left, with Nance on my right.)
Watching that series as a teenager changed me. I’d never seen anything like it. The ways that David Lynch played with mood, with surrealism, with music: It was a show that constantly took risks.
Lynch is talented at creating a dream state on screen. His films have the inescapable logic of nightmare. He’s never afraid to discard rationality, taking a short cut right to the viewer’s lizard brain.
At the party, the hosts showed the very last episode of the series. There’s a long sequence where the hero, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), has entered a place called the Black Lodge (all red curtains and zigzag floors).
The Black Lodge is a kind of underworld, or limbo, where our hero’s soul is in peril. But the threats aren’t clear-cut. There are demons there, it turns out, but there’s no stake-to-the-heart opportunity.
Cooper keeps walking up and down the same red hallway, parting the same billowing curtains, and finding himself in the same room, with increasingly disturbing results. There’s a hum in the background, almost too low to hear, like the space itself is alive and malevolent.
He encounters people who speak strangely to him, in distorted English with subtitles. Lynch created this effect by having the actors record their dialog backwards, and then playing the audio track backwards. The effect is creepy in an Uncanny Valley way: Almost human, but not quite.
Like Alfred Hitchcock, Lynch understands that the darkest places aren’t necessarily haunted houses or unlit basements. They can be suburban living rooms. They can be a train track among the pine trees.
And they can be a room with a zigzag floor, billowing red drapes, people talking backwards, and no way out.
During the screening, my fellow fans were in high spirits, laughing and clapping at some goofy elements earlier in the episode. But in the Black Lodge sequence, people got quieter and quieter, drew closer to the person sitting next to them.
The episode is about 25 years old, so that’s some staying power.
Agent Cooper was always on the prowl for a “damn fine cup of coffee.” In tribute to him, I brought a couple of signs saying “Damn fine,” and invited people to pose with them.
Some folks came in costume! Here are two Dr. Jacobys (Jacobies?):This Agent Cooper was also damn fine:I’m looking forward to seeing the upcoming reboot of the show, which I’m sure will be damn fine itself.
Read this wonderful Guardian piece about why the world needs Agent Cooper now more than ever.