In the beginning it was Laura Hunt. That is, in the beginning it was the Otto Preminger Laura classic. In it, a police inspector investigates the murder of a young publicist, Laura Hunt, magnetic and enigmatic at the same time. While questioning suspects, the inspector becomes obsessed with her. Specifically, he becomes obsessed with a photograph of himself, before which, in the middle of the tape, he falls asleep. At that time, as the thinker Pacome Thiellement (Paris, 45 years old) points out, the film is lethargic. The spectator’s eyelids are heavy. “It is on purpose,” says Thiellement, because that “is the moment that Laura chooses to return from the dead and wake him up.”
Thiellement has spent more than a decade trying to unravel another mystery, that of Twin Peaks, dedicating to it the same effort – actively multidisciplinary – that any expert in another narrative work so cryptic, multireferential and playful would dedicate, such as, for example, James’ Ulysses Joyce. What kind of conclusions have you reached? Some that illuminate not only the work in question —almost an interstellar journey in the conception not only of the medium, television, but of the very idea of the show and the viewer— but the complete filmography of its creator, David Lynch.
“The allusions to the Preminger film will be very numerous in the first episodes of the series and will compete with others, left as little stones by Pulgarcito, which refer to Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock. Waldo is the name of a mainate — a type of bird — Lydecker is the name of his vet; the protagonist’s dictaphone is called Diane —like the actress who dies in Laura and who they mistake for Hunt—, Jacoby, the painter of Laura’s portrait is in the psychedelic psychoanalyst “, points out the thinker in the new book Three Essays on Twin Peaks, that Alpha Decay publishes for the 30th anniversary of the series premiere. Not to mention the central role of Laura’s own portrait, both in the Preminger film and in the Lynch series.
So central is the portrait in Laura that the actress in charge of interpreting it, Gene Tierney, always regretted that only the photograph was remembered of her, not her performance. As with Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer) in Twin Peaks. The mirror with which the series opens and closes could thus be given another meaning – the work itself is looked at in another – in addition to those that in themselves multiply in the plot, full of doubles – characters who play other characters -. Even the series itself is duplicated in the soap opera that watches the whole town, which is not coincidentally called Invitation to Love.
“Twin Peaks is like love,” Lynch said at the time, “it takes time.” But it is time precisely, Thiellement argues, that Twin Peaks destroys, dismembers, reinvents. It establishes “the disarticulated time” of which Hamlet speaks and of which Philip K. Dick spoke, a time in which “there is no difference between sleep and wakefulness”, because as Phillip Jeffries says in Fuego walks with me – fifth appendix of the universe Laura Palmer – “we live inside a dream”. It is the excess of passion, at the irrational start, which, for the essayist, dislocates the chronology.
Even Twin Peaks, says the thinker, Lynch’s cinema had been chronological, then, with the exception of A True Story, it never will be. It will gradually dissolve into small bundles of meaning that will free the viewer from their own condition as a viewer. And it is, he says, “from that nostalgia for Unity from which his story is nourished.” “From Twin Peaks, his work is filled with paths that lead nowhere”, which are, intricate “labertinos del alma” that close on themselves “like a hedgehog.” This is especially observable in the third season of Twin Peaks, which Lynch released in 2017, 25 years after the series’ supposed finale. In her, everything is altered but still there.
“The return route is much more confusing, difficult and misleading,” admits the thinker, but there it is. “If we look, we find the clues.” And he recites the famous iconography of the series: “An owl and cherry tarts in Las Vegas, a Sycamore street and donuts in Buckhorn”. It is infinity expanding. The work of art exploding. “When the ignorance of the real disappears, the identification of the spectator with the spectacle also disappears,” says Thiellement. When nothing is understandable or recognizable, when the mirror has been broken into a thousand pieces, “the show no longer exists”, and therefore, the viewer is freed from being. In this sense, Lynch’s cinema, concludes the thinker, “liberates the soul”.
Fundamental is also not only Dante – his structure of the world on Earth, White Lodge and Black Lodge is indebted to the key work of the Italian – but the long shadow of Edgar Allan Poe. Because Poe made up everything Twin Peaks shot on television. The detective novel — his Auguste Dupin predates Sherlock Holmes — the horror novel, and modern poetry. He even invented the figure of the writer who not only lives on his work but also has to do hundreds of other things to live. Most importantly, Poe was the first author to try to explain his creation process.
Faced with the success of his poem The Raven – deeply Lynchian: the narrator laments the loss of his beloved and receives in his room a crow who insists that “never again” will he be able to visit her in his dreams or forget her, “Poe decided Explain how it had been created, implying that his work was entirely rational and responded to clear objectives. “The work has walked towards its solution with the precision of a mathematical problem,” he wrote. Jorge Luis Borges assumed he was lying. But what if he didn’t? And isn’t there in Lynch a clear narrative of the very conception of the work?
Every work, says Thiellement, “is the constitution of a poetic and the poetic is always a communication by signs.” Lynch has taken sign language much further. He has invented Gordon Cole, a character he plays, Agent Cooper’s supervisor in Twin Peaks, to underline how he has created what we are seeing. He is a demiurge who “confronts the characters with a moving image loaded with symbols instead of telling them what to do.” It is Poe writing a letter to himself that everyone will be able to read. If they manage to leave their condition of spectator.
From cult series to artistic object
Released on April 8, 1990, ‘Twin Peaks’ soon became a cult object. It was not just that the dosification of the mystery – the episodes were broadcast two by two once a week – invented a new type of viewer, an active one, who was forced by the rhythm of the narration to launch their own hypotheses and shoot their own world. Inside, it was that what we saw violated what until then had been considered television. The “massive eroticization of everyday life”, those scenes with the appearance of an altarpiece —or a moving picture—, and the almost musical conception of the ensemble —the rhythm of the series has been compared to that of an “extraordinarily fluid” swing – made it talisman of a few. One year and 30 episodes after its premiere, the series was canceled. The death of the non-actor who played the main villain, Bob, Frank Silva – who, in fact, was the chief of sets -, in 1995, frustrated any attempt to revive the phenomenon, until three years ago, when he returned already turned into a artistic object, an aesthetic reflection, in full dissolution of the very idea of television. What ‘Twin Peaks’ comes to tell us is that television, Thiellement says, has always been “a psychic residue of life”.