One Morning Thought About Twin Peaks

I’ve been slowly re-watching Twin Peaks.  Back in the day, when it aired on network tv, I was transfixed—as were several of my friends in grad school.  We probably pored over Laura Palmer’s diary with more disciplined attention than we did the Kant or Aristotle or whatever we were reading.  Watching it now, knowing, as I do, the plot arc (such as it is), I have been free just to stew in the show, to study the remarkable set pieces (the graveside ceremony for Laura, the rock-and-bottle (-dream-Tibetan) mode of deduction scene, etc.), to reflect on why the show is so peculiar.

Here’s one thought:  the show is a study in the prolongation of mood.  The mood in question taxes description:  creeping, creepy, skin-crawling, comic, nonsensical, romantic, tragic, deadpan serious—something like that’s the mood, and it’s the mood of the moral investigation, because that is what the show is:  a moral investigation, a fabulous tragicomedy of manners.  —Deadpan serious: the characters often say something seriously that is ridiculous that is in another sense absolutely serious, serious beyond the character’s ability to know.  The moral investigation runs above and alongside, and sometimes in concert with, the criminal/mystical investigation of Laura’s murder, but it by no means is identical with it or fully parallel to it …

Now I need a cup of joe (“as black as midnight on a moonless night”)—and a donut!

2 responses

  1. What you call the prolongation of mood seems to me to do most of the work in creating the show’s sense of otherworldliness: it is often as if Twin Peaks partly occupies a supernatural world – even putting aside the red room dreams and figures like Bob. There are occasional explicit references to the supernatural, but my and large this atmosphere is generated simply by pacing and editing.

    • I agree that the pacing and editing do a lot of the heavy lifting. I remain particularly affected by the slow pans over, say, knick knacks on a mantle, while conversation takes place just off screen. The pans force you to decide what the knick knacks could possibly mean, what they are for, how they symbolize—in effect turning items not really meant to be gazingstock into gazingstock, rendering the mundane macabre.

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