Sunday, February 22, 2015

Part Four: Zen, Or the Skill to Catch a Killer

Notes on Twin Peaks

~ a chronological examination of the tv series and film ~

A lot has happened since the last post in this series: The Entire Mystery was released with the deleted scenes from FWWM, and, miracle of miracles, plans for a new season on Showtime was announced, as well as a novel by Mark Frost to inform us of the happenings in the town of Twin Peaks over the last 25 years (at least that is my understanding...)

It doesn't change the schedule of these posts, but it is interesting to be commenting on series that is once again a live entity: it gives any conjecture or theories regarding TP an element of falsifiability, as the new series could prove all the old ideas to be incomplete, and lead us off in whole new directions. I'm fairly sure it will.

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In Zen, Or the Skill to Catch a Killer, Lynch returned to direct for the last time in the first season, as he went into production on his next feature film, Wild At Heart. It is also the last episode in this season that was collaboratively written by Lynch and Frost. Well crafted in every respect, it is one of the high points of the series and one of the episodes that made the most long lasting impression on the culture at large.

The Log Lady Introduction for this episode revolves around the concept of ideas, and their mysterious, unknowable interaction with our minds and our experience of reality.  "All that we see in this world is based on someone's ideas. " 

How do we gain access to ideas? Through words, sometimes through dreams. "I can say it again: some ideas arrive in the form of a dream."   

Do we look for them, or do they seek us out, and we are the receivers and not the generators? "Sometime ideas, like men, jump up and say 'hello'.  

What effects can these ideas have on us, and on our interactions with others? "Some ideas are destructive, some are constructive."

52) A Tangle of Antlers

The episode opens with the Horne family around the dinner table, a fire crackling in the background, eating without speaking, for an unusually long time.

Audrey seems amused with Johnny's murmuring. The prominence of his feathered headdress, aligned with the Native American artwork on the wall, highlights his complete withdrawal from the shared reality of the family into his own private world.

Silvia seems to be seething with resentment, erupting with Sarah Palmer-esque exasperation when Jerry Horne bursts in, interrupting the silent meal. There's something very off-putting, animalistic, possibly sexual about the way the Horne brothers are appreciating and devouring those sandwiches.

The disjointed, awkward ordeal of this family dinner is reminiscent of the scene at Mary's in Eraserhead, with the brie-and-butter baguettes filling a similar role as the tiny bleeding chicken presented to Henry.

These scenes, and the later dinner-table scene in FWWM where Laura's fingernails are inspected, seem to share a common thread, where a meal becomes an uncomfortable facade, hiding away resentments, disgust and unspeakable impulses.

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Ben decides to take Jerry to One Eyed Jacks. The camera pans in on the mural on the wall just outside Ben's office, and dissolves from the waters in the painting to a boat jetting along a lake at twilight (half-night?).   

I like the feel of that transition - it seems like another instance in Twin Peaks, like the black and white photos in the Sheriff's office, which suggests the influence of the past on the present, especially how the history of human interaction with the land and the woods reverberates through time, an unacknowledged presence among the current action.

That mural, with two workmen, possibly lumberjacks, looks like from some time early in the 20th C., is one of the few pieces of the Great Northern's decor that is not Native American-inspired. To me it seems like an  emblem for Ben Horne's capitalist designs for the future of the Ghostwood Forest.

As Ben and Jerry move past a pool table to the bar at One-Eyed Jacks, we get a glimpse of an antler chandelier atop some copper pendant lamps.  As an ornamental piece it fits well with hunting-trophy decor prevalent in the town of Twin Peaks, and thematically ties in with deer imagery throughout Twin Peaks several other of Lynch's films.

A deer in The Straight Story.
Later in this episode, the scene in the Palmer living room of Leland dancing with Laura's framed picture is introduced by the camera holding on a painting of a deer. It seems to have a hole in its right ear.

By it self it does not suggest a lot, but as the series progresses, images of deer continue to be connected to young women, especially in the context of danger or predation: a similar painting is eerily connected to Maddie Fergusson's death, and another is connected briefly with Donna Hayward.

Another link:  for one scene in the pilot, Lara Flynn Boyle recalled this moment of direction from Lynch:
David came up to me and said quietly, in my ear: "Think of how gently a deer has to move in the snow…"

One odd thing about the deer imagery and the connection to young women: why always the antlers? These deer images are all of antlered males.  I don't have an answer to this: maybe the connection between this gentle species and the idea of hunting is enough, that the relation between humankind and deer has resonances to the dynamics between men and women in general.

If so, the tangle of antlers in the chandelier would be fitting piece for a place like One Eyed Jacks, for all the young women from the perfume counter who've passed through these premises throughout the years. A dark cycle is implied, with Blakie and her history with heroin and the Horne brothers being an echo from the past, and the "new girl" being its continuation.

The red curtains lining the hallway: definite sexual connotations, and one of the many elements of the Red Room sequence that were foreshadowed through the episode leading up to it.  One reason why that final scene had such a heavy impact may have been that many of its component elements (visual, auditory, thematic) were subtly & subconsciously included in many of the early scenes.

These opening scenes with Benjamin Horne, with the depictions of family dynamics, unspoken tensions, predatory sexuality initiate many of the uncomfortable themes that will be at the heart of Twin Peaks.

53) Astrological Clock

Intercut with the brothel scene is a midnight conversation between Donna and James in the Hawyard's living room. The shot of the boat gliding over the lake transitions back to a fireplace, and once again the homes of the Horne's and Hayward's are linked through the presence of fire.

The juxtaposition the two scenes also again highlights the generational divide in Twin Peaks, and the threat of corruption of youth; the lascivity of the Horne brothers and their excitement over "being first in line" for the young woman at One Eyed Jacks seems all the more grotesque & degenerate when compared to the love emerging between Donna and James.

The conversation between Donna and James is introduced by an interesting shot of the Hayward's grandfather clock, whose ticking pendulum can be heard in the background throughout the scene. Above the clock-face there is an antique "moon dial", which displays the current position of the moon in its 29 and a half day cycle.

The dial actually seems to be set accurately, judging from later scenes, as the moon is now waning, at about the 18th day of its cycle, moving towards a waning crescent before its eventual disappearance. This moment between Donna & James, in the chronology of Twin Peaks, seems to take place on the cusp of Saturday Feb. 25 and Sunday Feb. 26, with Agent Cooper having arrived in Twin Peaks the morning before (Friday, Feb. 24th), the murder of Laura Palmer having taken place the night before, around the time of the full moon.

This image of a moon: a previous post in this series mentions the transitional shots, images of the wind blowing in the pines, the fireplaces, the lake and the waterfall, that recur throughout the early episodes. As the season progresses though, shots of the moon in it's various cycles of waxing & waning seem to gain prominence, and possibly connected to occurrences in the series' narrative, particularly the cycle of murders connected to BOB. More on this to come.

The moon dial is the first occurrence of the planetary & stellar symbolism running through Twin Peaks, from allusions in the Red Room, to symbols in the Owl Cave painting and Andrew Packard's zodiacal puzzle box.

For this scene though, I like how this connection with the starry heavens is made with the budding romance of Donna and James: somehow the presence of this clock, ticking throughout their conversation, reminds me of the original "star-cross'd lovers", Romeo + Juliet: not that Donna and James are ill-fated, so much that their attraction is so pure that it is connected up to the influence of much larger cosmological events.

I'll include this illustration to give a sense of some traditional planetary symbolism & correspondences. (We can look up the 4H club symbols now, in preparation.) Astrology isn't the only the esoteric mythos that Twin Peaks incorporates, but it lends a sense of anachronistic mystery that I feel is well placed.

From The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery

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