Thursday, April 27, 2017

Red Room Redo

It's undeniable that the Red Room plays an important role in the Twin Peaks saga.  Not only are these scenes some of the most memorable of the series, but the final events of both Fire Walk With Me and (except for a brief epilogue) the television series take place there. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's ability to tap into the secrets and mysteries of the Red Room helps him solve the crime of the murder of Laura Palmer.  In FWWM, the Red Room is the place in which Laura's angel meets her, allowing Laura finally to experience the peace and joy that eluded her in life.

Upon examining the presentations of the Red Room throughout the series and film, however, one notices a difference of interpretation among the show's writers as to the identity and function of this place.

Lynch first committed the Red Room to film in the so-called "European version" of the Twin Peaks pilot in which Lynch ad-libbed an ending that would allow the episode to be presented as a film.  In this version, Sarah Palmer remembers seeing the killer hiding at the foot of Laura's bed.  Deputy Hawk makes a sketch based on Sarah's description.  Meanwhile, Mike, the one-armed man, has information about the killing and calls Cooper, who meets him at the hospital.  Cooper, Sheriff Truman, and Mike find Killer Bob in the basement.  Mike shoots and kills Bob, then mysteriously dies himself.  Cooper says, "Make a wish," and a ring of candles blows out.  Suddenly it's "25 years later" (as a subtitle on the screen tells us), and Cooper is in the Red Room.  The Little Man introduces his "cousin, who looks almost exactly like Laura Palmer," and the footage is virtually identical to what would appear at the end of the second Twin Peaks episode, but re-purposed there as Dale Cooper’s dream.

Unlike in the series, the scenes in the alternate (Euro) version are not part of a dream--or if they are, they're not identified as such.  The story simply moves ahead twenty-five years.  Obviously something strange is going on--Cooper is considerably older, yet Laura has not aged.  The speaking is odd, the room is peculiar--everything is quirky, yet the viewer is not told why or given any context for the events.  It doesn't make any sense and doesn't conclude the story at all.  Lynch admitted to Chris Rodley that he was "just winging stuff for this ending that we had to do.  Feeling our way." (Lynch on Lynch, P. 165)  He also admitted that "it had the feeling of an ending that may or may not relate to anything else....It all happens so fast and nothing was really that thought out." (LoL, p. 167)

We can only wonder what Lynch was thinking when shooting these Red Room scenes, and what his ideas of the place really were.  And though written and directed by Lynch, the scenes, as existing in the European edit, are hard to consider as part of the official Twin Peaks canon, falling, as they do, so far outside the television series and FWWM continuity.

When episode 2 of Twin Peaks was developed, however, the Red Room footage appeared, though altered.  Most importantly, the scenes take place within the context of a dream that Cooper has one night.  Also, the "25 years later" line has been deleted--though it was obvious from Cooper's age that many years had passed, and in fact in the next episode, Cooper tells Truman and Lucy that in his dream, "suddenly it was twenty-five years later."  (In the final episode, when Cooper physically enters the Red Room, Laura tells him that "I'll see you again in twenty-five years.")

Whatever Lynch intended the Red Room to be in the European edit, the third episode clearly establishes it as a dream-world, a gateway to the subconscious, full of secrets that provide guidance to Cooper and answers to the mystery of his case if only he will utilize them.

However, when the Red Room appears in the final episode of Twin Peaks, something has changed.  As noted above, Lynch went so far as to say that "it was  . . .  completely and totally wrong."

Television is a collaborative medium, and Twin Peaks had two primary co-creators, Lynch and Mark Frost.  But Harley Peyton and Robert Engels also contributed significant elements.  As the second season progressed, the involvement of Lynch and Frost varied.  An element like the Red Room--vague and mysterious to begin with, and quite possibly intended to exist only in subjective reality anyway--was bound to experience some change as different writers brought their own interpretations.

For Mark Frost, there were two aspects of the Red Room, which he called the Black and White Lodges, an idea he had picked up from the works of Alice Bailey and Dion Fortune.  In an interview with Wrapped In Plastic, Frost said, "I brought it [the idea of the Lodges] in, in general."  More specifically, he notes that the Bailey writings "influenced me as a young person..., and it becomes the basis for your thinking about the duality of good and evil in the world.  Is evil, in fact, made manifest anywhere in the world?  And the Black Lodge was all about  . . . the idea that there was, in fact, a true manifestation of evil that needs to be actively and physically combated." (WIP 9, 1994, p.2.)

For Frost, then, the Red Room becomes a place that can be physically entered. This interpretation would become a critical element of the final episode, in which Dale Cooper leaves this world for the world of the Red Room.  But when David Lynch returned to direct the final episode he was not comfortable with what the Red Room had become. Discussing the Frost/Peyton/Engels script for the final episode, Lynch said, "[W]hen it came to The Red Room, it was, in my opinion, completely and totally wrong.  Completely and totally wrong.  And so I changed that part." (LoL p. 182). Unfortunately, Lynch does not elaborate, and interviewer Chris Rodley does not press him on the point, so we are left to guess what Lynch was referring to.

But although Lynch told Rodley that the script's presentation of the Red Room was "wrong,” he is careful not to state categorically that his version of the final episode is better than what Frost, Peyton, and Engels had written.  "I'm not making a judgment on it....If Mark and I had been working together, it would've been different." (LoL p. 182.)

This is a very important comment. Lynch acknowledges that he and Frost had not been working together on the final run of Twin Peaks episodes, and he admits that a collaborative effort between the two may have resulted in a stronger interpretation of the Red Room. 

We are now on the cusp of new Twin Peaks. The fact that David Lynch and Mark Frost are creating Twin Peaks together is a cause for celebration. Perhaps we will soon find out how they mutually interpret the Red Room. Will it be a physical place? Will it be a realm of the subconscious? Or will it be something else entirely?  On May 21, we may have our first answers. Stay tuned.

A much, much, longer version of this article first appeared in Wrapped In Plastic 54; it is worth seeking out for the deep analysis of the Red Room it provides.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Twin Peaks Pilot: Comments from Creators, Cast, and Others

“Originally [Twin Peaks] was going to bet set in North Dakota but I said to David that I spent a weekend there once, there’s not a lot going on in North Dakota. . . . We moved it to the Northwest where David spent his time growing up and he felt very connected to the landscape.  The big primeval forests are very important to the tone of the show.” – Mark Frost (producer and co-writer, Twin Peaks pilot), Seattle Weekly (as reported in Twin Peaks: Behind the Scenes, by Mark Altman, p. 17.)

“Once it became the Northwest we just went up there and did a lot of location scouting and found a lot of great, great places.  Like the sawmill—that was pretty incredible because it was a beautiful old sawmill. . . . [W]e had maybe four days shooting inside and outside and we were always using those images—the saw blades and stuff.” – David Lynch, (director and co-writer, Twin Peaks pilot), Lynch on Lynch (ed. by Chris Rodley), p. 160-161.

“One of the first questions people ask is, ‘How did they find you?’  How did they find the Mar-T?  They sent out a location scout in February of 1989.  We weren't very busy and I said, ‘You can use it, but we're fixing to do some remodeling.’  But they said, ‘Oh no, don't do anything like that.  We want it just like it is.’  About two weeks later, they said that David Lynch will be up on the weekend and he'll decide.  So they came up and told us they wanted to use it.  They came up about the 28th of February and I'd never seen so much equipment.  There was about seventy-five people that were working, and there was another hundred that were watching from the outside.” – Pat Cokewell, (former owner of the Mar T CafĂ© – a.k.a. “the Double R Diner”), Wrapped in Plastic #7, p. 13.

“There’s this story about the Double R Diner.  See, the highway used to go through there and the diner was, you know, doing business.  And then the big freeway went in and nobody was stopping there.  And the owner . . . used to make, like, maybe six pies a day when we got there, if that.  After Twin Peaks she was making sixty pies a day!  That place is on the map, you know, forever.” – David Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, p. 161.

“The day we were doing the town hall scene was actually the last day of filming on the mainland.  The following day, we were going to Bainbridge to the Kiana Lodge to do the Great Northern stuff.  So we were doing the town hall scene, and I was standing next to David and Debbie Trutnik, his secretary.  David leans over, and he goes, ‘Debbie, did you give Frank his scene yet?’  And I went, ‘Scene?  What do you mean “scene?”’  Debbie went, ‘No.’  ‘Well, you better give it to him.  We're shooting it after lunch.’  And I thought, you know, it's probably like one word, or one line.  So then Debbie comes and brings me this huge scene in a boiler room with Kyle [MacLachlan], Michael Ontkean, and Al [Strobel] as the One-Armed Man. . . . . So they say, ‘We're shooting this after lunch.’
            “So I look at this scene, and it's a long scene.  And there's this monologue that Bob has to do.  And David's going, ‘See this?  We do this scene.  And see these four lines here?  Well, that's a song, Frank.  Those are lyrics.  Make up a tune.  Just make something up.’  So I was totally flipping out.  Here I was, a part of the crew for months.  They're running around looking for a location--they didn't even have the location for this scene yet.  We're running late.  It's now probably 11:00 at night.  We have to catch the last ferry to Bainbridge at 1:30.  We're still trying to shoot this stupid scene.  So I didn't know what I was doing.  I thought, ‘Here I am, I'm a crew member.  If I'm horrible, everybody's going to laugh at me.  I'm going to be this big joke doing this scene.’  So every ounce of energy, every ounce of everything, was drawn up.  I don't know how I did it.” – Frank Silva (On-set dresser, Twin Peaks pilot, actor, “Killer Bob”) Wrapped in Plastic #7, p. 9

“I would say that generally a lot of the scenes from the pilot were shot from the hip.  There was a lot of improvisation.  So we might go into one scene with expectations we had from the script, and David would change the format and change the intent of the scene. . . . [A]nd of course he was influenced by the powerful setting up there.  The weather was changing by the minute. . . . So sometimes we'd have to move the scene in under a shelter because it was lightly snowing, and of course that would change the mood.  It was a wonderful experience, shooting that.”  Everett McGill, (actor, “Big Ed Hurley”) Wrapped in Plastic #44, p. 14

“I remember we shot the pilot here [at the Kiana Lodge].  It was so cold and rainy--it was so freezing!  I had a call at 11:00 in the morning.  I came and got make-up and got dressed, and my scene went up at 11:30 that night!  I stood around and froze.  We came over here [to the banquet hall] and had dinner around 9:00 at night.  They were going to have my scene the next day, but David said, ‘No.’  [Mine] was the last scene that they got here.”  Jan D’Arcy, (actor, “Sylvia Horne”) Wrapped in Plastic #25, p. 3

“When we shot [Sheryl Lee] it was cold—I mean, it was so cold.  And she lay out there, and then we’d have to take her away, where they had these blankets and heaters set up behind this giant log.  So she’d run fifteen and go into this warm little tent and get her body temperature back up, and then go back and shoot.  She was a great sport” – David Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, p. 172.

“I was hired for the pilot as a guest, and they said, ‘possible recurring,’ which they always say to anybody who’s a guest and they don’t really know what they’re going to do with the character.  What happened was, we did the pilot, I rambled on, they liked it, and it just worked.  I think that’s how my part got bigger. . . . When they screened the pilot at the Director’s Guild everybody laughed after I did the phone thing.  Then, when I came on again, everybody cheered.  Nobody else in the pilot got the same boisterous response as I did.  I was completely shocked.  I couldn’t shut my mouth.  I have witnesses; they were there with me.  Afterwards, David and Mark came up and said, ‘We’ve got plans for you.’”  -- Kimmy Robertson, (actor, “Lucy Moran”) Wrapped in Plastic #43, p. 3

“I remember I went home and my dear, dear friend, Brandon Lee was over, and I said, ‘Watch this Lynch thing with me.  They want me to do this TV show.  Let’s sit back and watch this.’  So we opened up a couple of beers and watched the pilot of Twin Peaks.  And it was unbelievable!  We didn’t say a word to each other the whole two hours!  It was just incredible.  It was the kind of TV I had never seen.  I’ll never forget that endless shot of the telephone cord.  Oh, man!  It affected me as much as any movie I had ever seen.  The two of us just sat there and said, ‘Let’s watch it again!’  And we did!  I couldn’t wait for Monday to roll around so I could call Mark Frost and just say, ‘God bless you.  It’s phenomenal.’” -- Miguel Ferrer (actor, “Albert Rosenfield”), Wrapped in Plastic #35, p. 4

“So, we had shot the pilot, and then it aired.  And I remember that night as if it were yesterday.  We had a big party at our house and lot of the cast members and crew were there.  It was airing on television and the phone started ringing.  People on the East Coast had just finished watching it.  There was this wave of people across the United States calling as soon as it finished airing in their time zone.  It never occurred to me that it was going to air on other people's televisions!  I thought it was only on mine!  Very surreal!” – Sheryl Lee (actor, “Laura Palmer”) Wrapped in Plastic #16, p. 5

(A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Wrapped In Plastic #46, (April, 2000).)