L’année dernière à Twin Peaks
Ricardo Pinto de Magalhães
“We’re like the dreamer, who dreams and then lives inside a dream. But who is the dreamer?”
Monica Bellucci asks David Lynch himself this question, in a dream sequence. It’s a black and white flashback, in which not only are we being told about something that already happened, we’re also being shown footage from the present and the past. Interestingly enough, it’s also a recurring a dream—which means it’ll probably happen again.
The world of Twin Peaks lives in the dream of time and space. Surrounded by a haunting and mysterious magical forest, after a quarter of century we’re still fascinated by this enigmatic universe. A pivotal, tragic moment seems to define this town and world, and to an extent, Lynch’s work. The killing of young beauty, prom queen Laura Palmer.
“This is the girl,” Justin Theroux’s film director character is told in Mulholland Dr. (2001), another story about shattered dreams that walks the line of what is and isn’t real. And after 25 years, Laura Palmer still is the girl. As the Log Lady puts it, she’s the one. The one David Lynch is still fantasizing about and trying to save, through his cinematic (televisual?) avatar Gordon Cole, named after a character of Sunset Boulevard, another film about not being able to let the past go, the refusal to accept the present, and which is also named after a Hollywood location.
Lynch can’t let go of the past, systematically making anachronistic universes that constantly evoke previous eras. The fascination with what is no more, the desire to be in a different period. Almost paradoxically, he keeps breaking conventions and narrative structures, especially linear storytelling, while using old time editing “tricks” like superimposed images.
And so, the heroic Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks seems to be destined to spend the rest of his time trying to save the girl, to find a way to change what happened. He even tries to rewrite the story, to go back in time. But the devastating idea we get from 2017’s new episodes of the show is that he’ll perpetually fail, doomed to continue to try and possibly make it worse.
Memory and past, especially ghosts and trauma of what happened, are also present in some of Alain Resnais’s most significant films—as well as a completely radical approach to storytelling and editing.
This is especially true in the seminal L’année derniére à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad), where Bellucci’s question seems extremely relevant. What did exactly happen? And when? To quote Agent Cooper’s final worlds, “What year is this?” Is it all a dream? Are those in Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s film, like Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks, trapped in that place? Is there a way to change the past, to prevent the tragic event to occur? The man and the woman in Marienbad are not named. Very much like Cooper and Laura, could they have had different names, in a different place and time?
So, two of the most unforgettable and mysterious places ever filmed fascinatingly mirror each other. A labyrinthine enigma, where one man is desperately trying to understand and change the past, endlessly going through corridors and time, so he can save one woman.