Ever catch yourself sliding into hypnosis while watching a movie or show? You hook right into the rhythm, the flow of the picture and sound and suddenly you’re not just along for the ride; you’re locked into it. You’re inside it, the same way you find yourself in a dream.
This is kind of a defining feature of a lot of my favorite cinema. Twin Peaks is one of the only television shows to have ever rolled into the same territory, for me. Witness:
This is pure cinematic magic. This scene is one of those moments where time and narrative are suspended in the aether. Momentum ceases, the plot skips off its path, and we soar on pure feeling. Director David Lynch loves to embed his work with moments like these, driving and reflecting the narrative while floating outside of it. This is one of the tricks he uses to draw attention to the artifice of film while simultaneously heightening its impact on a visceral level.
It seems to hit people either as a weirdly embarrassing moment or one of deep affection. Some think it’s a joke, some think it’s sincere. I think there’s no reason it can’t be both.
James is the lovelorn hearthrob in the city of Twin Peaks, and here he cements a little psychic love triangle with a song he probably wrote for Laura Palmer, the doomed prom queen at the heart of the show’s central mystery. Her nearly identical cousin Maddy and her best friend Donna sit in rapt attention, cooing along with the tune in womb-like bliss on the carpet of that living room. It’s a deep breath of calmness before the plot lurches into oblivion, like an elevator’s last stop before plummeting to the basement.
It’s a moment I had to share because it’s always struck me so sharply. With the show finally returning after 25 years in the abyss, it felt like the right time to point out the subtle brilliance of this scene. People always talk about the weird quirks, the catchphrases, and the unresolved mystery of Twin Peaks, but the beating heart of the show lies in the liminal time between the big beats.
Here’s another example, from later in the show. James is about to leave town and has one last night out with Donna. In the background, Julee Cruise brings her siren call into diegetic space, playing on stage within the fictional town for the first time. Donna falls into the moment just as the audience does, and begins singing along, forcing the lyrics on James’ attention.
I can only hope that the show’s revival brings this same level of magic to the screen. Its legacy deserves it.