It seems as good a place as any other to start this blog with a post about what I call the Triple R. Not the iconic Double R diner through which most of the characters of the show pass through at one point or another during the series or the film, but the RRR. While the RR feeds the inhabitants of Twin Peaks, the RRR only fed David Lynch’s creative process.
The name of the RR diner is a direct reference to the neighboring Rail Road which we discover in TP:FWWM when the Tremonds come to warn Laura about “the man behind the mask”. This rail road – which prefigures the abandoned train car in which Laura will be murdered – is a track to another level of reality that the Lodge entities inhabit. It is no surprise, then, when the Tremonds appear at a junction between this track and a street: crossroads are indeed well known spots to meet otherworldly beings (which is probably why so many shots of Twin Peaks are dedicated to traffic lights). The RR is perfectly placed to facilitate connections to the other side of the mirror and its four dimensional entities. It’s a perfect meeting place, the spot where the heart of the town beats.
The extra R in RRR references a segment from the collective surrealist film coordinated by Hans Richter, Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) for which Man Ray contributed an episode entitled Ruth, Roses and Revolvers. Jean-Luc Godard is well known for having said in 1961 that: “all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl” (sexist much?). With his segment, Man Ray gave us both, Ruth and a revolver – but he added a rose inbetween them, as a mediator between the beauty of the woman and the dangers of the gun (or is it the other way around?).
In 1987, David Lynch presented an episode of the Arena series on the BBC dedicated to Surrealist films that have influenced him. Out of the 9 extracts included in the episode, four come from Dreams That Money Can Buy, including Ruth, Roses and Revolvers, both the title of the Arena episode and the first film extract featured.
Ruth, Roses and Revolvers is a statement about the medium of cinema, a critique of spectatorship and of the hypnotic state into which viewers are plunged when watching a movie. But it is also a critique of Hollywood cinema with its stars that people try to mimic, or the sheep-like attitude linked to the process of character identification. Inversely, the film can also be read as a first in audience participation, many years before The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Ruth, the woman who stands in front of a red curtain and who introduces the film within the film, is dressed in blue and wears roses on her dress and in her hair (we will come back to the symbolism of the rose in a future post). In many ways, she is reminiscent of Laura Palmer in the Red Room. She invites the audience to reproduce the gestures of the character on the screen: “To give these gestures their full meaning, I earnestly request you to follow and to repeat these gestures as they occur”.
The interactive nature of the film she presents creates a mirror effect between the screening and the audience, a ripple effect followed by most people in the theatre. In this process, it becomes difficult to know who is imitating whom. The spectators somehow end up becoming reflections of the character on screen, shadowing his movements. This inversion of sides of the mirror is of course a recurring theme in Twin Peaks, one that returns over and over throughout the course of the series and the film.
Before the character appears on screen in the film, a short sequence of four shots introduces the film within a film. We see a bird flying high in the air, above trees ; a rock ; some grass ; and finally water. This sequence serves as opening credits of sorts, setting the tone for what is to come next.
If we analyze the various shots listed above and compare them to the opening credits of Twin Peaks, the similarity is striking and the link to the classical four elements obvious: in both cases we start with a bird (air) ; we then move to a rocky element, which takes the form of the metal blades used to saw wood in the Packard Sawmill, generating fiery sparks (fire) ; the earth shot of grass can be compared to the emblematic shot in front of the Twin Peaks sign, at the entrance of this clearly delineated patch of land (earth) ; and finally a shot over still water closes the two segments (water). In both instances, we are introduced to a cosmogonical presentation of the universe in which the tale takes place, a world devoid of men, dealing with elemental forces. Humans somehow only appear only as a byproduct of this creation process, not as its raison d’être.
When Ruth eventually appears and makes her short speech about gestures in Dreams That Money Can Buy, it is difficult not to make a link between her discourse and the presence of several elements in Twin Peaks that resonate with what she says. The Red Room immediately comes to mind, with its Greek statues and the much discussed “meanwhile” pose by Laura Palmer. These poses are highly reminiscent of some of the theatrical ones exhibited by Ruth herself during her presentation in front of the cinema audience.
Gilles Deleuze, in his film writing, made a distinction between poses (privileged moments in time) of statues and photography, as opposed to the indifferent flow of film images, which does not require privileged cuts in time. When Laura Palmer takes a pose in the Red Room and says “meanwhile”, it creates a strange disruption as this is both reminiscent of the pose of a statue and of the pause used in silent cinema to screen an intertitle with these same words.
Laura and Ruth’s poses can also be associated with those of statues in the Red Room. As we can see below, the famous painting The Birth of Venus (1486) by Sandro Botticelli and the Greek statue of the Venus de’ Medici (1st century BCE) use similar gestures, frozen moments in time. The mannequins from another segment of Dreams That Money Can Buy, directed by Fernand Léger and called The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart, look very similar to the Red Room statues, Laura and Ruth.
Meanwhile…. time stops its flow.
The presence of Venus in the Red Room, known in Greece as Aphrodite, and her visual association with Laura Palmer is not an accident. Remember that Venus (the goddess of love, beauty, sex, and fertility) is at the root of the Trojan War via the Judgement of Paris. And in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, written by Jennifer Lynch, we learn that Laura once had a horse named… Troy! (and a cat named Jupiter, who in mythology happens to be the father of Venus).
In 2007, David Lynch created a short-film entitled Absurda that bears many similarities to some of the elements described in this post. The film takes place in a movie theatre, like Ruth, Roses and Revolvers, but this theatre is seemingly empty. Several people are heard commenting on the film projected on the screen. But this is not a screen in the traditional sense of the word. It probably needs to be understood as a projection screen, from a psychoanalytical point of view, on which the unconscious and the repressed of the patients are vizualised. It only blocks the projection to make a return of the repressed possible. In Absurda, the repressed seems to be a murder, committed with scissors (it would not be too far-fetched to call this film, as an alternate title: Cindy, Dancer and Scissors), though the scissors could also be associated with the legs of the girl dancing on pointe.
It seems to me that Twin Peaks, Ruth, Roses and Revolver and Absurda all share striking similarities, visually and thematically speaking. They are all linked to the workings of the unconscious, to the world of dreams, to the role of the passive spectator and to the mirror effect created by the transposition of our fantasies to the screen.
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