Laura Palmer’s Week of Kindness

In addition to Ruth, Roses and Revolvers by Man Ray, another segment of Dreams That Money Can Buy played a central role in the creation of Twin Peaks: the portion of the film entitled Desire by Max Ernst. Ernst was a German painter whose work had a tremendous influence on David Lynch, but his contribution to the collective film directed by Hans Richter almost feels like an aesthetic (and thematic) blueprint for Twin Peaks.

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Hans Richter / Max Ernst – Desire (in Dreams That Money Can Buy)

Audrey Horne at the One Eyed Jack’s

Alongside aesthetic choices, which are clearly reminiscent of the Lodges, Desire‘s dreamlike and sinister qualities must have certainly appealed to Lynch. The film segment begins in the office of the dream investigator Joe/Narcissus whose first case, square Mr. A., reveals an unsuspected depth of repressed desires, erotic imagery, and murderous adulterous behaviors. The images he shows to Joe, images that he has created by cutting out pictures from magazines (which are actually taken from Ernst’s own work, more on that below), leave no doubt concerning these hidden wishes.

Case number one. Mr. and Mrs. A. He is a bank clerk, middle-income bracket. Character: methodical, exact. Wife complains he has mind like a double-entry column. No virtues, no vices. She desires a dream for him. One with practical values to widen his horizons. Heighten ambitions, maybe a raise in salary. Historical precedents for this hope range from Jacob’s pillow to Freud’s couch. Mrs. A. will please step outside during interview. Sorry, ma’am. Only one dream to a customer. Feel free to talk now.  Any special interests besides wife and job? None? One? What’s your idea of private fun? Cutting pictures out of magazines? Excellent. Let’s find out what that means. What do you look for in art? Design? Subject matter? Colour? Line? I understand. Beneath the correct grey ledger cover, you hide the wild images of the art lover. Let memory of mortgages, loans and property sales dissolve into the cries of nightingales

The actual dream starts then with the image of leaves falling to the ground beside a red curtain. We see a woman in a bed with red curtains and suddenly we have the feeling to be watching a Red Room sequence from another dimension.

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WOMAN: A shady street. And in the middle of it there was a crowd of nightingales. They were large nightingales, and their breasts were rough and hairy. Some of them had calves’ hooves. And some had paws like panthers and wolves. Then they dragged me into a dark cavern in the middle of the street. MAN: What happened? WOMAN: They talked about love and pleasure. MAN: Yes, it does. Here it is. What is it? Who’s that? I can’t find it. I see it. I don’t know, do you like it? Where is it? It’s not here. When was that? Long ago. There it is. Take it. Put it away. I don’t like it. VOICES: He can’t see you. MAN: Yes I have. He can’t see you. VOICES: Do you know why? No. MAN: When was it? WOMAN: Love and pleasure. The ones with panthers’ feet said, ‘What is love but nature’s innermost principle in action? What is innocence but a pair of gloves to warm the hands?’ MAN: Admirable. VOICES: Yes, how true. How true. WOMAN: And the ones with calves’ hooves were saying, ‘What is nature but love’s innermost principle in action?’. VOICES: Absolutely wrong, never! Oh, no, no, no!

A bell tolls (wedding? burial?) and Ernst appears as an official –  “VOICES: And then? WOMAN: Yes. They killed me. The nightingales shot me in the back. They killed me. VOICES: What a pity! Terrible! Awful! WOMEN: Open the window. Men: Close the window.”

Then a wind rises and we hear voices speaking backwards. “WOMAN: No matter. This I shall never forget. It is beautiful. Who loves to come with me under my warm, white gown? Come, harpies and magpies, under my warm, white gown. Who loves to come with me under my warm, white gown? Come, harpies and magpies…”

Nightingales, red curtains, dreams, a dark cavern, a Nosferatu like character, sexual desires, voices speaking backwards, windows, love and pleasure/pain and sorrow… The parallels between this short film and Twin Peaks are many. Also note the dice that the man rolls near the end of the segment: they produce a double 3, highly reminiscent of the domino Hank Jennings carries with him everywhere in the series.

What does this film segment communicate? Behind its cryptic and surreal veil, it is possible to read the nightingales as a mask for men, some who behave in a civilized manner (those with calves’ hooves, i.e. vegetarians) and some who act as sexual predators (those who have panther and wolf-like paws). Twin Peaks focuses so much on sexual predation that it’s difficult not to see Leland/BOB behind this second category.

Ernst deepens the reference to nightingales by linking it his own painting from 1940 entitled, The Clothing of the Bride. This paining is similar to his earlier 1924 image, Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale. In both paintings, sexual danger is clearly associated with the figure of the bird, something ominous seems to be happening in front of our eyes, a murderous secret hidden in plain sight.

Desire originates in turn from Ernst’s older project, Une semaine de bonté (A Week of Kindness), an artist’s book from 1934 that he created by creating collages from Victorian illustrations. We actually see the book in the hands of Mr. A. at one point in the film, when he pretends that the images are the result of his own work. This project was composed of seven books (although published in five volumes), one for each day of the week. Each day is also associated with an element (Sunday-Mud / Monday-Water / Tuesday-Fire / Wednesday-Blood / Thursday-Blackness / Friday-Sight / Saturday-Unknown). The result is a series of dark and surreal images, sexually charged, full of violence and nightmarish situations. Remember that Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is about the last seven days in the life of Laura Palmer…

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Une semaine de bonté

The book for Monday and Water includes several drawings that were transposed to the screen by Ernst. In these images, we see a woman lying on her bed, dreaming, with heavy curtains surrounding her. Underneath the bed we see water everywhere, as if she were afloat on the ocean – the ocean of consciousness, to quote David Lynch and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

When the woman dreams, it is as if she were sailing on this ocean, visiting places in the collective unconscious described by Carl Jung – diving to the bottom of the waters so as to catch the big fish/ideas linked to Transcedental Meditation This is very similar to what happens in Twin Peaks when people go to bed, especially Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer. Both are regularly cruising on these waters, towards the Red Room and its riddles.

To close this post for now, it is also worth mentioning another project by Max Ernst that might have played a role in the creative work of David Lynch: his graphic novel from 1927 called La Femme 100 Têtes (The Woman With 100 Heads – which can also be understood as a homonym in French that would change the meaning to The Woman Without A Head, or The Woman Persists). Several visual links are clearly discernible between this work and Twin Peaks, including references to Greek mythology, the role of electricity, women asleep in curatined beds, etc.

A surreal short film adaptation was made in 1968 from these images, directed by Eric Duvivier. We can find many associations in this adaptation with works by Lynch, such as the image of a woman in bed, also found in Desire and in The Alphabet, or the other moment when a man is superimposed on a sea of ants, highly reminiscent of Blue Velvet.

The Alphabet (David Lynch – 1968)

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La Femme 100 Têtes

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La Tête Sans Femme (The Head Without a Woman)…?

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