Rudolph

Episode 10 in the 3rd season of Twin Peaks is a good reminder of David Lynch’s many talents and especially the fact that, despite his many interests (cinema, music, etc.), he is first and foremost a painter, as the documentary The Art Life recently reminded viewers. This is why it is so fascinating to see him caught in the act of drawing in his hotel room, as Gordon Cole, just prior to being interrupted by a series of visitors – Laura, Albert and Tamara.

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What does Gordon draw? An arm reaching towards a reindeer. It’s difficult to know for the time being if this is supposed to represent the Lodge’s arm (i.e. The Man From Another Place). What is certain is the fact that deer have long played a central role in Twin Peaks, ever since the series’ pilot in 1990.

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Interestingly, Gordon’s drawing is not the only appearance of a deer motif in the latest episode. In fact, the episode opens with a sequence set in front of Miriam’s trailer, where one can see a collection of Christmas-themed decorations, including several reindeer. Santa Claus’ reindeer are famous for their ability to fly through the night sky. Here, we are supposed to think of  reindeer as mythological beings, outside the earthly realm.

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This is connected with shamanistic ideas about reindeer in general and their antlers in particular. If one looks closely at Gordon’s drawing, it appears that the hand is less reaching towards the body of the deer than towards its antlers (which look like trees). This is because they serve simultaneously as weapons and representations of power – the person who controls the antlers is going to become very powerful.

One can read the following statement on Wikipedia: “Although different Siberian peoples follow different traditions, many ceremonial practices involving reindeer possess similar underlying features. These often relate to the well-being of the herd and the monetary benefits gained as a result, reflect the people’s nomadic heritage, and express humanity’s relationship to the cyclic progression of the seasons. In general, sacrifices take place in ‘sacred places’, which are usually sanctified thickets in the woods that are home to gods or spirits and where hallowed trees stand“. One such sacred place, home to gods or spirits, can be found in Twin Peaks: Glastsonbury Grove. This is something I discuss at length in my book Twin Peaks: Unwrapping the Plastic.

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Tungus shaman wearing antlers, 17th century drawing.

Meanwhile, the surveillance theme found throughout the third season continues with the log book belonging to the casino bosses (the brothers Mitchum), watching the multiple monitors of the control room, bestowing upon them a feeling of omnipotence.

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Waves of all sorts appear to play a central role in Twin Peaks and it is interesting to follow Jerry Horne’s descent into a realm where he does not have access anymore to the usual network of electromagnetic airwaves necessary for modern communication. He appears to be increasingly lost from the world: a few episodes ago he was still able to call his brother on the phone, now he does not  have this option anymore. Where this “trip” is going to lead him is as yet unclear.

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Finally, backtracking to episode 8 and its hybrid creature in New Mexico, a strange mix of toad and insect: a possible path to follow in order to understand where it comes from can be found in the above mentioned documentary, The Art Life. Several times during the course of the documentary, David Lynch is filmed at his desk and on the wall next to the desk one can see a reproduction of a famous triptych by Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch entitled The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510).

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It would be interesting to analyze this painting in depth so as to explore the possible links with the works of David Lynch (grotesque creatures, owls, gardens, etc.). In the reproduction below, a close-up of the central panel of the triptych, for instance, next to the many gigantic birds of all sorts (birds are of course of the utmost importance in Twin Peaks) sits a charcoal human figure not unlike those found in the new season of the series.

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Beyond that, it’s worthwhile to study the Bosch’s other works,  appreciated by Lynch, in order to unearth visual and thematic connections. Below is a close up of a portion of another Bosch triptych, The Hermit Saints (1493). Among a series of weird looking creatures (including an owl on top of a walking head), one can see a winged toad reminiscent of the one seen in episode 8.

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While we can’t be sure yet of any certain links between these paintings and Twin Peaks, the fact that David Lynch works in his studio close to a reproduction of Bosch’s painting certainly gives some validity at least to an unconscious influence  on his work.

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