Sunday, December 14, 2014

Outré Intro: Twin Peaks (1990 - 1991)

After twenty-five years away, David Lynch's and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks will be returning to television in 2016. The beloved cult-series actually ended with a prediction that two characters would see each other again in a quarter century, so the timing couldn't be more perfect.

Part soap-opera, part horror-show, part parody, there has never been a series quite like Twin Peaks, and its introductory montage, accompanied by the dreamy, languid Angelo Badalamenti score helps to accomplish two important things.

First, the intro establishes a sense of place. The series is about a particular and peculiar town, and the montage introduces us to the locale in colorful, beautiful imagery.

And secondly, the intro sets a particular vibe: a kind of trance-like serenity that, in some sense, cloaks the insanity roiling just beneath the surface of the Pacific-Northwest town. The opening montage is filled with images of nature, and also of slow, unthinking routine (automation at a logging factory), and of literally, water flowing.  

It's almost like we're riding on the placid, tranquil lake surface, carried away in what could be a dream.

The introductory montage commences with a view of nature. A bird on a tree branch is framed in the center of a composition. Next we see nature juxtaposed with man's world, a smoke-spewing factory smack dab in the wilderness.

Natural beauty and man's ugliness intertwined. Those are the thoughts that we reckon with here, and again, if you consider some core Twin Peaks ideas -- like the Black Lodge in the forest -- you can sense how important the notion of two worlds in collision is to the series' storytelling.

The next few shots take us into that factory, as saws carve up logs, and spark orange flame as they do so. 

Again, we have seen no human beings yet, and the so the overwhelming feeling here is of a world running on automatic pilot. Once more, this is a notion that might be deemed important when you consider the series' themes. The discovery of Laura Palmer's (Sheryl Lee) corpse breaks the monotony or routine we see established in the opening montage.

Next up, another shot without any people in it. An empty mountain road, and a sign informing us of our destination: Twin Peaks.  

The shot is beautifully composed, and again shows us the natural world in all its unspoiled wonder. 

Notice as well, at this point, at how relaxed or slow-paced the cutting is. We move slowly from image to image, and are lulled into a kind of reverie or half-conscious state.  

The pace and Badalamenti's score, in conjunction, transition viewrs slowly into the dream-logic world of Lynch's unusual vision.

The image is held for a long time, from the announcement of the series title, through the introduction of several key actors.

We cut, finally, to another image. A waterfall over a lake. The camera very subtly and slowly follows the water's path, over the crest and into the lake below, as more actors are introduced. The movement is almost unnoticeable, but the overall vibe is of going down, with that water, on a slow, inevitable descent.

Again, there's a strong hypnotic feel to the imagery, as if we are being inexorably dragged, slowly but surely, to an unknown destination. In dream logic, a waterfall often represents the start or beginning of a journey, a new start. It might also represent the act of cleansing (perhaps a return to nature after the imagery of the factory, earlier).

Now the placid river and ripples on its surface. In dreams, rivers may symbolize a physical or spiritual journey, and Twin Peaks, in various ways, concerns the spiritual journey of its characters.

Some of those journeys (for Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper, for example), ultimately prove quite dark.  But a calm river, more often than not can represent the feeling of being at peace, asleep. It's as though we have to quiet certain types of thinking as we begin to watch, to fully understand the series. 

The montage  ends with the same shot of the river, and you can see overall that this montage consists of not much more than a half-dozen images. 

Each image is held for a fairly long time, so that we get a sense of a new brand of time, a new sense of reckoning with time. It's the dream-logic or imagery of David Lynch (and Mark Frost's world), and the intro, in a way, keys us to that new brand of time keeping. We are being conditioned to a different world, a different tempo, and a different way of thinking. The intro prepares us for that journey.

Below, you can watch the Twin Peaks intro in all its eerie, hypnotic glory.

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