An excerpt from Justin Nieland‘s once-again-timely book David Lynch.
Laura Palmer—passive, suffering, already victimized—is one kind of a melodramatic myth, and Twin Peaks, both the series and the fictional town, is Lynch’s most enduring melodramatic network, a famously quirky environment of character. The television series, created by Lynch and Mark Frost, openly declared its melodramatic heart. The plots of its first, eight-episode season unfolded in front of televisions within the diegesis playing the mawkish soap opera Invitation to Love, whose conventions were doubled, ironized, and reworked in Twin Peaks’ unfolding mysteries. In fact, the series’ oft-remarked references to films like Otto Preminger’s Laura or Hitchcock’s Vertigo are perhaps less interesting as forms of postmodern pastiche than as canny acknowledgments of Twin Peaks‘ melodramatic common denominator—a mode crossing genre and media and linking televised soaps, the postwar film noir, the police procedural, the suspense thriller, and the family melodrama.
If the mid-century psychologizing of modernist interior design is, for Lynch, one of the more anxious environments of cold war plastics, the postwar family melodrama of Douglas Sirk, Vincente Minnelli, Elia Kazan, and Nicholas Ray, is another. Like mid-century architecture, melodramatic affect is warmed up through the postwar mainstreaming of Freudian models of the psyche—only now these models find expression through the plastic dynamism of mise-en-scène that codes, in grand style, the forms of condensation and displacement that are the basic operations of Freudian dream work. Lynch’s Fire Walk with Me is a similar machine of affective redistribution—it re-constellates, by estranging, the emotional energies of the iconic American middle-class family.