Written by Eden H Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
Warning!: Contains spoilers for all of Lynch’s movies and the TV series Twin Peaks. Don’t read if you don’t want to know!
We all know that David Lynch’s films share many motifs, such as red curtains, telephones, black and white/good vs. evil, singers in night clubs granting obscure epiphanies, flashing lights, non-linear time, prostitutes, and other dimensions. But could there be a deeper connection? Let me blow your mind with a fun fact, if you didn’t know already: David Lynch has told us that his movie Lost Highway takes place in “the same universe” as Twin Peaks.
[A brief explanation for any who don’t understand that statement, think of it this way: Superman has never met Mickey Mouse, because they don’t occupy the same “universe.” HOWEVER, Superman can team up with Batman, because they both occupy the same universe (The DC Comics Universe). Just like you can’t meet Dorothy Gale because she’s from a different, fictional universe, but you can go visit your aunt in the next town over, because you both live in this universe.]
So this means, the characters of Twin Peaks could interact with the characters from Lost Highway. Theoretically, if Fred Mason traveled up to Washington State, he could get cherry pie at the Double R, served to him by Norma, who might have heard about a woman who was mutilated down in LA, killer at large. And if Bobby pulled any delinquency in Los Angeles, Henry Rollins might be his prison guard. (OK, maybe not REALLY Henry Rollins…)
With today’s reports of Balthazar Getty (Lost Highway‘s Pete Dayton) being cast for Twin Peaks Season 3, the possibilities are… intriguing, to say the least.
How else are these two works connected? Let’s look at Lost Highway: What does it have in common with Twin Peaks? Some see the Mystery Man as a sort of BOB figure; a manifestation of the evil inside of Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), just as BOB was, on one level, a representation of “the evil that men do.” Both movies have to do with the darker side of humanity (prostitution, drugs, murder, etc…), and the mask of “normalcy” that people wear to disguise it.
Let’s look at one scene in particular: Fred goes in to check the house after seeing a bright light flashing upstairs. He goes down the hallway, past some red curtains, and the phone rings. It is most likely the Mystery Man calling him. He doesn’t see anything, so he goes back outside, gets Renee, and they re-enter the house. While Renee is in the bathroom, Fred is staring into the hallway he went down earlier. It looks like a black void. He walks back down the hall (presumably passing the red curtains on the way). He comes to a mirror, and looks at his reflection in the darkness.
Just in this scene, we can find some strong ties to Twin Peaks: The red curtains in the Black Lodge, and the mirror that Cooper looks into in the final episode of Season 2, when he sees himself possessed by BOB (Who, of course, parallels the Mystery Man). I feel that this is an indication that Fred is symbolically entering the Black Lodge, while “The Mystery Man” (the evil inside of him) controls his body and kills Renee.
Now, how about this scene: Where Pete goes to a cabin (lodge) in the middle of the desert. The flame effect used on the cabin is the exact same that is used in Twin Peaks, when BOB captures Windom Earle. Inside this lodge is the Mystery Man, who is waiting for Pete, just as BOB is in the Lodge, waiting for Cooper. Fire is, of course, an all-important symbol in Twin Peaks: It represents the spirit of destruction, and symbolizes BOB himself. So the Mystery Man being so closely associated with fire here lends credence to the idea that he is either a being like BOB, or he is BOB himself in another form. Fire is also focused on earlier in the movie, when Fred is, quite probably “possessed” by the Mystery Man.
There are many other parallels littered throughout the film: The Mystery Man shouting at Fred, “And your name — What the fuck is your name?” is similar to Philip Jeffries’ question “Who do you think that is there?” (Speaking to Gordon Cole, referring to Agent Cooper). The blond femme fatale (Alice/Laura) involved with the criminal business man (Mr Eddy/Ben Horne). Bright, flashing lights during essential scenes (Cooper in the Black Lodge, Pete venturing down the long hallway to find Alice). Video tapes play important roles in both (the video tapes received by Fred and Renee, and the video of Laura and Donna at the picnic). And of course, doppelgangers aplenty (Renee/Alice, Mr Eddy/Dick Laurent, Fred Madison/Pete Dayton…).
Everyone knows that each David Lynch film exists within a strange world so similar yet so different from our own world, that is ruled by broken laws of physics, and that is as likely to send you to Hell as to take you to Heaven. There are strange creatures that dwell here, and they may help or harm us; they speak in riddles that will reveal the secrets of the universe if only we are astute enough to fathom them. Each film has its own “rabbit hole” where the hero moves from the normal world into this other place. Agent Cooper and Laura enter the Black Lodge, Nikki Grace gets trapped within the film set and become Susan Blue, Fred Madison turns into Pete Dayton and enters a sort of parallel world, Betty and Rita open the Blue Box and are sucked in…
Here’s the bombshell: What if I told you that the Black Lodge, the Lost Highway, inside the Radiator, the Inland Empire, and Club Silencio were all the same place?
If you’re familiar with the Lynchian Universe at all, you are most likely also familiar with this recurring motif: The Red Curtains. They appear in virtually every Lynch work, most famously Twin Peaks where their familiar presence has led to the coining of the name “The Red Room.” But these curtains aren’t limited to the Black Lodge:
– In Eraserhead, there are curtains on the stage, behind the Lady in the Radiator. The film is black and white, but I think it is a safe assumption to say they are red.
– In Blue Velvet, Dorothy Valens performs onstage in front of red curtains.
– In Lost Highway, there are red curtains in Fred and Renee’s house.
– In Mulholland Drive, there are red curtains in Club Silencio and Mr. Roque’s office.
– In Inland Empire, Sue enters a mysterious hallway that is decked in red curtains.
So what does this mean? It is my belief that the red curtains are a sign post to let viewers know You’re entering another dimension. And this dimension is the same one in every film: However, it changes based on its visitor’s psyche (but I’ll get back to that at a later date).
Let’s take a look at more of the shared traits of these places: They are dreamlike places, which use heavy symbolism. Everything is shrouded and disorienting. Often they are occupied by magical and strange beings, such as The Man from Another Place, or the Rabbits. There is almost always music in the air; singers such as Little Jimmy Scott and Rebekah Del Rio appear. Revelatory messages are imparted in code.
I believe that these worlds aren’t just similar; they are THE SAME. The Lady in the Radiator could be an agent of the White Lodge, the Rabbits may have been watching Cooper from a distance all the time, and Nikki Grace may have entered Club Silencio to watch that footage of herself at the end of the film.
But how can we be sure of this? How can we be sure of anything, in a world that is so symbolic and convoluted?
I believe the movie Inland Empire is the key.
Inland Empire seems to be a film completely dedicated to the exploration of this other dimension, its power, the beings that live there, the people who fight to control it, and its possibilities. In fact, I think that this other dimension IS the “Inland Empire” referred to in the title: A dimension within dimensions (“inland”), a veritable empire of other worlds, all connected. The film shows us many motifs from earlier films, and contextualizes them. Using the symbols, events, and images from Inland Empire, one can crack the code of the entire Lynchian Universe.
In the next part, we will examine the symbols of Inland Empire, and use them as a Rosetta Stone to deciphering the rest of Lynch’s Universe, and produce evidence that all of Lynch’s films are connected.