Laura Palmer's Descent

From an essay about Fire Walk With Me:

Lynch has been repeatedly accused of misogyny, but in many ways his decision to go back and tell Laura’s story was a deeply responsible one—she becomes more than just a victim, a statistic, the metaphorical reflection of an entire town’s transgressions. She’s a living, breathing girl, and a complex, brutally honest character. For the first time we are allowed a glimpse of her strengths as well as her weaknesses, her loyalty and bravery even after all these years of abuse have twisted her into something she knows to be wrong and corrupt. .. The sheer horror of Laura’s situation is never avoided, never sanitised, the complexity of her inner struggle never simplified. She is shown to be cold and self-serving, promiscuous and uncaring, and eventually suicidal. But we are with her every step of the way, drawn into her nightmare world, sharing her fear, her desperation, her need to dominate others and drag them down to her level. We understand at each moment why she behaves the way she does, we know that she never had a choice. And therein lies the film’s heartrending power. Lynch never looks away, and never, ever does he trivialise his subject.Perhaps it is this refusal to avert the camera’s gaze that offended so many critics and women’s groups. Sheryl Lee’s performance as Laura is startling; sympathetic and honest, switching from ecstasy to fear, from power to submission in a heartbeat. But the depth of her humiliation is tough to take, and as the film progresses Lynch mercilessly strips away her dignity, leaving her vulnerable and naked, literally and figuratively. But what the film’s critics failed to understand is that for Lynch, the camera is not a voyeuristic instrument—it does not distance him from his subject, it brings them together, connecting him and us with Laura’s suffering in a very visceral, direct way.







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