"I'll see you again in 25 years."
That's one of the many cryptic things that (maybe) Laura Palmer tells (maybe) Agent Dale Cooper in the maddening final episode of the groundbreaking ABC-TV series "Twin Peaks," which aired in 1991. At the time, none of us -- perhaps not even "Twin Peaks" creators David Lynch and Mark Frost -- knew how true to her word Laura would be.
Twenty-five years later, we all had the chance to witness Laura and Cooper's reunion. In a brilliant 18-episode arc on Showtime. Lynch and Frost resurrected their critically acclaimed cult series exactly 25 years after its premature end. Without doubt, it's been my favorite 18 weeks of the year.
I love "Twin Peaks." What's better than a murder mystery morphed into a surreal dreamscape of eccentric characters, altered reality and supernatural bogeymen? It's still the most groundbreaking show ever to air on network TV -- which is also why it only lasted two seasons. Many viewers grew tired of the weird and became impatient when the central mystery of the show went unanswered. Upon news of the show's cancelation, Lynch returned to film a finale that offered more questions than answers and left fans wondering what they'd just seen.
A decade ago, our newspaper sent me to Fairfield, Iowa, to interview David Lynch. My job was to find out about the foundation he created that funds the teaching of meditation techniques to schoolkids. There I was, sitting in a tiny office with the mastermind of my favorite TV show. My mouth duly inquired about meditation, but inside I was resisting every urge in my body to start yelling, "WHAT'S THE BLACK LODGE? WHO'S JUDY? WHAT'S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HORSE IN EPISODE 14? TELL ME! TELL ME NOW!"
Longtime fans hoped this new coda finally would answer some of these nagging mysteries from the original show. Longtime fans should have known better. Answers? Who needs answers? Instead, this summer's outing gave us all new incomprehensible questions to ponder for the next quarter-century. There were no tidy bows to be had. It was awesome.
And humbling. I really fear I'm not a very deep person. I have a hard time recognizing symbolism or hidden layers behind art. If it's not staring at me from the surface, I miss it. Many people think the plot of "Aliens" is a metaphorical retelling of the Vietnam War. Some say "The Wizard of Oz" is about the Jungian Process of Individuation. You can find Christian allegory in everything from "Star Wars" to "The Lord of the Rings."
No film director ever has been more gifted at hidden meanings and complex artistry than Stanley Kubrick. Lynch devotees don't hold a candle to Kubrick nerds when it comes to over-analyzing, and the documentary "Room 237" presents a dozen or so credible theories put forth by film geeks about hidden symbolism in Kubrick's film adaptation of "The Shining." One guy is convinced the movie is a treatise on the plight of Native Americans, mostly based on a prominently placed can of Calumet baking soda. The next geek thinks its about the Holocaust. I just thought it was a pretty sweet movie about a creepy guy with an ax.
In the late '80s, there was a Scottish band called The Cocteau Twins that had a singer named Liz Fraser. The band was lauded for its unconventional ethereal music, with Fraser's wide-ranging vocals often abandoning English altogether in favor of semi-comprehensible tones and syllables. Fraser often has said real English words lie behind her flowery emotives, so a popular Cocteau Twins website used to collect fans' guesses about the actual lyrics.
I recall looking at the submissions for one particular song, and one listener thought the lyrics were about flowers growing in a garden, and the next thought the same song contained graphic lyrics about rape and abortion. That's when it hit me: The Cocteau Twins are a musical inkblot test. The lyrics aren't the story here. The real art might lie in what the fans think the lyrics are.
I'd love to sit down with all of my favorite filmmakers and find out exactly what symbolism is meant to be there and what's been dreamed up by fans. Someone on the web actually found a still photo of Kubrick on the set of "The Shining" meticulously placing the baking soda can into his shot, so maybe "The Shining" is all about Native Americans. Kubrick left our planet way too soon for us to find out.
Lynch is notoriously tight-lipped and tells viewers to take away what they want from his films. Maybe the only real answers to "Twin Peaks" are in our minds, however we wish to interpret them. Maybe in another 25 years, we'll find out more.