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Monday, 18 April 2011

Twin Peaks ("Pilot", 1990)

Twin Peaks seems to have been pitched to ABC as a by-the-book whodunnit - there are no supernatural elements in the pilot episode. Opening with the discovery of the dead body of the town's Homecoming Queen, a web of circumstance is spun to suggest she's been killed by her football-captain boyfriend. His arrest takes place in the school library.

Much of what makes Twin Peaks so notable (and so unsatisfying) was made-up by David Lynch as he went along, but in bringing the putative killer, school principal, and sheriff together in the library, he demonstrated his mastery of the mise-en-scène. The murder is made more horrific by speaking of it in a place of quiet and order. Bobby's struggle, as the sheriff and deputy escort him out, adds another layer of tension, awkwardness, and intensity to the unsettling melodrama.

In her preface to The Body in the Library, published in 1942, Agatha Christie recognized that her subject matter was already a well-established cliché. Here, Laura's presence suffuses the library, though her body was discovered elsewhere. The scene starts and ends with views of the library's empty chairs, recalling the shot of Laura's empty classroom desk we've just broken from. Expertly crafted stuff.

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