Lynchian Legacy and Family Matters in Top of the Lake, Stoker and Bates Motel

Many shows have tried...and failed...to recapture the spirit of "Laura Palmer."

Many people have tried…and failed…to recapture that spirit of Laura Palmer. But there will only ever be one Laura Palmer. And one Twin Peaks.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over 23 years now since Twin Peaks graced the small screen, but even though it aired for only a year and a half, its legacy can still be felt today on television and in film in works like Top of the Lake, Stoker and Bates Motel – though only ones of these, thanks to the amazing lead performance of Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel, hints at anything memorable.

Jane Campion's TOP OF THE LAKE attempts to be haunting, but comes up all wet.

Jane Campion’s TOP OF THE LAKE attempts to be haunting, but comes up all wet.

Currently on the Sundance Channel, the New Zealand set slow-boil mystery, Top of the Lake, borrows liberally from David Lynch’s signature series. Film auteur Jane Campion follows in Lynch’s footsteps by turning to television with this melancholy miniseries chronicling a Sydney detective (Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss, boldly against type) returning to her remote New Zealand home town (an eerie down under mirror of Lynch’s Pacific Northwest with its mountains, lakes and dark woods) to care for her cancer-stricken mother only to get sucked into the local mystery surrounding the disappearance of a pregnant twelve-year old who just so happens to be the illegitimate daughter of the town drug lord.

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They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara

Director Christian Petzold has Nina Hoss go "into the woods" in BARBARA.

Director Christian Petzold has Nina Hoss go “into the woods” in BARBARA.

In 1980 in East Germany a Berlin doctor (Nina Hoss in the titular role) is banished to a provincial village in the latest from auteur Christian Petzold, who again uses Hoss as his muse as he did so well in earlier films like Yella and Jerichow.  Barabara plays it cold as ice in her new locale, while her West German lover hatches a plan to get her out by way of the sea and Denmark.  Meanwhile, she can’t help but get sucked into tragic cases involving local teens while a provincial officer subjects her to humiliating and routine searches of her apartment and body.  In a police state, even in a rural paradise, everyone is under suspicion.

In some ways Petzold’s Barbara plays like a pastoral version of The Lives of Others, but it’s more mellow drama than melodrama.  Petzold holds back almost everything, his directorial style perhaps meant to mirror the psyche of those who lived under the Iron Curtain in East Germany and had to watch their every move while being monitored by the State.  Details of Barbara’s past, as well as the pasts of others are sparse.  Petzold mostly shows, rarely tells.  Classical music, a famous Rembrandt painting and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are woven effortlessly into the story to add layers and fill in pieces of character development.  Most things are to be inferred, and he’s blessed with Hoss’s controlled performance where she reveals little outwardly but speaks volumes with her eyes and restrained body language.  Continue reading

Issue Three of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine Now Available

Issue Three Cover Final

The third issue of The Stone – our special mystery/crime issue – is now available for download at Amazon.com through the Kindle app!

Here’s a preview:

My medic jacket had lost most of its initial warmth once dampened by the constant snow, yet I still tightened it desperately around me, my only safe haven from the frozen field. The snow illuminated the world before me, creating a blank canvas out of the barren field, spoiled only by the occasional dead tree. Under different circumstances, it may have been beautiful.  —  from “Dolls of Ice” by Delun Attwooll

I lived at Siding Number Two, a spur line off the Southern Pacific railroad that carried oil into Bakersfield.  Our little town changed her name to Taft in 1910, the year I was born.  My daddy used to tell me that the town was forced to change its name, because I had arrived in it.  Since I was never sure that he was telling the truth, I called it by its original name, Siding Number Two.  No matter how you dressed her for the dance, this town had an asphalt tar underbelly that no amount of commerce could wash off.   She partnered with men so corrupt that folks were too frightened to talk about it.   Fueled by greed and intimidation, there were two things that kept this town alive, oil and rail. Born to the west desert plains of the fertile valley, she was set down smack in the middle of two oil leases, the Midway Sunset and Buena Vista.  A product of the transient oil boom, she attracted the hardiest and most desperate of souls.  Nobody planned to stay here long much less die in this town, and I was no different.  —  from “Siding Number Two” by Mary Redmond

The next morning, Benjamin examined the spider web and found the lifeless lightning bug wrapped tightly in a cocoon in the spider’s feasting section that also featured a smattering of other tiny gnats and houseflies.  The tiny rear end bulb responsible for last night’s light show was detached from the rest of the body and lay on the floor underneath the web in a smoldering of dirt and dust.  The spider, of course, was nowhere to be seen, leaving behind its macabre display for the boy’s fevered imagination to run wild with monstrous images of the arachnid’s size and power.  Benjamin hated that feeling of knowing that spiders were always around him, hiding everywhere, always within a few feet, sometimes just a few inches from him, often undetected, waiting for that moment to come crawling over his face while he slept, the tiny ones creeping into his ears and nostrils, the big ones nesting in his hair.  This feeling often left him petrified at night.  — from “Night of the Spider” by D. H. Schleicher

So go ahead and roll back The Stone to uncover great stories in the digital age. Continue reading