David Lynch may not be returning to “Twin Peaks,” but if, as was the case at last report, the show is revived without his directorial input, he left a rich visual legacy for others to draw upon. As Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin point out in this new video essay, an electrical failure on the set of the series’ pilot episode set up a potent symbol that, along with shots of lonely traffic lights and trees bending in the wind, recurred throughout the run of the show. There’s no narration in “Short Circuit: A ‘Twin Peaks’ System,” just a pure exploration of how the motif recurs, and, as a by-product, a reveal of just how much you can do with a strobe light.
Let’s dissolve the lure of “Twin Peaks'” narrative intrigue, with its regime of mysteries and clues, questions and answers, at least for a while. Let’s follow, instead, something that happened by accident on set during the shooting of the pilot episode — a light fixture that didn’t work, flickering on and off — which then became a major motif in the entire scope of the series….
This system of light gets attached, by poetic association, with the strange fate, and often the failure, of communication devices in the series. Most of these devices come in the form of resolutely old-fashioned technology, in line with the surreal, time-shifting nostalgia of the enterprise: telephones, radios, boxy old TV sets set to “snow,” big microphones, wires, speakers, earpieces, antennae.
Mechanical or artificial communication tends to go berserk in Lynch, creating every kind of auditory displacement and excess: screaming, sobbing, feedback, echo, static, distortion – as well as music that stops and starts, speeds up and slows down. Telephony is even married to an uncanny, mental telepathy in the Twin Peaks pilot, when people know what is to be told them before it is said, and even without it being said.