After a long, long wait the iconic and hugely influential cult TV show is coming back to our screens. Yes, Twin Peaks is about to return, and whether you’re planning to toast the new season with a cup of damn fine coffee and cherry pie, will be watching cuddled up to your own pet log, or relaxing in front of red drapes, we have some colour analysis for you on the colour-coded secrets of David Lynch’s mysterious world. Although it was the eccentric characters and endless plot twists that kept us all hooked to the original show, the visual design is a huge part of what made the original so eerie and captivating. Director Lynch is also respected as a painter and visual artist, and in every shot, on every set, his utterly distinctive aesthetic shines through, using colour and visual clues to create a complete world which at once celebrates small town America and suggesting that there is something slightly off about it all.
On the surface of it, Twin Peaks is an idyllic rural town forever stuck in a state of 50s nostalgia, exemplified by the retro-red and chequerboard floor of the Double R diner. But the woods surrounding the town act as a metaphor both for claustrophobia, and the threatening unknown. Looking at many of the settings in Twin Peaks you can see that far from comfortingly closing out the pine forests, they let them in. Production Designer for the original Twin Peaks Richard Hoover explains how sets were contracted with this exact effect in mind. “The spaces were treated as locations within a four wall reality riffing on material themes of the Pacific Northwest: stone, wood, moss, rain, dirt,” he said in an in-depth interview on the set design. “The series is a celebration of the mystical in the midst of the organic woods of the north west with the repeated question: what really lies beneath the comfortable and banal reality of these characters. Surface context of spaces was linked always to geography of where the story was set: the NORTH WEST mountains. This demanded that we embrace the atmosphere of the North West: fog, rain, wood all with an idea that the landscape was more or less like a primordial soup for the story. We gravitated to any place that has pine or fur trees, wood buildings, log structures etc.” The hotel especially features wood cladding and Native American decorative motifs.
Colours in themselves – as with so many other elements in the story – seem to serve as keys and codes to help unlock the story. Although this being David Lynch, there are as many false leads and riddles without answers. Search online for the significance of red and blue seen together – most notably in the glasses of the decidedly creepy Dr Jacoby, Laura Palmer’s psychiatrist – and numerous theories abound. A joke about having clarity of vision? Dr Jacoby believes he sees things as they really are. Perhaps – the same colour combination appears on the sign at One Eyed Jack’s, and in the ‘Cooper’s Dream’ episode of the first series, in the Icelandic flags and decorations festooning the hotel, and in Catherine and Ben’s co-ordinating outfits.
Red of course has the greatest significance in Twin Peaks’ visual language. Richard Hoover confirms that the design for the Red Room scenes was something that came from Lynch alone. The red drapes of this spooky space – seemingly a half-way house between the real and the spirit world – are one of many examples of curtains being used as a backdrop in Lynch’s cinematic world. The Red Room in the series links the White and Black Lodges – perhaps referenced by that spot-on-trend chevron flooring – but red curtains also appear in many other of the series’ ‘real’ locations, including at the Roadhouse and Jaques Renault’s cabin. Red – with its obvious meanings of anger, lust and danger – is also used portentously in many many scenes. Laura’s empty chair in the classroom for example, and of course, our personal favourite colour moment in the show, which almost twenty years on couldn’t be more in vogue – the pink toilets at the school slashed through with a threatening heart-monitor red zig-zag. Quite what it means we still don’t know. Perhaps this series will finally tell us….