Lost in the Movies: The Sweet Hereafter as TWIN PEAKS CINEMA #13 (podcast)

The Sweet Hereafter as TWIN PEAKS CINEMA #13 (podcast)

Twenty-five years ago, The Sweet Hereafter premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Its reception was far more rapturous than the maligned Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (which debuted to Cannes boos exactly five years earlier), but the films have much in common. Both are moody nineties portraits of secret lives, dysfunctional families, and small town tragedy. They both center an adolescent girl (here played by Sarah Polley, worthy of the comparison with Sheryl Lee) who attempts to take control of her own story in the limited ways available to her. And Laura Palmer's and Nicole Burnell's stories are both rooted in abuse by an incestuous father. The Sweet Hereafter also recalls the series Twin Peaks with its somber portrayal of grief (in this case, following a school bus accident that massacres the town's children) and placement of an outside investigator as its protagonist (in this case, Ian Holm as a civil litigator far more dour but no less determined than Cooper). I've placed this discussion in May because of the festival anniversary, and to connect it to a month devoted to Fire Walk With Me (which I'm currently covering in-depth on my Lost in Twin Peaks public podcast). But it also works as the heart of my three-month "Traumatic Transformations" theme. While less overtly fantastical than Belladonna of Sadness or even the forthcoming Mysterious Skin, it dabbles in fairy tale by lacing The Pied Piper throughout its own text, in image, word, and even music. There is also a sense, reminiscent of Twin Peaks, that on a metaphorical level the town's tragedy is generated by Nicole's trauma. This is especially palpable in the final, moving shot, which matches well with similar images from Belladonna and Skin (I've used all three frames for their podcast icons). Bright light overwhelms the viewer, paradoxically evoking the character's traumas as well as their attempts to transcend them.

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My discussion of The Sweet Hereafter continues with a coda on the book on Patreon (at 1:31:42).

Yesterday's "Fire Walk With Me Mysteries" episode of the Lost in Twin Peaks podcast

by MovieNut14 (Defiant Success)
by Sarah Polley (New York Times)
by Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)
by Adam Cook (CBC)

(another Russell Banks adaptation set in a small town and released in 1997)

Other podcasts on the film:

Recently on Lost in Twin Peaks podcast: Fire Walk With Me (ongoing) including The Missing Pieces

Recently on Lost in the Movies podcast:The Prestige

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