On The Importance of Twin Peaks in Bulgaria

 

“For sure Ray Wise’s words as Leland Palmer had more weight than those of my father.” That is how Bulgarian writer, contemporary artist, and cinema blogger Anton Terziev describes the influence of Twin Peaks on his life when he was a teenager in 1992. Back then, post-communist Bulgaria was a bit like Douggie Jones, one of Kyle MacLachan’s characters in the new season: disorientated and no clue about what’s going on. It seems like the series gave the youngsters back then some kind of direction: “There was always this huge curiosity towards everything from the West that was beyond the imposed socialism norms. All mannerisms, clothes, haircuts, cars: everything in terms of trends was looked upon in great detail.”

In the absence of any other non-traditional series before or during its airing in Bulgaria, it became a curious mainstream hit the same year. Most likely, it is also the very first American series, or at least the first non-comedy and non-soap opera American series, broadcasted after the communism system fell in 1989. By 1992, the country was embarking on its long, painful, and in many ways still continuous transition into a properly functioning democracy.

“It’s really hard to distinguish my own memories of Twin Peaks from those of the public, but I think the hype was real”, says Terziev, while preparing his brand new exhibition at Sofia’s The Red House. “In retrospect, it’s obvious that it was a real punch in the face of those who thought narrative could only come in the most plain kind of realism. It was something bizarre, foreign. You can’t really make sense of it, and that makes it so charming. Sherilyn Fenn and Mädchen Amick looked so unreachable and painfully sexy to my psyche. I remember some kind of a dark influence, like it wanted me to enter territories that were not in my control – although I was probably just easy to scare.”

But isn’t it strange that the humour and the abstract reality of Twin Peaks so easily clicked with the Bulgarian audience? Or in Audrey Horne’s words: “Isn’t it too dreamy?”

“Abstract? Everything looked abstract in Bulgaria back then”, says cinema critic Anita Dimitrova from the long-running Sega newspaper. She’s not sure if everyone was in front of their TV sets, waiting for the next episode to air, or if the streets were empty just because there was nothing to do outside. However, it certainly was Bulgaria’s introduction to David Lynch, whereas before, his movies were only known to the biggest cinephiles. “Wild at Heart was shown at festivals, but there wasn’t much of an audience for it back then”, concludes Dimitrova.

According to Yanko Terziev, cinema critic of Capital, another long-running newspaper, Twin Peaks was also the first movie or series to introduce tie-in books with the release of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and The Authobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes. According to him, they sold more than 100,000 copies each – in comparison, today even a popular book rarely goes beyond a few thousand copies. Those two books were re-released in Bulgarian earlier this year, along with the lengthy The Secret History of Twin Peaks.

In addition to all the new questions raised by the mental third season, the new episodes also brought many new characters like agent Tammy Preston, often next to David Lynch’s character Gordon Cole, deputy director of the FBI. The actress playing Tammy is singer and occasional Lynch collaborator Chrysta Bell, who will perform on November 17 at Sofia Live Club. Detail: all the early bird tickets to the show are already sold out.

“I was 12-13 years old, and had just discovered Stephen King and rock’n’roll. I also lived on the outskirts of a small town which, despite the cultural differences, was actually not so different from Twin Peaks”, says Tsvetan Tsvetanov, promoter of Chrysta Bell’s concert, and radio host at the Bulgarian National Radio and main figure behind Alarma Punk Jazz – a music platform under which he organized dozens of underground events in the last decade. Chrysta Bell is one of his most high-profile bookings.

“Yes, there was massive hype. When you have such well-devoloped characters and a sufficient amount of great dialogue, you can pass the most abstract ideas among the most conventional audience. But maybe it’s not just that. We should not overlook the fact that when Twin Peaks appeared, not only here but also on a global level, what was considered the general audience back then, isn’t what the general audience is right now. There was this hunger, thirst, and curiosity about other kind of dimensions – something that’s not so strong around all the technology involved in our lives and this universal accessibility we have now. There was also a conscious and subconscious need for, and a pleasure from, experiencing the unknown. Today, we think we know everything, and that we can have it all with just a few clicks”.

For 29-year-old Martina Vacheva from Plovdiv, the winner of this year’s BASA contemporary art award, the series is part of her devolopment as a painter. Hence, in 2015 she made a zine, dedicated to the characters in the series. Subsequently, they also became part of her debut show Serialiti, in which she recreates different characters and celebrities that have become pop culture icons in the 90s and early 2000s.

In her words, “what has continuously attracted me to the world of Twin Peaks is the vivid visual language. It reminds me of a lively surreal picture of dreams that recreates the theme of the two-sided human nature – of good and evil, of the visible and hidden, of everything that the human psyche can hide. But we see only a small part of it, because the rest remains deeply locked in another dimension in us. It is something that remains up to date and forever in time, and we’re understanding it over and over again through different forms.”