For ages I have been intrigued by the use of the tinny Swan Lake music during the scene when Sonny Jim is playing on his new gym set. In many conversations about this particular scene in the Twin Peaks Between Two Worlds Facebook Group I have asserted that it’s interesting that Lynch used this because of the comparisons between the ballet where the music piece comes from and the plotline of Season 3 overall. This article will explore those linkages.
First a little background information. I took a lot of ballet classes when I was a young girl, from roughly the age of three or four till twelve years old. Even though I gave up dancing because I was really never any good at it, I still retained a passion for the dance. I follow a lot of ballet dancers and ballet companies in social media. I devour any ballet related content. I remember the basic synopses and scores of the great ballets from Giselle to Swan Lake, so my ears naturally perked up when ballet music is used in certain scenes in certain films or televised media.
Swan Lake is a simple fairy tale ballet. (Like many of the great story ballets.) A bored prince named Siegfried is hunting one day and spies a great flock of swans landing on a lake. Their seeming leader is a beautiful swan. The flock all transform into women. Upon meeting, the Prince and the Swan leader, Odette, fall immediately in love. She revealed her story to the Prince. A sorcerer named Von Rothbard (who takes the form of an Owl on occasion) placed a curse on her which turns her into a swan by day but allows her to return to her human form only at night and only by that certain lake. Von Rothbard arrives and Siegfried tries to kill him. Odette stops him because von Rothbard’s death will seal her and her maidens in swan form forever. Throughout the night, the two continue to fall in love, Siegfried swears to lift the curse, and then in the morning Odette is a swan again.
Soon, a masked ball is held at the palace and Siegfried is expecting Odette to be there. Unfortunately Von Rothbard’s own daughter Odile, under a spelled disguise to look just like Odette, comes and seduces the Prince. He proposes to her immediately. It isn’t until it’s too late that the prince realises he has the wrong one. Largely in thanks to Odette being spied from a window. He hurries to the lake. Odette who had witnessed the “betrayal” is extremely hurt. She’d rather die than stay with Sigfried. The ballet ends in different ways depending on what company does the ballet. Odette dies and Sigfried follows her in death, releasing the swans from the curse. Or while Odette is attempting suicide, Siegfried tries to stop her and states that she will be his forever even if she is unwilling. Odette and Siegfried die anyway during a storm the curse remains unbroken. (Some parts of the plot were courtesy of the Swan Lake Wikipedia Page).
Odette is known for her simple and beautiful choreography. But it’s usually quite uncomplicated. She stays in the lake. Odile is the virtuoso. Her choreography is complex, seductive. Her appearance at the ball is marked by one of the most stunning pieces of ballet choreography known in the art form. She has to do these 32 fouettes. A fouette is one of the more difficult spins in ballet. Demonstration of Odile’s 32 below.
With all that explanation, you all may be asking what this has to do with Twin Peaks? There are two distinct parallels. The first has to do with the presence of the two swans themselves. The second is the intriguing possibility of two endings.
There are two swans, played by the same prima ballerina, in the ballet. There are in Season 3, two Coopers, played by the same actor Kyle MacLachlan. What’s so intriguing is the fact is that one Cooper the “Good Cooper,” the Original Cooper, is under some sort of spell where he is most definitely not himself. Everyone thinks he is Dougie. Odette is most definitely not herself either, always under the form of a swan. What is even more intriguing is the spell-caster is an Owl Sorcerer. If you take into account the fact that the Doppelganger of the Evolution of the Arm (an Owl Sorcerer) is the one that launched Good Cooper into non-existence. It is also interesting considering Odette’s choreography being simple and largely confined to one place excepting the ball scene where she tries to warn Siegfried from a window. Good Cooper is largely confined to one place, Vegas, and has simple moves remaining largely inactive throughout the series.
Conversely, Mr. C is also created by an owl (as all Doppelgangers are Lodge Created). Odile is the Owl’s daughter. He is known for his seduction, owing to the scene where Chantal is constantly kissing him in front of her own husband. Odile is seductive too. Mr. C also unlike Good Cooper, moves all over the chess board in Season 3. He goes from Buckhorn, to Yankton, to parts unknown, to an Underworld Hangout, to another “Underworld” hangout, to a big boulder to Twin Peaks. Odile, though confined to her sole scene at the Masked Ball, is known for her complex choreography. Moreover, the episode where this scene shows up is interesting as it also contains what could be Mr. C’s own 32 fouette movement. The Farm where he arm wrestles Renzo and gets critical information from Ray.
So Two Swans equals Two Coopers, but what about the two endings?
The two most typical endings to the ballet are also comparable to the two endings of Twin Peaks. The ending which appeared in the first libretto has Odette, unforgiving of Siegfried, dying only to have Siegfried die in the end. Now, Laura never had reason to feel like Cooper betrayed her. Cooper betrayed no one except Caroline and Windom. But the endings of the “original Twin Peaks” and the original Swan Lake Libretto are intriguing if you believe that Cooper actually dies when he enters the Red Room in Episode 29. The heroine, Odette, the White Swan, and Laura Palmer, the “One” precede Segfried and Cooper “The appointed heroes” in death. The end of the original ballet has the swan maidens freed from their curse because of those actions and able to live their lives. The people of Twin Peaks are free to live their lives regardless of Laura’s death.
A few years later, the libretto got revised a bit and a new ending was added. After the disastrous ball, Siegfried still does run to the lake to beg forgiveness for his actions, like in the original ending. Odette still rejects his attempt at penance. However, where it changes is that Siegfried basically forces her to stay with him no matter what, to come with him. Von Rothbard flies by with Odette’s crown and a storm comes up. Odette proclaims ‘What have you done?” Both of them die in the storm. The swan maidens are unchanged. This could be comparable to the way parts 17 and 18 could work out under certain circumstances. Cooper did ‘wrest’ Laura away from making her grand choice. So he basically did what Siegfried did. Von Rothbard carrying away Odette’s crown and the storm striking up could be comparable to Laura being ripped away. The both of them drowning after Odette stating “What have you done?” Could be comparable to the scream then nothing. The swans not being freed from their curse could be comparable to the altered memories of the Twin Peaks denizens and the connected miasma that Tammy experiences according to the Final Dossier.
One last intriguing parallel is Odile herself. Odile was corrupted by her father von Rothbard to seduce Siegfried. She looked exactly like Odette. In many ways Laura was both Odette and Odile. Laura was like Odile in many ways explosive, seductive but at the same time, cursed like Odette as well and under a curse from an Owl, who just happened to be her father (like Odile’s relationship to von Rothbard maybe?)
In short, Cooper and Laura could take the parts of the swan and their decoy. Cooper by virtue of the fact that he was quite literally spilt into two different people. Laura by virtue of the fact that she had to live two separate lives. Cooper could also be the prince with his two separate endings. That is why Swan Lake is such an intriguing choice of music to use in Twin Peaks.
Thanks to The Swan Lake Wikipedia page for refreshing me on some points of plot and the alternative ending. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swan_Lake