SMT x TP: Cinematic Parallels

As of now I‘m about 6 hours into my first SMT game, (III Nocturne HD Remaster) and I’ve been struck by several thematic and/or visual details that triggered my (admittedly way over-sensitive) compulsion to draw parallels with the seminal weirdo horror crime mystery of Twin Peaks. A lot of this is probably “guy-who-has-only-seen-Twin-Peaks-watches-literally-anything-else,” but it's been pretty fun, so what the heck! These range from possibly intentional to almost certainly coincidental to frivolous to “come on, this is such a universal theme, would you give it a rest already.” I should also note that I am pointing these out as I go, so I am likely missing greater context and/or revelations that come later in the game (and would appreciate that everyone remain sensitive of spoilers!). Here are a few that I have observed so far:

1.

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Early in the game, following the Conception, the protagonist is visited by this mysterious pair: and elderly woman escorting a pale, stern beyond his years child, both dressed in what would best be characterized as funeral attire. The image of these figures starkly contrasted against an expanse of asphalt prompted immediate recollection of a scene from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, the 1992 prequel film, in which the doomed-but-as-yet-still-living Laura Palmer is visited in the Double R Diner back lot by Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont and her pale-masked "grandson." In both instances the intentions of these visitors is yet to be determined, though each offers the respective protagonist both advice and a _de_vice that protects and torments.

2.

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While lost in the Amala Network, the protagonist of SMT is introduced to the concept of "Magatsuhi," a glowing and flowing substance coveted by demons, born of the negative emotions enumerated above. Similarly, "Garmonbozia" is an amorphous substantiation described as "pain and sorrow," which offers sustenance for the malicious Black Lodge spirits that torment the hapless humans of Twin Peaks. It is rendered visible in several forms throughout the series, mainly as creamed corn, although in The Return (Season 3), it emanates as a yellow glowing plasma while a mother mourns her child murdered in a senseless hit-and-run. Notably, it is absorbed by a nearby powerline, where it can then flow through its own network.

3.

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Upon emerging from the Amala network, the demi-fiend is confronted by a tall cylindrical object with the disembodied voice of an acquaintance hollowly echoing forth. At this point, the relationship between the object and the bodily form of the person in question is unclear, though it seems that this vessel is simply a node in a larger network that the occupant is channeling his voice through. Similarly, the long-lost FBI Agent Jeffries, whose physical form has ceased to exist and now presumably flows through a "slippery" spirit realm, presents himself to the demi-fiend of BOB/Cooper as an industrial-strength tea kettle, of sorts. The device echoes other infernal electrical machinery presented throughout The Return that serves as nodes on the electrical-pain-and-suffering-superhighway.

4.

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This one is moving beyond Twin Peaks to Lynch's film _Eraserhead_, though I was struck by the imagery of the demi-fiend peering through a twisted grate to view a vintage curtained-and-checkered stage of proportions both ambiguous and improbable, echoing the radiator of the film.

5.

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I remember reading that Fire Walk With Me made more money in Japan than the US

But also, I kinda wonder how much of this could come down to David Lynch being very into East Asian mysticism which is obviously a pretty big source for _SMT_.

  • 6. (Blue) Velvet room
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    This is a cool thread. Here is possibly the most basic parallel, lol.

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    @“Syzygy”#p47969 explains it in way more detail than I can but I also want to add that 1) the portrayal of the Conception and Magatsuhi in Nocturne appear at least visually to be heavily influenced by The End of Evangelion’s “Instrumentality”, although the metaphysical idea Magatsuhi represents is slightly different from Eva’s souls and LCL, and 2) Yaso Magatsuhi no Kami is actually portrayed elsewhere in SMT, most prominently in IV.

    @“Syzygy”#p47974 Yeah, my reading on Magatsuhi as the made-up metaphysical terminology in Nocturne is that it’s supposed to be the expunged impurities of humanity - but it clearly has visual echoes of Eva’s metaphysical reduction of humans to “souls” (floating red dots glimpsed in massive aerial streams during its apocalypse event) and “LCL” (placenta-like liquid seen in pools all over the heroes’ giant technological facilities).

    I’m also not totally convinced that the “world folding into a sphere” concept of the Conception wasn’t born out of something as simple as the designers going, “What could we render in PS2 polygons that’d be visually interesting?”

    >

    @“Syzygy”#p47969 Are you tired yet?

    Thank you! Sadly, the joke is on you, as I _am not_ tired and _will not_ tire of your explanations, no matter how overwrought you might worry they have become!

    I am very much onboard with the idea that Garmonbozia is, at most, and incidentally convergent concept for pain and suffering compared to my proposed SMT analog.

    Lynch's application of Eastern (and for that matter Native American) mysticism is scattershot and I worry lapses into nonproductive appropriation, though I would have to ruminate on the specifics a bit more. Certainly, "Tibetan rock throwing" and the throwaway "Jowday"/Judy malarkey do not read as particularly nuanced to me.

    Another connection to Japanese media that occurs to me is thermonuclear war as a central theme, whether explicitly or otherwise. In The Return, one might claim that it is _the_ central theme, or at least the catalyst for the intermingling of humans and evil spirits. The 1945 Trinity nuclear test is thematically framed as the point-of-no-return loss of innocence for humanity and, plotwise, the genesis and/or release of the main antagonizing forces. This is perhaps the first major step in a long downward march toward a nadir that could only logically conclude with a Conception-level reckoning.

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    The demonic demi-transformation of the SMT Nocturne protagonist commences with the compulsory ingestion of a living insect-like being known as a "Magatama." This act robs the demi-fiend of his humanity while also imbuing him with superhuman powers.

    In the infamous Part 8 of TP: The Return, a pathetic but nonetheless malevolent-appearing insect/frog-like creature is formed in the wake of Trinity event, years later to be awakened and hatched under the influence of a demonic radio broadcast. This creature is ingested by a sleeping girl, similarly without the human participant's consent. Though not explicitly stated, this generally accepted to be a young Sarah Palmer, who is shown in several instances to channel and possess demonic power (sometimes in [quite a disturbing manner](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxYlypeewVU)).

    Without dwelling too much on the mechanics and specific origins of these two concepts, there does seem to be a thematic through-line of unwilling loss of humanity with varying degrees of resignation to this fate. It's interesting to see the different way each of these plays out, owing at least in part to their respective medium. The first becomes a game mechanic, with the player compelled to keep munching bugs to balance and optimize the empowering and deleterious effects, while Sarah is shown to become a tormented recluse.

    While working my way through the Ginza Underpass I was getting some Twin-Peaksy vibes from the sound design. The ambient track that plays in the Great Ginza Underpass reminds me of the eerie synths from Angelo Badalamenti‘s score for the original show. More specifically, however, a version of that track that plays in the Manikin encampment (more on those golem-like creatures later) contains only a waxing and waning shrill drone produced by a mysterious instrument/implement (perhaps a waterphone?). This sound is nearly identical to the faint sound prepended to the classic Twin Peaks opening theme, “Falling,” for the third season, which lends the track in a much more unsettling tone. I couldn’t find a clean version of the SMT track, so here's a short clip I prepared:

    https://twitter.com/koybones/status/1459977546582351882?s=20

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJnVhqGvHZE

    Listening to them again, this does seem like a stretch, but I'm not lying when I say my mind _immediately_ went there so, well, you're all coming along for the ride!

    Not Twin Peaks related but Larrue on YouTube has good videos on Nocturne lore.

    Thor extracting Magatsuhi from Isamu and BOB extracting the soul of Windom Earle

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    While it is doubtful (but possible?) Lynch was explicitly referencing Tengu, I can't help but notice that the Koppa Tengu of SMT 3 bears some resemblance to the masks adorned by the Jumping Man and the child Pierre:

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    “This is the water

    And this is the well.

    Drink full and descend.

    [b]The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within[/b].”

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