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The long take and quality TV

by Sarah O'Brien

This is the first scene after the intro sequence, and while it is arguably unimportant in terms of the show's plot, it is undoubtedly absurd. It begins with a shot of a night stand, with what is presumed to be Agent Cooper's pistol on it. The camera then pans to different objects, each one more odd than the next: a fish, an old hunting rifle, a stuffed bird. In the beginning, more credits roll, but then Agent Cooper begins dialogue with his voice recorder, describing his stay in the hotel. The camera arrives at Cooper's feet, as he hangs upside down, bat-like, from a pipe in his hotel room. It pans down his body, stopping at an inverted shot of his head as he finishes his discussion with the tape recorder. This scene is important for our archive as it represents two important aspects of "quality television": taking risks that traditional television wouldn't, and a long, single-camera take. Traditional television would not have a character delivery dialogue without the camera focusing on them, probably in the center of the frame. It would probably keep the same shot the entire time, relying on the actor to add interest through acting. This scene doe the opposite, only bringing the speaker, Agent Cooper, into frame at the very end, and using the objects around him to fill the frame beforehand. This absurdity is what keeps the interest of the viewer, as well as serving to set the scene and depict the nature of the hotel. The moving, single-camera long take that the scene is composed of is a technique only seen in "quality television". It is a very cinematic technique, far from the multi-camera switches that occur during most dialogue in traditional television. In addition, the absurdity of this scene, from the props to the casually weird way that Cooper talks to his tape recorder and the fact that he is hanging upside down, would make this an incredibly entertaining scene to discuss. -Ben

Twin Peaks, Season One, Ep. 2 "Traces to Nowhere"

Opening scene

from Twin Peaks (1990)
Creator: David Lynch
Posted by Sarah O'Brien