The camerawork of the scene forms a pattern, that gives clues about the hard cut at the end. The scene imagery also reveals a connection between the Mauve Theater and the Great Northern. There was a whooshing sound at the hard cut at the end, indicating some kind of transportation/continuity to the next scene happened. Finally, The next scene is Sarah Palmer’s throat-death bar-sign, which looks just like the BangBang sign and makes electricity sounds
Based on how the scene is filmed, it seems like there is a really good chance Lynch was trying to tell us something about that place. Here is the shot-by-shot with pics:
There is a pattern to the camerawork in the Furnace Scene with James, and that pattern is meant to imply that James travels/teleports somewhere at the end of the scene.
- James enters and walks toward the camera. The camera is stationary until he gets close, then, as he walks, the camera ‘follows’ in front of him. We hear the high pitch ring that Ben and Beverly were trying to isolate:
- James stops and looks around. The camera stops briefly and takes James out of the center of the frame, directing our focus to a large panel of switches. This is to indicate what James is looking at, and start to establish a pattern
- James starts walking again, The camera picks up slightly, re-centers James, he’s not looking around anymore and resumed his mission of checking the furnace.
- James walks off screen, and the camera stops moving briefly
- The scene cuts to James turning a corner. Camera is once again stationary until James gets close, then is following in front
- James stops again, and starts to look around. The camera also stops moving.
- This time we get an even clearer indicator that James has stopped to look around– we switch to a POV shot of what James is looking at:
- As if to reassure us, the camera switches back to James’ face, as if to say, “look he stills here, this is clearly a POV shot:” https://imgur.com/a/liEo1
- Then it resumes the POV shot, and moves in the same direction James’ eyes were moving. It slows and stops on the Cooper-Door. This implies that James is looking at the door.
Finally, at the end of the scene, we hear a whooshing sound. The exact same whoosing sound, in fact, that we hear when Dale or Mike get transported in or around the Waiting Room!
NOTE: some of these pictures came out dark– they were screenshotted on my computer and are not as bright as the actual scenes. If some of them came out murky, you can see them much more clearly and unambiguously in the actual scene.
What Does it All Mean?
A pattern of camera shots
This kind of technique is common in camera work– they create a pattern for us to follow, so subconsciously we can track the movement of the focus character. You see it used to great effect in the dollar shave club commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUG9qYTJMsI&t=29s
The pattern was cut-follow-look-follow. We cut to James walking into the back area, then followed him through the hall. We watched him look around, and followed him out of the shot. We cut to him walking again, then a POV look, a half follows(where we follow his head focusing on the door) and then…
So what should happen next?
With the strong visual cue of the door, the camera work has primed us to expect something along the lines of:
- cut back to James’ face, follow, then hold as he walks out of frame.
- cut to behind James, he approaches the door and he opens it, or tries to open it. (The purpose of the scene)
What happens instead?
- Instead we get a hard cut to the next scene.
- Not only that, but during the hard cut You hear the same whooshing sound as when characters teleport in and out of the Waiting Room! what????
- This is the same whooshing sound that happens in ep18, when Dale loses Laura Palmer, then suddenly “whooshes” to the waiting room, or when Mike whooshes around in the waiting room.
So why are they showing us this scene at all? And why all these weird landmarks?
The obvious answer is so we know where Dale is when he uses the lodge-key. But there is a second goal of this scene: establish a relationship or duality between this boiler room and the Fireman’s home in the Mauve Tower. How is this so?
Why the whooshing and hard cut at the end?
I’m way less certain about what this whoosh means. The first thing we know is that James is whooshed somewhere. Maybe just back outside the boiler room? That whooshing sound isn’t a location-traveling effect, it’s usually a lodge-traveling effect(going between lodges and the world). The next scene with James is him walking into the Bang Bang Bar, so this might be a clue as to the state of the Bang Bang.(I have another post I’m working on for different events in the BBB)
However, those whooshes usually have something to do with the absolute next scene– that is, they don’t just reference traveling, they also often imply some form of continuity between the previous scene and the next, even though they seem clearly unrelated. Well, what is the next scene? It’s the scene where Sarah Palmer goes into a bar and eats a guys throat after taking her face off
Not only that, but the first shot of that scene is the shot of the Elk’s Sign, with the sound of electricity behind it(one of the same sounds that is used elsewhere to portray lodge goings on). However, that’s not the weirdest part of that shot. The shot is staged EXACTLY like the Bang Bang sign is later in the episode: https://imgur.com/a/qnjdj