I’ve seen Dune more times than I really should have. I’ve gone through phases with it and in 2013 I wrote the following…
“Although not perfect (what film is?) it’s a great big, weird and ballsy piece of sci-fi. What really feels right is the savage nature of the world in which it’s set both in terms of the political / societal set up and hardness of the dessert planet Arrakis. Everything in this film is life and death. Highly Recommended.”
Having finally seen it with an audience, on a screen larger than my TV, I’ve got to admit that it’s a bad movie. I’ve ended up here because my mind connected a shot of Alia, the young sister of the main character, with Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
It’s hard to believe that the reference isn’t intentional, that Lynch isn’t invoking Lean. Both stories feature outsiders leading desert warriors in military campaigns that are linked to larger political games. The Middle Eastern influences in Dune are front and centre and so is the importance of a precious natural resource. When O’Toole’s Lawrence dances, it’s because he’s infatuated with his robes and his shadow is his partner, he can’t help but check his reflection in his dagger. Alia is similarly lost in herself and that’s why the shot is so striking, it’s the one moment in Dune in which a character isn’t pushing the plot forward or saddled with overly obvious inner monologue. The two texts touch for one moment. The big difference is that Lawrence… has subtext (voiced perfectly in that scene) and is alive, Dune is dead because it has none.