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.
Like Vincent Ward’s Alien 3, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune is a legendary unmade film, a ghost glimpsed in the background of other films. It’s a film you want to exist at the same time as being glad that it doesn’t because in it’s unmade state it can still be perfect.
In all honesty, I’m not convinced that we would have ended up with the 100% masterpiece that many of the contributors seem to believe would have resulted, the cast alone would have toppled it, but thanks to Jodorosky’s infectious, alive, and playful nature this remains a fascinating insight into the creative spirit and when he speaks of assembling a team of ‘spiritual warriors’ he’s got you.
What the film also does is provide a snapshot of a great moment in sci-fi history. In bringing together Dan O’Bannon (definitely not Douglas Trumbull), H.R. Giger, Jean ‘Moebius’ Girauld and Chris Foss, he effectively foresaw the immediate future. I don’t buy into the ‘everything was nicked from Dune‘ line that the film seems to take (I think that we might be confusing ‘working artists progressing their own good ideas’ with ‘copying’) but it’s undeniable that this unrealised project created a cinematic wave, one that hit me smack in the face and left a permanent mark.
1. In waiting for this film to arrive, I revisited David Lynch’s Dune (1984). 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.
2. Although it’s not currently available in the UK, it is really worth grabbing a copy of Jodorowsky’s Dune on Blu-ray / DVD for the deleted scenes, which are just as fascinating as anything in the film, especially the final storyboarded scene, which seems to sum up the whole project.
3. That book, the one in the above photo, was created by the (almost) film-makers to take around studios when trying to get the project off the ground. Apparently around 20 were made and only 2 still exist. I really want that book, please publish it.