Dune

Dune is a sweeping space opera based on Frank Herbert's novel. Let me make one thing clear right away, the movie diverges considerably from the book, so I won't even try and compare the two.

Review by SAndman
January 12, 2009

Director: David Lynch

Writers:
novel: Frank Herbert
screenplay: David Lynch

Cast:
Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Usul Muad'Dib Atreides
Francesca Annis as Lady Jessica
Dean Stockwell as Dr. Wellington Yueh
Brad Dourif as Piter De Vries
Max von Sydow as Dr. Kynes
Sean Young as Chani
Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck
Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

Released: 1984

Paul: I'm dead to everyone unless I become what I may be.



Dune opens as a chronicle told by Princess Irulan, who provides us with a brief exposition. We learn that it is the year 10191 and that the known universe is ruled by the Padisha Emperor, Shaddam the Fourth. The most important substance in the universe is the spice Melange - a drug or poison, whichever way you look at it, which extends life and consciousness and enables men to travel the space in the process referred to as the Space Folding.

The spice is mined on a single planet in the universe - Arrakis, an arid world covered with vast deserts and inhabited by an ellusive people called Fremen. In a complicated move engineered by the Emperor, Arrakis is soon to change hands from House Harkonnen to House Atreides, two powerful families which have been feuding for generations. This sets in motion a series of bloody events involving subterfuge and treason which culminate in the downfall of the Atreides.

The parallel story line follows the coming-of-age of young Paul Atreides from his happy-go-lucky ways as the heir to Duke Leto Atreides, the head of the Atreides family and his father, to a renegade, to a battle-tested warrior, and lastly a charismatic leader.

Paul is inducted by his mother Lady Jessica into the arts of Bene Gesserit sisterhood, a mystic order comprised exclusively of women. Among the skills they teach is the so-called Weirding way - a way of combat which utilizes the power of the human voice. "Some thoughts have a certain sound... that being the equivalent to a form.", Pauls says, "Through sound and motion you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs."

Paul is trained in tactics and martial arts by the finest military minds in the universe. However, as Paul soon learns being a man of destiny is being a lot of things to a lot of people. Even the gift of foresight, which he seems to possess, can prove a dreadful burden as visions reveal terrifying things that may come. Yet, for all the ordeals thrown at him, there is something incredibly appealing about the way Paul, a very young man, takes it all in stride.

"A sleeper must awaken.", his father tells him before their departure for Arrakis. Though Paul doesn't understand what his father is telling him, or why, he recalls those words much later. In the aftermath of a bloody battle, at a point when all hope seems lost, Paul finds his solace and focus - he pledges himself to finding his true self.

Kyle MacLachlan is on top of his game as Paul Atreides. His performance is bristling with youthful fervor and emotional intensity. There is something so deeply convincing about his take on Paul Atreides that you simply take it for granted.

The rest of the cast all seem embroiled in the same kind of high-stakes game. The characters in Dune are to the one larger than life. They clash, hate and kill with an utmost intensity. Even in the personal exchanges there is that quality. Battle scenes may seem a tad stilted, however in those exchanges you get all the tension and drama you need.

The baddies in Dune are particularly memorable. Baron Harkonnen, grossly overweight psychopath with a skin disease which has disfigured his face - I mean, it doesn't get worse than this, does it? He has a penchant for young boys, and gives it a particularly disturbing necrophilic twist.

His mentat henchman Piter De Vries, beneath the funny haircut grind the cold wheels of a brilliant mind which harbors sexual fantasies involving Lady Jessica. Boorish and gluttonous Rabban, Baron's cousin, a pile of muscles with a peanut brain - living proof that a peanut brain is more than enough to work havoc and destruction. Lastly, my favorite, Feyd-Rautha, punk warrior sporting a trademark sardonic grin and obsessed with killing Paul Atreides. Narcissistic and deadly in hand-to-hand combat.

Lynch's style is baroque and rich in texture. At times that style comes close to poetry. There is a scene with Paul and Chani. The two characters come to an end of a dark underground corridor. Suddenly they stop and embrace. Then a cut to the open desert. The camera pans over the dunes which encircle the horizon. In the next shot, again we see the faces of Paul and Chani kissing and reflected in the water of what has to be one of the secret reservoirs. The faces flicker on the surface as the water ripples gently. Sand and water. The play of elements, and the lovers in the midst of it. Simple and moving. It sticks in your memory.

Too bad huge chunks of Dune were excised at the behest of the studio. Dune feels decidedly unfinished especially towards the end when the pace picks up momentum. Lynch eventually grew so dissatisfied with the movie that he refused to comment on it any more in interviews. By the way, there is another version of the Lynch Dune, put together by the studio, and directed by a Alan Smithee, a pseudonym studios use when a director demands his name be removed from the project, but it's rubbish. Don't bother with it.



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Interesting interview with
David Lynch and Frank Herbert
(1983)

Here's a rare treat indeed! Two wizards, both in their respective fields, discussing the classic science fiction movie, Dune. Offering rare insight into the mind of a genius, collaboration and mutual respect.

Personally if I had a chance to take two creators in the field to dinner, these two would be my first choice. I can't think of two artists more unlike and unique than Frank Herbert and David Lynch, and to hear them talk about their brainchild, this interview almost feels like something straight out of one of their own creations.

Must-see for all those who read the book (and those who are yet to do it), and thought it the next best thing in the universe to oxygen, and saw the movie, and always wanted to know what were Frank Herbert's feelings about it. Enjoy!





Part 2
Part 3
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Part 5
Part 6


Dune Movie Quotes


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