Yes this is another entry regarding what I believe is one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Frank Herbert’s Dune. I have finally seen the recent film about the 1974 attempt at making a surrealist version of the story. The art house director Alejandro Jodorowsky gathered a troop of ‘warriors’ around him to create what he classed as an LSD trip minus the actual drug. The documentary film describing the project is worth watching, as it truly was way ahead of its time.
He put in an incredible effort into the project only to have it rejected by the major studios. I have to say that I have never been a major fan of his work. I sat through El Topo and felt I was watching a story that should have lasted 20 minutes but was drawn out into a boring, bloated and confusing attempt at a surreal experience. Jodorowsky’s other major film, Holy Mountain, draws you in but you never want to watch it again. It is like looking at a second rate Dali painting. You find it interesting but on the whole it is just a slight amusement.
Art house is Jodorowsky’s pleasure. When I heard that a film was being made of the infamous Dune interpretation non-event I was very excited. On watching it I have to say it really does not disappoint if you are a fan of every science fiction film made since 1974. Obviously taking on a translation of the Dune story is incredibly hard. The book itself is very complex and I explain that on my last blog entry. Jodorowsky’s attempt was going to be a real assault on the senses for any moviegoer at that time. He searched for what his dream of Dune needed. Pink Floyd were set to create the soundtrack. In acting roles Mick Jagger said yes, Orsen Wells, Salvador Dali and David Carradine were conformed. He signed up H.R. Giger before Alien and the number one Sci-Fi illustrator Chris Foss. The incredible Moebius drew the storyboarding and Dan O’Bannon helped screenwriting, as he was to achieve the effects after Jodorowsky saw John Carpenter’s Dark Star. H.R Giger’s view of the Harkonnen home world of Giedi Prime is nothing more than bleak and frightening, exactly as it should be.
Giger working on the artwork for Dune
H.R Giger’s view of Giedi Prime
H.R Giger’s illustration of a Dune worm
A comparison of H.R Giger's artwork for Giedi Prime on the right and what appear later in Prometheus
You can see how the studios would not release the 15 million needed to fund the project. It was not comparable to any movie before. It was very European and this is broached within the documentary. Jodorowsky says it would have changed the viewer on a spiritual level, I believe there is a possibility of slight enlightenment and it almost certainly would have gained cult status. Frank Herbert’s novel is enough for enlightenment. Jodorowsky was changing the story to meet his vision. When David Lynch took on the project he stayed as faithful as the studio would let him and for me that is what should always be the goal when taking on an authors book. Jodorowsky said he was ‘raping the novel like a husband has to do with his wife to have children……but with love’ That is how unconventional this artist is. He was going to deviate away from the original story since in his eyes all artists are nothing but ‘conduits’ by which the artistic piece chooses to manifest into words.
He wanted his son to play Paul Atreides the main character, and to do so he put him through a grueling 2-year martial art training regime. The bitterness is there to see in the film. The director has a beautiful illustrated book that he used while pitching to the studios. That book should be released to give everyone the chance to view film history.
If it was not for Alejandro Jodorowsky there are many cinematic moments that may never have existed. Lets take his choice of artists. H.G Giger went onto design Alien with Dan O’Bannon. The storyboards show direct scenes of what is later seen in Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Flash Gordon and a magnificent set of illustrations showing a robot fighting with Paul from the perspective of the machine complete with on screen targeting. Terminator later took this and ran with it. This is just one of many firsts.
Jodorowsky is compelling to listen to. I have no doubt that the elite band of artists that he signed up would have done anything he suggested. Dan O’Bannon sold his possessions and moved to Paris before the funding was confirmed but ultimately he would not compromise the length or content of his film, hence no Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune. I adore the novel and David Lynch’s original flawed movie version but would have loved to hear that Pink Floyd soundtrack!
Here is a link to the main website for the film
Download Jodorowsky Dune press pack here