To start with I have to admit my bias for this film. I’ve loved it since seeing it for the first time on an old VHS. Nothing has ever come close to an individual cosmic vision than Dune. There have been pages and pages of reviews full of hate and venom stating that David Lynch did not do justice to Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. Let me set the record straight about this, nobody can, or could, do justice to the whole set of novels. They are complex and deal with everything from politics to drugs, infusing it all with mysticism.
From the 70’s onwards producer Dino De Laurentiis tried to hire numerous directors to bring this intense story from the page to screen. Ridley Scott nearly made it but a death in his family made him decline. Another well-known director, Alejandro Jodorowsky, took a massive shot at the translation but gladly it did not get made. A new documentary shows that story and, although I am interested in watching it, I will not be steered away from one of my most beloved films of all time. Yes, Alejandro would have directed a very trippy Sci-fi, but what was needed with the Dune movie was atmosphere. Not only did it need feeling but also a measure of unease. The conceptualisation had to be like no other world, Alien in every way.
David Lynch has disowned the film. It was cut, edited, had script interference and the studio did not show sensitivity to Lynch and his vision. If you give such a story to the man who created Eraserhead you will need to show respect to the idea that 130 minutes will not give him the movement to breath true life into the film. He described the experience as a nightmare but, for me, even the now edited version was worth that pain.
Below we here David discussing the film in 1985;
Below the great director in a revealing explanation of his feelings on the experience ;
The Internet is full of Dune reviews with the majority concluding it is messy with tiny fragments that capture Frank Herbert’s world. Others go into fine detail at the extent to which Lynch killed the ideas, adding moments of his own that had a dissonant connection with the novels. Frank, before he died, praised the film. That should be the only critic that has a right to judge someone’s version of his own imagination. I would not normally be so singular with viewpoints but the world of Dune takes multiple readings before it all sinks into your mind. The books are hard but enjoyable.
I am not going to go into everything I love about the film. Just a few points will suffice. Take the Brian Eno, Toto soundtrack. It is perfect and certainly not cheesy as I read from one heathen reviewer. Most critics would never be able to write such a great score, one that captures the landscape and gigantic visions. Next up is the whole atmosphere the film radiates. I find it genius that through miniatures, basic blue screen and budget cuts a world was created in 1984 that was far different from the usually Star Wars and Alien visions. The actors are another stunning aspect. It was Kyle Maclachlan’s first film; it opened the door for Patrick Stewart for his famous role as Jean-Luc Pickard, Max von Sydow, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt and Sean Young. In fact I will put my cards on the table and say I enjoy most of David Lynch’s early films and he sometimes used the same cast of actors. He uses them due to the way that they convey his abstract delights. Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, Wild at Heart and of course the series Twin Peaks all portray this eccentric vision.
Let me conclude by urging you to watch it again. Obviously it is not the film the 4-hour original could have been. David Lynch would not put his name on the more recent extended TV edition. Frank Herbert explained it well by saying it introduced moviegoers to his books. You will not understand it on the first viewing as the studio had to cram details in then emit other important ones. It is heart breaking really but I have never found it detracting. I’d like to believe one day it will be given the acclaim it deserves. Any film that uses Frank’s incredible but not ‘user’ friendly language and attempts to show a Guild navigator folding time with the aid of drugs is as genre defining as any of the more accessible science fiction such as Blade Runner, Star Wars or ET.
A film with no computer in sight and sets that had elements of Victorian England....Steampunk before steampunk!
Below is an enthralling Super 8 filmed 'behind the scenes' by actress Sean Young;