Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 cult sci-fi novel ‘Dune’
Strangely, ‘Dune’ is a film of the 21st century even though the novel was written in 1965.
image: Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), son of Duke Leto Areides and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), concubine to Duke Leto.
I first read the novel before my teens because I found it lying round the family-home and so many – but not all – of its myriad themes went straight over my head: Colonisation of a planet rich in resources, circular repurposing of vital substances, clashes between religions and cultures, rampant political espionage and intrigue, an addictive commercial resource that everyone wants to control (spice! Even its name cuts through the ages), cross-breeding by a shadowy female cult whose activities secure their control over bloodlines …
These are essentially the tensions at play in ‘Dune’ the movie, as they were in Herbert’s ‘Dune’ the novel which, as a child, I read more as a wondrous creation of an imaginary universe, missing much of the cultural and social commentary.
Next investigation by me, the cinematography and presentation. Artistically glorious. Expanses of desert that look like whipped cream and an eternal sandstorm so realistic it feels as if granules of sand are catching in the crevices of your body. Gothic characterisation of ancient cultures; their rituals and customs as high church as an ultra-orthodox ceremony. Language that hints of Muslim and Catholic exoticism, ancient cults, modern technologies, and age-old trade; all rolled out together without a hitch. 'Dune' is an elegant meshing of the grotesque and the beautiful, both conceptually and optically.
The story? Well, it is only half the story, actually. It ends with the acceptance of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (of the matriarchal line of Bene Gesserit) by the Fremen; the indigenous of the planet Arrakis. It is the spice rich deserts of Arrakis that literally fuel the economies of the known universe and allow interplanetary travel between the stars.
The pause in narrative of this science fantasy classic is perfectly placed and you’ll be wanting to see the next instalment yesterday.
I loved this big and creatively ambitious cinematic ‘Dune’ experience.