Dune reminds us of what could be a Hollywood blockbuster. The message was implicitly written in the sand again and again. The fantastic epic by Deni Villeneuve tells us that spectacular shows on a budget shouldn’t be boring or hyperactive, that it’s possible to allow for a strangely quiet ride through explosions.
Based on Frank Herbert’s work from the 1960s, Dune is dense, dreary and often sublime – the missing link between multiplex and arthouse. Meeting him here is like stumbling through a lost tribe or a severed branch of the Founding Fathers of America that set the pattern for a different and better New World.
Timothy Shalamet plays Paul Atrides, your archetypal hero who is unsure of his abilities and questions the merits of the mountain task ahead.
His father, Duke (Oscar Isaac), is entrusted to the desert planet Arakis, the source of a magical substance called the “spice” that prolongs life and nourishes space travel – all the best. But Arrakis, while gritty, is not completely deserted. It’s the home of giant worms that can fly with little warning and the oppressed people – the Fremen – who see the spice harvest as exploiters.
While the true meaning of the story is not quite clear, Villeneuve has decided to wear the hijab for local women and make most of the interior look like North Africa.
Once there, Paul and Duke stepped onto the bridge wearing the gold armor worn by the bagpiper. You can become a pair of old-fashioned invaders who impose civilization on the locals and fill their coffers with loot.
But the desert world of Dune has the ability to destroy those who tame it, just as the novel itself claims the famous sacrifice. Alejandro Yodorovski tried to present it on the screen.
David Lynch’s 1984 version was widely regarded as ridiculous, while the television miniseries, which premiered in 2000, appear to have been in the dust ever since. Villeneuve also could not celebrate the victory. The dunes we have here only cover the first half of the book. When it breaks and burns at the box office, the story seems incomplete.
“I am cursed,” the Duke said as the spice production stopped and he realized how cruel the force behind it was. Gunsmith Josh Brolin can’t save him while Stellan Skarsgård’s arrogant Baron plots a bloody revenge. Paul’s only chance is to accept his disappointment and take a new path that leads to the hills.
The sand blew and swam like a living creature. The worms will devour you whole if they get half a chance, and poor Paul sits in the hole wondering what he’s going to do next. “This is just the beginning,” he said confidently – and hoped it would become a reality.
Meanwhile: God, what movie. The play is played happily by the ensemble (Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa) and Villeneuve is confident enough to slowly raise the temperature before the big opera stage finally explodes. He has built for us a whole world full of myths and mysteries, free from narrative cues or even just many convenient representations.
He gave us a film we could watch in our spare time and we’d find out as we ran: Spitting at someone is definitely a gesture of respect, while walking away like a crab is the surest way to proceed. Then we were alone, climbing through the desert, sinking beautifully. This is a film about discovery; Call to lose.