Tuesday, September 13, 2011
(December 1984, U.S.)
There are seven words that I want you all to get used to my repeating whenever applicable for my blog posts, and those words are, TIME CAN BE KIND TO ANY FILM, even to David Lynch's deliberately-bizarre and idiosyncratic "love it or hate it" version of Frank Herbert's acclaimed novel. DUNE is an ambitious, epic, completely mind-boggling, and, let's be honest, really fucking weird science fiction film and one of the most controversial films in the director's exceedingly provocative career. The story (if there is actually only ONE story) is quite complex and convoluted in the epic tradition, as it involvs political intrigue and the desert planet Arrakis that is home to a precious spice and gigantic sand worms.
To fully understand the controversy surrounding this film, I suggest you look it up. Let me just say, though, that prior to its release, Universal Pictures was quite confident it had their own STAR WARS saga on their hands, and marketed it as such. Did you know that David Lynch actually turned down the opportunity to direct RETURN OF THE JEDI in order to make DUNE instead (can you just IMAGINE the kind of Star Wars film David Lynch would have given us??). Needless to say, Universal didn't exactly get what they'd hoped for. DUNE was panned by critics and hated by audiences, as well. Was DUNE really such a bad film? Of course not, or I wouldn't have the film in my collection. In my humble opinion, I don't feel audiences and critics were ready to fully embrace the artistic style that David Lynch later became praised for in films like BLUE VELVET, MULLHOLLAND DRIVE and TV's TWIN PEAKS. In other words, people just might have been too impatient or too fucking stupid to get it. Over the years, though, DUNE managed to gain popular cult status following in the tradition of other intelligent, artistic science fiction films that failed to appeal to audiences at the time of their release - films like, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THX-1138, SOLARIS and BLADE RUNNER, to name some. I'll be happy to admit that when I first watched DUNE on video in the 1980s, I didn't exactly walk away very pleased. I didn't hate it, but I didn't get it, either. Then some years later, after I became an avid fan of BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS, I gave the film another look and fully appreciated the bizarre artistic style that Lynch was trying to convey.
Might DUNE have been a more popular film off the bat had the same exact film been released, say, seven-to-ten year later after TWIN PEAKS went off the air? Maybe. The fact remains that regardless of the history of DUNE, it's a dazzling and fascinating film with moments of action and cinematography that are not only fun to watch, but challenging to the eyes and the mind. The strangely whispered voice-overs that explain the characters' thoughts only require some patience and the ability to really listen. If you can manage to do that, then the film opens itself up even further beyond the tradition sci-fi sterotypes of good versus evil, space battles and giant monsters.
Let's not forget the great cast that was chosen for DUNE, also. Kyle Maclachlan in his debut film role as the hero Paul Atreides, Patrick Stewart in a pre-NEXT GENERATION sci-fi role, Max Von Sydow, Richard Jordan, Freddie Jones, Sean Young, Dean Stockwell, a very young Virginia Madsen and even Sting (right after The Police broke up). And hey, where else are you going to find an entire film scored by the rock band Toto?
So in short, film history can say whatever the fuck it wants to, but DUNE is one of the most intelligent, thought-provoking science fiction films ever made, in my opinion. David Lynch should feel nothing but pride for his achievement. Fuck the people if they didn't get it!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Princess Irulan: "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then, that is is the year 10191. The known universe is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam the Fourth, my father. In this time, the most precious substance in the universe is the spice Melange. The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness. The spice is vital to space travel. The Spacing Guild and its navigators, who the spice has mutated over 4000 years, use the orange spice gas, which gives them the ability to fold space. That is, travel to any part of the universe without moving. Oh, yes. I forgot to tell you...the spice exists on only one planet in the entire universe. A desolate, dry planet with vast deserts. Hidden away within the rocks of these deserts are a people known as the Fremen, who have long held a prophecy that a man would come, a messiah, who would lead them to true freedom. The planet is Arrakis, also known as Dune."