Dune (David Lynch, 1984, USA/Mexico)

Dune is widely regarded as the great misfire of David Lynch’s career. Lynch himself has essentially disowned the film, refusing to collaborate with Universal Pictures on releasing a proper director’s cut. When watching the film, one does have the sense that Lynch - who had only made two small features prior to Dune - was out of his element. The film, a huge undertaking in Mexico that involved dozens of soundstages and hundreds of crew, cost over $40 million dollars to make, and would end up grossing less than that in the United States.
I decided to revisit the film after reading Frank Herbert’s novel, and I was pleasantly surprised. Contrary to what I had heard, I found the film to be largely faithful to the source material. Herbert himself in fact approved of Lynch’s adaptation. The central problem of the film is that it tries to cram too much into too short a period of time. The end result is a film which could be described as the “longest shortest film ever.” It is very largely clear that large portions of the film were left on the cutting room floor, to be filled in with voiceover narration in the final two-hour version. I was surprised at the amount of terminology the film adopts from the novel. It leaves most of this terminology largely unexplained, something that left the original reviewers of the film scratching their heads.
While Dune is perhaps disappointing on the whole, it does serve as a nice visualization of Herbert’s novel. There are also Lynchian aspects to the film, which often has the quality of the dream - from the bizarre Guild Navigator, to the presence of Lynch regulars Jack Nance and Kyle MacLachlan. While the special effects must have seemed quite poor in the wake of the Star Wars trilogy, there is still something charming about the effort put forward. 


7/10

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