Friday, April 16, 2010

"If we walk without rhythm, we won't attract the worm." - David Lynch's DUNE

At one point during Dune (1984), I forgot which David was directing. When the giant space slug slithers to the front of his special case and starts talking out of a vaginal mouth, I thought, "Yeah, this is totally Cronenberg." I didn't even realize the mental gaffe until I was preparing this brief blog post. David Cronenberg had no part in David Lynch's adaptation of the classic Frank Herbert novel and Lynch's been known to employ genital imagery from time to time (hello, Eraserhead). This has nothing to do with the rest of this post. Actually, the rest of this post has nothing to do with the rest of this post. Consider it largely a bunch of unrelated thoughts attracted by vibrations in the sand of my brain.
  • Netflix Instant Watch only offers the theatrical version of Dune, which is David Lynch's, ah, preferred version. That is to say, he hasn't utterly disowned the theatrical cut, as he did with the three-hour television version. To put metaphorically, he's more apt to take a punch in the face than a kick in the balls. All available versions of the film have been tampered with to one degree or another and none seem to meet Lynch's ultimate vision (although he admits, "it's not like there's a perfect film sitting somewhere waiting to come out"). Still, I'm curious to see the longer cut, if only because it might clear up some confusion that the theatrical version must bear for being only two hours (and change) in length.
  • It's kind of crazy how long Alicia Witt and Virginia Madsen have been working in movies. Witt was eight or nine when she filmed her part as Paul Atreides creepy little sister.
  • I wish I had not been eating a brownie bite during the "bug juice box" bit.
  • There's a lot of sci-fi visual gold in this movie, which largely makes up for its flaws as a story. I'm referring to the shield suits, the bluer-than-blue eyes, the sandworms (oft-imitated, never matched), and the aforementioned space slug. Still, it all feels very 80s.
  • The ever-present thought narration gets tedious, especially since much of it communicates emotions or concerns already apparent from the thinker's facial expression.
  • Sting says little, acts less. In one scene, he wears even less than that.
  • Holy crap I had no idea how much random phrases and concepts from Dune (be it book or movie) had infiltrated pop culture. I always thought "the sleeper must awaken" was a Cthulhu thing. Whoops.
  • The pain box sequence is gnarly and disturbed, even after having seen Don Coscarelli do it in Phantasm.
In conclusion, WTF:


le0pard13 said...

Among those of the Herbert Dune series admirers (count me as one) there is one side who read the book(s) before and hated the changes in the script upon the story and the direction Lynch took it. And there are those who hadn't read even one book prior to seeing this and were confused as hell, but intrigued exactly because the director took it and made it strangely his (that be me). I can say this movie spurred me on to read that award winning and legendary sci-fi canon.

There have been later more literal adaptations of Dune, but that hasn't made them better (the then Sci-Fi channel version of the first book suffered some for casting and not being flexible toward the adaptation as it could have). There are many things Lynch changed with the story, but some of them (the thought-narration you noted) actually helps the story exposition that is so thought-focused in the novels.

For all of its differences from the first book and awkward telling, I still find myself coming back to this version (more so than the first Dune miniseries by Sci-Fi). Now the Children of Dune miniseries was done so much better (and casted better, too) that I'd have wished their production team had done the first. But, that's for another discussion ;-).

I enjoyed your post and look back at the Lynchian Dune version. Thanks for this.

Nate Y. said...

Now that I've seen the movie, I might give the book another shot. I tried it once a while ago and unfortunately, it didn't hold my attention (not entirely the book's fault).

le0pard13 said...

Nate, if you had an issue the first time around with it, you might want to try the recently released audiobook of DUNE. The audio publisher re-did the entire original line of Herbert's series a couple of years ago, read by the excellent Simon Vance. I was a long time reader, but after being exposed to the audiobook format (and very good narrators), it's now become my preferred form. HTH

evilgenius333 said...

I'm with you, Nate. Tried to get into the book years ago and just couldn't. I really want to give it another go and have a fresh copy siting on the shelf. As for the movie itself - yeah - lots of story problems. I actually just watched this for the first time. As a huge David Lynch fan (Mulholland Drive is in fact my favorite movie) I never wanted to try this one after hearing all the problems he encountered during the shoot and of course, afterward. But ya know what? I'm glad I finally gave this a chance. It's very slow moving, but there are some incredible visuals that show what a visionary like Lynch can accomplish on a big budget. I wish he could get that kind of cash to do one of his personal films. But of course that'll never happen. And so we are left with this as his first and only attempt with blockbuster dollars. And that alone is reason to take note and watch.

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie in the theater when it first came out. (I was a fan of the books before I saw the movie.)

I don't know if you know this, but when you went to the movie they handed out a one-page, double-sided glossary so you could follow along with the terminology.