David Lynch’s “Dune”


Yesterday morning Apollonia greeted me with: “Ah!  Third-level Guild Navigator!  Have you just folded space from Ix?”



I smiled serenely.  “Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam!” I said.  “Did you bring your little box of pain?”



And then we both cackled demonically.



Now, if you know what the above gibberish means, I give you a gold star.  You are probably laughing too.



For the rest of you:



There’s this movie called “Dune,” based on the classic science-fiction novel of the same name by Frank Herbert.  The movie came out in 1984, and it starred about a hundred people.  It’s set in outer space in the far future.  It was directed by David Lynch (of “Twin Peaks” and “Blue Velvet”).  It is one of the most (you should pardon the expression) unearthly movies ever made.  I first saw it projected on a bedsheet behind the Marine Corps House in Tunis in 1985, under the North African stars, and it made a walloping impression on me, and not a day passes that I don’t think of some odd image or line of dialogue from it.



So what’s so great about it?



        Its dialogue.  Spacey, elliptical, almost coded.  It’s as if you’re overhearing a conversation in something that’s almost but not quite English. 

        Its costumes.  They’re a melange (sorry!) of everything from Victorian ballroom attire to Bedouin robes to something resembling 1960s Carnaby Street style, not to mention all kinds of desert-planet sportswear.

        Its non-reliance on special effects.  The special effects here aren’t much more elaborate than the ones you see in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” made almost twenty years before.  All of the strangeness comes from the sets, and the dialogue, and the costumes, and the acting.  Brad Dourif gives instructions to a group of killers, making odd swooping hand-gestures as he speaks: are the gestures meaningful?  People float through the air, laughing manically: is this normal?  Anyway, you can be absolutely certain that you’re not watching “Gold Diggers of 1933.”



Apollonia tells me that she has seen a much longer cut on BBC America.  This makes sense: the movie as released, long as it was, was choppy and confusing (which, strangely, adds to its charm.)  (I just read online that David Lynch hates the longer cut and has disowned it.  Naturally.)



So what is it about this movie that makes it so fascinating? 



It is a pure ballet of surreal images and ideas, graceful and very sure of itself



It is alternately violent and serene, and sometimes even funny.



It has extended scenes in which people ride giant worms.



And it features Sting in a Speedo with wings (see above photo).



How can you not rush right out and see it?



And, kids: tell ‘em the Kwisatz Haderach sent you.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

2 Responses to David Lynch’s “Dune”

  1. Redhead says:

    my other half will sometimes greet me with “tell me of your homeworld Usul”. and then I just crack up, because he says it with a completely straight face.

    I recently caught the extended BBCAmerica version, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s got all these extra scenes, and the movie actually makes sense!

    • That’s what my friend Apollonia said. For me, the charm of the (theater release) movie is that it’s so bizarrely fragmented. We see only a glimpse of “Reverend Mother Ramallo” on Dune, and if you haven’t read the book, you will have NO IDEA who she is . . .

      And it was only a few years ago that I realized that the creepy little girl who played Alia in the movie later played Cybill Shepherd’s daughter on her 1990s sitcom.

      It is by will alone I set my mind in motion . . .

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