It’s Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ now

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“I know you,” murmurs Paul, the young protagonist of Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune.” He is referring to a beautiful woman who, in her unconscious, all wind-swept hair and piercing gaze, has wandered between dreams and perfume advertisements. Now she, flesh and blood, is standing before him; Not a sight anymore. Yet he is more fickle than fiction, more fickle than fantasy. Expectations meet reality.

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While listening to Villeneuve speak, you hear a director acutely aware of the expectations—fans of Frank Herbert’s original book, of film studios, even his own. It is both ironic and only fitting that in order to meet him, Villeneuve had to dive into his own unconscious. Speaking to Granthshala, he described the meditation and work he used to “get back to the source” in the dream.

“The idea,” he said, “was to try to bring back to the surface the images that were on my mind when I read the book (for the first time) – those untranslated images that I had when I was 13.”

In cinema, ownership has followed the 1965 sci-fi novel wherever it has gone: it’s Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune,” David Lynch’s “Dune,” and now it’s Denis Villeneuve. One source, several scenes fabricated in the mind’s eye. But where expectation meets reality has historically been a sore point. Jodorowski’s film was discontinued in the 1970s, Lynch’s severely banned in the 1980s. Villeneuve floats on a turbulent global box office craze, though he may have finally caught the gist of it.

A scene from Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune”. Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment

French Canadians have been thinking of “Dune” since their teens, and for decades they have kept the images and ideas inside. “I told my crew at the beginning that I would love it if we could try to create images that weren’t inspired by other influences,” he said. “It’s a very romantic approach,” admitted the director. “Technically impossible.”

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You see, pop culture has a habit of getting in its own way. Science-fiction cinema has distorted Herbert’s novel and distorted the path behind it; The audience was flooded with images and ideas, which were taken from “Dune”, before most were presented with the source material. “The most famous of them is definitely ‘Star Wars,'” the director said. Villeneuve is a “massive fan” of the early films, however, “having to forgo the absurdity of dealing with (Star Wars) films that are deeply inspired by ‘Dune’ … to differentiate himself from that giant. … the cultural influence, was a very interesting challenge.”

“We kept the words of Frank Herbert to ourselves,” he said. “It was our way of bringing something new to the screen that wouldn’t feel like old recycled ideas.”

Timothée Chalamet and Charlotte Rampling as Paul Atreides and Reverend Mother Mohiam, leader of a religious sect,

Timothée Chalamet and Charlotte Rampling as Paul Atreides and the Reverend Mother Mohiam, the leader of a religious sect, in “Dune”. Credit: Chiabella James / Warner Bros. Entertainment

‘This project, as the book is, is a tragedy’

“Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a noble descendant born of mystical powers that he understands little. When his family is accused by the Galactic Emperor of conducting a lucrative mining operation on the desert planet of Arakis, it sparks an interplanetary war between the ruling houses with the planet’s natives, the Freemen, caught in the crossfire. was, but without bowing down. As Atreides’ situation is threatened, Paul becomes guided by his mother, a member of a cult of witches whose designs eclipse even the greatest political operators.

Science fiction’s ability to mirror society is unparalleled, and “Doon” has an entire hall of them. In between its covers are a mix of politics and religion, an environmental parable, and a cautionary tale on a critique of colonialism, messiah figures and resource exploitation.

“The book suddenly became more relevant over time,” Villeneuve said. Was there ever an edge he was particularly interested in foregrounding? “We realize those thoughts, they’re everywhere in the background,” he said, “but we’re mainly focusing on Paul Atreides’ journey.”

“This project, as the book is, is a tragedy,” argued Villeneuve. “It really is the story of a young man who will be burdened with a terrible religious legacy.” For his tragic personality, Villeneuve chose Timothée Chalamet, whom the director considered the only actor. “Timothy has the maturity needed to bring this character to life, which comes together with beautiful youth,” Villeneuve said. “Timothy looks really young and has an old soul as well, and the charisma of a rock star – which will be needed later in part two.”

Villeneuve directed Chalamet on the set of

Villeneuve directs Chalamet on the set of “Dune”. Credit: Chiabella James / Warner Bros. Entertainment

Yes, “Dune” is actually “Dune: Part I”. It was Villeneuve’s idea to split the novel, and studio Warner Bros. (Granthshala shares parent company WarnerMedia) agreed on the condition that it would see how the first film fared before shooting the second, he explained.

Looking at his resume, it was a bold move. The director was stunned by “Blade Runner 2049”, his 2017 follow-up to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi original—a critical hit but not a box office success. Similarly, “Dune” is another famous science-fiction work with a history. “I would say ‘Dune’ is my most accessible (film) so far,” Villeneuve said, opting for a modest PG-13 rating.

“But the commercialism of a film, you can’t predict it,” he argued. “It’s an art form. You always try to make the best movie you can, at the time you can, and you can’t predict the outcome. No one else can. If we were able to know that our How the movie will perform, so we’d all get rich now.”

Part two has already been written, Villeneuve said. And the possibility? “I’m obviously very optimistic.”

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides and Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides and Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in “Dune”. The production shot the desert sequences on location in Jordan and the UAE. Credit: Chiabella James / Warner Bros. Entertainment

‘Of course there was pressure not to do so’

The logistics of reimagining Villeneuve’s star cast (along with Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson and more) may be substantial, but it won’t phase a director with a team that works in the deserts of Jordan and the UAE. walks in, which happily follows.

“Of course there was pressure not to do it, because it’s complicated enough to get the whole film crew into the middle of the desert and create a safe environment for them … but for me it was important. It was not a conversation,” Villeneuve said. . “I’m an old-fashioned director. I’m not inspired by virtual environments, I need reality.”

Beyond the aesthetic benefits (his Arrakis actually look fabulous), the director found his tribe in the desert. “I wanted us — the actors, cinematographers and I — to be inspired by the elements,” he explained. Far from civilization, artists in the sand could shape themselves. The through line of “Dune”, if nothing else, is to adapt or die. “Nature is the god of ‘dune’, biology is religion, and I wanted us to be in a relationship with nature, as Frank Herbert wrote the book,” he said.

Anything, it seems, to get close to the text, and aligned with the 13-year-old whose imagination set these wheels in motion. “The book was our Bible,” said Villeneuve. On the set, the director had his old copy, dog-like and carefree. Still, later chapters will see more action before their time is up.

He promised, “If ever something like Part Two sees the light of day, it will be a big film because of the nature of the story.” “(It) will be a more intense cinematic journey, it will be a bigger challenge – and an exciting one.”


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