Dune: Part Two

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Dune: Part Two

Nothing hurts like “Dune“. And no one knows this better than Alejandro Jodorowsky. What an idea for Frank Herbert’s prose (visual passages as if after LSD, fourteen-hour length!) And in what collective (Salvador Dali, HR Giger, Pink Floyd, Orson Welles) it was supposed to bud! The pain of a dream killed by Hollywood was matched only by the frustration when the promotional materials for David Lynch’s film came to light : This is the work that Jodorowsky failed to shoot!

No wonder that in 1984, when Lynch’s film was released in cinemas, the legendary director had no desire to see it. He went to one of the Parisian cinemas only after a soldier-therapeutic talk with his son. And the longer he sat in the cinema hall, the wider the smile appeared on his face. If the only guy who, according to Jodoroowsky himself, could have succeeded failed, who else could?

Forty years have passed since then. Canadian Denis Villeneuve – just like Paul Atreides , the leader of his procession of tragic heroes – may not like the role of the strongman who lifted up Herbert’s entire literary world. However, they have little to say. While the owners of great pop culture brands wander in a vicious circle of financial and artistic failures, identity politics becomes more important than well-written stories, and Hollywood is immersed in a script crisis, viewers’ eyes are turned towards the planet Arrakis. It is there that feuding galactic families fight for the valuable “spice“. And this is also where the fate of ambitious blockbusters hangs in the balance.

The success of the first part of “Dune” can be explained in many ways. It has its sources in a precisely constructed text from which the plot fat of the original novel has been removed. And also – in an aesthetic concept based on risky visual contrasts. The aura of a “cursed work” is also important, as neither Jodorowsky nor Lynch had managed to cope with it before. In my opinion, Villeneuve’s greatest achievement, however, remains fixating our attention on the very nature of film spectacle; igniting passion for a world that previously seemed empty and inhospitable. It is a reality that – contrary to various visual codes of science fiction and fantasy cinema – does not sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow. It is inhabited by characters who don’t have time to deal with bullshit – but their moods are low, and almost every word they say weighs a ton. This is a reality in which a heroic story of destiny can defuse itself.

The decision to divide the film into two parts does not obviously result from the structure of the book itself (although there is also a division into books). However, it has a deeper plot meaning – even if there are demand and supply mechanisms behind it. In the first part, Villeneuve placed pieces on the chessboard. We observed the classic Campbellian hero’s journey, crowned with a ray of hope – Paul Atreides ( Timothee Chalamet ), a survivor of the massacre of his family, found refuge among the wandering Fremen people. In the second part, the hero begins an inner journey in which the burden of being the chosen one and the prophesied savior of the planet Arrakis is at stake. Interestingly, this heralds not only a change in the pace of the film, but also subtle shifts within the convention itself. The louder the brawl becomes, the clearer the characters’ intimate dramas become. The central question of the plot about the political role of religious fanaticism may sound weak on paper. However, thanks to the fantastic roles of Javier Bardem as the conservative leader of the Fremen and Zendaya as a representative of the younger, rebellious generation, it constitutes the dramatic and emotional backbone of the film. So on the one hand – anti-religious pragmatism seasoned with passion.

There are more topics that could cover a dozen of Roman Gutek’s festivals. “Dune” is a story about the corrupting power of power, an ecological manifesto written in capital letters, and an anti-nuclear tirade that fuels contemporary fears. And if the whole thing does not give the impression of an intellectual mess, it is only thanks to Villeneuve’s scriptwriting and directing precision . Almost each of the great abstractions revolves around a specific hero – whether it is Feyd-Rauth ( Austin Butler) motivated by sadomasochistic desire, or Lady Jessica ( Rebecca Ferguson ) struggling with the dark legacy of the Bene Gesserit order . And the dilemmas of all the characters shed new light on the central figure of the messiah.

Chalamet plays Atreides as if his career were to end tomorrow – beneath a thin membrane of calm and melancholy, pride and determination bubble. Also great are Dave Bautista and Josh Brolin, who, despite their limited screen time, are able to turn a vague sketch into flesh-and-blood heroes. Those who know the novel know more or less what to expect – an exposition in the atmosphere of an ethnographic document, psychomachy filling the second act, and a dramatic resolution of the action. But even experts in Herbert’s universe will find surprises here. Perhaps unpleasant – depending on how much affection we have for the novel.

Metaphorically, the sands of Dune lie somewhere halfway between Pandora and Herzog’s dispassionate jungle. It is a temple of nature, but with a gun at the entrance: powerful jinn hide under the shroud of night, and monstrous worms hide beneath the surface. The clashes with the elements are staged in such a way that the head is small and it is only the lid of the treasure chest. Gigantic explosions bursting beneath the force fields, various “animal” machines driven with a wedge into the texture of the desert, Harkonnen commando climbing the hill like a huge mound of ants. “Dune” is a beautiful film, but also ostentatiously minimalist when it comes to the design of places, costumes and futuristic equipment. The best scenes have an almost avant-garde form. Like the expressionistic sequence on the Harkonnen planet Giedi Prime, reminiscent of the propaganda works of Leni Riefenstahl, with intra-frame symmetry symbolizing the logic of totalitarianism, the monochromatic texture of the image and fireworks in the form of exploding ink spots.

All this creates the impression of a blockbuster entwined in a hot embrace with “art” cinema, if such a division still makes sense at all. Great themes go hand in hand with an impressive spectacle, and Shakespeare’s squabbles at the heights of power are diluted with discreet humor. Villeneuve believes that it is at the intersection of these two worlds that a new quality can be found. And “Dune: Part Two” is a monument to that faith. The fact that Jodorowsky called the previous film “predictable” and “industrial” doesn’t really surprise me either. The answer to the question whether it is easy to love “Dune” is not simple. However, Arrakis is not the cozy Shire, and supporting Paul Atreides may backfire. However, the question of whether she is easy to admire is rhetorical.

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