The Lost Tale of Arrakis – Jodorowsky's Dune

By Phil Harris

Frank Herbert's Dune has made a couple of trips to screen in its time with David Lynch's questionable all style, no substance and completely inappropriate character version; proving that you simply couldn't make a novel of that size into a two hour film and the more interesting Frank Herbert's Dune mini-series which created the depth and meaning of the characters and is a far better adaptation for that. Almost ten years before Lynch's version was released on an unsuspecting public the rights to the film fell into the hands of Alejandro Jodorowsky a director known for his avant-garde and surrealist works who started to piece together his vision.

dune - Pic 1

The documentary does an excellent job of painting a picture of Jodorowsky and how the work both inspired him and those around him, briefly covering his early theatre and film work, to express his style, before he seized on the idea of making Dune. As the players in the piece are introduced to us it is amusing how few of them had ever read the book before embarking on this project, Jodorowsky included, but the mans vision permeates everything about the production and the scene by scene artwork by Moebius is inspiring seen partially realised on the big screen.

Jodorowsky passionately explains each and every turn in the production, enjoying the chance to speak about the project and how it was developed, the film being a heady mix of 70's culture, drugs and figures who would go to work together on Alien, especially from the concept art and effects team of Dan O'Bannon, Chris Foss and H R Giger who together with Moebius all worked on Alien. There are also amusing anecdotes concerning Salvador Dali and Orson Wells who were set to star in the film, with budgets that would make an accountant balk. In fact, towards the end of the piece, it is Jodorowsky's desire to produce art versus Hollywood's concern about spiralling budget that sealed the films doom, with issues over the director also seemingly playing a major part in those decisions.

Dune Pic 2What is left is the man's memories, his copy of the production book with the full script rendered scene by scene with Moebius art and peppered with the works of Foss and Giger and some brief bitterness that Hollywood would not take the chance. Other commentators suggest that this may not be overcome but Jodorowsky seems to have done so. Undoubtedly talking about the project refuelled old passions and desires but he seems to have laid his issues to rest – writing his best scenes in his comic works such as The Incal with artwork, of course, by Moebius.

Towards the documentary's close we are reminded that the production book, of which only two are meant to remain, was provided for every studio in Hollywood and it is understandable that certain scenes from films are attributed to it. If this is indeed the case and those production books are held in deep vaults to influence directors ideas and styles it can only be a compliment to this visionary and the team he brought together.

The film is a fantastic documentary filled with hyperbolic statements about the film that never was, a sprawling epic that if ever made would have probably created a significant debt and may have never aspired to what fans wanted. Unlike Lost in La Mancha where Terry Gilliam's film was tantalisingly close to completion until illness and costs beset its downfall Jodorowsky's Dune is a good study of controlling excess, managing expectations and realising when you had bitten off far more than you could chew.

Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris) is a games developer and writer currently working with One Thumb Mobile on their MMORPG Celtic Heroes. He also created Zentorii, helped design Nevistech's Pet Roulette for Android devices and is the story writer for Blazing Griffin's new space strategy game Distant Star: Revenant Fleet. To read more about Phil check out his profile on Indie Teamup.

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.