A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time….

Dune

“A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time. Know then that it is the year ten thousand, one ninety one….” The first time I heard those words spoken aloud was the year one thousand, nine hundred and eighty four. I was 13 years old and my father, who had a knack for picking some of the best movies, had brought my brother and I to Showcase Cinemas in Milan, IL to see the latest movie from Dino De Laurentiis and David Lynch:

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I have a really hard time naming a single favorite movie when asked, but if someone persists, Dune is the movie I’ll choose. At the time, I had never seen or even heard of Frank Herbert, the author who wrote the novel on which this film was based. And even to this day I’ve never read Dune. At one point I tried reading Dune Messiah, the sequel to the original novel, but long ago I decided that I would rather not take the chance that reading the book, or its sequels, would diminish my opinion of this fantastic movie.

This 1984 motion picture has so many great qualities to be counted as evidence of its greatness. Some of those qualities come simply from the great story written by Herbert, but others come from the film’s producer, director, costumers and set designers. It has strong post apocalyptic themes, or more precisely, a fantastic vision of humanity’s dystopian future. (Post apocalyptic and dystopian films are always my favorites.) It has the benefit of having in its cast Kyle MacLachlan, who would later become known for his portrayal of Special Agent Dale Cooper in the Twin Peaks TV series. Also there’s Jürgen Prochnow, from the great German film Das Boot. Playing the part of the beautiful Feyd-Rautha was none other than Sting, lead singer of the fantastic band “The Police”. For you Star Trek TNG fans, Gurney Hallek is played by Patrick Stewart. Then of course the fantastic Franchesca Annis, Sylvana Mangano, Virginia Madsen and though you don’t see much of her, Linda Hunt as the Shadout Mapes leaves an impression.

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Some would say that the acting and portrayal of some of the characters could leave something to be desired, but I don’t agree. At least not in the original theatrical version. If you go out of your way to watch the various directors or excessively long foreign versions of the film, you’ll see plenty of terrible acting and uncomfortable scenes. You may actually want to look for some of those longer versions, if you’d like to fill in some of the story gaps caused by editing for the US market. That being said, the creators of the film knew that the 140 minutes of the theatrical release, though longer than a usual movie of the time, would confuse many who may not have read the book. This is why at many of the theaters across the country, you were presented with “cheat sheets” at the ticket counter, double sided glossy pages with a few definitions, so those ignorant of the setting and language of the Dune universe could make sense of the film. I had one of these long ago, given to me at the theater, but alas I lost my copy. Though for you’re benefit I’ve found a scan of the document, which you can see here in PDF form: DUNE Cheat Sheet

The thing that impresses me most though, the thing that really makes this movie so great (and that makes it that much better than the later Sci-Fi Channel Mini Series) is the set design, props, costumes and mechanical effects. Whether it be the design of the Emperors throne room on Kaitain, or the various rooms in the Atreides home on Caladan or even the rough cut stone of the main house on Arrakis, the set design of this movie was phenomenal. The one jaw dropping scene that just has to be seen though, is the training session with Paul on Caladan with the mechanical “fighter”. To this day, and right now as I watch Dune while writing this blog, this one scene is enough for me to block out even the voice of my awesome wife… just so I can watch it without interruption.

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I can even safely say that a quote from this movie (or the book) is one that I have lived my life by for many years. “A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” I don’t know for certain if hearing this said on the big screen at the age of 13 actually caused me to live my life by this motto, but I definitely find that in hindsight, I agree completely with those words of advice spoken to Paul by his father Leto.

If you haven’t yet experienced this movie, you should proceed with haste to acquire a copy of it on Beta, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray or any number of legally purchased file formats. Whether you decide to read the book first, after or at all is up to you. Just don’t try to argue with me over whether or not the book is better than the movie, cause I ain’t gonna listen. This movie is DUNE in my mind, and all other versions, be they written or television, are secondary.

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4 Responses to “A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time….

  • I do believe that this was the first movie I went by myself to see; I was 11 and expecting something like Star Wars, which this definitely is not. At the time I was just so confused and initially did not like this film, but upon later viewings I came to appreciate just how EPIC this is as a film. Thanks for sharing this with us Caelyn.

    • I understand what you mean, I’m sure that when I first saw it, I didn’t understand it half as well as I did after later viewings on home video. I ended up having a resurgance of interest in the movie much later on when I was introduced to a couple of techno/industrial songs by Eon, on his album Void Dweller. Two of the songs on that album (Spice and Fear is the Mindkiller) rely heavily on samples from Dune. Void Dweller on Wikipedia

  • I freakin love Dune, every book was epic. The kid did the last two and finally ended the saga brilliantly, along with all the prequel Butlerian Jihad books. Good stuff.

  • I remember that Dune was the first movie I saw with another boy, almost a date. We each payed for our own ticket and I bought my own soda, but he bought the popcorn and candy and we shared. Our fingers would graze each other through the buttery goodness and I’d blush. That being said, I remember the movie well. I had just finished the book. My folks said that if I was going to see it I needed to read it first. At close to 14 years of age it was a harder read than almost anything I’d tackled yet. But I read it and loved it. I still love the movie, despite the “flaws” in the story. I loved the imagery, the costuming, the acting. I thought it fabulous. I loved the blue on blue eyes of the Fremen. Heck, to this day whenever I add cinamon to something I, at least in my head, think “The spice is life.” I even had a mouse named Mua’ Dib, alas the cat ate the mouse. I used to have a stuffed worm, yes I know weird, that I named Shai Hulud. Now and then we’ll lob Dune lines at each other, Sebastian and I… Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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