I Didn’t Know I Needed Dune (2021)

I don’t know about you, but my soul is weary these days. I’ve struggled to write anything—especially a blog post (though freelance deadlines also played a part in that).

When a friend suggested a trip to the movie theater—first time in about nineteen months—to see Dune (2021), I jumped at the chance, having watched a reviewer give a glowing review of it. I’m not normally swayed by reviews. If I want to see a film, I’ll see it without watching any reviews beforehand. I watched a review this time, because I was afraid that Hollywood would mess this up. Gotta be honest. You see, I’ve read three of Frank Herbert’s Dune series and loved the 2000 miniseries adaptation of some of the books. So I was wary to say the least, as was the friend who invited me to go.

Have you seen the movie? This is not a review, but rather, a post about how a beautifully made film can assist in the restoration of a weary soul. Dune (2021) is the only film I’ve seen by the director—Denis Villeneuve (who also cowrote the screenplay). And though I majored in radio/TV/film 800 years ago, I didn’t learn much. (That major was short-lived anyway, lasting only a year.) So I can’t speak with any sort of authority on cinematography or any other aspects of filmmaking. You know how you can look at something and know it’s good, but you don’t understand all the ins and outs of what makes it so good? That’s how I felt while watching Dune.

I knew what I expected to see—an epic saga taking place on a desert planet. A reviewer called Dune (2021) a sandy Game of Thrones. Apt, but a little unfair, since the first Dune book debuted in 1965 and George RR Martin’s first book didn’t roll out until 1996. So maybe Game of Thrones is a stony Dune. But I understood why the reviewer said that, since most people might know Game of Thrones while knowing next to nothing about Dune except for a movie that some disliked.

Anyway, what captured my attention in the film the most were the seeming simplicity of the camera shots and the moments of silence. Characters often stood gazing at the scenery or walked together in silence. On screen, we might see one image highlighted—like a woman whose diaphanous train blows in the wind or a close up of the face of the main character (played by Timothée Chalamet, below).

Many films seem cluttered in comparison, with characters and objects crowded on the screen. You don’t know where to look first. But in this film, certain images arrest you as the camera pans.

Watching Dune reminded me of Seven Samurai and other foreign films with less dialogue. Moments would go by without the characters saying anything. That felt like ma space—a rest between intervals of action. .

In a day of constant chatter through text messaging and a never-ending stream of images on social media, I cherished the choice moments of silence and stillness. This is not to say that the film lacked action. I used the word epic for a reason. Lots of fight scenes ala Lawrence of Arabia. If you’ve seen that movie, you can picture what I mean.

Anyway, I needed it.

Photo of Chang Chen playing Dr. Wellington Yueh found at filmfed.com. Timothée Chalamet found at jacketscreator.com. And yes, you can purchase a coat like that. Dune movie poster found somewhere else that I forgot to notate.

32 thoughts on “I Didn’t Know I Needed Dune (2021)

  1. Haven’t seen Dune yet. I don’t have anyone to see movies with these days, so I find myself not going to many. It was always a group or family thing, so I can’t bring myself to go alone. Though, I’m taking my son to see the ‘My Hero Academia’ movie today. Maybe I’ll get back into cinema when he’s older and can watch stuff like ‘Dune’. As far as ‘sandy Game of Thrones’, that makes me cringe. Right up there with people accusing Bram Stoker and Anne Rice of copying ‘Twilight’ or saying Gandalf was a clone of Dumbledor. People need to learn their timelines.

  2. I’ve neither seen the original version with Sting or read Herbert’s books, but I have been considering going to see this one. I haven’t been to the cinema since before the whole Covid thing began, and this and James Bond are tempting me.

  3. Dune – a kind of peaceful dystopia if not for any other reason than the desert scenery) harsh, but gorgeous – created in a simpler time IMHO but also with more balance and relate-ability. Always loved this series…with your insight into the real novels etc, I might just take in this adaptation – see you did ‘my’ kind of movie review – thanks!
    I like what Charles said about “Hey people, get your timelines right!” (My paraphrase – HA!)
    And yes, we need quieter movies. Silence is needed for us to process and more deeply appreciate what we’ve seen/experienced/heard…However, some movies need the noise to cover over and/or distract from lousy acting and plot lines – again, IMHO.

    • So true, Laura. So often the look of a thing is deemed most important–the best looking actors, a lovely locale. This film had good-looking actors. But they also are skilled actors! 😄

      Yes, the timeline thing is so crucial. I’m amazed at how people think certain stories were only invented in the last twenty years or so. 🙄

  4. I hardly ever go to the cinema, even before lockdowns, but I’m tempted by this one – it does sound as if it’s been done well. And I think big epics like this work so much better in the cinema than watching them at home – not just the sound and vision quality, but also the lack of reasons to lose concentration. Glad you found it a soul-healing experience!

    • Yes, I enjoyed the experience, FF. 😃 This film is better at the cinema. However, I totally get it if anyone feels uncomfortable about going. A guy behind me had a coughing fit and almost ran me out of the theater!

  5. I seem to have missed out on reading Dune. It’s still not on my very long TBR list, though. Am I missing out? That photo of Timothee Chalamet does tempt me, though. At the moment, I’m busy reading manuscripts and books by other writers from my publisher, She Writes Press. I just finished The Spy’s Wife which will be out next year. It’s a fantastic book.

    • Nicki, if political intrigue and cruel despots are your thing, then Dune is the series for you! (Totally understand if the answer is no.) Many people writing political intrigue today probably were inspired by Frank Herbert directly or inadvertently.

      So glad to hear that about The Spy’s Wife!

  6. I haven’t seen Dune yet, though it’s getting a lot of positive attention. I’ll be interested in your take on Eternals, the new Marvel film directed by Chloé Zhao, if you see that one. The reviews have been mixed and it seems to be quite long.

  7. I’m glad you found something to make your weary soul feel lighter. I’ve never read Dune, nor seen the movie. I know many people who love the book [series?] but epic sagas don’t seem to draw me in. Or at least they haven’t yet.

  8. I haven’t read the books or seen the original movie (which I heard was a flop) or the miniseries, but your review is intriguing. I love the idea of quiet moments in films. You usually see things like that only in indie flicks with quirky stories, not epics like this film seems to be. What did you think of the musical score? I’m always curious about how the music matches the film, and this one with anti-groove tunes and bagpipes sounds fascinating.

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