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.