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.

The Stanton Effect: Take the Reader Somewhere Worthwhile

6a00d83451b64669e2017c3652fef8970b-250wiLyn Miller-Lachmann is no stranger to El Space. She’s been a welcome guest here many times, especially when she has a new young adult novel to discuss. Like here. She also has her own blog here. Today, I’m thrilled to present her guest post for the Stanton series. At the end of the post, I’ll announce the winner of Amy Rose Capetta’s book, Unmade. But first, let’s hear from Lyn.

Thank you to the awesome L. Marie for inviting me to be part of this series. When I listened to Andrew Stanton’s TED talk, the point that stuck with me was, “Give a promise that your story will take the reader somewhere worthwhile.”

One of the moments that inspired me to take writing seriously enough to seek publication occurred in my first year teaching in Brooklyn, New York. My school was in a historic building that over years of deferred maintenance had become quite dilapidated, to the point that the third floor teacher’s lounge was a glorified broom closet with mouse droppings between the floorboards and plaster flaking from the ceiling. I had brought a collection of short stories to read during my free period, and as I read a story by Joan Silber, I no longer sat in this grim teacher’s lounge but in a kudzu-filled garden somewhere in the Deep South—a place I had never physically been.

Silber

Most of us can’t pick up and go wherever we want, whenever we want. But stories can take us to those places and make us feel as if we are there. Whether it’s the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, a world long gone, or a world that has never existed, effective stories make us believe we are part of that world. Stories transport us from our ordinary lives into a grander and more beautiful place. Or into a more exciting and dangerous place where we would never choose to venture on our own because we have families and school and jobs and responsibilities.

The advice, “Give a promise that your story will take the reader somewhere worthwhile,” certainly informed my forthcoming novel, Surviving Santiago (Running Press Kids, debuting in June 2015). I traveled to Chile in 1990 to witness the transition from a brutal 17-year-dictatorship to a democratic government. I saw the excitement of people enjoying their hard-won freedom while nursing wounds that had not healed. At times I was scared; at times I was awestruck; at times I was humbled. I crossed into an unfamiliar culture and heard stories of struggle, sacrifice, and courage that would have pushed me beyond my own capacities had I lived through those times.

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Lyn in 1990 (left); the cover of her forthcoming novel

Stories are ideal for crossing borders of all kinds and opening up a world of people, places, and experiences. This is what I seek to do with my writing, most of which is historical fiction set in diverse countries and cultures. It’s a challenge to evoke a setting well enough that readers can see themselves within it and appreciate having made the journey with me. And if they book a flight to Chile after finishing Surviving Santiago, I know for sure I’ve convinced them that it’s worth the trip!

Thanks, again, Lyn, for a great addition to the series. The other posts in the series are here, here, here, and here.

And now to announce the winner of Amy Rose Capetta’s young adult novel, Unmade.

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The winner, thanks to the random number generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congratulations, Charles. Please confirm below. Thanks again for commenting!