September 25, 2021 by archyde
The long-awaited movie ‘Dune’, from director Denis Villeneuve, which opened in theaters last week, brings to mind the most eccentric and surreal film adaptation project of the novel of the same name. Frank Herbert.
Without leaving aside the version of David Lynch from 1984, which failure Resoundingly, neither the two adapted miniseries: ‘Dune’ (2000) and ‘The Children of Dune’ (2003), broadcast by the American channel Sci-Fi, the most significant and impressive film adaptation of this science-fiction ‘bestseller’ is one that never came to pass.
Cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt ‘Dune’ in the mid-1970s is for many “the best unrealized film”, Indian in 2014 Frank Pavich, director of the documentary ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’.
The first book in Herbert’s saga tells the story of the rivalry between the Atreides and Harkonnen houses for dominance of the planet Arrakis, covered in sand and the only source of ‘the species’, or ‘melange’, a substance of world importance In a very distant future. After the Atreides were betrayed and their leader assassinated, the young heir of the house, Paul, gains the support of the native people of Arrakis and access to ‘the species’, becomes a messianic figure and manages to take revenge on the Harkonnen, securing dominance over the planet and beyond.
Although this legend might seem simple enough as such, its film adaptation has always posed great difficulties due to the complexity of the history of the world in which the events take place, as well as the philosophical, religious, political and language references of the work of Frank Herbert.
As for Jodorowsky, his version of ‘Dune’ was a huge psychedelic space opera that he planned to bring together all the creative forces of the culture of the time. The director not only wanted to make the greatest science fiction film of all time, but his ambitions went further, to offer a film that “gave people who took LSD the hallucinations that the drug gave, without hallucination“.
“I wanted to create a prophet to change the young minds of the whole world. For me, ‘Dune’ would be the arrival of a god. An artistic, cinematic god, “Jodorowsky said in the documentary.
The Chilean-born director made two of the most famous surrealist films of the time, ‘El Topo’ (1970) and ‘La Montaña Sagrada’ (1973). Due to the success of these, he was contacted in 1974 by the French producer Michel Seydoux, who offered to finance the next film that he wanted to make, and Jodorowsky chose ‘Dune’, despite not having read the book.
“The spiritual warriors”
The creative process of this project was marked by endless eccentricities. Jodorowsky wrote the script for the film in a castle rented just for that purpose and, once finished, the author set about recruiting collaborators or as he called them, “spiritual warriors”.
The first of these was Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, one of the most acclaimed comic artists in France. Giraud broke the entire movie down into a ‘storyboard ‘of 3,000 drawings.
Jodorowsky gathered his other “spiritual warriors” in Paris. For visual effects, he hired Dan O’Bannon, who had worked on John Carpenter’s first film, “Dark Star.” Most of the film’s music was to be performed by British stars Pink Floyd, who had just recorded their eighth album, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.
To visualize the spaceships in the film, Jodorowsky hired Chris Foss, a British artist known for his paintings airbrushing on the covers of Isaac Asimov’s novels, and his line drawings on the groundbreaking sex manual, ‘The Joy of Sex’.
To create the villains’ homeworld, he chose HR Giger, a Swiss artist specializing in sinister biomechanical horrors.
Now all Jodorowsky needed were actors. For the role of the messianic Paul, he chose his own son, Brontis, who underwent 2 years of intensive training in martial arts. But the director looked further afield for the rest of his cast, hiring legendary figures like Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Udo Kier and Orson Welles.
To play the emperor of the galaxy, Jodorowsky addressed nothing more and nothing less than Salvador Dali. When they met at the San Regis Hotel in New York, Dalí told Jodorowsky that he was interested, but that he had some conditions. The emperor’s throne had to be “a toilet made of two intersecting dolphins”Furthermore, Dalí’s own friends had to play the emperor’s courtiers. The Spanish artist also asked $ 100,000 per hour, conditions that Jodorowsky accepted.
The path to enlightenment
Jodorowsky was not modest, and compared his project to “the arrival of the Messiah”. His version of ‘Dune’ is full of innovations, rarities and sacred symbols, perfectly capturing the spirit of the age.
‘Dune’ would begin with a long and uninterrupted shot inspired by the opening of ‘Touch of Evil’ by Orson Welles, with the difference that the camera is not limited to touring a city, but it crosses “all the universe”, a concept later applied in the 1997 film ‘Contact’ (‘Contact’), by Robert Zemeckis.
The visual effects included starships in the shape of strange insects. The gloomy Harkonnen castle was a sculpted representation of the baron, where to access, the ships had to land on the tongue and be swallowed by the head of the fortress. None of this was in the novel “It was all part of Jorodowsky’s translation, of his interpretation of history.”recalls Giger.
In the director’s mind, the film would culminate with images of Paul being murdered and then transforming into a sensitive planet, “the planet messiah”, capable of flying to distribute good vibrations across the galaxy. This also does not happen in Herbert’s novel.
In Jodorowsky’s introduction to a later book on Foss’s paintings, the director Explain what I expected from the artist: “I wanted jewels, machine animals, mechanisms of the soul… ships-belly, antechambers to be reborn in other dimensions … ships-prostitute propelled by the semen of our passionate ejaculations … ornithopter-hummingbirds that make us fly to suck the ancient nectar of the dwarf stars that give us the juice of eternity “and adds” How could Foss resist? “.
But the director’s ambitions fell short of his means: the project proved unaffordable, expensive, and extremely financially dubious. $ 15 million by the mid-1970s it was a lot of money, so Hollywood studios rejected it.
However, the “spiritual warriors” had prepared every detail when Jodorowsky and Seydoux flew to Los Angeles to collect the last $ 5 million that was missing. The work already existed entirely on paper and had been meticulously explained to the producers, but in Hollywood they were not happy with the figure of Jodorowsky in the director’s chair.
In the end, the director’s refusal to compromise on the length of the film could have been another factor that held back the realization of this surrealist work. The producers wanted ‘Dune’ to last 2 hours, but Jodorowsky thought that more than 12 hours it would be appropriate.
Even though the film was never made, the work done was not wasted and the Jorodowsky legacy it has been present in the evolution of science fiction. The illustrated script of his film has influenced this entire culture, from comics and miniseries to the renowned films ‘Alien’, ‘Terminator’ and ‘The fifth element’, among other.
One can hardly imagine the course of things if ‘Dune’ by Jorodowsky it would have come true: it would probably have radically transformed the science fiction industry as we know it. However, history cannot be rewritten, and what we are left with are only the images and stories about that project, which without ever having materialized left an impressive legacy in the history of cinema.
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