Finally, after almost two years of waiting, we can watch the latest film by Denis Villeneuve, Dune. This movie was the dream project of the director of Arrival. And for someone who loves Frank Harbert’s Dune, I couldn’t wait to see Villeneuve’s vision of this story. Dune tells the story of a young prince named Paul Atreides on a planet called Arrakis in the far future.
*This review contains spoilers for the Dune movie and book*
Villeneuve’s last two films, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, were merely a test project for Dune. However, these two movies are magnificent. Dune is a mixture of them both but more polished and immersive. In the past few years, I don’t remember any film as immersive as Dune, which made me cry, laugh, think and question many things as the movie progressed.
For Denis, this movie was a dream project, as he says in many interviews. Dune is one of the best sci-fi novels ever written, if not the best. The story in the book is straightforward, profound, and detailed. The biggest challenge in making a film based on Dune is its length and many great plot points and characters. For the mentioned reason, Villeneuve wanted to make the film in two parts. As Chani says at the end: “This is only the beginning.”
One of the things I enjoyed about watching the movie was how Denis mixed his own vision and ideas about Dune with the original story. Every scene was exactly like in the novel, yet I could see Denis’s signature in shots and camera movements.
Villeneuve’s many signatures are visible throughout the movie. The film’s color palette couldn’t be any better. There is a scene in which Paul and Lady Jessica are in a tent. The color of the set is red, but the characters are very calm. This color shows the inner anger of young Paul, who just lost his father. There is another scene where Mother Reverand leaves Caladan, and a thick fog has conquered the surroundings. It reminded me of Arrival and how Denis used thick fog in that movie.
One of the things I was afraid Danis might not use in the film was all the languages found in the book and their religious sub-contexts. Fortunately, he used everything in the book and hired David Peterson, the language creator who worked on Game of Thrones, to make the movie more authentic.
The film has an outstanding balance in translating foreign words. And if necessary, like Lisan al-Gaib, the movie provides their meaning; otherwise, they keep the mystery of the language. The languages used in Dune, similar to the book, have many origins. Arabic, Chkobsa, and Old English are mainly used in the film. It is genius to see how Frank Harbert brought this much diversity to his book in 1965. Not only in terms of languages but religion as well.
Persian poet Hafez is also known as Lisan al-Gaib. He was a mystic poet; although the religious people did not accept him, he was popular among citizens with his poetry and teachings. In the movie, Paul is called by many holy names like The One or Mahdi, all of whom are messiahs in different religions.
Timothee Chalamet, who portraits Paul Atreides is perfect in this film. Chalamet, with movies like Call Me By Your Name or Little Women, showed us that he is a good actor who can become great with some experience. I was mesmerized by his acting in the gom jabbar scene where we put his hand into the box. Not only Chalamet but every actor and actress did a splendid job. The cast couldn’t be more perfect, and it is one of the best performances of their careers.
One of the things that Denis added to the film, which was not in the book, is a little comedy. It is well-plotted, well-performed, and gets the job done. Dune is a dire film that would be hard for some people to watch with all its deep sub-contexts. So the bit of comedy in the film gives the audience a little break time before showing the next big thing.
In the story of Dune, there is a drug called Spice that is necessary for interstellar travel. It is a metaphor for oil. We have seen many nations salvage other countries in search of oil behind the façade of helping them. Not only do we make other people suffer, but we destroy the Earth, our home, for the sake of becoming rich. It is a hard job to combine and show all these critical matters with a good story. Every subject in the film gets sufficient screen time.
The string that attaches every context with the picture we see is the great music composed by the brilliant Hans Zimmer. Zimmer didn’t make Dune’s music to fill the gaps between dialogues or make the scene more thrilling. It is helping the storytelling. There are many scenes where words would be too much and the camera itself insufficient, but the music of Hans Zimmer is the bond that ties everything in the movie.
To put it in a word, Dune is a masterpiece. Everything in this film is pitch-perfect. I couldn’t find a single flaw in how the film was made and written by Denis Villeneuve. It is a rich and deep movie that shows many severe problems of our world, and it doesn’t get boring. It is one of the most immersive movies I have seen in my life, and I will watch it many more times in the future.
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Dune is one of those movies that people won’t stop talking about, and there will be more essays and analyses as time goes on. Dune is the best film of 2021 for me and I don’t think that would change in the remaining months. I should remind you that this is only Dune Part One. I cannot wait to see the journey of Usul in the future.