Review | ‘Dune’ honours source content with vision and intimacy

Dune Part 1 | Dir: Denis Villeneuve | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The world of Dune was conceived by American science fiction writer Frank Herbert in the 1960s. Set in an impossibly distant future on the planet of Arrakis, Herbert’s world is an arid, sandy wasteland whose precious spice (a hallucinogenic opioid that extends life and enhances mental abilities) is protected by enormous sand worms.

The film introduces us to Arrakis through piercing blue eyes of Chani (Zendaya) as she recounts the waves of invaders coming to take away the precious spice and the oppression of her people, the Fremen, by the military might of the invaders with the technology. Herbert’s novel was originally an allegory for the tensions between the West and the Middle East over oil reserves.

Herbert’s future interstellar society is an authoritarian feudal one with an all-powerful Emperor and noble houses ruled by patriarchs. It is Duke Leto Artrides (Oscar Isaac) who takes up the challenge to manage the spice mining on Arrakis and he takes his family with him to the dangerous planet.

Interestingly, the duke’s concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is a Bene Gesserit, the power beneath the power which is a society composed entirely of women who have developed supernatural powers. A Bene Gesserit saying is ”if you rely on your eyes, your other senses weaken” and Lady Jessica has been tutoring her son Paul Artrides (Timothée Chalamet) to use the powers of the Bene Gesserit.

When Paul’s father is double-crossed (to create a spice shortage to increase the value of the emperor’s private reserves Offworld similar to what happened with the price of petrol), he is forced to flee with his mother and fulfill his visions of joining Chani’s tribe to survive in the waterless wasteland.

Panoramic shots of the landscape juxtaposed with intimate close-ups of the main characters provide both the expanse of Herbert’s vision and intimacy with the characters. Contrasting the macho warriors (including Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem) with an altogether different strength of the females in the film (headed by Charlotte Rampling as the Reverend Mother) is central to this two and a half epic – whose part 2 is eagerly awaited.

Lezly Herbert

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