The Dune You'll Never See

Dune: The Movie You Will Never See by Alejandro Jodorowsky : The cult filmmaker's personal recollection of the failed production. The circumstances of Jodorowsky's planned 1970s production of Frank Herbert's novel Dune are inherently fascinating, if only because of the sheer creative power of the collaborators Jodorowsky was able to assemble. Pink Floyd offered to write the score at the peak of their creativity. Salvador Dali, Gloria Swanson, and Orson Welles were cast. Dan O'Bannon (fresh off of Dark Star) was hired to supervize special effects; illustrator Chris Foss to design spacecraft; H.R. Giger to design the world of Geidi Prime and the Harkonnens; artist Jean 'Moebius' Giraud drew thousands of sketches. The project eventually collapsed in 1977, subsequently being passed onto Ridley Scott, and then to David Lynch, whose 1984 film was panned by audience and critics alike.

Interestingly enough, this failed production has been suprisingly influential. "...the visual aspect of Star Wars strangely resembled our style. To make Alien, they called Moebius, Foss, Giger, O'Bannon, etc. The project signalled to Americans the possibility of making a big show of science-fiction films, outside of the scientific rigour of 2001: A Space Odyssey."

In reading his account of the failed production, it becomes readily apparent that Jodorowsky's Dune would only bear a slight resemblance to Herbert's novel. "I feel fervent admiration towards Herbert and at the same time conflict [...] I did everything to keep him away from the project... I had received a version of Dune and I wanted to transit it: the myth had to abandon the literary form and become image..." In all fairness, this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the case of Dune, which many considered to be unfilmable (Lynch, it is said, tried to keep his story as close to the novel as possible - and look what happened there). Film and literature are two very different forms, and, as such, they use different tools to accomplish the same tasks. Movies must use a different "language" to express the same ideas.

I find the prospect of Jodorowsky's Dune to be fascinationg, but I must also admit that I, like many others, would have also been aprehensive about his vision. Would Jodorowsky's Dune have been able to live up to his ambition? Some think not:
Theory and retrospect are fine and in theory Jodorowsky's DUNE sounds too good to be true. But then again, anyone that reads his desrription and explanation of El Topo and then actually watches the thing is going to feel slightly conned. They might then come to the conclusion that Jodorowsky says lots, but means little.
Having seen El Topo, I can understand where this guy's coming from. I lack the ability to adequately describe the oddity; the disturbing phenomenon that is El Topo. I can only say that it is the wierdest movie that I have ever seen (nay, experienced). But for all its disquieting peculiarity, I think it contains a certain raw power that really affects the viewer. Its that sort of thing, I think, that might have made Dune great.

In case you couldn't tell, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a strange, if fascinating, fellow. He wrote the script and soundtrack, handled direction, and starred in the previously mentioned El Topo, which was hailed by John Lennon as a masterpiece (thus securing his cult status). His followup, The Holy Mountain, continued along the same lines of thought. It was at this point that the director took the oportunity to work on Dune, which, as we have already found out, was a failure. Nevertheless, Jodorowsky plunges on, still making his own brand of bizzare films. As he says at the end of his account of the Dune debacle, "I have triumphed because I have learned to fail."