Monday, November 15, 2021

Dune: Painting the Story Through Cinema

Some of my favorite authors are masters at painting their worlds with words. They seem to know exactly how to phrase things to make a story move forward while at the same time communicating a depth and breadth to the world their characters live in. Every time I read these stories, I am able to connect intimately with the characters and visualize the world they live in. Cinema's world painting is done through visuals and music, though it is rarely done well.

Dune is an exception. This year's incarnation of Dune dazzles with the beauty and immensity of the images and music, but more importantly, there is a clear depth to the world that is communicated through the thoughtfulness of the costume and set design, along with the pacing, music, and cinematography.

Before I saw Dune, I had heard from various people that it was slow and boring, that the director had failed to make us fall in love with the protagonist. I almost didn't go see the film, but allowed some friends of mine to talk me into it. I was riveted to the edge of my seat throughout. By the end of the film, I left hungry for more.

The director places us firmly into the world, and, at times, into Paul's shoes, communicating to us through broad vistas, interspersed with action, flashes and visions. A methodical, deliberate pace permeates the film, allowing us to process the events and think about them, giving time to put ourselves in Paul's shoes and think about the relationships between him, his parents, and other characters. The pacing communicates a depth and realness to the world, pulling us into the story and refusing us a spectator experience. Just as Paul seems to only be beginning to understand his purpose, we are somewhat confused by the end of the film. There is just enough clarity that we understand a direction Paul is headed, but how it will play out is unclear to Paul and us.

I've never read the book, but the movie left me wanting more. It's too bad the next installment is so far in the future. I almost don't want to spoil the next movie by reading the book now.

While there is plenty of fighting in Dune, I would not call it an action film. The trailer completely misrepresents the movie, pulling in most of the intense fighting scenes and leaving out the grandeur and sheer mass of this masterpiece film.

If you're looking for an immersive, massive world to be thrust into and are OK with ambiguity and loose ends at the end of a film, you will not be disappointed. If, however, you want to understand everything happening, you'll probably want to read the book before you watch the film.

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