Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Viewing Notes: DUNE (1984, Lynch)

Dune, 1984, d. David Lynch
scr. Lynch, from the novel by Frank Herbert
with Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Kenneth McMillan

David Lynch dreamwalks through Frank Herbert's information-dense universe in highly graphic, lushly soundscaped style, everything melting and dissolving into everything else. When the Sleeper awakens, you can't be sure the dream is actually shaken off. As to the frequent charges of incomprehensibility, certainly it helps to walk in familiar with the novel, it helps to watch it more than once, or it helps to have spent some time with other Lynch movies. But otherwise I dunno. The finer points of the plot are spelled out in expository dialogue, plus mix-n-match narrators detailing the SF mythology, plus whispery voice over to elaborate on internal character motivations. If anything, this over-articulation is the least typically "Lynchian" thing about Dune, although the actual mechanics of this info-dumping are frequently disorienting, rather inventive, and occasionally lyrical, as in the mysterious opening close ups of Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen) fading in and out against a star field like a spaced-out angel.

The splendor of Dune isn't in any kind of traditional pulp-cover outsized imagery of impossible fantasy vistas, but images of water rhyming with billowing sand, human hands in distress and palms open in triumph, close-ups of mouths, the dust becoming spice becoming worm becoming consciousness pried open, as it grasps the chain of connected meaning. [Note: That is a hell of a grandmaster move for a head movie to make btw, as the drug reveals itself by transporting you through the revelation of the drug revealing itself: the Trip is about the Trip.] Where some thoughts have a certain sound and we travel without moving, that's in a dream, in music, and in cinema. Dune is the slow blade that penetrates.

Hot Spots the Lynch obsessive ought watch for:

-The plot hinges as much on conspiracy among the powerful and the training and formation of the superbeing hero as it does visions, emotions and spiritual revelation. This more abstract information is conveyed through expressionistic sequences like avant-garde shorts unto themselves (the Box of Pain, the Water of Life, etc.). The most spectacular of those (and the trippiest by far, if that's what you're here for) is the sexualized Space Folding sequence. These are not all freak-out moments. Paul's waking dream as he stares into the Arrakis night and whispers inside his head "Where are my feelings? I feel for no one" is a melancholy passage as the initiate has stripped away his attachments to body and name and begins one of the most chilling phases of divestment of self.

-Speaking of, Dune is probably ground zero for those combing Lynch's work for direct reference or indirect evidence of the impact of Transcendental Meditation; personally, I suggest the interested continue patiently trawling for the bigger fish.

-A ghastly hole ripped in Jürgen Prochnow's cheek provides the aperture for the signature Lynch ominous push into a black hole.

-Eraserhead-esque effect of a planetary sphere blowing apart in eggshell shards.

-Highly Problematic Depictions of Homosexuality!

-Not his best performance or even a fully delineated character, but Lynch's cameo as a spice miner probably fits him most perfectly. He's facing certain doom as a sandworm closes in on a spice mining facility, but looks like he's loving it down there in the industrial inferno amongst the massive, clanging machinery. He doesn't want to leave!

Viewed on: 9/17/13 — Theatrical Cut DVD (Universal; Region 1)

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