Denis Villeneuve premieres in Venice the most anticipated blockbuster of 2021, “Dune”, a captivating sample of big-budget auteur cinema in an endless audiovisual show.
I am not going to fool anyone: I have come to Venice to see Dune. I know that this still does not speak very well of my mental stability (I had never been to this festival and I wrote to them in an outburst weeks after the end of the term to request accreditations), but what can I say, that’s how I live with my cinephile passion, that’s how I am I, that’s how my wife loves me (whom I love even more).
I wanted to see Dune and I wanted to see it in a big way (in the Darsena room, the best screen of the Biennale) and, be careful, I also wanted to be able to talk about it soon, to be able to explain to all the people who follow us what the hell Denis Villeneuve has done with a project that has always been cursed – let them tell Lynch, or Jodorowsky! – and for which an adaptation to the height of the circumstances of Frank Herbert’s work was needed. Because Villeneuve, apart from being a huge filmmaker, is someone who does not shy away from challenges, either by adapting extremely complex stories with simplicity and overwhelming intelligence. – The arrival (2016), according to the short story of Ted Chiang-, either taking charge of impossible projects, case of Blade Runner 2049 (2017), impeccable sequel to one of the classic canons of modern science fiction such as Ridley Scott’s 1982 film.
So nothing, it’s already seen.
And what has Villenueve done with Dune? Well, he has made the most categorical author’s blockbuster of this century.
In the solipsistic line of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkerque (2017) or by Zack Snyder Watchmen (2009), but each one, of course, faithful to its unique and non-transferable style. Few directors can handle a sky-high budget project loaded with top-tier stars. –Dune seems like an all-stars: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgaard, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Charlotte Rampling, etc – and have the courage to make such a tremendously personal movie with him , oblivious to any prevailing fashion and that, with it, continues to be a first-rate, endless show.
Because that was the feeling that burned me while watching the movie: the totem spectacle that you can only watch with your mouth open and your eyes spinning continuously..
The images that Villeneuve builds are majestic in their bombast, fascinating in their sci-fi design and thunderous in their sound (only Hans Zimmer could have done such a thing).
The audiovisual equipment is such that one is with the fascination button in ON mode all the time. Each new world that appears, each castle, each ship, each object – which Villeneuve applies fetishism to the objects on which the story continually pivots, be it a bull’s antlers, or the knife that Paul Atreides ends up wielding -, They are thought out to the last detail, magnificently designed and built to serve both as decoration and as an explanation of the characters themselves. And from Lawrence de Arabia (1962) no one had captured the essence of the desert so well.
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Example. When the planet of the Harkonnen appears for the first time and we see the Baron (Stellan Skarsgaard) in a very large room without furniture of any kind, on his back, covered in steam, conical overhead light falling, stroking his bald head like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now (1979)… Villeneuve is describing to you the madness and the absolute evil without hardly articulating a single dialogue. Pure cinema.
The spectacularity of Dune it goes hand in hand with the intensity that Villeneuve applies to the images.
This is not a light show, it is not a fun and entertaining galactic battle, but rather the opposite. Here he has come to suffer. To see betrayals, plots, murders, massacres, dream dreams, evil witches and giant worms. Looking at her, I kept thinking “I’m really liking this, but will someone else like it?”
The narrative time of Blade Runner 2049 applied to the space opera is closer to Arthur C. Clarke what of Orson Scott Card. Dune it simmers and has multiple leaks with Paul Atreides’ continual daydreams (there are many more than in Lynch’s film). The dramatic charge is soaring, almost absurd, and is strictly supported by its aesthetic scaffolding. Villeneuve wants to get into the pain of the characters and wants you to accompany him. The path that it imposes is not simple, but practically anti-climatic. As if the filmmaker was as demanding with himself as with the public and in the final half hour that drift becomes really palpable.
I have finished melted when the credits have appeared. There are things that have not finished working for me in the film. Mainly the use of personal shields, which make melee action scenes wildly bizarre.
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I understand that it is a logical decision in the continued fidelity to the original text, but that does not mean that it stops making me strange. What will people think when they see it? Will they love it? Will they hate it? Dune is going to polarize, that’s clear. But whether you are one of the first or the second, do not doubt for a moment that Villeneuve has made the movie that he wanted to weigh on whoever it was, and that is something that I always respect.
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