Documentary, 90 Minutes, 2013
Back in the early 1970’s director Alejandro Jodorowsky [IMDB] decided that he was going to adapt Frank Herbert’s watershed 1965 sci-fi novel Dune into a movie. By all accounts, an utterly bat-shit insane movie. This documentary is the story of how that movie was never made.
The story is told via interviews with Jodorowsky himself and others involved and supplemented by a vast collection of pre-production artwork. The story is undeniably engrossing and Jodorowsky is undeniably an entertaining character. That said, he’s not the most sympathetic character and while the documentary clearly wants us to bemoan something amazing that could have been, it’s painfully clear that maybe – just maybe – not making this movie was a good idea.
As with most documentary efforts, it’s difficult to critically consider the information being presented. Some of the implications made are difficult to believe and some that are clearly opinion are presented as bygone fact. The filmmakers intimate that, after refusing to allow Jodorowsky to make his movie, the studios stole his team and ideas to make nearly every classic sci-fi film since. The hubris on display is absolutely, fabulously stunning.
Jodorowsky recalls with loving detail his plans to pay Salvador Dali millions for a few minutes of screen time. His arguments with studio heads about their desire to shorten the film and his to make it “14 or 15 hours” long are discussed. He also confirms that he was planning on changing much of the story drastically. In his own words:
“When you make a picture, you must not respect the novel. It’s like you get married, no? You go with the wife; you take the woman. If you respect the woman, you will never have child. You need to open the costume…and to rape the bride. And then you will have your picture. I was raping Frank Herbert! But with love.”
Honest and candid, yes, but I’m not confident that it’s an attitude to celebrate.
To balance this are innumerable examples of genius and surprising insights intertwined with the insanity. It’s clear that the participants were wholly enthralled with Jodorowsky’s vision. They fed creatively off of one another in a truly impressive way and the artifacts they produced are stunning.
I can’t say whether this movie would have been the game-changer that the documentary clearly believes it would have been. Or whether all of modern science fiction cinema really owes its existence to the creative juices let loose in the attempt. I can say that the story of that attempt is insanely interesting and well worth the time.