Review: Jodorowsky’s Dune

Written by guest contributor Brian Roe

The word seminal is one of those over-used words that sounds great when talking about a subject but rarely means what it’s supposed to mean. Seminal means to act like semen, to impregnate, and to bring new life. Many works of art might be inspiring or help to create new trends but few works are as purely, biologically seminal as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempted version of Dune. From the group of highly talented creative people involved to the overall epic grandeur of the concept, Jodorowsky’s Dune set a high bar for future science fiction projects and filmmaking in general and its ideas were truly seminal in the fields of science fiction and fantasy filmmaking.

In 1974 Alejandro Jodorowsky was less of a filmmaker and more of an emerging cinematic prophet. He believed in the power of art to not only create reality but also to force an expansion of human consciousness. His early films were anarchist experiments seemingly designed to creatively shock main stream sensibilities as opposed to telling narrative stories. Building on this background along with a powerful interest in mysticism and mind altering pharmacology Jodorowsky created the surrealist western El Topo in 1970 and the mystically dense The Holy Mountain in 1973. Both films also featured Jodorowsky as an actor in the roles of highly spiritual beings, in El Topo as a wandering outlaw/gunslinger who is on a quest for spiritual enlightenment and in The Holy Mountain as an alchemist who guides the main characters along their path of mystical discovery.

Jodorowsky seemed to be at the height of his own personal enlightenment when he was given the opportunity to direct a film for producer Michel Seydoux and immediately chose to direct Frank Herbert’s Dune based purely on the recommendation of the book by a friend. Jodorowsky had not read the book at the time that he chose the film and it seems uncertain how much he actually read of it at any later time given some of the narrative liberties he took with the script.

Along with the initial script Jodorowsky hired the French artist Jean Giraud/Mœbius to draw storyboards based on Jodorowsky’s descriptions. Along with concept artists Chris Foss and H. R. Giger and special effects technician Dan O’Bannon, Jodorowsky created a massive book that showed not only the storyboards of Dune but also character designs and ship and building concepts. These books were sent to various studios in an attempt to find additional funding were they have been lost over the years after being mined for ideas by the many creative people lucky enough to discover them.

jodorowskys-dune-poster copy 1Much of the film-time of Jodorowsky’s Dune is taken up in exploring this massive book, according to Jodorowsky there are only two now known to exist, and having it ably animated and narrated by Jodorowsky himself is a real treat. It’s a shame that not even a digital version of this book is available and something that hopefully will be redressed now that this documentary has been released. But the book and the story of the film’s production are not the only enjoyable parts of this Jodorowsky’s Dune. There is also Jodorowsky himself.

Now in his mid-eighties, Jodorowsky is still a powerful and inspiring speaker, even when he’s saying ridiculous things. His beliefs about the nature of art and the power of the artist are said with a fervor that is rare amongst people even when they talk about their religions. Jodorowsky is not someone who simply mimics currently popular themes or who parrots other’s ideas. He preaches about art with a passion and sureness that creators half his age often have trouble projecting. And even his most bizarre concepts seem to come from a place in his heart and mind that is perfectly and truly real. It is a powerful artist indeed who can communicate that sort of reality to others with the zeal that Jodorowsky manifests. It’s a pleasure to watch him again become inspired on the topic of what could have been his final project and to turn what could have been defeat into a truly spiritual understanding.

See this movie if you love film, fantasy, science fiction, and art. See it if you’re a fan of Giger, Foss, Mœbius, or O’Bannon. Jodorowsky. See it if you’re a fan of Jodorowsky’s earlier films or his many comic book sagas. Or see it if you have no idea who this person is. Either way you’ll soon become a fan of Jodorowsky.

Score: 5/5

Director: Frank Pavich Studio: City Film, Snowfort Pictures Run Time: 90 Mins