Late last night I found myself idly flicking through the channels before retiring to bed and came upon David Lynch’s Dune playing on the Horror channel (there’s a commentary in that scheduling just in itself). It was toward the end of the film, and I found myself sticking around until the bitter end (truth be told, those last twenty-thirty minutes are the worst the film has to offer, the film collapsing into an awful turgid mess as it falters towards its conclusion).
I hadn’t seen Dune in a good while, but it always suckers me in. I love the book you see. Its the Ben Hur of science fiction, and just begging to be given a three-hour epic treatment on the silver screen, its religious allegories as timely now as ever. Back in 1984 its excellent marketing/mysterious posters with the twin moons… well it looked to be something special. It wasn’t of course. It was a mess.
I’d love to be able to sit down with David Lynch, if only for a half-hour, to listen to him explain what happened with Dune. Now, Lynch doesn’t talk to anyone about the film, having utterly disowned it. Understable as that may be, I do think there is a fascinating discussion there. What was he trying to do with it? Where did it go wrong? When did he lose control? When did he know it was just hopeless and time to walk away?
Or did he think it was brilliant and became appalled at its reception? Who knows? Lynch of course went on to Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks and so much more. Dune would be just a mainstream blip on his increasingly weird resumé. But it just sits there forever on tv re-runs, VHS, DVD and Blu-ray releases… a broken film that looks utterly captivating in places and full of odd casting, disjointed editing, a rock soundtrack, so many bizarre decisions that sometimes work and most times don’t. It looks like a film that could have been so great but turned out pretty poor, never becoming ‘cult’ as other commercial failures like The Thing and Blade Runner would do. You’ll never hear about Lynch’s Dune being a misunderstood classic movie to be rediscovered. I’d just love to have a chat with Lynch and hear his thoughts about it after so many years.