Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

“My ambition with Dune was tremendous. So, what I wanted was to create a prophet. I want to create a prophet… to change the young minds of all the world. For me, Dune will be the coming of a god.” With those words, Alejandro Jodorowsky starts our journey toward Dune.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a force of nature. The creator of El Topo and The Holy Mountain faced a new challenge: he wanted to adapt Frank Herbert’s novel for the screen. Never mind that Hollywood studios said that this movie had to be under two hours. Jodorowsky wanted his to be fifteen.

He’d also never read the source material, but he didn’t let that stop his journey toward creative nirvana. In fact, he planned numerous changes that Herbert hated, like turning the book’s spice (in the books, this is the most essential and valuable commodity available, a drug that gives the user a longer life span, more vitality and heightened awareness) into a blue sponge.

He and Jean “Moebius” Giraud storyboarded every single frame of the film in a gigantic bound book before one shot was lensed. And there was also a team of artists and special effects technicians ready to bring the book to life, including H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Dan O’Bannon. It’s no accident that this team would go on to create Alien or that the design sense of this unfilmed Dune would be part of the look of Star Wars, as Jodorowsky claims that the storyboard was circulated throughout Hollywood (O’Bannon worked on the computer animation and graphic displays for Lucas’ film).

The cast of the film would have been borderline insane: Salvador Dalí as the Emperor (sitting on a throne where he would urinate and defecate into porcelain swans while making more money that Marlon Brando did for Superman), Brontis Jodorowsky as the hero of the story Paul, Orson Welles as the Baron (paid by having his favorite French chef on set at all times), David Carradine as Duke Leto and Gloria Swanson as the Reverend Mother. Each house in the film would have its own soundtrack, with Pink Floyd as the heroic House of Atreides and Magma as the House of Harkonnen.

That said, a $15 million dollar 15-hour movie in 1975 is a ludicrous notion. Yet if anyone could do it, argues this film, this was the team to beat the Hollywood odds. They didn’t. And perhaps if they had succeeded, as Nicolas Winding Refn wonders in the opening of the film, perhaps the blockbuster world that Star Wars wrought — and the end of the New Hollywood — would never have happened.

This documentary has an intriguing theory: Even thought Jodorowsky never made Dune, the film was as influential on future science fiction as if it would have been really made. Its creator’s dream of changing consciousness was a success. You can see its influence everywhere. Can you win while losing?

Want to watch it for yourself? Here’s the official site.

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