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. Artistical, cinematographical god. For me, it was not to make a picture. It was something deeper. I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective. Open the mind! Because I feel, in that time, myself, inside a prison. My ego, my intellect, I want to open! And I start the fight to make Dune.”

‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ is an American and French documentary directed by Frank Pavich in 2013, charting the Chilean director’s attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel for the screen in the 1970s. The film interviews Jodorowsky, his son, film critics, fellow directors and key personnel he gathered for the pre-production of the movie, and creates scenes from the unmade film through animation based on an extensive series of storyboards and designs. The main thing that comes across in this film, aside from the promise of the adaptation, is the bizarre and cultish approach of the director towards the filmmaking process. Jodorowsky sees the source book as a meditative template, a series of religious images that can be twisted into a shape that connects with his own world view. The process of preparing for the film, gathering, in his word, ‘warriors’ to support his vision and training his own son for years to play the central role, weirdly dovetails with the events in, and tone of, the novel. The documentary perfectly balances the enticing imagery of the planned film with a consideration of Jodorowsky’s past and speculation about how the pitch for the film bled into other science fiction movies such as ‘Alien’, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Terminator’. What really keeps you watching the documentary however are the interviews with the director as he espouses his strange world-view and, with a degree of self-aware humour, narrates how he recruited a cast that included Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dali. My feeling after watching the film was one of longing for seeing his version, either animated or motion captured (something he calls for himself), but coupled with this is an anxiety that for all Jodorowsky’s dreams, the finished result would be more ‘Dark Star’ than ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

Would I recommend it? Yes. It’s a film that unpacks Jodorowsky’s method and approach to movie making, and one that says a great deal about the challenges directors and producers face in getting high-concept and big-budget films to the screen. Watch with ‘El Topo’ as an example of what Jodorowsky is capable of.

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