ANAMNESIS AND ESTRANGEMENT (2): Jodorowsky’s DUNE

I recently saw Frank Pavich’s documentary on Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to film DUNE. The whole documentary is in the form of an anamnesis of a period of continual creativity, as Jodorowsky assembled the perfect team of “warriors”, as he calls them, to bring DUNE to the screen. Jodorowsky’s aim was to remain faithful to the creative energy invested in the novel, while changing the plot (especially the ending) to align it with his own vision. He explains that he wanted to produce a veritable mind-expanding film, and declares that he had the feeling that his own mind was in a prison. He wanted to change people’s perception, his own included. He preferred younger talents and people from artistic domains other than the cinema, privileging those who put imagination before technicity and financial gain. He calls his team “warriors”, but one could equally call them visionaries or dreamers. These were people who were not content simply to recount strange fictions but who lived estrangement.

One gets the feeling that just gathering the team was a visionary experience, and that the subsequent encounter with the potential financiers, where everything came apart, was itself a visionary confrontation with the forces of stupidity (Jodorowsky talks of “imbecility”) and of capitalist conformism. That is why one should not divide the film solely along the line of demarcation between a surrealist past and a cynical realist present that consumed the creative fluxes of the project while throwing out the “crazy” director. Jodorowsky makes a good case for the influence that his film project had, despite remaining a “mere” dream, on other films that were actually made: STAR WARS, ALIEN, paving the way for BLADE RUNNER and MATRIX.

There is much nostalgia here, and much self-vindication. But there is also a surge of estrangement breaking the bounds of the external form of a localisable project. Jodorowsky explains that he doesn’t believe in loss or failure. If something blocks realisation on a path, he just changes the path, without changing the dream. He just bifurcates elsewhere, breaking the form, but keeping the dream (the block of intensities) intact. Jodorowsky and Moebius used much of the visual (and metaphysical) work for the film in the French graphic novel series THE INCAL. One project was killed by Hollywood, but many projects rose up to take its place. This is a powerful moment in the documentary when Jodorowsky explains how he refused to change his dream, and exclaims “Don’t change the dream!”.

Read: Jodorowsky’s written account.

Watch: the trailer.

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2 thoughts on “ANAMNESIS AND ESTRANGEMENT (2): Jodorowsky’s DUNE

  1. Hi again. I missed this piece when I was writing my own reaction to the film, but this post definitely captures what is most appealing about Jodorowsky’s project–and which did come through very strongly in the documentary. (Indeed, his passion and infectious enthusiasm may have come through so strongly as to disarm most onlookers–which is why I emphasized the “other side” of the matter in my own post.)

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  2. Pingback: DUNE: messiah as anti-hero | Xeno Swarm

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