Jodorowsky's Dune: A Movie about a Movie that wasn't made.


I'm here to admit I have a problem.

I love Documentaries. Not the History Channel style-omg-aliens documentaries, but ones that actually show real-world stories. Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Indie Game: The Movie and The Fog of War are all amazing documentaries I would happily rate in the top of everything I've seen. I don't know what draws me into them, perhaps its understanding the world around me, or just because my Dad forced me to watch a bunch when I was a kid.... Either way, it's a very, very nerdy pastime.

However, the New Zealand International Film Festival is on currently in Wellington, and I was hoping to attend a bunch of the films on offer - I even made a list!

Alas, I have only attended one of them. Turns out that being a student and wanting to go to the cinema every second night is not a viable venture. But the one I did attend, Jodorowsky's Dune, was definitely a good choice, thanks to my friend Jonnie - I promise to pay you back soon!

Anywho, to prove to Mum that I do things that don't involve my computer, and the fact I do indeed have friends, I wanted to give a review on the film, and hopefully convince you to watch more documentaries that are out there.

The Greatest Film Never Made

"I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective..."

If you're a book fiend, you'd of heard of Dune, Frank Herbet's sci-fi masterpiece released back in 1966. Although my love for Science Fiction, and Dune being the best selling science fiction book in history, I'm going to admit that I haven't read it myself. That means I walked into the film not knowing one bit about Dune, and all that I knew of Alejandro Jodorowsky were a couple trailers to his previous films.

And, I'll tell you now, his previous films are very... avant garde. Take a look at this, the trailer to his previous film The Holy Mountain:

In 1975, after the success of The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky wanted to tackle Dune. He had a grand image to change the way film was to be viewed in years to come - It's quoted in the film, he wanted to "recreate the hallucinations of LSD without the audience having to have taken it," and although he himself had never read the book that he was to use it as a platform to launch a psycho-spritual revolution. He enlisted the help of "Spiritual Warriors," a team of people he saw that could both achieve his ambitions, and believe what they were working on would change the world.

However, the fear I had was in the abstract nature of a Jodorowsky film. As I said, I hadn't really seen his work before Jonnie highlighted that it was on, and afterwards I was both afraid and curious as to what I had got myself into.

The resulting film, however, was a conventional talking-heads style narrative, led by the immensely likeable Jodorowsky. Despite being 84 at the time of filming, you can easily see the youthful glee in his eyes as he captivated the audience from the get go - More than once, a comment made by Jodorowsky had the theatre in laughs. Not once did I feel that I had to have read Dune, nor watched a Jodorowsky film, his adaption was more than interesting.

A charming aspect of Jodorowsky was his near unbelievable luck. Throughout the timeline, he constantly talks of how whenever he had a revalation for a member to join his team, they'd seemingly appear in front of him - Salvador Dali (who is seemingly even more nuts than Jodorowsky himself), Mick Jagger (who conveniently was at the same party as Jodorowsky after his decision to get Jagger) and even Orson Welles (who was promised his favourite chef if he were to work on the film). What makes them more special is the way each story is told by Jodorowsky, once again with the childish grin on his face.

The mammoth storyboard of the film, perhaps one of the most detailed ever, is brought to life by the director Frank Pavich in a series of animations based on the art by Moebius and Chris Foss. The animations, I felt, were one of the strong points in the film, and a nice glimpse into what could have been.

But then, thats the sad truth: Jodorowsky's Dune was indeed, never made. When it came to begin filming, no Holywood studio would fund it - Jodorowsky's vision was too much for them, and their audiences. The one scene in the entire film, I felt, where Jodorowsky lost the spark in his eyes, replaced with sadness, is where he describes what he felt was wrong with Holywood:

"It's a dream. Don't change my dream... This system makes of us slaves. Without dignity, without depth... With a devil in our pocket, this incredible money in our pocket, this shit. It's nothing, this paper with nothing inside..."

"Movies have heart, have mind, have power... Have ambition. I wanted to do something like that...

... Why not?"

The film ends on a high note. Although his film was taken from him and adapted by David Lynch, Jodorowsky says he's happy cause it was rubbish (thats actually a fact). He goes on to say that he is also happy for his team who went onto bigger and better things. Giger, his artist, went on to design for Alien, and O'Bannon, his special effects technician, went on to write for Alien and Total Recall, and work on Star Wars.

Overall the film is a testament, spiritually, to Jodorowsky. His creative vision in the period of Dune, then the almost abrupt letting go of his creation, allowing it to exist unexpectedly as a father to all that followed. A number of his, and his team's, themes and ideas are seen in Star Wars, Alien and even in 2012 with Prometheus. It's this acceptance that truly had me admire Jodorowsky.

“Things come, you say yes. Things go away, you say yes...”

If you ever get the chance to see this film, I urge you to go see it. It successfully goes into depth about "what if" without actually having to realise it, a story that leaves you oddly happy at the end without actually understanding why.