“I didn’t read Dune” – Alejandro Jodorowsky
It’s virtually impossible not to be swept up by the liveliness of Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune, thanks in no small part to the relentlessly frenetic energy of it’s subject, Alejandro Jodorowsky. During the early 1970s, the man gained a solid reputation as a director with a proclivity for vibrant but peculiar filmmaking, with films such as El Topo and Holy Mountain pushing him into notoriety. On the back of this success, Jodorowsky managed to get his hands on the rights to Frank Herbet’s significant science fiction opus, “Dune.” What attracted Jodorowsky so fervently to Herbert’s novel may never be clear, considering the filmmaker had neither read the book nor really knew much about it.
Jodorowsky set about to create no less than the most important film ever made, surrounding himself with concept artists, musicians and actors of such a calibre as H.R. Giger, Moebius, Pink Floyd, Salvador Dali and Orson Welles. The film was never realised, having been abandoned on the cusp of production. The efforts of the delirious pre-production have managed to survive, most notable in an enormous book that Jodorowsky himself put together, filled with every creative and coordinative decision that would have been made had the film entered production. The question that Jodorowsky’s Dune poses is whether the film industry would have been the same had Jodorowsky seen his vision to completion.
We may never know whether Dune would have been the revelation that Jodorowsky clearly believed it would have been, although such grandiose passion projects are rarely the success that their creators anticipate. What is clear is that the production paved the way for science fiction films that subsequently did have a monumental impact on the industry, from Alien to Blade Runner to The Matrix. The general consensus amongst the interviewees is that Jodorowsky’s influence is still being felt within the world of cinematic science fiction.
The documentary is propelled forward by Jodorowsky’s infectiously enthusiastic nature. This is a man who recruits a visual effects supervisor by feeding him hallucinogens and forces his own son to endure two years of full-time combat training to prepare him for a lead role that would never eventuate. The elderly Jodorowsky has a surprisingly optimistic view of how the project panned out, and seems no less passionate about it than he must have been forty years ago. In The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, animation legend Hayao Miyazaki questions the importance of cinema as a medium. Jodorowosky’s enthusiasm for his craft and it’s potential is a refreshing thing in an industry that seems to generate cynicism.
Dune was, of course, finally made into a film by David Lynch, who shares certain creative sensibilities Jodorowsky. Lynch, perhaps tellingly of Jodorowsky’s project, also wasn’t the right man to direct Frank Herbert’s novel. Jodorowsky’s Dune indulges the film lover’s enthusiasm for cinematic legend, the sense of unrealised potential allowing for endless outcomes and possibilities. What would have become of film over the past four decades had Jodorowsky’s vision been achieved? It’s a pleasant thing to ponder.