Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Failure of Perfection

I've been listening to the soundtrack of the 1984 film Dune a lot lately. I actually saw this film before I read the book it was based on so I wasn't outraged by it when I saw it. I was slightly underwhelmed however.

Well, it was a David Lynch film, even though he'd probably rather forget it ever happened. It had it's own weird look and the best cast possible for the time it was made in. It was an expensive production, based on probably the greatest sci-fi epic of all time. And it had, a beautiful, powerful soundtrack by Brian Eno. The music is actually really enduring but when I listen to it, I don't think of the story of Dune. I think instead of the story of the film itself, the struggle to get it made.

Ridly Scott was actually to direct it but a family member got ill so he went with Bladerunner instead. David Lynch turned down the opportunity to direct return of the Jedi for this, Dune. He claimed it was the moment where he "sold out", well, he sold out by attempting to film the unfilmable so its hard to knock him.

Dune was a mess, a disaster of a film. It had the weirdest atmosphere, but that was all it had. It makes one uneasy to watch it, drawing us into a world we really don't want to have anything to do with. Characters who were merely twisted in the book became true monsters living in what can only be described as a sweaty hell. (Reminds me of my time working in a zinc mill actually.)

The plot progresses through internal whispers or explosive action. It's a partially realised surreal world, with bizarre creatures portrayed with varying levels of fidelity. (Just read the imdb goofs for some hilarious goofs. It sometimes seems more Ed Wood than Peter Lynch.) This film so wanted to break barriers and to rouse something inside people but in the end it just feels so unbelievably clumsy that you can't take it seriously at all. The characters of Jessica and Paul, so powerful and believable in the book become unbelievable caricatures.

Ultimately this music, the soundtrack itself, leaves me with an image of what its composers envisaged. Their own picture of Dune, the almost but not quite classic theme pulling to my mind the rolling sand-dunes and the dry oblivion of Arrakis.

This picture never happened, the music is a great element of something terrible. And there is immense tragedy in that, I think.

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