WARNING: Spoilers for Dune
Director Denis Villeneuve talks about one of his favorite scenes from Dune and how it encapsulates the meaning behind Frank Herbert’s novel. After helming critically acclaimed films such as Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve—who can recall first reading the novel at fourteen years old— has proven the perfect person to try his hand at Dune four decades after David Lynch’s adaptation of Herbert’s 1965 classic. Villeneuve’s Dune debuted in theaters and on HBO Max this past week, garnering a global sum of over $223 million.
Dune‘s ensemble cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem, to name just a few. The film covers the first half of Herbert’s novel, following Paul Atreides (Chalamet), the son of nobleman Duke Leto (Isaac), and Lady Jessica (Ferguson), who is an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit. Before the events of Dune, the latter sisterhood instructs Lady Jessica to bear a daughter whose son would become the “Kwisatz Haderach,” their chosen one/messiah. However, out of love for Leto, she instead bore a son, Paul. Following the fall of House Atreides when House Harkonnen attacks Arrakis, Paul and his mother are captured, escape, and then spend the night in a tent where the former experiences visions of an interstellar holy war fought in his name.
In an interview with THR, Villeneuve discussed his vision for Dune and its sequel(s). When asked about one of the film’s most important scenes, between Jessica and Paul as he’s horrified by visions of a coming war, the director talked about how the moment subverts expectations usually associated with the “chosen one”/hero’s journey narrative. Read what Villeneuve had to say below:
“Frank Herbert wrote Dune as a warning towards those messianic figures, those chosen ones, those savior figures,” said Villeneuve. “It’s about how dangerous those kinds of figures can be. It’s a criticism of the messianic figure. That’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie, and it solely relies on Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson’s shoulders and their talent. These two actors were trapped in that very tiny space with an implosion and then an explosion. So a lot of things are happening in that scene. The main character is becoming more and more obsessed and haunted by those visions, and then he finally confronts his mother. But at the same time, he’s also grieving his father. So a lot of things are happening. It’s a kind of cinematic rebirth for the character, and Timothée gave a performance there that still moves me every time I watch the movie.”
Like the rest of Villeneuve’s films, Dune has been praised for its performances and visuals. Legendary and Warner Bros. have already green-lit Dune: Part Two, which has a scheduled release date of October 20, 2023. It will adapt the second half of Herbert’s novel, focusing on Paul and Lady Jessica’s time with the Fremen. Via his visions, the first film teases Paul’s pending mantle of Kwisatz Haderach as he leads the Fremen against House Harkonnen and the Emperor.
Most of Dune’s cast will return for Dune: Part Two alongside new characters including Emperor Shaddam IV and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, younger nephew of Baron Harkonnen. Its script has reportedly already been written, and Villeneuve says he’d like to begin filming as early as next Fall. The director hopes to make three Dune movies in total, adapting Herbert’s Dune Messiah after the second film. Overall, Herbert wrote six Dune novels: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. All of those novels follow the Atreides dynasty and, similar to Star Wars’ dichotomy between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, warn against fanaticism while deconstructing the notion of what it means to be a hero.