‘David Lynch Constrained on Dune’.

Marshall, Kingsley ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2518-7305 and Loydell, Rupert ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2730-8489 (2024) ‘David Lynch Constrained on Dune’. In: A Critical Companion to David Lynch. A Critical Companion, Directors Series . Lexington Books, Lanham, US. ISBN 978166691 (Submitted)

[thumbnail of Ch. 08 Marshall and Loydell FINAL.pdf]
Ch. 08 Marshall and Loydell FINAL.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (366kB) | Preview

Abstract / Summary

David Lynch’s third feature film Dune, a filmic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sprawling set of science fiction novels, found itself subject to a full gamut of reviews found at the time of its release in 1984 ranging from “raves to scathing condemnation” (Kaleta 1993: 69). Though Newsweek’s David Ansen described the film as towering over exiting science fiction movies, “a dark, spellbinding dream […] richer and stranger than most anything that commercial cinema has to offer” (1984), the influential Roger Ebert had decided after just nine minutes of the film’s running time that the “movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the more confusing screenplays of all time” (1984). In academia Vivian Sobchak described the film as a “schizophrenic text” which “plunges fatally into the absolute space of postmodern and breaks down into a heap of fragments (1987: 278-9). As time passed, these dismissive voices found more traction than Dune’s celebrants and the film has subsequently found itself entrenched in a reading of epic failure.

Lynch concretised this vision of his film with his own commentary, frustrated by changes to his vision of the film and a multitude of versions in a film plagued by issues around the age classification, “studio bankruptcy [and] convoluted rights” (Kaleta 1993). He later described himself as having died two times on the film stating that he had; “sold out on that early on, because I didn’t have final cut, and it was a commercial failure” (Sharf 2018). He has referred to the film as a critical moment in determining career, conceding that – in large part – this was the last film he made for “the producers, not for myself” (Corliss 1990: 88). As Matt Armitage notes: “Lynch seems to consider Dune his biggest failure, and rarely talked about it afterwards” (2018). Despite the director’s own dismissal of the film, and his expression of having “zero interest” in watching the Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s interpretation of Herbert’s novel released in 2021 (Raup 2020), Lynch’s film is indicative of many of the themes that have come to determine Lynchian filmmaking in the forty years since the film’s release. With Villeneuve returning to Herbert’s source material throwing light back onto Lynch’s version, the film is due reconsideration.

This chapter explores how Dune presents an exemplar of the evolving Lynchian universe, but also how this universe can collapse in on itself. The film foreshadows many themes that recurred throughout Lynch’s later work in its focus on the impact of industrialisation and exploitation, of familial conflict, uncertainty, identity and– perhaps most significantly – the search for the mystical unknown, where supernatural shifts between dimensions of time and space fuel a fanaticism that errs toward self-destruction. We argue that this was not entirely invoked by the actions of a studio, executive or a production company, as Lynch has suggested in later interviews, though these no doubt remain important factors. Instead it is some of Lynch’s creative choices, compounded by the constraints of his having retained the integrity of the sprawling source material of Frank Herbert’s novels, and the film’s drive to explain the science of the fiction through exposition and voiceover, where ambiguity and obfuscation better served the director’s form in later work.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: "All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint."
Uncontrolled Keywords: film, criticism, lynch, dune, twin, peaks, eraserhead, herbert, villeneuve, elephant, man, critical, companion, director, ronnie, rocket, wild, heart, villeneuve
ISBN: 978166691
Subjects: Film & TV > TV > Foreign TV
Film & TV > Film > Hollywood Film
Music > Sound Art
Music > Sound Design
Courses by Department: The School of Film & Television > Film
The School of Film & Television > Television
The School of Writing & Journalism > English & Writing
Depositing User: Kingsley Marshall
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2023 14:02
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2024 11:18
URI: https://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/4968


View Item View Item (login required)