News culture Dune the film (2021): A faithful adaptation to the novel by Frank Herbert and the general public?
Dune… There is no shortage of adaptation attempts, which have sometimes succeeded without ever succeeding in fully convincing them. Denis Villeneuve, a Canadian director specializing in science fiction, tackles the cult work of novelist Frank Herbert in 2021. Is this new Dune faithful to the literary saga? If YES, in what proportions? Who is this film intended for? The editorial staff of JV answers these questions.
Is the film Dune faithful to the novel by Frank Herbert?
Loyalty to the original material always gives rise to heated debates when a film adaptation is released. Even The Lord of the Rings has been there, and Dune is no exception. Is the feature film directed by Denis Villeneuve faithful to Frank Herbert’s novel? This question burns the lips of all fans, and the answer is YES without further ado. Dune (2021) transposes the first half of the book to the screen, the first 533 pages of the full text translated from English by Michel Demuth in his Pocket edition to be precise.
This information alone gives this new adaptation a special status. Dune (1984) by David Lynch and Dino De Laurentiis tried to bring to the screen the complexity of the universe imagined by F. Herbert and of the plot in 2h20 which is quite simply impossible without omitting entire passages, but especially essential for understanding. Denis Villeneuve’s pen knows how to take its time. Part 1 of Dune alone lasts 2h36, and we can expect a similar duration for Part 2, provided that it sees the light of day. The fate of this sequel hangs on the success of the film.
The chronology of events, their linearity as well as the fundamental “historical chronicles” approach in the novel structure the scenario. The script takes the majority of cult scenes – the ordeal of Gom Jabbar, Paul’s premonitory dreams, etc. – and brings them to the screen with a fidelity close to admiration which commands respect. It must be said that Denis Villeneuve has been a fan of Dune since the age of 13. The writers even keep some scenes that we could qualify as secondary to support the highly political and symbolic purpose of the work. We are necessarily thinking of the strategic council of the Atreides clan on Arrakis, and of several exchanges between the different prota / antagonists taking part in the Dune Cycle.
Dune (2021) is not however a word-for-word adaptation of the book published in 1965 in the United States, then 5 years later in France. Denis Villeneuve and his collaborators are making certain concessions here. Several freedoms are thus taken. The events are sometimes merged to become one, starting with the amtal (or duel) between Paul Atréides and the Fremen Jamis. Others are rearranged to gain clarity, or even added to make the whole more visual, and therefore epic. Jihad, a central concept in the Dune saga, is also approached through a vision.
Some entire chapters are certainly missing, but these turn out to be non-essential, and the same goes for several characters. Emperor Padishah Shaddam IV, Princess Irulan and Feyd-Rautha, nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, respond to absent subscribers. There is no doubt that these will be present in Dune Part 2. However, the rewriting work strongly impacts other characters who are nevertheless at the heart of the plot. The role of Mentat Piter de Vries, but especially that of Doctor Wellington Yueh, are reduced to the strict minimum, in order to make a scenario, moreover complex, more digestible without the story suffering too much.
Denis Villeneuve’s film Dune (2021) is to date the most faithful all-round adaptation ever made of Frank Herbert’s novel.
Making-of the movie Dune (2021)
Who is the film Dune intended for?
The loyalty of Dune (2021) is intended primarily for fans of the first hour. This film, whether in terms of tone, visuals, and purpose, is aimed at those who have devoured the almost 900 pages (published by Pocket) of the eponymous novel. Indeed, certain innocuous elements at first glance, yet present on the screen, do not deceive. Paul Atreides mentions early in the film the attraction for the music of Gurney Halleck played by Josh Brolin, and therefore his talents for playing the beacon. Desert mice also make a tricky appearance. These details “which kill” testify to an increased knowledge of the novel, details imperceptible to the ordinary person, but which should challenge the connoisseurs.
Dune, despite its willingness to reach out to the general public, is not the most accessible film there is. The first hour is dense to the last degree in information. The plots as well as the characters multiply, collide to give life to a narrative crossover that is always so captivating., but which may require prior knowledge of the universe imagined by Frank Herbert. We advise you to learn at least about the synopsis and about the different factions – Atreides, Fremen and Harkonnen – under penalty of losing the thread of the story, or even unchecking.
We are in the presence of an author’s blockbuster like the previous film by Denis Villeneuve… Blade Runner 2049 (2017). The novel Dune is by nature contemplative, and it could not be otherwise with its film adaptation. The staging arises very often, takes the time to linger on the desert immensities of the planet Arrakis, and this could disconcert part of the public used to another genre of science fiction … Star Wars in mind. To balance the feature film, the Canadian director injects a little humor through the character of Duncan Idaho played by Jason Momoa, and lingers on the pyrotechnic sequences to entertain the spectators.
Political conspiracy, galactic war, genocide, colonization and exploitation … through its themes, Dune is not for everyone to see, and the visuals underline the violence inherent in the original novel. Certain scenes here are likely to strike the sensitivity of the youngest spectators. The dead are explicitly filmed and displayed in full screen. Almost nothing is spared at the hearing. The PG-13 rating assigned to the film by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) clearly indicates the intended audience. The film is unsurprisingly not recommended for children under 13 in the United States.
Intended primarily for fans, the film Dune (2021) can also be the ideal gateway to discover and then explore the universe of Frank Herbert.