The Art of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: An Intricate Masterpiece

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Dune: An Intricate Masterpiece

There are some movies that demand mixed reviews. They beckon people to say that it was slow-paced or that it was complicated and didn’t really have any climax because these reviews are countered with those that call them a work of art. Applauses and cheers that say that this movie is what cinema actually is. The few negative reviews are only to prove that these movies require thought and a love for cinema to truly appreciate them. 

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is that movie. It appealed to the people who appreciate the excruciating power of storytelling and watch cinema for more than mere entertainment. The kind of movie that doesn’t simply rely on the impact of a climax but where the movie creates a world and immerses the audience into it. 

Very few movies are an experience of more than the story. Where the scenes, the music, the props and art, in general, come together to speak to the viewers. Denis is a director who has harnessed this power multiple times. He is a science fiction genius so when the opportunity of adapting Herbert’s Dune was presented to him, it is the viewers who were blessed. 

Creating Arrakis on Earth

Villeneuve has the ability to create a new world, a new society on a simple set in this world. He created the planet of Arrakis on the desert lands of Jordan, U.A.E. and also made a vast set for the housing of the Atreides. The story of Dune and the cinematography is so eloquent that the viewer has no option but to marvel at its beauty. Scenes like Paul (Timothee Chalamet) hiding from a Hunter-Seeker (a creature of attack in the Dune world) is shot with him hiding through an educational holographic video of the flora and fauna of Arrakis. Due to the holographic video, light flits around Chalamet’s face and the camera captures the change of colour of his eyes with the movement of the light. Breathtakingly, the lights bring out both fear and determination to be alive in Paul’s eyes. 

It is the interaction of the smaller things that immerses the viewers. Donald Mowat, the head of hair and makeup had mentioned that Dune was one project where he had to think about what will happen in future to create small details like hair positioning. The movie is centric on Paul and his mother. They have a similar neutral and naturalistic look to them. Rebecca Ferguson is a strikingly beautiful woman and throughout the movie, she has a very simplistic look. This is because in this role she was a mother, a noble and a superhuman intellectual. Her striking looks give her the structure to look young and to maintain the nobility as well as intellectual severity she has simple hairstyles and a neutral look throughout. It pushed out the possibility of her looking too girlish and the simplicity of her hair did not age her up too much. Complicated updos tend to be reserved for older characters. The hair brought about a definite contrast between Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Rampling. 

The Elusive Mystery of Dune

Charlotte Rampling played the role of Gaius Helen Mohiam. The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother. The intriguing part of her role was that the audience never saw her face. The veil makes elusive and feared. It gives her privacy. Denis talked about how he was at crossroads about this appearance as the veil was covering the face and the expressions of a great actor. He kept it because of the disparity one would then notice in the scenes, specifically the Gom Jabbar scene. 

The scenes give tones of dominance. It bears Paul out to the audience. His inner thoughts and struggle can be seen by all but also when the fear passes over him, the change in the dynamics between him and Reverend Mother is also noticed. He gains power in the situation and here it is can be interpreted that there is a realisation and also maybe a fear that washes over her. It can never be known for certain because of the veil. It protects her. The beauty of the scene is complete freedom of interpretation. There are many details in the scene like the design of the Gom Jabbar Needle or the intricate design of the veil and yet the openness of meaning involves the audience into the entire experience. 

The Gom Jabbar scene was a reminder that Paul had great things ahead. For Paul that was to join the path of the Fremen. The Fremen were the natives of Arrakis and due to the spice in the air, they had bright blue eyes. They wore stillsuits which were made to protect them from the harsh climate and provide them with water recycled from their suits. These suits are in a dark colour to not only ensure that the actors stand out but also for the characters to have been able to produce more water through the sweat. 

Stilgar, the leader of a group of fremen, was played by Javier Bardem. The making of the character’s look Bardem played a vital role. He and Mowat discussed in length about his outfit. The final result can be seen to have incorporated elements of the Middle East, Noth African Bedouin and Lawrence of Arabia. He has a thick line of Kohl eyeliner that gives him a regal and a tribal essence. Adorning nothing but the absolute necessity, all the scenes of Fremen have elements of baseness and necessity. They are hard creatures who have wanted only to survive. 

The Harkonnen Menace

On a different note, the Baron was a devious and eccentric character. In comparison to Paul’s pale and tamed look, Baron was more menacing and louder. His look was something never seen before and the inspiration came from Apocalypse Now and The Island of Dr Moreau. The character was given a lot of thought and time because his scenes were also shot towards the end. Prosthetics makeup designer, Love Larson and prosthetic artist Eva von Bahr felt the studio having cold feet about the look but in the end, it worked out. Baron looked like a vicious gorilla which was the image Denis had. He also had a feminine power to him. With his long, flowy black robe, he is able to be gentle with his movement. Medley of powers does not require him to dress extravagantly to show that he is influential and powerful. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

While the costume, makeup and hair all come together, it is the presentation of the story and Denis’s vision that made the 2021 adaptation a success. Each outfit and character are a result of thought and history. For this reason, the beauty of Dune is so pure as it stands out, so raw and pure. From the intricate designing of the different veils or the practicality of the stillsuits each costume had a purpose to the enhancement of the story. The wait for its part two couldn’t be greater. 

Author

  • Akriti is a reader and a movie lover who is currently pursuing Law. What started as a way to while away time, getting immersed in land of films has become Akriti's passion. Being a talkative person, she can discuss literature for hours.