Why David Lynch’s Dune is the best Dune (a purely personal opinion)

Beth Barrett | SIFF Artistic Director | Monday, June 5, 2023


No disrespect to Denis Villeneuve (whose Dune adaptation is a modern masterpiece in the making), but David Lynch made the best Dune ever. I know, it is schmaltzy. I know, it is long and very, very confusing. I know, Sting. 

What the Lynch Dune has, though, is an incredibly complex visual reaction to Frank Herbert’s incredibly complex novel. With "Dune," Herbert created a world populated by people all on their own internal adventures, full of texture and symbolism. Lynch was able to translate, sometimes maybe a little TOO verbatim sometimes not verbatim enough, the worlds that Herbert creatednot just the desert planet of Arrakis, but also the Imperial planet of Kaitain, including the mysterious mutant Guild Navigators; the industrial hellscape (and looking like it stepped out of a S&M club) home of House Harkonnen, Giedi Prime; and the House Atreides water planet of Caladan, from which emerges Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides, the hero-to-be of the Spice. 

Confused? It doesn’t get better. Lynch is never able to visually incorporate all of the information a viewer would need to make sense of what they are seeing, even if they have read the book. But therein lies the joy for me–his film throws together so many attempts to tell the story, while achieving few of them, since the narrative structure is messy and the lead antagonist is communicating psychically for much of the second half of the film. These multiple micro-narratives and visual attempts come together in an immersive, disorienting, dreamlike tale of essentially a young man, not quite ready for what is being asked of him, who has great power within himself if he can only tap into it. A coming-of-age story played through the curiously unique vision of David Lynch. 

So revel in Sting in a winged Speedo, Sir Patrick Stewart heading into battle with the House Atreides pug in his arms, and a young Kyle MacLachlan (in his debut film role) with his glowing blue eyeslet it all wash over you like the sands of a dune. The beauty of Lynch’s Dune is not in the story, is certainly not in the narrative structureit is in the worlds he created, unknowable and alien to us as they may be, they are places of dreams and nightmares.

David Lynch's Dune will be shown at the Egyptian on June 21 and July 1 & 6 as part of SIFF's series, Dreams & Nightmares: The Films of David Lynch

  • Date: June 5, 2023
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