Director Frank Pavich has given a gift to the world. It is more than just a material product (the film itself), but almost ethereal in some way. Jodorowsky’s Dune is the cinematic equivalent of hearing a mythic tale told by campfire during a cool summer night under a black sky illuminated by the white fire of a trillion stars.
The film recounts the conception and false pregnancy of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt at creating a cinematic version of the classic sci-fi novel, Dune, in the mid-1970s. Starting off with an abridged history of Jodorowsky’s cinematic beginnings, he is portrayed as an unofficial king of underground cinema after the cult success of his acid western, El Topo (1970), and esoteric masterpiece, The Holy Mountain (1973).
From here, the film maintains the mythmaking of this failed film through oral history provided by other filmmakers (Nicholas Windign Refn), people who were directly involved with the project (artist H.R. Giger, of Alien fame) and then, of course, Jodorowsky himself.
Though this is portrayed in a conventional form of documentary, Pavich stitches together a mosaic of perspectives which help to create a mental picture within the mind of the audience of what this film could have been.
The most powerful moments within the documentary are when Jodorowsky himself is speaking, not to Pavich but directly to the camera. Usually placed against a glowing white background or enshrouded by his study, Jodorowsky is exhibited as an elated sage. Like the alchemist he plays in The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky is trying to pass on his knowledge, passions and energy to the audience of the documentary. By looking directly at the camera, his eyes bore straight into the mind of the viewer and undoubtedly lay a seed that will hopefully take root in some form or another.
This plantation of the mind is the true nature of Jodorowsky’s Dune. The documentary does an admirable job at not only giving an entertaining lesson on an obscure moment in cinema history but in also conveying the importance of the project, even though it never came into being. Whether it was Pavich’s conscious desire or not, his film will forever be a monument to a fallen titan whose legend shall inspire a whole new wave of artists, poets, and filmmakers within this generation.
By Rory O’Dwyer