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Sunday, November 29, 2009

What DUNE Taught Me

We tend to pick up dvds about this time of year. They're usually at the best price all year and there's a bigger variety out too.

One of our recent buys was DUNE, the film treatment for Frank Herbert's book. Being hard core sci-fi types, it was a hard movie to like. When it captured the book's original flavor, it was great, but when it tried to cram the epic within a neat time frame, it failed big-time.

I think Greg and I read this series back in the 70s, and even today we can recite entire passages, so the movie was a visual vehicle for what we already knew. But I would imagine huge chunks of the movie would be nonsensical to someone who had not read the books.

It's a shame. Epics on the whole are very hard to capture on film. It's even worse when it's a Dino de Laurentis production. I never saw a film maker so intent on overworking a movie. I think he's gotten less heavy-handed in later years, but I still cringe when I see his name on the credits. I expect it to be an elephant in toe shoes.

The part I hated the most was that the characters' thoughts were dubbed into the movie. It's intrusive at best, and peppered throughout the entire movie, it becomes mind-numbingly tedious.

But it brings to mind that this is the way the book was written. It was set in an omniscient pov, the standard narrative for a book of that era.

This explains why I was so confused when I first started writing fiction. Few people write omni anymore--let alone do it well. Yet, this is what I grew up with, and what I enjoyed. To write differently seemed almost sacrilegious. But as I expanded my array of reading, I realized that omni was not just "dated", but lacking.

Tight 3rd pov is much more engaging and exciting. It's the tickle of not knowing what every person is thinking that keeps the suspense rising as well as the interest. It was my epiphany as a reader and a writer. And I owe it all to Dune, the book and the movie.


Kaylie said...

Coincidentally, we just rented the Dune movie. I read the book for the first time recently, so I'm a little nervous to see how different the characters are from how I imagined them. Maybe I'll get to watch it this week sometime..

damselfly said...

DUNE is, without a doubt, one of my favourite books. Love it.

Every cinematic adaptation I've seen (I say "every" but I can only think of two -- the movie with Sting in it, and the SciFi channel's adaptation with John Hurt) has never worked for me. I hate and loathe the way the cinematic adaptations give away the twist ending in the first opening voiceover. GAH.

Maria Zannini said...

Kaylie: There are supposed to be three film adaptations, but I've only seen two. The one with Sting was the better of the two imo.

Maria Zannini said...

Damselfly: Be still my beating heart--a fellow Dune fan!

Dune has all the elements that appeal to me in sf. It has epic scope, religion rooted in the ancient past, cool space travel concept, a love story, and a bittersweet ending.

While I tired of Herbert's second trilogy--and I don't think I ever read his third, the first trilogy made me a lifetime fan.

The movies do not do it justice.

damselfly said...

yesyes, all those things, and some awesomely detailed worldbuilding - both the planet Arrakis and its ecology, as well as the universe and it's politics, are so thoroughly thought out. can't get enough of the first book!d