Christian McCrea is a researcher writing on science fiction, film, videogames, animation, and the popular digital arts. He is a lecturer in the School of Design at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
David Lynch’s Dune (1984) is the film that science fiction—and the director’s most ardent fans—can neither forgive nor forget. Frank Herbert’s original 1965 novel built a meticulous universe of dark majesty and justice, as wild-eyed freedom fighters and relentless authoritarians all struggled for control of the desert planet Arrakis and its mystical, life-extending “spice.” After several attempts to produce a film, Italian movie mogul Dino De Laurentiis and his producer daughter Raffaella would enlist David Lynch, whose Eraserhead (1977) and The Elephant Man (1980) had already marked him out as a visionary director. What emerges out of their strange, long process is a deeply unique vision of the distant future; an eclectic bazaar of wood-turned spaceship interiors, spitting tyrants, and dream montages. Lynch’s film was “steeped in an ancient primordial nastiness that has nothing to do with the sci-fi film as we currently know it,” as Village Voice critic J. Hoberman put it—only with time becoming a cult classic. This book is the first long-form critical study of the film; it delves into the relationship with the novel, the rapidly changing context of early 1980s science fiction, and takes a close look at Lynch’s attempt to breathe sincerity and mysticism into a blockbuster movie format that was shifting radically around him.