There are many and various ways to look at Dunes narrative, in both book and film form. It’s difficult to categorize really. Dune could be viewed as a straight up space opera in the vane of Star Wars but I feel like that’s the easy answer. Frank Herbert was developing his ideas for the novel back in the mid to late 1950s, so Star Wars’ concept of a “space opera” had not yet come about. When creating his story Herbert was able to look past the tropes of the time and take inspiration from older sources, such as ancient Greek myths and plays, in fact the novels are littered with reverences to Greek literature, for example the Atreides are said to be decedents of Agamemnon.
Again, I’m no film student, don’t really know how to talk about sound, but in this case I was able to track down an archive on an ancient magazine article written by the sound designer, Alan Splet. In the article Splets discusses his experiences with Dune’s directer, David Lynch. Splet and Lynch new each other already, they worked together on the elephant man and had built up a working relationship. They were actually meeting to discuss ideas for the films sound production, months before the actual filming of Dune had begun. In fact Splets began work on sound production before even the first frame of film was exposed.
Splets goes on to say that around 90% of the sound in Dune was done off set, in post production. With the exception of dialog, almost no sounds that were recorded on set were used in the final product, not even foot steps. Splet remarks that Lnych felt that the sets sounded unrealistic.
Interestingly Splet began his work on the sound so early that he had completed two thirds of it before even saw any footage, apparently he was working purely from the script he was given and conversations with Lynch. He says he was guided by a sense of what Lynch was looking for and his own imagination. For Splet, Dune was a bit of a departure from the norm, he explains that was used to using stock sound effects from a library, whereas in this film, he used almost entirely new effects, he produced himself. Part of his reason for doing this was that he felt that since Dune takes place in a world far removed from our own then the sounds and music that we are used to would be inappropriate in context. So he endeavored to invent suitably bizarre, new sounds.
Here is a link to the full article:
Upon completion, the rough cut of Dune without Post-production effects ran over four hours long, but Lynch’s intended cut of the film (as reflected in the 7th and final draft of the script) was almost three hours long.
However, Universal and the film’s financiers expected a standard, two-hour cut of the film. To reduce the run time, producers Dino De Laurentis, his daughter Raffaella, and director Lynch excised numerous scenes, filmed new scenes that simplified or concentrated plot elements, and added Voice-over narrations, plus a new introduction by Virginia Madsen. Contrary to popular rumors, Lynch made no other version besides the theatrical cut; no three- to six-hour version ever reached the post-production stage. However, several longer versions have been spliced together.Although Universal has approached Lynch for a possible director’s cut of the film, Lynch has declined every offer and prefers not to discuss Dune in interviews.
I’m not really the one to talk about the cinematography of Dune, since I’m no film student, I’ll be honest, I’m in this for the animation course and not much else, but neither the less I’ll give it a try.
One of the things adding to the difficulty of writing about Dunes cinematography is the fact that information on the technical aspects of the film are extremely hard to come by, I’ve been looking for weeks now and I’ve turned up almost nothing. I would like to be able to tell you about the lenses used during filming or the effects implemented in post production, unfortunately, I can only tell you about the techniques that I can determine were used, purely because they are visible in the film itself.
As I believe I’ve mentioned before, Dune made extensive use of models. There are many scenes in which we see an enormous space ship, city or army from a distance and for the most part it works well, especially in conjuncture with the lighting, I’ts usually quite convincing. Aside from that there’s one other cinematographic aspect to talk about and that would be the use of blue screen which is important to mention since it was actually the largest blue screen ever made at the time, measuring 35 feat high and 108 feat wide, it was primarily used to enhance the sense of enormity in the desert scenes (they also haired several thousand workers to spend three months stripping the local landscape, in order to create a sense of desolation) those are the only unusual aspects of Dunes cinematography. There are of course all the usual, standard aspects of cinematography, the various types of shot and so on but unless you want me to sit here and list off each and every scene and what types of shot are used there, I think I’ll give it a miss.