Below is the script for the YouTube video ‘The Art and Soul of Dune Review’ that I posted. If you want you can just watch the video by following this link, or play it in the window below. I have also added the ‘official’ trailer for the book, which I had not seen before writing this review.
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Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac is without a doubt a brilliant movie. Quinn from Quinn’s Ideas went so far as to state it may be the best sci-fi movie in decades. I still have to decide on that, for me it has to content with Blade Runner 2049, Tenet and Inception. But without a doubt Dune is about as good an adaptation fans of the original novel could have hoped for. It is multi-layered, intriguing and yet also accessible. However, fans do have to accept that the director had to make choices.
A lot of story threats, characters and plot points never made it into the script, the director also had to cut a lot of material after principal photography was finished – by my latest count 7 scenes filmed were eventually omitted. In the words of the director books are always ‘bigger’ than films cutting is a necessary part of adapting a literary work. I have always been intrigued by this process.
Coffee table books
On the day of the US release the official book describing the making of the movie was also released. The Art and Soul of Dune is a coffee table book that describes how the movie came to be, from the initial decision to purchase the rights, attract the director and concept designers to the filming process. This book is written by Tanya Lapointe – she is a filmmaker and former journalist and long-time girlfriend of director Denis Villeneuve. In the past she has worked on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. For those who think the title of this book is somewhat familiar would be right – she also wrote The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049 – a seminal book that with its distinctive orange cover is still considered the best making of / coffee table book on any movie.
The Art and Soul of Dune
I have now read The Art and Soul of Dune and in my opinion, it is an even better book, one that makes watching the Dune movie a better experience. Before I go into detail, I will give a warning to viewers. This is a coffee table book, though at 240 pages it larger than most of its kind it principally contains gorgeous photography of the films production and conceptual artwork. While it contains significant amount of text you can easily read through it in about two hours.
This is by no means a book with an in-depth description of the films production, instead it contains the highlights. I understand that, I have similar books for Blade Runner 2049, Tenet and No Time To Die (see my recent review on this channel). As a die-hard fan of Dune, Denis Villeneuve and Blade Runner I wanted this coffee table book to sweep me of my feet into the world of Dune and make me understand its Art and Soul – it handsomely did that.
So what does The Art and Soul cover. It starts with an introduction as to how the movie came about. There have been numerous prior attempts at adapting Dune, but only two actually produced. This adaptation of Dune, or Dune 2021 as it is sometimes referred is the brain child of producers Mary Parent and Cale Boyter. They had been trying to obtain the rights to the franchise from the Frank Herbert Estate for years before finally succeeding when they took up positions at Legendary Entertainment. Denis came onboard primarily because of an interview in which he stated he had always wanted to direct Dune – it is an interview that I still remember.
After that the pre-production started with Denis hiring talent with which he was already familiar or who were on the shortlist. The book is then divided into the locales in which the story takes place: Caladan, Giedi Prime, Salusa Secondus, Arrakis. The latter being subdivided as that is were most of the story takes place.
Each chapter details what the director wanted to display and the creative process to get there, from storyboards, sketches of technology, characters and environment to set building and filming. Each character of the movie has a separate section detailing what the director wanted to focus and explaining his choice of actors. I was surprised to see many roles only ever had one preferred actor, who in my opinion turned out to be superb. One bit of trivia I did not know as diehard Dune fan is that Charlotte Rampling was cast as Lady Jessica for the failed Jodorowsky’s Dune. While I won’t say Dune was an easy production by any means, the desert filming was supposedly very hard, I get the impression it was made easy because everybody connected wanted to be involved.
Now as a coffee table book The Art and Soul of Dune is filled with beautiful photography. In fact, it is more photo’s then text, but I am OK with that. The beautiful artwork created to establish the cinematography it often printed on both pages perfectly capturing the mood I felt watching the movie. Scenes such as the arrival of the herald of the change, the Gom Jabbar test, the death of Duke Leto are beautifully reproduced. Earlier version of concept art as well stills from shots not included complete the impression. Dune was not just filmed from script.
The creative staff had to create Dune as a working world in which technology such as Heighliner, blades, uniforms and the Fremkit were all in ‘working’ order. As I said there are still images of scenes that were filmed but not included in the final movie. At this moment fans online are tracking seven scenes that were omitted. The Art and Soul of Dune provides a lot of information on one scene – Duncan Idaho’s undercover mission to Dune – which was probably correct to be omitted but I do now understand the actors annoyance that it happened. Though I suspect we will get a longer cut of Dune Part One prior to the release of Dune Part Two.
At 240 pages The Art and Soul of Dune is longer than your typical making of coffee table book. It feels as if author Tanya Lapointe crammed everything she could in this production. I consider this book to be the high-water mark for such books – worthy for any Dune or movie fan to own. The version I own of this book is referred to as the Insight Editions version, it is a hard-cover that comes in a beautiful Sandworm covered black sleeve.
It is just gorgeous to look at and touch, the texture changes inside the book are also noteworthy. However, online I also saw there was a 156-page edition, though I cannot confirm that. With an asking price of just over $30 dollars for this edition I suggest any would be buyer to simply skip any other edition – this is the one you should get. Finally, I will point out that the book is very easy to hold in once lap – it is much smaller than The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049 which requires book shelve management.
So, guys, I hope you enjoyed this review. I think The Art and Soul of Dune is a wonderful memento to the release of the movie and also as a potential gift if you were wondering. Please like this video, that way YouTube will look kindly on my content. If you want to see similar content then please subscribe to my channel – that way you will never miss video.
Also check out my official Dune 2021 webpage, which I am in the process of updating now that the movie has been released.