85 Comments
Jan 29Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Thanks for this lovely long post, I really enjoyed the conversation about the book. I have yet finished the book two and tried to not read the post till I finished but here I am because in all likelihood, I won't be able to finish book three before Feb 15.

I feel this is Arabian Nights in space. the draw for me was the worldbuilding and unlike most books I've read, aside Tolkien, Dune delves deeper into sands of Arrakis in its ecology and how it shapes the culture, ultimately shaping one's ways of thinking.

It sounds weird and otherworldly but it wasn't too long ago families cared about maintaining the bloodline and this book explores that aspect in a bigger picture as maintaining race. I think it's interesting to read today due to sharp declining of birth rates in some countries creating some panic over the ethnic group would wither away; Japan and Korea such example. Such notion is not really a thing for North Americans since this is a new continent with short history of melting pot of people and culture from the old world. Thus our understanding of nation and ethnicity are not directly tied but in the old world that is the case and Herbert must have taken that as fantastic coming from the new world (American).

So far I like the exploration of the cultures around water and the language Herbert uses to show how Fremen think and do is shaped by their ecosystem; lizard dung must have near zero water because it's used as an insult. I somehow wish we can explore the world more.

um, on a side chuckle on Nathan's second point of saying Ums and sounds, I used to write that in my short stories when I was young because that's what I read in Dune. It's irritating and oddly refreshing for me because there are so many books about how people in the book don't talk like we do but in Dune they somewhat do, and that difference somewhat makes it unique.

I was refreshing to read your comments and insights about the book and looking forward to the third one!

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Thanks, Jethoof! Good points all. It's great to hear you enjoyed our little collaboration and hope you'll continue to do so! On to Book Three. A-h-h-h-h, The Spice Must Flow!

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Thanks for reading this looong article after finishing Book II. You still have 2 weeks before we discuss Book III ;). In any case, I'll get back in more details regarding your notes from Book II. In the meantime, don't forget to get your reader badge!

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Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Jethoof. These are great points. The bloodline aspect is really interesting, and your observation on lizard dung made me smile because I'm sure you're right!!

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I enjoyed reading your impressions about Book II, Jethood, especially because so many of your observations resonate so much: I was fascinated with the details of the Fremen culture and how it was shaped by the environment of Arrakis. Herbert went to great lengths to make the world credible and he cleverly used the constraints of the world to further the plot and make the characters more interesting and multifaceted. Didn’t think about the lizard dung having no water! 🤣

The dialogue of Dune is definitely special. There’s a lot of internal dialogue mixed with dialogue between characters. It’s closer to reality but storytelling isn’t very compact with reality. Especially dialogue is so tricky because it must be stripped of fillers, it has to be clear and coherent while appearing to be natural. Dialogue is so hard to write.

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Jan 17Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Fantastic work folks! These collaborations are filled with great insights and I enjoy that you allow your personalities to come through (at least what I envision your personalities to be). The format reminds of the mid-point break in a graduate lit class, when the discourse continues but without the pedantic structure of a lecture and discussion. Keep it up!

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Thanks, Brian. Glad to hear!

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Thanks so much Brian. Really pleased to hear you're enjoying these.

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Glad that you enjoyed it, Brian! As someone who learned literature and screenwriting in school and attended literary clubs, I also couldn't shake the feeling that our talks sound very lit geeky. 😅 I'm glad that being lit geeky is finally cool... on Substack! 🤣 It wasn't when I went to school. Hehe!

Are you reading with us? Or are you waiting for the film release in march?

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Jan 18Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I am NOT reading along. I would say unfortunately, but in all honesty, I feel the way Vanessa and Alexander (and maybe all four of you) do about Herbert's writing: a slog (and that seems generous...but who am I to judge, there are no movies based on my writing😒). But, but...that being said, the engagement from this collaboration gets me excited for the next film adaptation to see how it (sub)stacks up, especially after you all review it!

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No worries, Brian, Douglas Adams has you covered on the quality of prose in SF writing: "Years ago, I read Asimov's Foundation trilogy. The ideas are captivating, but the writing! I wouldn't employ him to write junk mail!"

And he has a movie based on his writing, albeit not a very good one. :) I did like the Dirk Gently series, though, pity it was cancelled.

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Do you mean the 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency'? I loved it!

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Such a great series, can't believe it was canceled! Douglas Adams is an amazing writer! Amongst others, I also read his non-fiction book 'Last chance to see'. Do you know it?

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Yay! The last 'Letter from Arrakis' will be sent out after we all watch the film. I'm planning on watching once again part I and then going to the cinema for part II. It will be a lot of fun. If you watch the film, I'd love to hear your thoughts in March.

I don't mind Herbert's writing, I quite like it. It's a bit all over the place, but I read worse. 'Neuromancer', anyone? At the end of that book I was like: I didn't understand anything! 'Dune' is still my no. 1 sci-fi book. 😉

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Jan 18·edited Jan 18Author

You can add me to that list. Perhaps I've not been clear enough and I've tried to hold back a bit, haha.

I find (found) it a slog. Love some of the details, hate the prose/style.

PS (sub)stacks up 😅👏👏

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Feb 26Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Sorry for the late read, I tried to finish the third book but I couldn't and I am glad I wasn't the only one who dozed off in the sands of Dune.

The more I read the series the more I compared the book with the T.E Lawrence's story and the movie itself because Dune is a planet ruled by external power who extorted the spice and its people for their own gains. We are looking into this world from the viewpoint of Paul who is thrusted into this world not by his choice but by the grand design of Bene Gesserit, kinda. When I read it decades ago I never had this understanding so it didn't jump out to me but book three, I don't even recall reading it, felt rushed to tie the stories up nicely to give Paul the Emperor's throne.

I really resonated with Claudia's points where the book is mostly about worldbuilding and that's where most of us fell in love with and I think it reaches its pinnacle in early book 2 and falls off afterwards because the novelty wore off or the Herbert didn't really put more emphasis in it towards the end.

I also found it interesting that all the houses are related, like the nobilities and royal bloodlines of Europe and hence nobody's really sin free in this sandy planet.

I liked the discussion of the villain and initially we were positioned to dislike Harkonnen because we are rooting for Paul and he was young when it happened so the view point might be skewed. I might be cynical but Herbert wanted to soften the villain aspect in the later books by introducing various things like both houses are related and they are all in a sense a victim of circumstances and nobody can break the chain.

Would I read the later books? I am unsure but I am certainly interested in revisiting the dune games again because they explore more of the dune itself and how others envisioned the Arrakis. The style of writing is certainly not for me.

Thank you all for doing this awesome collaborative work!

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Hope you didn’t inadvertently snort some spice while falling asleep in the sands of Dune. They say it’s addictive (might make you read the whole saga for more 😜).

There’s an appeal to Dune despite the fact that many seem to be unhappy with the writing. In two days I’ll go watch Dune part II and I’m happy that the story continues to live through films, games etc. and can be enjoyed in more mediums. As well as serve as inspiration for artists like film director Jodorowsky who ended up influencing the whole film industry with his Dune obsession. And, last but not least, us, Dune fans gathered here in this Substack corner, reading and discussing the book since last December. I would say that Frank Herbert managed to achieve a lot with his book.

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Mar 4Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake

Thanks for mentioning the Jodorowsky, I went down that rabbit hole and it a good spice trip, both figuratively and literally on his envision of the world of Dune.

I like to share a bit more of my spice sojourn - I sat beside a gentleman reading the book on a plane and we had some good chat have thank you good folks for that experience as well.

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Mar 4·edited Mar 4Author

PS in case you didn't see this just drop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1S-l7NySFsI

edit: aaand I just watched. Hmm, don't think it looks very good. Doesn't seem to have the correct Dune vibe to the visuals and tech.

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"Hmm, don't think it looks very good." As in, it looks like poop! Shai Hulud poop!

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🤣

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This is amazing! What did the gentleman think about the book?

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Aw, that's awesome to hear.

Glad you went down the Jodorowsky hole! I only recently ventured there myself. It's suuuuch a good documentary.

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Hey Jethoof. No worries on the late read, there's no time pressure on when to reply :) Really appreciate you taking any amount of time to read, let alone to leave a comment. So many thanks.

These are great thoughts, and I think it shows the value and interest in coming back to read a book after X amount of years. There are books that I loved in my youth that I wonder what I would think of now. Some part of my wants to leave it that way though.

I very much agree that Book 2 was the pinnacle.

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It's like going on a hike for the first time and the whole process captivates you.

Imagine reading the Goosebumbps today, I used to read those a lot but I don't think I will re-read them again.

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There is no late, every comment comes precisely when it means to, just like Gandalf, oops, wrong book. 😅 Thanks Jethoof for the elaborate reply. Glad you found the collab interesting. There is a new game coming out I hear? Nathan mentioned it, I forgot. I am not playing any video games these days but with the advent of the Dune movies, it's certainly good timing for a new Dune game.

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Jan 20Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I have completed books one and two! I’ll finish reading through this letter and then come back to add some of my own thoughts.

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Great to hear, David! Looking forward to your notes!

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🥳 This is great, I'm looking forward to reading your notes. I finished Book III this morning and I was surprised that I enjoyed even more than Book II. But no spoiler alerts before the next Letter from Arrakis. 😁

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Awesome, nice work David, and thanks for the read and any thoughts!

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Jan 20Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Thanks for the tip on Sabres of Paradise - bought and added to reading list. As a Muslim reading Dune, of course I caught the Islamic and Arabic references and terms - makes sense it's inspiration is from the struggles of Caucasian.

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Frank mentions his influences in the interview that is linked in the letter as well. Glad you found it interesting, Perry!

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Jan 20·edited Jan 20Author

I'm also interested in reading the Sabres of Paradise. It sounds like a good book. Some of the Islamic and Arabic references are obvious even to non-muslims and they give the story a rich texture and, for an outside of the culture, exotic feeling. A pity that the new film decided to skip most of these references.

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Jan 17Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

This is me, too:

Nathan: Pretty much how I feel after a double shot of espresso.

🤣

Lucky us!

This post has made me intrigued about reading the monster book again, although it's also interesting reading this after only viewing the film. Fremen water ecomonics?? A reluctant messiah? Anyway, I'll probably see the next film first. Thanks for sharing all your insights.

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Did we go too far with the 'water economics' and the 'reluctant messiah'? 😁

I'm looking so much forward to watching the film. I think it's enough, no need to read the book again, unless you want to have it fresh in your head to compare with the film. Which I probably will. It's at least good for filling in the gaps, as the film is so minimalistic that many details kind of fall through he cracks if one doesn't know the book.

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Frank went too far 😆

(But no, not really. These aspects of water-hoarding by the Fremen, and what their plans were, are genuinely the best parts of Dune for me.)

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Jan 17Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I’ll happily watch the film 🙌 🍿

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Thanks for reading and sticking with us, Kate.

Will be great to hear your thoughts after Part 2 of the film, where we'll have a better idea of what was left out/added to the story. Given the slight date change in the film's release, our final letter (there's two to go) should allow for a debrief of the film.

Enjoy that glorious coffee experience ;)

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The Monster Book! 😅 Well, I will watch the film first! Thanks for reading, Kate! Have some spice in that coffee or, as we say in Vienna, have a Melange!

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Jan 15Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Well, I think I agree with most of the comments about Book 2. I found it far superior to book 1 and learning about Arrakis and the Fremen was really engaging. I think I might have mentioned in the previous entry but it read like it was written by an entirely different author to book one! The world building is really well done and explaining how people survive on a desert planet and worship life giving water was, for the most part, handled brilliantly

There were a few moments that gave me pause but that’s probably again just reflecting the time in which the book was written particularly making Paul the leader of the Fremen when he only seems to want to turn them into a terrorist organisation, but again I think this was mentioned in all your comments

Still don’t like Paul much and, as I’ve read into book 3, his arrogance is coming to the fore again which is already annoying

Anyway, this was a good book and hints at what maybe the whole story could have been like

Thanks to you all for doing this. It’s good fun 👍🏼😁

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Thanks, Dan for sticking with us! The Dunes need conquering, regardless of silly Paul. Alia is it actually, you will see! Make sure to grab your well-deserved Reader Badge, if you like!

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Appreciate the thoughts and comment, Dan. I think our views very much align on this. We may have peaked now ... all that's left is Book Three and the terrible (purpose) ending 🤭

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Peaked? Not yet! We still have two letters to go.

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Peaked in terms of Dune's story 😉

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Jan 15Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Well, something has already happened in book 3 that made me stop reading and say out loud, “Wait, what?!” which is never a good sign 😁

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I’m curious! What is it?

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Jan 17Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake

So, it’s at the beginning of Book 3 when we cut back to Paul after dealing with the Baron for the first couple of chapters and there’s been a time jump but it’s written in such a way that I couldn’t tell if it was a dream or reality or if I had just missed a big chunk of the book! It was really confusing and I had to read the chapter twice. Maybe Herbert had a particularly strong batch of mushrooms that day or maybe it was just me not being very bright 😁

But it meant I spent the next few chapters thinking, “well is this real now or still a dream?” so it was very distracting. Probably just me 😆

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Yes, that got me confused as well. All of a sudden he has a baby with Chani, the sister is about two years old etc. I kind of had the impression that we had jumped in time already in the Baron chapter. Perhaps that's why he called them Book One, Two and Three.

Is the story actually told by the Princess Irulan based on the scripts?

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Yes, actually, you're right. I found my earlier note scrawled in the margin. In the first chapter, page 397 in my book, the Baron says "I remember a time in the arena several years ago", speaking to Feyd.

This speaks to the time shift, and that's where I had also written *ok, so acknowledging the large passage of time*.

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Jan 17·edited Jan 17Author

😅

Yes, I remember that exact moment. In fact, I'm going to go find my notes on that as I'm sure I wrote something like OH, SO WE HAVE JUMPED FORWARD IN TIME (A LOT!)

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Jan 17Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Glad to hear it wasn’t just me! 😁

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Haha. You can let us know in the next letter what that moment was!

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Diving into the Fremen culture made Book Two truly interesting and fascinating. I don’t dislike Paul as a character because he seems to be rather a pawn. His story has been written for him even before he was born and I find he has very little agency in what was laid out for him. His feeble attempts to fight against his pre-determined destiny don’t amount to nothing. The people around us shape us and he’s so young.

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Jan 15Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I have not read Book Two, so no badge for me! However, I did watch “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, do I get credit for that? (Sorry, long comment to come...)

It was a superb documentary, presenting a compelling and convincing story of the greatest movie never made. Alejandro Jodorowsky speaks with tremendous passion about the project and his vision of art in general, as do various people involved in the project or its admirers. He definitely intended it to be more spiritual and psychedelic, as Claudia said, like a trip without drugs—certainly an adaptation rather looser than Denis Villeneuve’s. He himself describes his film as a prophet, a film to open the mind and change perceptions, a film important for humanity! It feels hard not to be swept along with his vision.

Funnily enough, Jodorowsky had not yet read the book when he decided to adapt it. This is a common theme throughout the film—most people involved seemed not to have read it at all, but were convinced by his script or simply his enthusiasm and charisma. Perhaps if they had, they would have been less interested! (I wonder whether Villeneuve’s passion drew people in a similar way to his version.)

The whole process of trying to make the film has a mythical quality. He emerges from the castle (where he wrote the script!) into the world and begins to assemble his “spiritual warriors”, those who would aid him in his quest to make the film. There are chance encounters, books and comics serendipitously discovered, people are dazzled and dazed and drawn to Paris, producing brilliantly appealing and weird designs. He travels the world in pursuit of his chosen musicians and actors, chasing Salvador Dalí from New York to Paris to Barcelona (and answering his cryptic question about finding a clock in the sand; this definitely felt like a test for a hero’s quest). How reliable are all of these stories? How much chance was actually involved? It does not really matter, I suppose; the documentary does not care. In the moment, I believed everything, although now I have my doubts—surely the myth has grown in the telling over the years? However, if I were to watch it once more, I am sure I would be convinced all over again.

Everything was ready to begin, but they went to seek the last $5 million of the budget from Hollywood, armed with multiple copies of the most fascinating artefact in the film—the “Dune” storyboard. It has the air of a holy book—a massive tome, produced from the script and drawings made by the spiritual warriors. In these images, the scale and ambition of the project are readily apparent. Certain key scenes are also partially animated on screen, giving some idea of what the effect could have been (further aided by the excellent synthesiser soundtrack).

However, it seems like the personality and imagination that so inspired other artists did rather the opposite to the accountants. The studios wanted an on-budget film running to a nice ninety minutes, but he wanted it to be twelve hours—twenty hours! Actually, this seems to have been a vast exaggeration, instead emphasising that he was uncompromising about his dream remaining unchanged, under his complete creative control, but nobody wanted to take on that risk.

In a way that is perfect for the narrative, his film was killed, but in a manner that mirrors its own intended ending. Yes, they didn’t do it—but the failure was creative and spawned yet more creativity. The group he assembled went on to make “Alien”, without which there might have been no “Blade Runner” and so on and so on. The documentary also shows shots from yet more films, matching those up images from the “Dune” storyboard bible, showing similarities and clear references to its images. Some of these comparisons were perhaps less convincing than others, but even if all these films were not directly inspired by the book, it is easy to agree that it was something truly ahead of its time.

For his own career, he was also able to use some of the art and ideas in comics too. It turns out that he did make a couple of films after the failure of “Dune”, but was then quiet for a very long time, until the documentary reunited him with his erstwhile producer and he has made a few more since, although nothing of this scale.

All in all, the documentary was very entertaining and I would definitely recommended it. Also, despite some sense of melancholy at what has been lost (or at least what might have been), I found it rather inspiring. Paraphrasing slightly, Jodorowsky urges everyone to have the greatest ambition possible. If you fail, it is not important. If you want to make the most fantastic art: try.

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You read the Letter(s). That. suffices and your deliberations on the documentary are worth a badge on its own! I agree with the quintessential lesson. Dream big. Go for it. Ignore the Naysayers. Believe in yourself. I will add the PNG as a file to the post, feel free to grab it from there! And remember... The Spice Must Flow!

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Do I also get a badge? 😉

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📛 here you go! 😅

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What is this? Censorship forever?

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There’s not a lot of choice! 🪪😝

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😅😅😅

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Jan 15Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake

Nice! Thank you.

Yes, a really inspiring message. Jodorowsky produces some great quotes throughout the film. One of my favourites (paraphrasing slightly) is that the goal of life is to create yourself a soul, which can be achieved through art.

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*quits work to pursue a career entirely in art*

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I think that you should get a badge for watching the documentary and for this great comment! I'm absolutely in love with 'Dune' the book and with 'Jodorowsky's Dune'. I think that 'Dune' could easily fill up 12 episodes in a series but in the '70s this was unheard of. Honestly, I understand why he didn't want to compromise his vision. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, how he wanted to tell the story. Why direct someone else's vision? In '81, David Lynch this exactly this and he ended up hating his own work. As did the audience.

Unfortunately, we will never be able to see Jodorowsky's Dune on the big or small screen. I am not sure if his version would work today. But thanks to this documentary, the legend is alive.

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Jan 15Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake

Thanks!

Agreed, it could easily have become a series nowadays. One could imagine one of the huge streaming services swooping in to rescue the project, in such a situation. (Although then they would possibly cancel it halfway through for no discernible reason!) Anyway, the legend is alive, as you say.

By the way, related to the Lynch version, I really liked the story about Jodorowsky not wanting to see it at the cinema, saying that he felt like he would die. Eventually, he was persuaded—and became happier and happier as the film went on, because it was awful! At least he was saved from that fate.

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Dune as a series would certainly be good.

My own homework is to finally watch this documentary!

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Jan 15Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I’m holding you to that, sir.

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Links added. Adding PNG as a file will only display them, so hop over to the end of the post and grab them dunilicious badges! ;)

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Dunilicious badges! Love this 😄

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I know! When the new 'Dune' came out in 2021, Jodorowsky said once again that he will not watch it. I am not sure if he was persuaded to go to the movies in the end. I would be interested to know what he thinks about this new version that seems to be the opposite of what he wanted to do with 'Dune'.

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Jan 15Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I was wondering exactly the same thing! Yes, you make a good point, the two visions do almost seem like opposites; it is fascinating how one book could be taken in such different directions. Clearly there is something in it!

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It goes to show how artists are influenced by the times in which they live!

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