Film School: Dune (2021)

Dune (2021) Dune (2021)

Breakdowns of form and function in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi fantasy epic.

From its dreamy pace to its utterly earnest and largely humourless pretense, there’s so much about Denis Villeneuve‘s adaptation of Frank Herbert‘s Dune which could fail, or at least collapse under its own import. The film focuses on its own exquisite craft: tactile world(s), Jacqueline West‘s and Robert Morgan‘s beautiful costumes, Patrice Vermette‘s stunning production design, compelling performances, and sound design which bleeds into and out of Hans Zimmer‘s ear-belting score. Whether or not it lives up to its source material, it’s an incredible achievement comprising fascinating production and post-production techniques.


This scene breakdown distills the essence of the way much of the 2.5 hour film works – not with a focus on VFX, but through carefully choreographed dance between performance, camera, editing, and sound (via Vanity Fair):


Using stills from the film as jumping-off points, DP Lawrence Sher picks Dune cinematographer Greig Fraser‘s brain for 70 minutes (via ShotDeck):


Thomas Flight examines the techniques used by editor Joe Walker ACE in the world-building within Dune:

In his chat with the Art of the Cut podcast, Joe Walker elaborates on his approach as an editor to not cut, or as he puts it to “Get out of the way” (from 40:23): “Everyone’s acting their hearts out, and there’s moments i could have used from everybody. And there would have been good story points to make if i’d had a shot of Paul recognizing Stilgar… There’s so many reasons to interrupt that cut. But i’m glad we ended up just holding that shot, because there’s tension to it – massive tension… tempting as [those reaction shots] are [to use]”:


Thomas Flight, again, explores the lighting, practical effects, sand-coloured green screens, and, perhaps most compellingly, the restraint with which Dune‘s “grounded” VFX are used:


Thomas Flight, once more, breaks down the thoughtful and often unexpected ways in which Hanz Zimmer‘s score is used in the film’s storytelling:



Marianne Faithfull in 'Dune' (2021)

Further Viewing

The sound design of Dune and other films makes dynamic and effective use of layering techniques:

Before Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation, before David Lynch‘s 1984 adaptation, was the adaptation that never was – from Alejandro Jodorowski. The story of Jodorowski’s Dune (2013) is better than Jodorowski’s Dune:

A roundup of interviews and behind-the-scenes of Dune: Part Two (2024):

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