A Sleeper Awakens: Dune and Beyond


The films of David Lynch have always been controversial, yet incredible in their depth and ultimate appeal. My favourite (indeed one of my most watched ever films), is Dune, based on the Frank Herbert novel. Though this became a series of books, it is arguably the first novel that is the masterpiece and I think David Lynch really did it justice in his 1984 movie.

Set in a futuristic universe ruled by an intergalactic emperor (very different from Star Wars though), warring houses are held in tension by the Spacing Guild who control the most precious substance in the Universe – the Spice Melange. And that Spice can only be found on one particular desert planet called Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune.

Spice allows the navigators of the Spacing Guild to ‘fold space’ and therefore alter time, so that millions of light years can be traversed in seconds. Other players in the power game include the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood who have been training initiates and altering bloodlines for centuries, in keeping with the prophecy that an enlightened being, the Kwisatz Haderach, would be born at some strategic point in time and would save the universe from destruction.

The young Duke-ling Paul Atreides finds himself caught up in the struggle and increasingly imbued with prescient dreams, visions and powers with which to defend himself and the indigenous Fremen people against the horrific Baron Harkonnen and his army. Dune is therefore a hero myth, a fairy tale, with all sorts of mystical and redemptive connotations.


With such mysterious concepts and intriguing characters, Dune strikes me as very Jungian and archetypal in a number of other ways too. Paul’s mother, the Lady Jessica, bore a son to Duke Leto Atreides and by doing so, disobeyed her Bene Gesserit instruction to produce only female children. Paul will later go on to have a set of girl – boy twins with his Fremen partner who play out significant roles in future sequels (the extended story became available in the made for tv series later on). This play on gender and sexuality and the power of the union of opposites is a strong Jungian theme signifying growth and maturation, transformation even. Dune is not for the fainthearted but there are other Dune obsessives out there 🙂   http://www.mindspring.com/~dunestuff/

In Paul’s coming of age journey we see also the human journey, perhaps even the whole story of life and the Universe itself played out with all the conflicts, tensions and resolutions that make any story memorable.

There are shapeshifters, tricksters, shadow figures and redemptors all through the book and film and though much was necessarily left out, Lynch’s film, for me, caught the spirit, the ethos or mystical sense of Herbert’s novel perfectly, surpassed it even in the construction of a strange yet vaguely familiar world – just like a dream.

One of my favourite scenes is early on, when Duke Leto tells Paul they must leave their home planet Caladan and travel to Arrakis to take over the mining of Spice from the corrupt Harkonnen regime. It may be a trap, as the Emperor who ordered the transition cannot be trusted, but it is an adventure into the unknown that must be taken. The Duke advises his son that  “Without change something sleeps inside us….the sleeper must awaken….”

How Jungian is that?! Love it 🙂


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