“I was taking absolute freedom”: Denis Villeneuve Sacrificed Authenticity for One of the Most Mysterious Scenes in Dune 2 to Hijack the Book

Denis Villeneuve was unafraid in taking liberties to enhance his adaptation and being new layers to the Dune lore.

Denis Villeneuve and Dune 2
Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Gage

SUMMARY

  • Denis Villeneuve's included a haunting and mysterious scene at the beginning of both Dune films.
  • Both films opens with an introductory quote which is uttered by a Sardaukar priest according to the director.
  • By going beyond what's in the books, Villeneuve elevated the Sardaukars as not just men bearing arms but thoughtful individuals as well.
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Denis Villeneuve successfully adapted the first Dune novel with the two Dune films. The evolution of Paul Atreides into a messianic figure and the rivalry between House Harkonnen and Atreides were chronicled in the two films. Villeneuve managed to bring a lot of authenticity and grandeur to the franchise making it an unforgettable experience.

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A still from 2021's Dune
A still from 2021’s Dune

One of the most interesting aspects in both films was the opening quotes that were delivered by a haunting voice speaking in an unknown language. In a recent interview, the director revealed that those lines were uttered by an anonymous Sardaukar, and he explained why a member of the imperial army was given such meaningful lines at the beginning of each film.

Denis Villeneuve Went Against The Dune Books For One Pivotal Character Moment

The Sardaukar army in Dune is much more than men of battle
The Sardaukar army in Dune is much more than men bearing arms

Adapting a magnum opus like Frank Herbert’s Dune is a herculean task and maverick directors like David Lynch have tried and not fully succeeded in realizing the complex world of the books. Denis Villeneuve knew that a 100% faithful adaptation of the books would never work, so he picked and chose elements from the books that were necessary and aligned them with new elements that he introduced.

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One of them was switching the person who uttered the introductory quotes in the films compared to the books. In the books, Princess Irulan mostly starts each one with her insights and thoughts. However, in Villeneuve’s adaptation, a haunting voice in a mysterious language speaks and the film explains to the audience what it says.

In both Dune 1 and 2, the voice opens the films with the quotes, “Dreams are messages from the deep” and “Power over spice is power over all”. Audiences believed at first that this may be a vision that Paul has where the God-Emperor is speaking to him from the future (via X). However, Villeneuve confirmed that a priest of the Sardaukar army is the speaker of those lines.

In an interview with The New York Times, the director explained that this was done to add layers to the Sardaukar army who were mostly known for their powerful ways and their determination in battle. Villeneuve wanted to show a rich character-driven moment with these quotes, revealing their thoughtful and philosophical side. He deliberately took this creative liberty from the book to provide this depth to this group of people. Villeneuve said,

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“I thought it would be interesting to have a tiny bit of insight that they are not just tremendous warriors, but they have spirituality, philosophical thought. They have substance. Also, their sound was designed by Hans Zimmer. I absolutely loved how it feels like it’s coming from the deep, from the ancient world.

Frank Herbert said beginnings are very delicate times. By starting with a Sardaukar priest, I was indicating to the fans that I was taking absolute freedom with this adaptation, that I was hijacking the book.”

Villeneuve clearly did not want the Sardaukar to be reduced to just an army that the Emperor and Harkonnens use in their fight against the Atreides. The Sardaukars are also insightful and can provide thought-provoking statements like any other character in the film. Thus, Villeneuve elevates the characters in such ways even though he takes narrative liberties.

Anya Taylor-Joy Begged Denis Villeneuve To Not Cut Her Out From Dune: Part Two

Anya Taylor-Joy as Alia Atreides in Dune: Part two
Anya Taylor-Joy as Alia Atreides in Dune: Part Two

Anya Taylor-Joy made a surprise cameo in Dune: Part Two as Paul’s sister Alia Atreides (from the future, he sees her as he ingests the Water of Life). Denis Villeneuve had always had her in mind for the role but it seemed initially that she wouldn’t be able to do it due to her busy schedules for Furiosa.

In an interview with Variety, Taylor-Joy stated that she kept on telling Villeneuve that everything would work out and she would be able to shoot her scene amidst shooting for Furiosa (by making adjustments). Both did not give up and finally, the director was able to cut a deal with the studio to make it happen. The actress said,

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“Before I even sat down, he was like, ‘I want you to be in “Dune,” but you can’t do it!’” Taylor-Joy recalls. “I was like, ‘Please?’ I skipped all the stages of grief and went straight to begging I was like, ‘I can do this. I can be in Australia and Abu Dhabi at the same time.’ He wanted me to be part of the universe. We kept in touch. I just had this feeling that it wasn’t over.”

Villeneuve has started writing the third Dune film which is expected to finish off his Dune narrative. Taylor Joy is currently gearing up for the release of Furiosa, hitting theatres on May 24, 2024. Fans can watch watch the first Dune on Max and rent Dune: Part Two on Prime Video.

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Written by Rahul Thokchom

Articles Published: 951

Rahul Thokchom is a content writer at Fandomwire who is passionate about covering the world of pop culture and entertainment. He has a Masters Degree in English that contributes to the richness and creativity in his works.