Watch Denis Villeneuve’s first short film “Terre des Hommes”
Over the course of 21st century cinema to date, Denis Villeneuve has gradually established himself as one of the industry’s leading directors. Movies such as, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 sidelined him as the posh author kind that transcends the genre’s usual boundaries, endowing the often-pot field of sci-fi with enough depth and striking design to stir up any old Philistine.
A few months ago, there was no question of whether Villeneuve was about to add to his canon of grandeur or suffer his first disaster with the troubled-sounding production of the notoriously hard to adapt. Dune due to hit theaters very soon. However, it would appear from early reports that he pulled a victory from the twisting flames of Dune too much.
The adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel has proven notoriously difficult to adapt to previous occasions. The plot sees “the son of a noble family charged with the protection of the most precious asset and the most vital element of the galaxy”.
The son in question is played by Timithée Chalamet this time around, as he fights to retain his dominance over a drug called “Spice” which prolongs human life and gives users special abilities. While it might sound a bit of slapstick sci-fi, there is a depth to the novel that elevates it beyond the outlines of the plot and the cinematic work of Denis Villeneuve alongside Greig Fraser, once in. more, promises to be amazing.
Chalamet is joined in a star-studded cast by Oscar Isaac, future Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling and Josh Brolin and Javier Barden reunite for the first time since their successful pairing in There is no country for old people.
If the concern was that the film would suffer from the same complicated plot issues as previous adaptation attempts, then this simple three-and-a-half-minute short from Villeneuve’s debut will do nothing to reassure viewers. The short sees him documenting life in rural Nepal for a “The Europe-Asia Race” project for Radio-Canada in 1990-91, but it is backed up by surrealist philosophical reflections and a hard-to-follow story about a pilot who is fine. and-really AWOL.
Interestingly, although the short is shot in the vein of a documentary, Villeneuve’s obsession with orange-saturated panoramas is already visible. Another notable detail is, of course, the use of Toto’s “Trip to Arrakis” that featured in David Lynch’s ill-fated attempt to adapt Dune. Lynch, who spent three difficult years making the original Dune, said unsurprisingly that he had “no interest” in the latest incarnation.
The director also revealed, “I always say that ‘Dune’ is a huge, gigantic sadness in my life. I didn’t have a final cut on this movie. Full creative control, I didn’t have it. The movie is not the movie I would have made if I had had this final control. It’s a bit sad. Hopefully Villeneuve, who paid homage to Lynch by at least creating the aesthetic of Dune including the haunting tones of Toto in the Hans Zimmer soundtrack, doesn’t end up enduring the same regrets. And for the fans, let’s hope his version of Dune makes a little more sense than this confusing short.