Jodorowsky’s Dune was the greatest movie never made. That’s right, it exists only in the mind. Yet it still resonates throughout our culture and cinema. So if it was so influential why was Jodorowksys Dune never made?
Essentially the project just broke apart into a million pieces because of budgeting, time, and scope. Ultimately, though, the legend lived on and through Art Magic it became far more powerful than we could have ever imagined.
Like most people, I was introduced to Alejandros Jodorowskys Dune through the documentary umm: Jodorowskys Dune. In it we see a vision for a film. A film that could change the consciousness of humanity altogether.
Naturally it was a film that was loosely based on the novel by Frank Herbert. Jodorowsky, however, changed the story in order to fit with spiritualism & universal archetypes. Of course he did this in order to make it more spiritual and induce enlightenment. His goal was to radically change the planet and to create a cosmic consciousness of Dune and make it a messiah.
Dune: Sci-fi to Mind Altering Film
What is the goal of life?
The goal of life is to create the soul of God.
The human soul, like a painting, is a literature. Art & philosophy speak the language of the heart. In this way Movies are more than just something to watch. They are transcendental.
Jodorowsky said that he wanted to make a movie that would be like taking LSD. That is, it would cause hallucinations without tripping and also fabricate the effects of psychedelic’s that would change public reality for ever.
Needless to say, this ambition was tremendous. He intended to create a prophet that would mold the mind of the entire world. Dune was the coming of a God, a cinema deity. In this way film was an art magic that was sacred, prosaic. Something so free that it would open up avenues of consciousness and perspectives. Indeed Alejandro formally treated this undertaking as a vehicle of his own enlightenment.
It was a great madness to create.
Alejandro Jodorowsky: Filmmaker, Shaman, Magician
At the beginning of his career, he was driving people crazy. His first film drove people to madness. There was a full-scale riot over his film “Fando y Lis”
In the 1970’s his second cult masterpiece hit the pulp cinema screen. The film was called El Topo, It was a psychedelic trip where cinema met surrealism.
Jodorowskys style was known for it’s purely psychedelic attraction. His films were enigmatic, full of allegorical enigma and religious symbolism. They didn’t play like your average popcorn flick. Instead, they were raw, paralyzingly cerebral masterpieces of wonder.
After Jodorowsky directed the highly psychedelic and groundbreaking midnight movies, he wanted to break out and do something that could be more “mainstream.”
Alejandro Jodorowskys Dune would be a new kind of Mainstream Maddness
Amazingly, With no prior knowledge of the Dune story, he decided to do Frank Herberts Dune. For no reason other than, it was just something he had “heard was good.” At the time the book was very popular.
Dune, is set on the desert planet Arracus. It’s there that a rare psychoactive drug known as Melange is found. It’s significant because it expands human consciousness.
Paul , the main character, gets cast out of his house and leads a revolution from the villains (the Harconin family) and returns the psychoactive drug to the Fremen (the people). However, in Jodorowskys version, instead of Arracus being the planet to supply spice for consciousness it was the planet itself that became conscious and went to illuminate the entirety of planets.
Some would say that Dune was Jodorowsky following the inevitable path of his career. By 1974 he was ready to destroy the box office. With something new. But it was too new.
Making Cinema a Spiritual Experience
According to Jodorowsky the story of Dune didn’t make a lick of difference in his creative process. His particular practice of cinema didn’t require a given story. As a tarot card reader and magician Jodorowsky could excavate meaning from even the most mundane of stories.
Indeed, by injecting his own spirit into the film he could make anything a vehicle for the divine to enter the soul. Needless to he channeled the heart of the universe so he could extrapolate spirit from anything.
Art as a vehicle for God to enter the soul
For art there is a translation going on. For Jodorowsky it came between bringing the literary world of books into the optical world. Artists who create spiritual art, like Dali, Jodorowsky, they have an innate sense of their “power of interpretation.” One of the quintessential African American Artist/Shamans, Jean Michel Basquiat had a process where he would filter reality through his own mind.
The artist acts as a shaman, a magician. Therein lies a power to process reality and order it. Jodorowksy was so confident in his procedure and his interpreting ability, that he claims he could have essentially taken anything and converted it into one of his psychedelic masterworks.
This is the point of this kind of Art. Art as a practice of Magic deals with prying into the deep seated psychic objects of the conscious mind. Yes Jodorowsky had, in fact, never read the book “Dune” prior to his decision to start making it. Nevertheless he had a deep understanding of its innate enigma. The goal of a true artist is to go beyond what has ever been done before. Dune was a movie that encapsulated that dream so he was perfect for this film.
Psychomagic: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Cult Branding
I believe in Art Magic, it’s the one way that the creatives can truly imprint their effect on society. Alejandro Jodorowsky uses a similar process of activating the spiritual unconscious through something he calls “psychomagic.”
“Society gets sick, just like the human body. When the body of the individual gets sick you go to the healthcare practitioner and he/she can heal it. Puts it at ease.
What do you do when the entire society at large is suffering and sick? You call the shaman, you call the artist. “
Cultures can become sick with maladies and disease. In 2020 during the election cycle the American people fell into a trap of massive proportions. The entire culture was highly divided among party lines. Families were at each other’s throats over what political candidate they should vote for. Many of these people had been infected by the constant addictions to social media, fake news, and rampant tribalism. Jodorowsky saw cinema as means to fix these hyperactive maladies through psychomagic.
Psychomagic is a potent mix of art and psychoanalysis. Through leading clients in varying steps he induces in them a liminal space for transformation. This is because they are participating entirely in an art piece. The art piece takes on a transitionary space that leads the person through a series of tests that eventually incorporate a learning experience. In it a person subconscioussly takes in many of these hyper suggestive symbolic ideas.
5 Steps to Psychomagic in Filmmaking & Art
1.Go beyond the edge
The key to pushing things in the way Jodorowksy did with Dune, is to think in truly grandiose fashion! The great surrealist artist, Salvador Dali, once said: “When you think, think big!”
- When the average film in the 70’s was something around 1.5 to 2 hours. Jodorowsky, wanted to create a film that was 20 hours long.
- While most films were appealing to the popcorn going crowd, Jodorowksy wanted to, as he puts it:
“I wanted to make something sacred, I wanted to create…a God.”
- While most producers saw cinema as just a procedural cash grab, he saw it as a mass delivery system. He saw it as a way for us to change human consciousness. Jodorowksy treated the entire process in this way.
- Jodorowsky wanted a full cast of top actors, he wanted to shoot for the best of the best.
“This system makes of us slaves, without dignity, without depth, with a devil in our pocket. (Pulls out money) Paper that has nothing in side. Movies have heard and have mind. They have power and ambition. I wanted to do something like that. Why not?”
2. Dedicate your work to the Gods
In the film “Jodorowskys Dune,” the Director Alejandro Jodorowsky clearly came out and said that his intentions for dune were “to make something sacred.” In his approach to cinema he treated it like a shaman treats his magical spells. With the intent to be able to induce in his subjects a highly potent combination of suggestive art and spectacle. Yet this means that the artist needed to completely transcend the money making scheme that is essentially all about what Hollywood is and turn the Theater into a temple.
Imagine going to theaters, not with this popcorn adventure. Instead what you got was e a psychedelic experience. You go and have your mind altering transcendental trip. Cinema can be a vehicle for this because artists understand spirituality in a way that non creatives lack. Just like David Choes “life as art”. Art is a vehicle for transcendence.
Art can do this because art has no restraints. You don’t need to ask permission to do art, art must be free!
“What is to give light, must endure burning.”
A sacred artifact of Cinema: The infamous Dune Book
3. Assemble an Army of Spiritual Warriors
Jodorowsky had a sort of enigma about him. He searched for the “light of genius” in every person. Of course, he does it with enormous respect. When he puts a team together, every day he feeds them to be free, to bring out the best of them that they could do.
He saw his crew as what he called “spiritual warriors.” As a sort of, cult leader, Jodorowsky was the chief of this team of artists. When artists come together a sort of alchemical magic begins to take place. We see the spirit of creation begin to take hold and genius gets in the air.
“Everything became magic while we were doing this picture”
Jodorowsky first went to Douglas Trumbull (the guy who did 2001.) Don’t get me wrong, he was a great technician, but ultimately he was just too technical. Jodorowsky had a vision, but Douglas Trumball wanted Carte Blanche to do whatever he wanted to do. To Jodorowsky, the worst part about him was that he wasn’t a spiritual man. He wanted da spiritual warrior. So eventually he left Douglas Trumball the best special effects artist of that time.
Instead, he went to Dan Obannon. In a night fueled with neurotic artistic manifestation, he fed him Marijuana and induced a hallucinogenic effect and mental effect. He then gave him the command: “Now sell everything you own and come to Paris, prepare to have your life changed.”
Chris Foss became one of the design artists to work on the film. Was resulted was a highly colorful, magnificent view of an expanded universe. Something that was bright and visually delightful.
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The All-Star Cast
Jodorowsky put together his all star cast.
David Caradine: to play Paul
Pink Floyd & Magma: to do the experimental soundtrack.
Salvador Dali: To play the mad Emperor
HRR Giger: Before Giger had ever even started on the Alien series, he was doing art for He sought into the deepest darkest parts of the soul. Evil art. But necessary.
Mic Jagger: to play a Harconnen
Orson Wells: as Baron Harconnen.
The Greatest Film Never Made
Truly, in the history of the Art Magic of cinema, few have come so close to changing society than Alejandro Jodorowskys was with Dune.
Come to think of it though, there were only a few others who have come as close to making a transcendental film. The two who come to mind, for me, were George Lucas and Gene Rodenberry (with Star Trek.) The question is, if a movie of this nature of Dune had been made, though, would it have altered the structure of filmmaking for all years to come?
If Alejandro Jodorowsky had beaten George Lucas to the punch we’d be living in a much different world about now. Mainly due to the fact that instead of Jodorowsky’s mind-altering film making we got Lucas’ sensationalist blockbuster.
I’m not ragging on Star Wars by any stretch of the blogger’s imagination. But no doubt about it, Jodorowskys Dune wasn’t haunted by as much sinister greed as Star Wars. Star Wars became was a cash grab as over the years Lucas treated Star Wars as a bank account and slowly degraded the integrity of his legend.
Seeing that Star Wars was the great space opera blockbuster of our time Dune was also built up to be the greatest achievement in science fiction. Ultimately, all of the elements of Dune laid the groundwork to influence society. Giger went on to develop Alien and the sacred book of Jodorowskys Dune has its finger print from Terminator to The Matrix.
All in all art magic and the psychedelic cinema were a potent combination that was far too advanced for the weak-minded American masses. Jodorowsky is an art magician. He is a shaman, a messiah, a God. The film was touted to be of such a magnitude that it pushed the cinematic envelope too hard. Hollywood wants something that they can relate to. It’s not a place for art. Dune was too complex, ambiguous, and had spiritual and metaphysical ideas. Thus Hollywood ran scared.
in America because they were scared of him.I believe that people didn’t do this film
They were afraid of his imagination, they were afraid of his mind
and they were afraid of what it was going to do to them.”
– Nicolas Winding Refn