Alejandro Jodorowsky is just this guy, you know? I have actually seen this documentary before but I am drawn back to it because of Jodorowsky. And yes, it is a really crazy story that they are telling in this documentary, but in the end it is not only about Jodorowsky’s failed project Dune, but about the way he approaches film. For him, making a movie is like a sacred task, a spiritual journey. He is so incredibly passionate about making his movies and he has the charisma to get everyone following his dreams.
I first learned about Jodorowsky when I saw his film The Holy Mountain. And boy, I could hardly handle that film. Read the disbelief in my review. That was some species of crazy and brilliant. On the surface, the film seemed crazy, random nonsense, but there was a vision behind it, a spiritual journey, and Jodorowsky truly believed that he could open people’s minds with his film. His French producer was enthralled and told him: just make whatever you want, and I’ll pay for it. Do whatever you want! And Jodorowsky said: I will make Dune!
And no doubt about it: if Dune had been made the way Jodorowsky envisioned it, it would have taken its place as a Classic with the capital C, and perhaps a highly influential film that would have changed the face of the film industry. It might have taken Star Wars’ place. It would have starred Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali, and music by Pink Floyd, and art design by H.R. Giger. The crazy thing is that they were all on board. A famous French cartoonist had drawn the storyboard and production was underway.
Except it was maybe too crazy. Jodorowsky and his French surrealists colleagues didn’t want to be tied to what Hollywood considered reasonable demands, like a film that wouldn’t take 12 hours. Jodorowsky was used to doing everything his way and with The Holy Mountain and El Topo that worked out well. Jodorowsky survived as a director because of eccentric European surrealists who wanted to see more. But with Dune his ambition swelled and swelled until the entire project collapsed under its own enormity.
Of course it was rejected by the American studios. Jodorowksy and his team put in years of work, but never was there a reasonable business plan for the producers. His fellow artists keep saying that “Hollywood wasn’t ready. He was ahead of his time.” but I don’t think that was the problem. The guy must have thought that the mere strength of his vision would compel financiers to pay for what he thought was the most important movie ever made. What were they thinking?
And of course it hurts that it never got made, because of what could have been. But there is a moment where ambition crosses a line where the only people that still believe in the project are fellow artists. That hurt of what-could-have-been and that inevitable rejection by Hollywood went hand in hand.