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Road to Oscars 2022. The Cinematography of "Dune"

Let's start this year's journey with the colossal Dune.

Dune (aka Dune: Part One) is a 2021 epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve.

The movie follows the events surrounding young Paul Atreides and his noble family which is given the task to govern the deadly and inhospitable desert planet Arrakis, informally called Dune.

Dop Greig Fraser's main goal was to ground the film's fantastical world in realism.

The general feel should have been organic and grounded, that's why Fraser and Villeneuve used a mix of both digital and film shooting.

Despite the tipycal colossal elaborate set pieces, the movie concentrates on a more "personal" and intimate vibe, focusing the attention of the audience on the journey of Paul Atreides (portrayed by Timothée Chalamet) as he lands on planet Arrakis (or Dune) where his fate is waiting for him.

After all, this is exactly what this first part is about: a personal discovery of the self, new worlds, new cultures and.. transformation.

Greig Fraser
Greig Fraser

The sumptuous visuals of the film are accompanied by subdued and monochromatic images to give the feel of beauty in a brutal environment. “The world is beautiful, humans are violent.” said Villeneuve.

Characters are pretty much always kept in the center frame, unless they were depicted in amongst the landscape, this one being mostly secondary to them.

Speaking of landscapes, the film was shot in real locations and this helped Fraser to shoot without having to worry too much about lighting.

There's a big difference, although. The exteriors were harshly lit, after all, the scenes are set in a desert environment, while the interior lighting was soft and dream like.

Being exterior light to harsh, Fraser had to cope with a big issue: panda eyes.

Whenever you shoot in the direct sun, you'll find actors squinting their eyes and you'll notice dark eye sockets due to the high contrast.

Fraser himself said: “We shot in Jordan and Abu Dhabi; it’s not hard for the sun to look super harsh, so trying to find that balance and stay cinematic was still a challenge to ensure the shots weren’t badly lit.”

Another important thing to consider is the Star Wars shadow.

It's largely known that Lucas' epic franchise took inspiration by 1984 Dune directed by David Lynch. At the same time, Greig Fraser was inspired to reprise his job done for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Mandalorian, for example you may notice some similarities in the deserts.

Javier Bardem and Timothée Chalamet are Stilgar and Paul Atreides on Arrakis
Javier Bardem and Timothée Chalamet are Stilgar and Paul Atreides on Arrakis

In order not to repeat himself and his work, he decided not to watch anything unrelated to what he is shooting because he actually draws in references from movies he's watching at that time.

Well, that's it for today. Stay tuned for the next movie: Nightmare Alley.

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