Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 30

Digging the Movie Dune (Part 1)

Dune releases in theaters this week. What echoes of our current socio-cultural situation does it contain?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

It has taken quite a long time, but a new version of a movie based on the ongoing best-selling 1965 novel Dune by Frank Herbert is releasing this week. The novel came out right in the midst of the counterculture conflicts of the 60s.

This movie was delayed over a year because of the pandemic. Tonight is the official public opening. My wife and I saw it Thursday night on the wide screen as a preview, but I will not spoil anything. I will also self-disclose that the main character, a young man on a Campbellian heroic journey, reminds me of my 18-year-old grandson in many ways, so I have to be careful of countertransference reactions to the movie.

The novel itself had many sequels, including by Frank Herbert’s son, so in some ways the story was never finished—unless it becomes more of our story.

What gives the novel such staying interest? Perhaps it is its prophetic powers that provoke sprawling reflections on our times. Simply put for now, these social psychiatric themes include the use of psychedelics, messianic religion, colonialism and racism, climate and ecology, digging under sand dunes, political infighting, the centrality of the Oedipal conflict, and the power of women.

For better or worse, the movie only covers about half of the novel, so it is called Part 1. Unless there is other breaking social psychiatric news, I will try to cover some of these themes for the daily columns next week. As a reference, it seems to have some Star Wars connections in it, including the violence, though not so much of the tongue-in-cheek humor. Whether you have read the novel or not, consider seeing it in the meanwhile, and, as part of a collective review, let us know what you think about it.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.