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(Credit: Warner Bros)


A travel guide to the filming locations used in Denis Villeneuve movie 'Dune'

After David Lynch’s failed attempt to capture the majesty of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic, Denis Villeneuve has stepped up to the plate with a large-scale film adaptation of Dune. Slated as one of the most ambitious projects of 2021, Dune recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is already scheduled for a theatrical release date of October 22 alongside its availability on HBO Max.

Starring some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson, Dune is an attempt to recreate Herbert’s complex sociopolitical analysis of mesmerising fantasy worlds. According to the initial critical reception, Villeneuve has failed to gauge the depth of Herbert’s investigations because multiple critics dismissed the film as a spectacle that is “kind of boring”.

“It was by far, the toughest thing I’ve done,” Villeneuve revealed. “There are deep pleasures when there are images that you’re able to achieve that are close to what you had in mind as a teenager; then it’s orgasmic. But the failures are very difficult, because you disappoint the teenager in yourself. As Hans Zimmer [who has scored Dune] pointed out, it’s very dangerous to try to reach one of your oldest dreams.”

While talking about the disruptions in production due to the pandemic, Villeneuve said: “The good news is that it’s going to be released on Earth in theatres and in the United States it’s going to be day-and-date. The enemy right now is the pandemic. It is very difficult for theatre owners and it’s very difficult for everybody, and I did feel with Legendary that it was time to go out. We had postponed the movie for a year due to safety.”

In order to understand the production process of Dune a little bit better, we are taking a look at some of the primary filming locations for Denis Villeneuve’s latest projects. Spread out across different locations from various parts of the world, Villeneuve utilised real landscapes on Earth and transformed them into extraterrestrial environments.

A travel guide to the filming locations used in ‘Dune’:

Stadlandet, Norway

Villeneuve used this peninsular region in Norway for the first part of Dune, which is set on the planet Caladan. Herbert called Caladan an ocean world, a description that is an appropriate fit for the hauntingly beautiful beaches of the hidden treasure that is Stadlandet.

Situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, Stadlandet is surrounded by the majestic fjords of Norway. Stadlandet is a mountain plateau with a high summit called Tarvaldsegga peak. This means that in addition to surfing, travellers can go hiking in the mountains as well.

In order to get to Stadlandet, you can avail use the use of separate bus and ferry routes. At the moment, there are even plans for a major ship tunnel to Stadlandet, but those aren’t expected to be completed until 2023. The isolated beauty of Stadlandet will make you feel as if you really have stepped onto another planet.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

For his 2010 magnum opus Incendies, Villeneuve had filmed in Jordan, and he’s back there for Dune. Many big sci-projects like The Martian and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker were filmed there, but it was really an automatic decision when it came to Dune.

Intended as the backdrop for the arid regions in planet Arrakis (also known as Dune), the well-known Valley of the Moon in Jordan is a picturesque location that seems like it is exactly what Herbert had in mind while imagining the world in his novel.

Although many other famous productions like Lawrence of Arabia have taken place there, Dune might just be the greatest fit for the aesthetic sensibilities of the region. Travellers can get to Wadi Rum by availing any bus headed to Amman, Ma’an, or Petra from the Aqaba bus station and getting off at the famous Wadi Rum turnoff, which has proper signs.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Another area that was used for filming scenes set on planet Arrakis was the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia which is a vast desert region in the Arabian Peninsula’s southern part. The colour of the sand in this particular region contributes to a cinematic landscape that is completely golden in colour.

Tourists can drive into the Empty Quarter from Abu Dhabi, and once they have reached the captivating wastelands, they can visit the world’s largest sand dune called Tel Moreeb, which translates to Terrifying Mountain. It is over 300 meters high and promises to provide a larger than life experience.

The film’s star Timothée Chalamet recalled: “I remember going out of my room at 2am, and it being probably 100 degrees… The shooting temperature was sometimes 120 degrees. They put a cap on it out there, if it gets too hot. I forget what the exact number is, but you can’t keep working.”

Budapest, Hungary

For Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve shot in Hungary and used the Hungarian cityscape as a replacement for the futuristic vision of Los Angeles. The filmmaker travelled to Hungary once again in order to shoot Dune at the Origo Film Studios in Budapest.

Since Budapest is a global attraction and a major international city, getting there will not be a problem at all for most tourists. In addition to that, film productions have recently been considering filming in Hungary due to the new Covid-19 travel exemptions for film crews and a 30% tax rebate.

While in Hungary, tourists can visit the sprawling campus of Origo Studios which is one of the biggest film studios in all of Europe. Equipped with technology and facilities that are supposedly at par with Hollywood standards, Origo Studios provides a rare opportunity to get an inside look at how big productions are made outside the US.