Feature

Denis Villeneuve: The Path to Dune — BFI Southbank

Denis Villeneuve: The Path to Dune at BFI Southbank

As anticipation grows for the release of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune, the classic science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, BFI Southbank is celebrating the director’s career with Denis Villeneuve: The Path to Dune, a special season of his films to date.

The season is running now and continues until 5th October, 2021, when it will conclude with a preview screening of Dune (2021), ahead of its 21st October UK release date. Then, on 19th October, the BFI presents Denis Villeneuve in Conversation, billed as “a rare chance to hear first-hand from of one of the world’s finest directors.”

Tickets for the preview screening of Dune will go on sale on 10 September at 11:30 to BFI Champions, at 12:30 to BFI Members and at 16:00 to the general public. Tickets for Denis Villeneuve in Conversation will go on sale soon – further details to be announced. All other screenings in the BFI Southbank season Denis Villeneuve: The Path to Dune are on sale now from the official website.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in "Dune," directed by Denis Villeneuve. Photograph courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures.
Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in “Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneuve. Photograph courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures.

Programme Information

From the BFI Southbank press release …

BFI Southbank treads DENIS VILLENEUVE’S path to his upcoming ultimate hero’s journey DUNE (2021), from his early independents to his epic masterpieces, with a season dedicated to the artist voted the filmmaker of the decade by the Hollywood Critics Association. Denis Villeneuve has firmly established himself as a director capable of creating cinema on the grandest scale, generating cerebral films that perform at the global box office. Directed by one of the few auteurs afforded rare creative freedom by the studios, his forthcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s mythic adventure DUNE is a daring endeavour, given the vast amount of material and the director’s own passionate devotion to seeing his lifelong vision for Herbert’s opus reach the screen. In this BFI Southbank season, which will also be available via selected films on BFI Player, we look at Villeneuve’s career, one that is characterised by bold choices and breath-taking films that often deal with themes of trauma, identity and memory.

Films screening will include his debut AUGUST 32ND ON EARTH (1998), about a young woman who is plunged into an existential crisis following a car accident. Whizzing by with a youthful energy, the film reveals a director at the beginning of his journey, yet it’s distinctive, striking visuals and grand landscapes hint at what’s to come. Villeneuve’s second feature, MAELSTRÖM (2000), is a dark comedy about a young woman unravelling after a hit-and-run accident; bursting with ideas, it is Villeneuve at his most playful and, according to the director, is the ‘brother’ to his later surreal reflection on anxiety, ENEMY (2013). ENEMY was Villeneuve’s first English-language film (shot before PRISONERS but released later) and bears the hallmarks of his distinctive style. A thematic colour palette, atmospheric score, twisting narrative and stunning cinematography combine to mesmerising effect in this dark, pulsating thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as both a meek professor and his doppelgänger. Gyllenhaal also starred alongside Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis and Paul Dano in the critical and commercial hit PRISONERS (2013); Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), who prides himself on never leaving a case unsolved, strives to find two young girls who’ve been abducted, while the father of one of the girls (Jackman) takes the law into his own hands.

Villeneuve explores a devastating and realistic legacy of violence in POLYTECHNIQUE (2009), based on the real life École Polytechnique massacre, in which a disturbed, misogynist shooter targeted female students. Documenting the events primarily through the perspectives of a survivor and a witness, the film examines not only that fatal day, but also the long-term physical and psychological consequences. Having gained international attention with his earlier work, Villeneuve was firmly placed on Hollywood’s radar as a major talent with his work on INCENDIES (2010). Set against the backdrop of civil war in the Middle East, INCENDIES tells the powerful story of twins who search for a father and brother they didn’t know existed, and in doing so learn the shattering truth about their freedom-fighter mother.

Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas star in "Blade Runner 2049," directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas star in “Blade Runner 2049,” directed by Denis Villeneuve.

In SICARIO (2015) Emily Blunt plays a principled FBI agent who is recruited into a specialised squad to bring down a drug cartel. However, she’s kept in the dark about the nature of the operation and her new team’s dubious methods. In his most brutal film, Villeneuve once more explores senseless violence, this time with a feverish intensity. In one of her career-best performances, Amy Adams stars in ARRIVAL (2016) as an expert linguist who’s drafted in to help the US military to communicate with alien lifeforms; from the film’s big questions to the mesmerising visuals, ARRIVAL stays with you long after the credits have rolled. Completing the line-up is BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) starring Ryan Gosling alongside Harrison Ford’s former blade runner Rick Deckard. The stakes couldn’t have been higher for Villeneuve in tackling a sequel to a groundbreaking sci-fi classic, yet he presents an equally tense neo-noir with the beautiful melancholy of the original, all while exploring new ideas of modern dystopia in his own unmistakable style.

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