Dune really does throw around some pretty complicated terms at us and does little to explain what they mean as far as the film is concerned. Thankfully I am writing this and not actually ‘talking’ about Dune, because if I did, I would hardly be able to pronounce Kwisatz Haderach. No kidding.
I don’t know if Timothee Chalamet’s Paul Atreides is Kwisatz Haderach or not, but he definitely has the best hair in the universe. With enough screen-time to flaunt his hair and less time explaining these difficult terms to someone who has not read the book, one can only speculate.
The book of course, does explain much of what the movie keeps rather vague. So to make life easier, I have put together information from the book that can help clear doubts.
Dune is only based on the first half of Herbert’s 1976 novel of the same name and we are expecting a part 2. So those who have not already read the book will probably find out more about Kwisatz Haderach in the next movie.
But if you’re too impatient, keep reading and hopefully you’ll fin some answers to your questions.
Kwisatz Haderach is a term used by the all women cult of Bene Gesserit to refer to a messiah-like male figure with the same powers as their members. This figure is meant to allow the Bene Gesserict to access the genetic memories of the male Y chromosome.
For your convenience, I have put together all that we know as of now, from the books and the movie about Kwisatz Haderach and what it means for the plot.
What is Kwisatz Haderach?
The film does not explain the term very well. The first time Kwisatz Haderach is mentioned in the film is when the Reverend Mother mentions it to Paul’s mother Jessica. She sounded disappointed as such “powers” (referring to Paul’s powers) were wasted on a male.
In the books, there is a mention of several fictional languages. Kwisatz Haderach is a term in one such fictional language called the Chakobsa, spoken by the Bene Gesserict. Etymologically, it means “shortening of the way”.
The Bene Gesserict is an all-women organization which has special powers. The members were able to gain access to the genetic memories of their ancestors through DNA and chromosomes.
The problem that arose , was that since their group was only women, they were able to access only X chromosomes. They could not tap the Y chromosomes of their male ancestors, since those chromosomes.
The Kwisatz Haderach is supposed to be a saviour figure or the savior for the Bene Gesserict. He is ideally supposed to be a male with powers of the Bene Gesserict who can allow them to access the genetic memory of the Y chromosome.
According to the description of two different prophecies, Paul Atreides could be this Chosen One who is the Kwisatz Haderach for the Bene Gesserict as well as the Lisan al Gaib, another legendary figure for the Fremen on Arrakis.
Why is the Kwisatz Haderach important?
So let’s talk about what the big deal is all about. At first glance, Dune is much like most other fantasy sci-fi movies or books you and I are already familiar with, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, only a bit more complicated.
Basically, there is this one messiah who is supposed to turn up and save the day. The good guys want him, the bad guys want to stop him. The Kwisatz Haderach is supposed to be this savior figure and the end goal of the Bene Gesserict’s breeding program.
As I explained earlier, the Bene Gesserict members have the ability to tap the genetic memory through the chromosomes. They do this with the help of the spice harvested in the planet of Arrakis.
But the organization comprises of only women, or in other words those who have two X chromosomes. Basically, a biologically born female.
This is where the Kwisatz Haderach comes in, who must be male. The Bene Gesserict has a secret and selective breeding process, the end goal of which is to produce a male with the powers of the Bene Gesserict.
With the help of this male, the Bene Gesserict wants to tap the genetic memory of the Y chromosome.
Is Paul the Kwisatz Haderach?
As of now in the film, it is doubtful whether Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach. But that is the whole mystery.
Paul may or may not be Kwisatz Haderach as of now. But he does share some of the characteristics that should ideally be present in the Kwisatz Haderach figure, such as being a man who has powers of the Bene Gesserict.
The breeding program of the Bene Gesserict is supposed to be supervised and controlled by people like the Reverend Mother (the leader of the cult). But the problem arises when Jessica Atreides aka Paul’s mother bends the rules.
Jessica, a member of the Bene Gesserict was supposed to give birth to a woman. But out of her love for Paul’s father Duke Leko, she gave birth to a son instead, thereby breaking the rules.
She also taught Paul certain skills of the Bene Gesserict, such as the use of a special voice that makes others follow one’s command without any question. Besides, Paul has dreams and can also see some of the future, all of which are qualities of the Bene Gesserict.
So, he does tick some of the criteria for being the Kwisatz Haderach. He is biologically male, check. He has certain powers of the Bene Gesserict members, check. He is hot and looks like the typical protagonist with superpowers, check.
All in all, he could definitely be Kwisatz Haderach.
The Reverend Mother also doubted the same, which is why she visited Paul towards the beginning of the film and made him take the test with his hand in the pain box. She was also very interested in Paul’s dreams because she thought that those dreams indicate Paul’s ability to see the future. This again, is a trait of the Bene Gesserict according to the prophecy. So, she was testing to see if Paul really was what he seems to be.
Dune (also known as Dune: Part One) is an American sci-fi film based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Part One introduced the planet of Dune/Arrakis, the only place where the enhancer drug “Melange” is found and sought out by many. The Atreides House is sent to the planet as the ruling Duke, as part of their adversaries’ trap. However, the Atreides are aware of the same and aim to defend Dune and their house.
The ensemble cast is made up of Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.