The Dune lip tattoos and Mentat secrets, explained

[Ed. note: This piece contains mild spoilers for Dune.]

Early in the runtime of Dune, a curious thing occurs. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) offhandedly muses about just how much cash it should have considered the Emperor to send out an envoy to his house world of Caladan. In reaction, his retainer Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) rolls his eyes back in their sockets till just the whites are revealing, and when he rolls them pull back, his tattooed lips have the ability to spit out the exact financial expense of the entire production.

Director Denis Villenueve’s Dune has a lot to describe throughout its runtime that it never ever rather information what the heck simply occurred, however readers of Dune the book will have a respectable concept: Thufir Hawat, and David Dastmalchian’s Piter De Vries, are Mentats, the human computer systems of the world of Dune.

Why does Dune require human computer systems? Don’t they have routine computer systems?

The tradition of Dune is long, and deep and strange. Which is to state, 10s of countless years prior to the occasions of Dune, human society was considerably changed by a seismic war versus expert system called the Butlerian Jihad. In the consequences, mankind testified never ever develop makers that might do the work of human minds ever once again. It was even codified into the galaxy’s dominant religious beliefs, “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

So, no, the world of Dune doesn’t have any computer systems — not even pocket calculators. Rather, intricate computations are carried out by individuals called Mentats who are specifically trained to be, like, actually clever.

Yep, it ends up the only thing keeping us from being as proficient at mathematics as computer systems is the best training.

Why do Mentats have lip tattoos?

The Mentat lip stain is among Dune’s most expressive character visuals, a visual hint all Mentats share due to the fact that of — this is Dune, after all — drugs. Mentats repeatedly consume “the Juice of Sapho,” a sort of hyper-coffee that increases their psychological skill two times over or more. Naturally, Sapho is addicting, and ultimately it has the negative effects of staining a user’s lips an apparent red.

Donald Mowat, head of hair and makeup on Dune, informed Polygon that the “wine-stained lips” of the film’s Mentats were amongst the most tough aspects to style.

“It’s ridiculous to say,” Mowat stated over Zoom. “I spent a week on that. I honestly lost my mind for a minute.”

On the suggestion of a member of his group, he chose to take a look at the 1984 David Lynch adjustment for motivation. “I tried. I played with the idea of blackberry, the color of it, wine stains. And I went ‘That just looks like a kid that drank Kool Aid.’”

Brad Dourif in Dune (1984), with stained red lips and very bushy prosthetic eyebrows.

Mentats in Lynch’s Dune likewise had these definitely wild eyebrows.
Image: Universal Pictures

Mowat was currently dealing with developing tattoos for other classes of characters in the film, like the Fremen and Sardaukar warriors.

“That’s what made me think ‘Why does this have to be a stain? Why can’t it be a symbol in the color of wine?’ I just kept thinking about blackberries, black currant, dark. And that’s how that came to be as that little piece.”

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.