Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

Matthew d’Ancona’s Culture: Dune Part Two is even better than the first

Our editor-at-large’s rundown of the pick of the week’s film, TV and art

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Zendaya as Chani in Dune: Part Two. Photo: Warner Bros

Welcome to this weekly round-up of the best in culture and the arts. In addition to my own picks, your favourite TNE writers will chip in with their recommendations. And we’d love to hear what you’re enjoying: please send your tips to


General release

One of the most enjoyable interviews I have ever conducted was with science-fiction obsessive Paul Krugman – in his spare time, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and acclaimed New York Times columnist – about the first instalment, in October 2021, of Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. Krugman loved it, as did I.

Now, we have the second part, which is even better. After the bloody fall of his father’s dynasty, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) takes refuge with his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) on the barren desert planet of Arrakis – aka Dune – among the indigenous Fremen. Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is convinced that he is the messiah, the Muad’Dib, while Paul’s love interest Chani (Zendaya) is deeply sceptical. He swears vengeance on the murderous House Harkonnen, and the plot leads inexorably to a duel between the young Atreides and the deadly warrior Feyd-Rautha, played by Austin Butler (bleached and bald). It says a lot for the immersive quality of the movie that, when they finally do square up, the viewer doesn’t feel like Willy Wonka is having it out with Elvis.

New to the ensemble are Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan and Christopher Walken as her father, Emperor Shaddam IV – as always, bringing added cowbell to proceedings. Part Two is even more authentically rooted in Herbert’s psychedelic vision, ecological activism and fascination with the Native American and Bedouin peoples. Villeneuve is keen to film the second book, Dune Messiah (1969). I hope he gets the chance. See this movie in IMAX if you can.


National Theatre, London, until May 11; Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff,
May 18-June 1

To the roster of public figures that he has played to brilliant effect – Tony Blair, David Frost, Kenneth Williams, Brian Clough – Michael Sheen now adds the founder of the NHS, Nye Bevan. Tim Price’s new play, directed by Rufus Norris, is framed as a series of hallucinations and memories as Bevan recovers from abdominal surgery in 1959.

Bevan pulled off perhaps the greatest miracle of British statecraft in the creation of the NHS on July 5, 1948. Three-quarters of a century later, that service is on its knees – and this play could hardly be more timely.



“Now is not the time for good men: it’s time for a shōgun.” This terrible warning, muttered in an early episode of this 10-part adaptation of James Clavell’s best-selling 1975 doorstopper, is a reminder that there is nothing new about strongman leaders: it is democracy that is the historical novelty.

The 1980 small-screen version of Shōgun, starring Richard Chamberlain as the English pilot John Blackthorne, marooned in Japan in 1600, attracted huge audiences. What showrunners Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo bring to the story 44 years later is a much more subtle and historically detailed rendering of Clavell’s tale, in which Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is not always the centre of the drama.

After the death of the reigning Taikō, a council of regents governs in place of his young heir. Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) sees in Blackthorne’s arrival on the storm-damaged Erasmus an opportunity to force a wedge between his opponents. Anna Sawai is also excellent as Lady Mariko, Blackthorne’s translator.



In a world increasingly dominated by fierce belief systems and digitally weaponised ideologies – from the cult of MAGA to fundamentalist extremism – it is fascinating to learn how one of the world’s most enduring religions evolved and secured its position.

As Catherine Nixey shows, the form of Christianity that prevailed in the fourth century AD, with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 312, was never certain to do so. Alongside the four official gospels, there are 40 surviving apocryphal versions that present an astonishing range of stories.

“The overall picture of Christianity in the second century,” writes Nixey, “resembles a field of competing saplings more than a central tree (orthodoxy) surrounded by deviant offshoots (heresies).” In time, that orthodoxy became standardised by an unusual intolerance of all other variants and – crucially – the longevity of one particular emperor. “What was different about Constantine was that he lived for such a very, very long time. And by doing so he changed the fate of Rome, and of the empire – and therefore of Europe – for ever.”

As a former religious historian, I cannot praise Nixey (a journalist at The Economist) highly enough for her eloquence, narrative gifts and scholarly rigour. A must-read for anyone interested in why some ideas succeed as dramatically as they do.

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

See inside the Gaza edition

A smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s, Montreal: ‘The finest sandwich I’ve eaten.’

Josh Barrie on food: A dream sandwich

A smoked meat sandwich might not sound like much. But it is the summit of what a sandwich can be: utterly, buoyantly delicious, and wholly inclusive

Fred Astaire as Jerry Travers in Top Hat, 1935. Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Bonnie Greer’s Vintage: Fred Astaire

In the Top Hat dance sequence we see a master dancer at the top of his game