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Why Jessica Really Got Her Face Tattooed In Dune 2

The world of "Dune" is rich with symbolism, lush aesthetics, and characters of questionable sanity. All three are present in the case of Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), mother to Paul Atreides and, in "Dune: Part Two," a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother among the Fremen of Arrakis. Jessica goes through quite a transformation in the sequel, adorning herself with all of the rich regalia befitting her new station. She even begins tattooing her face extensively — a "Dune: Part Two" detail that director Denis Villeneuve has now explained in an interview with The New York Times.

"She's trying to play on the symbolism that was put in the prophecy," Villeneuve told the Times. "She's supposed to be the mother of the Messiah, so I wanted to bring the idea that she was like the pope of the reverend mothers on Arrakis. There's some kind of madness in writing elements of the prophecies on her face. Frankly, I think when you drink the worm poison, it affects your sanity — and the same with Paul. I like the idea that we feel she's going too far."

It's interesting to learn that the words on Jessica's face are directly connected to the Lisan al Gaib prophecy. Like most members of the Bene Gesserit, Jessica is a sharp strategist, trained in the ways of manipulating people. The manner in which that intense intellect collides and interacts with a growing kind of madness makes her a particularly fascinating character in "Dune: Part Two."

What's next for Jessica in Dune?

If Denis Villeneuve gets to make a "Dune Messiah" movie, fans who haven't read the books may be surprised to discover that Jessica recedes to the background of the story. In Frank Herbert's second "Dune" novel, the story jumps forward in time about 12 years, putting the universe in a very different place politically and culturally. The second book is also much shorter than the first and focuses primarily on Paul as he struggles with the ramifications of his past actions.

If Villeneuve follows the novel closely (assuming that "Dune Messiah" gets greenlit), Jessica may not be present at all. However, there are indications that the director could take a different path through the story. "Dune: Part Two" changes a lot of things from the book, and that trend could easily continue into an adaptation of "Messiah." For example, it might make sense to show more of the Fremen's holy war up close and personal rather than immediately jumping 12 years ahead. That would allow for more scenes dissecting the new balance of power, of which Jessica is a key player.

In the novels, she returns to the Atreides homeworld of Caladan. Given how entrenched she becomes in the Fremen culture in the films, though — right down to the marks on her face — that transition wouldn't be easy. It would be great to get some more insight into Jessica's story if the "Dune" films continue, especially since Rebecca Ferguson has been one of the best parts of the whole franchise since the first movie.