Sian Phillips as the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam and Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides
The second and most powerful of Lynch’s grandmother figures, in one of his two finest films, Gaius Helen Mohiam is a member of the Bene Jesserit Sisterhood and one of its most powerful witches, as well as a special adviser to the Emperor of the Known Universe, though she pursues her own aims and those of her sisterhood first and foremost. She is Paul’s maternal grandmother. Though this relationship is never acknowledged during the course of the film, the alert viewer senses it through the interaction of the characters (and it has been confirmed in the original notes for the book by its author, Frank Herbert.) Not that one needs to know such things to fully enjoy the subtle performance of this great actress. In this scene she is shown testing her grandson for his ability to withstand pain. She’s hoping that she has helped to breed the Kwisatz Haderach, a super-being, even after admonishing her daughter for this presumptuous intent.