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I saw the new Dune (2021) movie last night (astonishingly good BTW), and I noticed that the stillsuits don't typically cover the eyes or upper faces of the person wearing the suit.

When the suit was introduced, there was a lot said about how much they retain:

Less than a thimble full of water per day is lost

I don't know how much fluid someone would lose from face sweating or tears (the guy looking after the sacred palm trees on Arrakis was seen to be heavily sweating).

Toward the end of the film when Paul and Jessica were out in the sand, Paul hands his mother a bladder of water to drink from and mentioned that it was sourced from

Tears and sweat

Although this sounds more palatable than the more realistic "piss and sweat", it seems somewhat obvious that the water doesn't come from tears.

IMDB notes that the stillsuits are very similar to the Dune movie from 1984, and the photos on the Dune wiki also bear out the fact that stillsuits don't protect the upper face.

I don't recall the book describing the composition of stillsuits (but I did read it maybe 20 years ago).

Photo from Dune (2021) - the masks here clearly cover the mouth and nose only
enter image description here

Photo from Dune (1984) - no masks, just nostril tubes
enter image description here

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    The book(s) do describe still suits, but IIRC over several passages, a little bit here and there. There is supposed to be a face mask to go with the plugs. Eyes are not covered but I doubt the water loss would be comparable to what you lose breathing, sweating and urinating. Oct 20, 2021 at 13:51
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    Honestly if the humidity was that low it would seriously irritate the eyes. Based on an account of someone working in a lithium battery manufacturing environment with ultra low humidity. Oct 20, 2021 at 17:09
  • I would assume that the top edge of the neck and/or face coverings would have some provision for catching any facial sweat as it drains down. (although most would evaporate) Just have the outer edge higher than the layers against the skin.
    – FlaStorm32
    Oct 21, 2021 at 0:16
  • I would think that the water lost through the eyes would be negligible when compared to that lost by the rest of the face, which in turn would be negligible when compared to that lost through expelled air.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 21, 2021 at 12:35
  • Note that the specific line is said in the tent, where they weren't wearing stillsuits at all.
    – jonrsharpe
    Oct 25, 2021 at 10:53

3 Answers 3

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From a filmmaking context, it's simple: to allow seeing the actors' faces.

A real stillsuit would kill you faster than dehydration, by cooking you -- unless it has some alternative method of dumping the body's waste heat -- but unless it was complete coverage, equivalent to a space suit, it could not lose that little water. In hot weather, a human body dumps an amazing amount of water for cooling -- the Israeli army is credited with winning a conflict (1973 war?) mainly due to their strictly enforced marching discipline of a liter an hour in hot weather. Recondensing that water would release that heat once again into the stillsuit, and a human inside would last only a few hours, at most, in the daylight climate of Arrakis.

Therefore a stillsuit is a fantasy device, not science fiction (at least as described, without a power source or other technology to swap heat for water), and any liberties taken by filmmakers are simply to make a better vehicle for actors to tell the story.

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    Helmet lights which would, of course, blind the wearer - they'd pretty much only see their own reflection in a darkened environment. Look at pictures of actual astronauts in space suits and you'll notice that you generally can't see the wearer's face, because it's more important for them to be able to see out of the helmet than for anyone else to see in. Oct 19, 2021 at 19:48
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    The book's explanation doesn't really address the problem. For the water to cool the body, it has to leave the body. We're dealing with the second law of thermodynamics here - not much room for compromise. Any technology capable of doing this could also be used as a power supply. Oct 19, 2021 at 22:22
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    @DanC I still think it's a fantasy device and the thermodynamics don't work out unless Arrakis is cold and dry. Cooling by evaporation only works because the warm water molecules leave and don't come back (which is a big gain in entropy for the water). Any cooling effect would be lost if you try to recondense them. Oct 19, 2021 at 22:23
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    @WaterMolecule: All you need to make it work is to mix the evaporated sweat with the surrounding air in pockets, then have Maxwell's Demon selectively eject only the air molecules that have coincidentally absorbed the most energy from the water. Voila, heat loss without water loss. :-) Oct 20, 2021 at 0:34
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    @ShadowRanger They have force fields that selectively block fast-moving objects, so that might actually be possible.
    – nick012000
    Oct 20, 2021 at 1:24
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Just discovered the following image of Liet Kynes:

Liet Kynes

Picture was found on DuneNewsNet.com

It is clearly from the 2021 Dune of Villeneuve and it is also visible that Liet Kynes is wearing a piece of the stillsuit covering her head, not only a mask. So, the only part that is exposed to the air and therefore water loss is the region just around the eyes.

We can therefore conclude that the Fremen in the 2021 Dune movie are wearing a headcovering to recover water from their head when their are walking through the desert with only their eyes being exposed. I was not able to find the distribution of sweat glands on the face but would think that, in order for sweat not to get into the eye, the region between eye and brow does not have a lot of glands and therefore not a lot of water is lost.


We have here a clear problem of "lore vs. visualization". From the Dune Wiki on Stillsuits:

The stillsuit typically covered the entire body, up to the neck and wrists. For the hands, gloves could be worn. However, when delicate work was performed, Fremen discarded the gloves and rubbed their hands with leaves from the creosote bush. This allowed them to work, while the residue from the creosote leaves prevented perspiration.

A facial mask could also be worn so that moisture from the mouth and face could also be reclaimed.

From this article

From the book, when Liet describes the suit:

It's basically a micro-sandwich — a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system. The skin-contact layer's porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body ... near-normal evaporation process. The next two layers . . . include heat exchange filaments and salt precipitators. Salt's reclaimed. Motions of the body, especially breathing and some osmotic action provide the pumping force. Reclaimed water circulates to catchpockets from which you draw it through this tube in the clip at your neck... Urine and feces are processed in the thigh pads. In the open desert, you wear this filter across your face, this tube in the nostrils with these plugs to ensure a tight fit. Breathe in through the mouth filter, out through the nose tube. With a Fremen suit in good working order, you won't lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day...

Copied from the same article.

As for why they did not always cover the faces of the actors, see Mandalorian (emphasis by me):

Pascal hasn’t been recognized very much for this performance thus far. Though the show was an Emmy, Critics Choice, and Golden Globe nominee for Best Drama Series, its leading man has only gotten in so far at the Critics Choice Super Awards and the MTV Movie and TV Awards. That’s probably because he spends most of the show with his face entirely obscured by a helmet

From this article on Goldderby

So, if the producers / director want a shot at Best Actor emmy / oscar, they need to ensure that the faces of the actors are visible.

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  • Thanks for this. However, even in the 2021 adaption, the actors remove their nose/mouth masks in order to speak with each other (and at any point their not outside). The Mandalorian is (of course) defined by the suit & helmet.
    – user134768
    Oct 19, 2021 at 12:44
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    There have been examples of people being recognized (or at least nominated) for major awards for roles where their faces aren't seen - voice actors in particular, but also mocap actors, e.g. Andy Serkis, puppeteers like Jim Henson, etc. The other problem is just the general lack of acknowledgement of scifi and fantasy content by most awards shows - few genre films ever seem to get anything more than technical awards. Oct 19, 2021 at 19:44
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    Concessions have been made for decades on this sort of thing. The diving masks in Abyss, space suit helmets in everything in space, they want you to see the actors face. God knows they paid enough for that face. Oct 19, 2021 at 21:37
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    @Snow Yes, they remove the masks in order for their faces to be visible when talking and being able to transmit facial expressions and for the actor to be recognisable (as CodeWarrior said). Imagine having like 20 people in full body suit with their faces hidden and you need to follow the story of who does which action with whom, that would be rather tiresome and certainly not enjoyable.
    – Shade
    Oct 20, 2021 at 7:15
  • @Snow Just found an image with a head piece, hope this answers your question.
    – Shade
    Oct 20, 2021 at 12:42
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After Paul kills a challenger and cries, there is a major fuss made about the fact that he has shed tears for a defeated enemy.

They are obviously not expecting stillsuit wearers to ever cry outside. (they're overlooking normal eye lubrication tears). And they are prioritising clear vision over eye coverings. Finally, got to be able to see those sexy blue eyes !

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This doesn't really help explain why (in-universe) the stillsuits are depicted as not collecting moisture from the face and tears.
    – DavidW
    Oct 20, 2021 at 13:37
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    @DavidW: It does explain it in-universe. The fact that Paul Atreides cries, loses water, is a significant moment in the book.
    – Chenmunka
    Oct 20, 2021 at 14:15
  • This crying is not in the 2021 film (infuriatingly...at least Lynch filmed it even if it was deleted) Nov 2, 2021 at 6:01

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