14 Jun 2019

Documenting the origins of Ridley Scott’s film, Alien

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:14 pm on 14 June 2019

Unbelievably, it's been 40 years since the seminal Ridley Scott sci-fi flick Alien hit cinemas, becoming one of the most lauded and influential films of the 20th century.

Swiss filmmaker Alexandre Philippe has made a film about Alien - it's called Memory, The Origins of Alien, and elucidates the untold origin story of the film, rooted in mythology and the dark side of the human consciousness.

Memory – The Origins of Alien

Memory – The Origins of Alien Photo: Supplied/Doc Edge Film Festival

Phillipe joined Jesse Mulligan to talk about the process of creating the film, and video essays as an art form.

Philippe says Alien came out at a time when it was not supposed to be successful.

“Audiences were ready for a different kind of alien. Star Wars was a very optimistic sort of movie and if you like at 1982, three years after the release of Alien, when we had E.T and we had The Thing – audiences overwhelming embraced E.T and rejected The Thing.”

Part of the argument Philippe makes in his film is that Alien’s success was based on something people didn’t know they wanted but, at some level, needed.

“There were ideas and images that we needed to see in 1979, that we needed to process, and that we’re still processing now in our culture 40 years later.

“People had this sort of visceral response, without really understanding why they were reacting to it.”

After he premiered the film at Sundance, a man told him about going to see the film when he was 15. He said that during the film he ran to the bathroom where there were about 15 men who couldn’t handle going back into the cinema.

“I think that’s what makes Alien such an extraordinary movie.”

Philippe says his own experience with Alien as a boy was that it was taboo and he both wanted to see it, but also dreaded seeing it.

“This is a movie that taps into mythology, it’s a movie that taps into our collective unconscious in a very powerful, primal fashion.”

He makes special mention of H.R Giger, the German artist who came up with much of Alien's most famous images. Giger was inspired by H.P Lovecraft, sex, Egyptian mythology and his own nightmares.

Phillipe’s next focus will be on seminal 1973 horror, The Exorcist.

Memory is showing Friday night in Wellington as part of the Doc Edge Film Festival