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For Your Consideration: 'Dark Star: HR Gigers Welt'

Anyone who watched Ridley Scott's space horror film Alien will remember being creeped out by the world it evoked: a hideous alien species that was part organic, part mechanical. Disturbingly insectoid and humanoid, it uses us as its host. The outline of the story and the concept of the alien as interstellar parasite were the work of screenwriters Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, but the way it looked was largely the work of Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger. This new documentary, directed by newcomer Belinda Sallin, examines the details of Giger's world, including extensive interviews with the artist, his friends and family, coworkers, and visits to his current home in Zurich and childhood vacation home in the mountains, plus some footage from earlier films about Giger.

Sallin shot the film over two years, concluding only a short time before Giger's death in 2014. The revelations that come directly from Giger's mouth are few, and one must instead be contented by oblique views into his mind. At one point, he shows the camera the oldest skull in his collection of skulls, which his father, a pharmacist, gave to him. In another memorable description, we learn that Giger, as a child, was frightened by an Egyptian mummy in a local museum, so he went to see it at least once a week. The filmmaker shows a museum staff member wheeling out the actual mummy, lifting the glass box around it, and drawing back the wrappings from its face: we actually get much closer to the time-encrusted body, its face still recognizable, than Giger ever did.

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In a documentary that was something of a snoozer, that was in fact the most interesting discovery, the influence of Egyptian art and religious fascination with death on Giger's art. The famous profile of the creature in Alien, with its elongated head, may have been inspired by the Egyptian headdresses of Nefertiti and other queens. Beyond that, though, the film does not say much about Giger or his work that seems new. It is the glimpses of his inner life, innocuous as they are, that may fascinate his art and film fans: his purring Siamese cat, the horror-filled child's monorail and other installations in his backyard, the piles of moldering books in his house.

This film opens today, at Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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