Great news, Internet!
H.R. Giger, Swiss surrealist, artist, and creator of the iconic designs behind such films as Alien, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, and Species, is the subject of an intriguing new documentary. Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World, directed by Belinda Sallin, offers an intimate view of the artist during an interview conducted in his dark and cluttered home. The man, the legend, invites the viewer to follow him deeper and deeper into the recesses of his home, which is full of stacks of books, his painting and sculptures, and countless items assembled for inspiration.
While reviews for Dark Star are mixed, (Bloody Disgusting, AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB), I really do want to see this just because I personally don’t know much about Giger as a person. I do know how impactful his art has been, especially for movies. And I vaguely know that he was also extremely accomplished outside of Hollywood (which some would say is more important than his work on films).
So this documentary seemed like a good opportunity to review Giger’s iconic designs, whose relevance has endured for decades. No one has ever successfully imitated Giger—his works are completely original. They are timeless yet modern. They are inventive couplings of biological patterns and mechanical structure (“biomechanical,” if you will). Giger created art that is both revolting and erotic, ugly and gorgeous. It challenges the viewer like nothing else.
I don’t have enough space here to give him the acknowledgement he truly deserves, but I’ll try to highlight some high points in his career.
Starting with Hollywood:
Salvador Dali, who had been asked by Alexandro Jodorowsky to play the Emperor in his grandiose version of Dune, shares the work of H.R. Giger with Jodorowsky. The director is so impressed by Giger that he hires him to design sets and props for his film. Ultimately, this film never comes to fruition, not that it stops Giger’s career. (Seriously, you should check out the story behind this movie—it would have been mind-blowingly over the top.)
Dan O’Bannon, who worked as a writer for Jadorowsky’s Dune, suggests that Ridley Scott hire Giger for their new project, which will eventually become the groundbreaking 1979 film, Alien. Scott reviews Giger’s book Necronomican and is immediately impressed.
Of course, Alien will prove to be so terrifying and unique that it will spawn 3 sequels plus 1 prequel/sequel (I’m still confused on what Prometheus was supposed to be).
At the 1980 Oscars, Giger won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on Alien.
For Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Giger was commissioned to design a creature to replace actor Julian Beck (who played the demon Kane) after he died during production. Despite his hard work, Giger’s original designs don’t make it into the final film, though you can definitely see his influence in the finished product.
Check out a concept design here:
and then the “tequila worm” seen in the movie:
For the film Species, Giger designed the horrifying yet somehow sexy creature, Sil. While his intended vision of Sil didn’t quite make it into the film, other designs were included as he intended, such as the Ghost Train.
In 2013, Giger was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
And concept designs for the unproduced science fiction film The Tourist. According to his website, this movie would have been something “like a darker, sex-charged Men In Black.”
Of course, he did a lot more than creature designs for Hollywood movies. Visit his official website here to see more of his work, including:
Just…wow. I don’t know what any of this art means or what it expresses other than it reminds me of a nightmare, captured by the human mind and rendered concrete. His gift was so tremendous, so rare.
While the documentary may not be the illuminating portrayal his fans may crave, it should certainly be an interesting film about a talented and visionary artist who will forever inspire our best nightmares.