Documentaries about movies tend be very interesting. Looking at back at film’s most classic films and genres is a great way to make fans remember why they love their favorites so much. Director Alexandre O. Philipe has released some of the most interesting docs about movies today. In doing so, the Swiss director has also proved he likes to look at the movies we remember so fondly a little differently. Memory: The Origins of Alien is a deconstruction that causes audiences to reflect on the story they love.
The first thing to know about Memory is it is more than just another behind the scenes look about the making of a movie. While there are some interesting facts about how they movie came together, the main focus is on the iconic chestburster scene. That being said, those movie buffs who love hearing about the production history of movies will not be disappointed. There is talk about the script’s genesis, surprising potential buyers, and studio involvement. Even better, these bits of trivia are weaved in perfectly with the film’s overall narrative.
In order to understand the bloody scene that is the focus of the documentary, it is important to know where the idea of the xenomorph came from. It is well known that H.R. Giger is responsible for the creature’s design. Memory explores why writer Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott were attracted to his work. It also touches on Giger’s overall influences and ideas.
This naturally leads into how important Giger was to the creation of the alien in the chestburster scene. The creature design here is one of the most important parts of Memory. As those interviewed talk about the importance of Alien and the scene, things always seem to inevitably lead back to the tiny creature. Since it all comes up naturally during interviews, it gives the documentary a smooth flow. Though there are numerous talking heads and plot points, things never seem convoluted or out of place.
O’Bannon’s part in the Aliens franchise can not be understated. His original script ended after twenty-nine pages due to writer’s block. That work constitutes much of the original film. He was also very involved in the making of the movie. He had ideas for the design of the creature and worked closely with director Ridley Scott. As one person notes, it is very odd for a writer to have that much input on a movie.
Memory deals in the importance of triptychs. This is seen in a recurring discussion about a painting by Irish artist Francis Bacon. There is also much discussion about the Furies. Scott is the third part of another important trio in the creation of Alien. The teaming of O’Bannon, Scott, and Giger almost has a feeling of being fated. The three worked together smoothly bouncing ideas off each other and delivering the classic film.
Phillipe’s documentary mirrors the movie it is talking about superbly. This is scene though camera angles and they way interviews are shown. Most impressively is how well Memory builds tension up to the chestburster scene. In the movie, the moment takes place about forty-five minuets in. Here, it happens a little later. The audience knows its coming. As the documentary progresses, the teases become more palatable. First, it is just talked about, then there are artist conceptions, followed by stills. When the scene is finally shown, it is a great payoff. Even those who have seen the moment many times, will have to try very hard not to applaud when it happens.
Memory: The Origins of Alien is more than just another look at how a movie came together. It also goes a little deeper than just examining one memorable scene. It is a look into what makes the scene so important, how it all came together, and what it means. Along the way, it also examines the lives of three very creative men.
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