If you were at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles on May 15 or 16, you could have gotten a ticket for a tat. If that tattoo was based on the work of H.R. Giger, that is, and you wanted to see the premiere of Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World.
H.R. Giger was a relatively obscure surrealist artist until 1979 when the world saw his design work in Ridley Scott’s Alien. From that moment, the world of science fiction and horror, rock music album covers, punk and goth culture, and tattoos and fetish art was changed forever.
Filmmaker Belinda Sallin’s Dark Star: HR Giger’s World. documents the last years of Giger’s life, and uses old photos and 8mm footage to shed light on his early years. Most of the film lets us explore Giger’s home as his friends, assistants, family and cat, Müggi III, come and go.
The film grew out of a chance meeting of Sallin with Giger’s former significant other, Sandra Beretta. In a statement provided by Icarus Films, Sallin recalled her lifelong fascination with the artist. “H. R. Giger! The name evoked some deeply buried images in me,” Sallin said.
“I too had held the album cover Brain Surgery by the band Emerson Lake and Palmer in my hands. Alien had forever changed my perception of the science fiction genre, making it my favorite ever since. Works like ‘Birth Machine’ or ‘Li I’ belonged to the images of my youth. They hung as posters in record stores, or in the shared flats of my friends” she said.
“As I spoke with Sandra Beretta, all these ‘encounters’ with the art of H. R. Giger came flooding back to me. Before that first night was over, we’d already discussed the possibility of making a film,” she explained.
Sallin sets the mood early. Dark exteriors of the artist’s home, creaky stairs and squeaky doors. Giger’s yard is adorned with his disturbing statues. I wondered if the kids in his neighborhood thought his house was scary or cool.
Almost immediately, the film answered, as his yard is actually a haunted house ride with it’s own miniature train. Although, I wondered if observing Giger’s work up close might be a little stressful for many kids.
His work is intended to be stressful, and not only for kids. Giger explains in the film that his own nightmares, and, at least once, an LSD trip, inspired much of his work. He said that by giving them physical form, he separated the demons from himself. His demons have to do with birth, sexuality and death. The three themes are often intertwined in one work creating visions that are at once strangely repulsive, erotic and mystical.
The film spends time visually exploring his work and contains a few scenes of him painting. I was amazed to see he used an airbrush, creating quickly and instinctively shadows and forms I had assumed took hours to paint. His agent commented during the film that watching him work, he thought Giger was channeling something from a different realm. “And, I don’t even believe in those things,” he added.
Unlike his nightmarish imagery, Giger comes across as a generous and friendly man. Yet, he lives in a house covered with his nightmares and everything else is colored black.
Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World will play theatrically across the US and Canada from May to July. Locations may found at the Icarus films site.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B001AQO3QA,0962344761,3822813184,1883398088,3822885673]