Ridley Scott’s “Alien” would not be Ridley Scott’s “Alien” without H.R. Giger. The Swiss artist’s Oscar-winning designs for the morphing mother of a monster who stalks Sigourney Weaver and her Nostromo crew in the 1979 sci-fi masterwork are indelible: an oozing, predatory nightmare, made of skeleton and sinew, all teeth and vertebrae, with phallic protrusions and vaginal mouths. Yes, plural, one projecting from inside the other.
Sadly, “Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World,” a documentary about the artist and his art, fails to bring Giger to life in any kind of illuminating way. Director Belinda Sallin and her team were allowed into Giger’s Zurich house a year before his death (at age 74) in the spring of 2014, and the white-haired man they encountered was evidently not up for talking much, or for doing anything beyond walking carefully here and there, or sitting down for a glass of wine.
Yes, to see the world Giger lived in — the overgrown garden, its vines wrapped around “Alien”-like sculptures, the heavily curtained abode with its surreal paintings, his devoted cadre of assistants and archivists pushing their way through the clutter — is fascinating. But with on-camera testimonies limited almost exclusively to those in Giger’s inner circle — his agent, the author of a Giger book, Giger’s wife and mother-in-law — the revelations are few.
Fawning observations and the most obvious of psychological insight are provided: The images are shaped in Giger’s subconscious; they are sexual; they relate to birth and death. He is “the artistic reporter of what the darkness in us is.”
There is some footage of a sprier Giger in the 1970s, designing posters and mounting exhibits. Home movies show him with his parents — a stern-looking father, who worked in the pharmaceutical world, and the mother who loved him dearly.
Then, the film returns to more recent days. Flocks of fans — worshipful goth heads and the heavily tattooed — arrive at the Giger Museum in Gruyères, Switzerland, to have their deluxe “Alien” books and Giger merchandise signed by the artist himself.
He sits at a desk and dutifully writes his name. An assistant stands by, hustling the crowd along.