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The ultimate origin of the Alien (and Ridley's De-Sexualization)

The ultimate origin of the Alien (and Ridley's De-Sexualization)

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Codexas

Aug-15-2016 8:31 PM

I had a post up (from 2008) on the now defunct GBX forums on the history of the Alien. It was surprisingly close to what turned out in Prometheus but took it one step further, I'd like to get people's opinion on it.

Why are the HR Giger alien shapes so beautiful and grotesque at the same time?

I had hypothesised that the engineers had evolved so far that they had tapped into an archaic, preuniverse force during their experiments.

A force both good and evil, both blindingly beautiful and extremely hideous. A force not able to be comprehended with the bandwidth of human reasoning. 

Why are the shapes so sexual? So attractive and repulsive at the same time? They cannot be explained using human emotions. Yet the energy they emit to us is palpable.

It's because they stem from an archaic, pre-universe divine, dimension, the engineers tapped into. Something beyond 3 dimensions, beyond human perceptions of good and evil. The primeval dimension.

 

But I think Ridley desexualized the Alien by refusing Geiger's contribution to Prometheus and going with his own design for that completely non-mysterious, a-sexual deacon puppet. All the things I described above, that intangible sexual attraction/repulsion goes out the window when you make a standard horror flick monster. Don't know why he did that.

 

12 Responses to The ultimate origin of the Alien (and Ridley's De-Sexualization)

Diz

Aug-16-2016 8:27 AM

Hmmm.  I have a guess.  Gigers' work was astounding, and ground-breaking.  It was also weird and disturbing.  If you took Giger, undiluted and turned him loose on the general population, I don't think the reception would have been good- in 1979.  Today- dunno, standards are much different.  Although I would hazard to guess that selling the full strength Giger vision would still raise eyebrows. 

You obviously feel a connection with it, and what it represents.  I think others would view it as kinky at best, and perverted at worst.  I mean you cannot ignore the obvious vaginal and penal imagery in his work.  To some that is still unacceptable. 

I think Ridley sensed the fact that full-strength Giger is just not acceptable across the spectrum of potential movie-goers.

Personally, I think Giger's work is what made Alien work.  Like you have described, even watered down is was eerily disturbing.  That being said, I think you needed a filter such as Ridley to bring it to the general public.   

Michelle Johnston

Aug-16-2016 9:35 AM

@ OP

The new born like most new borns is an ungainly calf with no implicit sexuality. Whereas the mural is one of the most beautiful evocations of the overt sexual nature of the lifecycle and its theme (reproduction without morality or love).

In the lower half of the mural we have a gorgeous  outline of a slim narrow hipped creature with a beautiful elongated slim scull and slightly out of position the representation of a Vagina. To emphasise the underlying sexual nature of the message above and behind this beautiful Deaconess is another Deacon with stronger shoulders and a wider skull with the representation of an Egg in its Torso. I love the simplicity of these images deeply sexual and less dysfunctional and dystopian than Giger whose better work is where he blends man and machine providing the Bio Mechanical nature of his world.   

Indeed what is missing from the Engineers achievements on LV223 is an overt bio mechanical element which may be in the future or   buried in the past elsewhere. Certainly our man from the North East of England has to provide us with some answers as to when Eggs : A L I E N came to the menu, in Prometheus they are merely Easter Eggs and as you know Easter Eggs can be one of a number of things.   

Aorta

Aug-16-2016 9:41 AM

If you look at Giger's contributions to Prometheus (in terms of creature design), there's really only one sketch that's truly interesting, a sort of headless torso with odd limbs. The rest of the sketches are nicely done but lacking something, and for those who object to overt insect references, they are quite insectile.

It appears that at this late stage of Giger's life he was maybe no longer suited to this type of imagining. I can only base that on what I saw, but it is reasonable to suppose. Artists evolve throughout their lives and the things that drive their work in youth often change as they age. That said, his mark is all over Prometheus, both in real time and in homage.

I also don't feel Ridley de-sexualized anything, strong elements of sexuality were detectable in the Hammerpedes and in every step of the Deacon's conception, starting with Holloway ejaculating whatever he ejaculated. Shaw becomes 'pregnant' and has a Caesarian. Her baby is the most sexually perverse of all the MORB lifeforms in its appearance and functionality, and it rapes the Engineer on screen. 

While the Deacon does not have a penis for a head, it's mouth parts are disturbingly erotic and worse, humanly pink. Many great aesthetic and thematic decisions were made in Prometheus that were diluted by pacing, and perceptions being influenced by common opinion. Mostly, the movie needed room to breathe.

Lone

Aug-16-2016 10:28 AM

During the production of Prometheus, Ridley invited Giger to the set. In addition to showing him the concept work for the film, they sat down together and Giger sketched some designs.

Some of those were elaborated upon by Carlos Huente. His Babyhead being but one example. Another of Giger's sketches had a very Deacon-like head.  

Giger's Babyhead

Carlos Huente's Babyhead

Ridley wanted to involve Giger in anyway he could and asked him to design the morphing mural. The humanoid, plus the birdy-beaked being, which later transforms into an egg held by MORB-like hands, when the ampule room becomes tainted.

Giger's health was not great during his latter years, but Ridley certainly wanted to pay respect to him. In The Furious Gods documentary, all of the concept artists were thrilled to be following Giger, but worried about re-imagining his work, for fear of not doing it justice!

The entire film is filled with his aesthetic, not as blatant as it appeared in A L I E N, filtered and perhaps refined by the Engineers, but it's there never-the-less. Cuddles had a vagina mouth with teeth, for God's sake! :)

I found the baby D-can strangely cute, would love to see the adult stage, it would tower over the Engineers, and I wonder what horrors that mouth could inflict!

Ridley giving Carmen Giger and H.R a tour of the Prometheus concept art.

THE LONE GUNWOMAN

"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

Aorta

Aug-16-2016 11:34 AM

Ah yes I forgot about that baby head, it would have been wild to see a hostile, murderous one in action!

 

Lone

Aug-16-2016 11:56 AM

Should have been used for sure!

THE LONE GUNWOMAN

"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

Deep Space

Aug-16-2016 1:52 PM

Apologies, Codexas.  I just started another thread about the differences between Deacon and Xeno and am also intrigued by the origins of this creature!  I didn't see topic this until after posting but my comment could have gone here really!

I agree, Giger's work is very sexual yet mechanical.  Beautiful yet very bleak.   I also agree with Diz, perhaps his work at full strength, as it were, would be a bit too much for the mainstream.  Alas!

Michelle Johnston

Aug-16-2016 2:00 PM

@Lone

…. plus the birdy-beaked being, which later transforms into an egg held by MORB-like hands, when the ampule room becomes tainted…..

I know this has been discussed before and for many they just cannot see it. I needed freeze frame on my HD projected Blu Ray to actually pick out what was revealed !

The question is what is this scene showing us. 

Mankind enters the headroom and the mural moves from monster clawing at the Engineer, who in the amended pose from the art work is not in an ascendent position, but involved in what Ridley calls in the commentary "sacrifice" having a wound in his abdomen, to reveal  an egg and hands.   

So a monster is created out of sacrifice but with mankind's intervention dissolves and we see the beginnings of the classic lifecycle.

Is this a prophesy of what is to come, after all entry to the Headroom unleashed a dreadful catastrophic storm, the kind of power unleashed which may have lead to the terrible retribution on Paradise.

Put simply our move into the headroom and the reaction of the mural maybe a very important allegorical reflection of what is happening in the wider sense ?

On a more practical note I can not believe something so obscure and difficult to identify was a key story telling point about the Zenomorph but more about the rich palimpsest on offer for the deeply enquiring mind.

Lone

Aug-16-2016 2:39 PM

Michelle, funnily enough I mentioned the Birdy creature earlier, over on Hawley's topic What is the host origin of the Xenomorph's inner jaw teeth tongue?

The question of just what is going on with that creature, the changing mural and the storm, has intrigued me since 2012. Was it some cataclysmic fail-safe device?

Then I couldn't quite wrap my head around how and why the egg fitted into the sacrifice? Whatever explanation I happened upon resulted in a shortfall.

Sometimes you look at a thing for ages and can't see what is right in front of you. That kind of sums up my problem with that scene, Ridley had me totally misdirected!

So thank you for opening my tired eyes!

THE LONE GUNWOMAN

"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

Codexas

Aug-16-2016 5:53 PM

Thanks for the answers guys and girls.

 

Let me see how I respond here. 

By -SEXUAL- I did not necessarily mean human sexuality, penises, vaginas, vulva's, ejaculation, etc. Although these do exist in the imagery.

What I actually meant is what's at the heart of the discussion. It's that intangible biological / mechanical, not able to be comprehended by humans, quality. 

Like a version of Clive Barkers (Hellraiser, etc.) grotesquely deformed flesh (with all the implied pain that brings) yet without the pain. Like a perfectly developed, stable, abomination between flesh and something else, but what that something else is who knows.

THAT is what Ridley eliminated / Desexualized from Prometheus.

For what I mean, see this screenshot of the engineer chamber from Alien Isolation:

http://i1.wp.com/controllercrusade.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/url.png

Notice the "flesh" weaving into the immaterial? It's solid and static, yet weirdly resembles organic tissue.

 

Now compare that to the imagery of Prometheus. 

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/aliens/images/1/19/Last_Engineer_Before_Launching.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130815095046

It just looks (really) ordinary horror flick hallways. Just symmetrical, mildy curvy design language. It has none of that "other dimension" or different but so unnervingly close, fleshy, mysterious aspect.

I'm surprised Ridley shot himself in the foot like that. But then again that's what makes an artist, RIP HR Giger.

 

 

Michelle Johnston

Aug-16-2016 10:38 PM

 @Codexas

There seem to me to be two issues here possibly more but one is about function and the other taste .

Taste. I have always taken the view that good art tells us more about the world in which we live and bad art more about the pre occupations of the artist. What strikes me about dysfunctional art, some of which you allude to, is like the work in the Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheim in New York the material is reminiscent of the kind of work I have seen from patients who are mentally ill involved in occupational therapy where they are extemporising their feelings. Some of it is psychopathic and designed simply to shock.  I find in that work no revulsion or shock but an effective way of communicating dysfunction which makes it separate from me and presumably others. Giger seemed to do something else, tell us about an alternative world which played into its key themes reproduction without a moral compass or in the context of love and the matching of the mechanical with the biological. For me his art is telling us a story at a sub created level and has helped generate a mythos an achievement in itself.

I do not see pain in Gigers images more a lack of sentiment and I believe the more important part of the lifecycle is not the pain it induces but is more about the nature of punishment through invasiveness and transformation to destroy and re assemble. 

Function Ridley wanted to use practical affects and bring alive some of the imagery from Alien, he also had a singularly important message to offer us which I believe will be one of the twin themes of his prequels, the Space Jockey is related to us, the other being be we are wound into the Zenomorph.

As a result the Engineer world should feel both strangely familiar and strangely different. The tear drop ship is right out of our 50's and 60's childhood, the tall elegant hairless Engineer the same, but that otherworldliness, which is surely there, is made more chilling by being more connected in our minds. The Jockey chair feels almost art deco to me which makes the other elements of its design and function more startling.   

I emphasise this because whilst we have speculated a little this will be a big part of the story of Covenant. There is a story tell about David, Shaw and the evolving creature the why, who and what, to make all of these transformations really effective which along with the Engineer backstory, are at the core of the thinking side of the film everyone will have to make the Aliens we experience more connected to their origin. I expect my reaction to be the opposite of seeing the Queen in Aliens and much more like my reaction to Charlies eye worm familiar but horribly unfamiliar.

If he is going to go beyond a Zeno fest he needs to move in closer (the familiar) so we can understand its horror (the unfamiliar) more effectively and that in my view is not a celebration of dysfunction but the creation of an alternative function which by being relatable is more impactive thats what happens to me in Prometheus and just the images from the Quarry are enough to give me caution optimism it will happen in Covenant. 

I expect the art work values to be more familiar through riffing and functional reality and therefore more communicable and startling rather than self consciously dysfunctional. We may as an example get to see the practical reason for the shape of the head of the Alien and/or see a translucent version which reinforces its functionality and Bio Mechanical nature. Familiar and yet unfamiliar.

Lone

Aug-17-2016 9:11 AM

Codexas, welcome to SCIFIED!

I understand what you meant. There was a deliberate attempt to lessen the biological organic element and move to a more metallic-mechanical aesthetic.

When David walks across the Orrey Room floor his footsteps echo from the metal. The Juggernaut lacked the glistening bone and sinew, living appearance of the derelict. The doorways had massive hydraulics. Like-wise we had urns instead of eggs.

Ridley felt that he needed to do things differently. As he put it- "the problem with Science Fiction is we all feed of each other, that's why they all start to look the same."  

The style became what I would call Pre-Gigeresque. Initially, the intention was to strip back the pure Giger from the design, but gradually more of it was infused back in. The reasoning behind it was to enhance the Engineer-Human origin leading to the MORB.

I believe that the closer Covenant, then its sequel/s get to A L I E N, more of the pure Giger element will return.

As an aside- Jon Spaights said that "it was the studio who decided lets dial back the Alien monsters, and lean more on the Engineers, and lets get a known writer on this" [Damon Lindelof]

THE LONE GUNWOMAN

"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

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