By: Vernon Nickerson
Edited By : Colleen Page
The new documentary “DARK STAR: H.R. GIGER’S WORLD” about surrealist artist H. R. Giger and “Alien” Oscar-winner; the true architect of nightmares opened theatrically on May 15th. It is the brilliant creation of filmmaker Belinda Sallin. Who so masterfully paints a picture of the world of the influential surrealist painter H. R. Giger (1940-2014) who hypnotized audiences with his Oscar-winning visual creatures in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece “Alien” and altered the pop culture landscape forever with his striking, dark visual imagery. Belinda Sallin’s definitive documentary “DARK STAR: H. R. GIGER’S WORLD” shares the last years of the artist’s life and reveals how deeply he resided within his own artistic visions. Is also film also addresses Giger’s complex relationship to the art world, where he defied traditional categories and embraced commercial projects for musicians including Debbie Harry, Korn, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and the Dead Kennedys. Fittingly enshrined in a museum dedicated to his work, Giger’s output includes sculpture, painting, drawing, film and architecture, integrating meticulous technique with a instantly-recognizable sensibility that has inspired generations of nightmares. The Art Of Monteque had a chance to sit down with this wonderfully creative filmmaker to discuss her film, the artist H. R. Giger, and her artistic journey.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today about Dark Star and your journey as an artist. When were you first exposed to the work of Hansruedi Giger?
Belinda Sallin: Oh, I have known Giger’s artwork since I was young. I think the first picture I saw was the album cover he did for the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, “Brain Salad Surgery”. And I remember the posters for Alien. Alien was a huge experience for me because it changed my life totally, in my awareness of the genre of science fiction. But it was the evening that I met his former life partner Sandra Beretta; all his images came immediately back to me. I think this also a huge quality in Giger’s work. If you have seen one (of his works), a painting or drawing, you don’t forget it.
What challenges were there in taking “Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World” from idea/concept to completed film?
BS: Well you know, I appreciated it really a lot that Sandra Barretta introduced me to him. She opened the door and this helped a lot, I think. Then I was able to tape H.R. and his wife Carmen Vega on many, many visits. And I think Giger himself saw that my research was serious and my knowledge of his work profound. I think that was something he appreciated, and fortunately I lived near by Gigers’ house- we both live in Zurich and I live near his house, so I could spend a lot of time in his house together with him so I could develop my concept by talking with him a lot.
Did Mr. Giger’s previous work in filmmaking make your task easier or harder?
BS: Well, somehow it made it easier for me. There were a lot of communications and it was clear to me from the beginning that I did not want to realize a conventional biography. It was my intention to show the world he lived in – his extraordinary houses for example,. I think he literally lived in his art with all consequences ( of that choice). This was something that hadn’t been done. You can read his biography whenever you want, in books or on the Internet. But a show of his walls, for example. This hadn’t been done so it was clear for me from the beginning that I didn’t want to realize a conventional biography where you start with photographs and a “standard” narration, i.e., this is Hansruedi Giger, he was born, etc., etc. – it didn’t seem right to me for this artist. I know that H.R. himself , he appreciated my concept and he agreed with this concept.
Thinking about your experiences in bringing this story to film, what one or two pieces of advice would you give to first time filmmakers?
BS: Difficult question. So, just do it. It is so difficult to realize a feature documentary. You have a lot of problems of financing, you have a lot of people who want to tell you how to do it and, you have to choose a way in between. You have to listen to other people and to hear them, but you have to know what you want to do, just do it!
Did making this film give you any insights or revelations into your own journey as an artist?
BS: Yes, I think it was a biography of H.R. Giger that impressed me really, really a lot. I mean, he followed his dream, regardless of what people thought or said. And you know his art – I can only imagine how provocative that was in the sixties or in the seventies; and regardless of that, he followed his dream. He stuck to his own path. He tried a lot of things. If you want, you could call HR Giger a trans-media pioneer; he made film for Hollywood and it was quite a scandal for the art establishment at the time. He made album covers, he made music videos, sculptures, designs; he tried a lot of things, so it was great. But he didn’t get the acknowledgement here in Europe that he deserved, so, what did he do? He said, okay, so established galleries won’t show my work, so I’ll establish a gallery to show my work! He followed his own path, this is something that impressed me a lot. He says at the end of the film, “I am satisfied. I have done what I wanted to do and I have seen what I wanted to see.” This is inspiring for my life.
Hansruedi seems to have worked until his death? Do you share this or any other aspect of this work ethic in your life as an artist/filmmaker?
BS: This is a difficult question; I mean, its the same for me, you have to follow your dreams and show what you want to show. And he did, so yes, I share a similar ethic. In the film you see. You see images as if you are in a dream, so I think his art influenced a lot how I made this film. HR Giger didn’t work a lot at the end of his life. You see the scene in the film where he draws. I like this scene a lot because he didn’t do the big paintings anymore. He didn’t work with the airbrush anymore. But he never laid down the pencil and this is how he started. So, I like this scene very much; this is like a cycle, that is closing.
Any final thoughts?
BS: Yes, it was a subject of discussion that HR Giger was ill when he showed up in the film. I think this could seem provocative, and it was a great decision HR Giger made because you see at the beginning of the film he shows his first skull that he dragged through the streets of his hometown at the age of six. I liked this image a lot because at the age of six most children are hugging their teddy bears. At the age of six, he tried to master his fears. And I think he did this one last time by his appearance in this film. In a society that is obsessed with beauty and youth and fitness, I think, in my opinion, he made himself conspicuous in the cycle of birth, life and death, which he showed all the time in his work. So I think this is very courageous and overcame his fears even in this last performance. [TAOMR]