dark corners of the human mind are the deepest dark, I believe, of anything in
the universe,” once said author, playwright, producer, and director Arch Oboler
in describing his infamous radio plays of the 1930s and 1940s which aired on
NBC under the title of Lights Out! It
is no secret that some of the world's most well-known artists, everyone from
author Edgar Allan Poe to film director Dario Argento, have channeled
nightmarish experiences from their childhood and woven them into the very
fabric of their stories and films. The late great surrealist Swiss artist Hans
Rudolf Giger, known internationally as H.R. Giger, also sublimated his fears
and frustrations into startling and often horrific imagery that coupled man
with machinery as he explored the triptych of existence: birth, life, and death.
Audiences are taken behind the scenes of this master painter in the elegiac
final days of his life in the new film Dark
Star: H.R. Giger’s World, directed by Belinda Sallin, which opens May 15,
2015 in selected cities. Although a documentary, Passagen, was made about his work in 1972 by Fredi
M. Murer, Dark Star showcases interviews with the people closest to
this man who shunned the limelight and preferred to paint on his own
Giger passed away just after filming finished. The film does an expert job of taking us through his life as he imparts
interesting anecdotes, such as showing us a skull that his father gave him as a
boy, which frightened him until he found a way to overcome his fear. This skull indubitably played a huge roll in
his life and work. He meets with friends
and family who are lucky enough to spend their time with him. Much of the dialog is spoken in Swiss German
and subtitles are provided.
Dark Star opens with placid and calm shots of the
artist’s house in Zürich, Switzerland. The camera pans around the grounds and above
the abode and the trees until it zeros in on the front door and, in a maneuver eerily
reminiscent of Dorothy Gale’s journey from black and white into Technicolor,
the door opens to reveal this dark world of surrealistic paintings. These
unbelievable images, which exist in the form of finished paintings as well as
macabre sculptures, date back to the 1960’s. Like most artists, images and emotions fueled Härr Giger’s work, and he
had his own method of painting which incorporated air brushing while listening
to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Not
surprisingly, childhood experiences factored greatly as a catalyst for his
disturbing imagery. A trip to the
Raetian Museum in Chur, Switzerland as a young lad was particularly frightening
when he saw a mummy for the first time.
tumultuous relationship with actress and model Li Tobler, whom he was with from
1966 until 1975, figures prominently in many of the works that populate his Necronomicon books. Härr Giger, enfeebled and walking with a
cautious gait, speaks eloquently about the loss of Frau Tobler who shot herself
at age 27 after suffering for years from severe depression.
this tragedy, Härr Giger’s work caught the attention of film director Ridley
Scott, who was in the midst of pre-production on 20th Century Fox’s Alien (1979), who was by his own
admission bowled over by the creations he saw in Necronomicon. These images
provided the basis for the titular monster, and it was this blockbuster science
fiction film franchise that catapulted an unassuming Giger to superstardom and
into the public consciousness for all-time. The set design is known for its heavy emphasis on sexual imagery. His then-wife, Mia Bonzanigo, was there to
see him win the Oscar for Alien.
Giger’s widow, Carmen Maria Giger, expatiates on her late husband’s sense of
perception and his masterful melding of human anatomy and machines. By his own admission, one of his paintings
came about due to a trip he had on LSD.
his fragile state, Härr Giger still managed to make it to public appearances
when museums mounted exhibitions of his work, such as the Lentos Art Museum in
Austria. The droves of fans who flocked
to see him came from all sorts of backgrounds, and many of them possessed
tattoos of his artwork that covered their arms, legs, and backs.
film leaves the viewer with an interesting overview of an artist who succeeded
in what he set out to do, and was complacent in himself and his work.