“Memory: The Origins of Alien” (2019)

Documentary

Running time: 90 minutes

Written & Directed by: Alexandre O. Philippe

Featuring: Dan O’Bannon, Veronica Cartwright, Roger Corman

Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” 

Recently released on DVD is the documentary “Memory: The Origins of Alien” (2019) a very original movie about the film “Alien” (1979) that aims to try and make some meaning out of it in a most unique way that reads as a piece of art itself. 

“Memory: The Origins of Alien” is a very good documentary, of course it is at its core a movie about the making of another movie which means it would have been easy to turn this into a standard talking head and clip show which this definitely is not. Filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe does go in-depth about how Ridley Scott made the original 1979 now classic, this is not a collection of stories previously heard a hundred times before which for me is thankful, there have been enough of those produced over the decades. It has a number of complex and rigorously argued set of theses that all come together at the conclusion which once you view this movie you will agree is no easy task.

At various points, the story, direction, and production design of “Alien” are convincingly tied to mythology, religion, dream analysis, then-current developments in politics, the long history of colonialism and Egyptian art and architecture. H.R. Giger, who designed the creatures and planet where the Nostromo crew discovers them, was hugely inspired by the latter. Every detail of cinematography and design dovetails with the images and stories being presented, from the chiaroscuro lighting and black backgrounds that make the witnesses’ recollections seem to be occurring in dream space, to the way Philippe plays previously-seen snippets of interview footage on squarish monitors embedded in control panels that look like items on the bridge of the Nostromo. 

This is a movie about impregnation, gestation, birth, and transformation. That’s why it doesn’t go through the plot of “Alien” chronologically, but instead weaves its strands around the idea of ancient, terrifying forces gathering power over many centuries, concentrating themselves in the minds of all of the people who worked on this movie, then exploding into the world. 

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