H.R. Giger’s best known for his creature and set designs in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi opus Alien, but I truly fell in love with his original artwork when I was in college. His ‘biomechanical’ airbrush paintings are the things of nightmares and they instantly appealed to me since I was much interested in the similar ideas as Giger, fear and the seemingly infinite cycle of life and death.
Dark Star is a peculiar documentary. The early portions feature the film crew literally wandering through Giger’s house with no narration. In a lot of ways it feels as if they merely wandered in there by mistake or that you are virtually in Giger’s home as a guest. As a fan of his artwork is rather amazing to see how he lived, and the plethora of artwork or bizarre curios set in various niches and alcoves. Despite the fact that his house sits in a banal urban area, the house has a rather surreal decor and atmosphere like something out of a nightmare.
Periodically, the film makers do get various folks to sit down and speak about Giger’s early days as an artist. The people in the interviews range from his wife to curators and his current and past assistants. Perhaps the most powerful interview however is the one featuring Giger talking about the suicide of his first wife. Despite happening over 30 years ago it’s clear Giger still feels its impact and carries the burden that he couldn’t help her with her depression.
Toward the later half of the film Giger goes to the grand opening of an exhibit of his work. It is rather profound the impact his work has had on people. One man in particular breaks down to tears while getting a book autographed by Giger. The commentary by the curator of the show is rather insightful as well. But I think that the best comments come from Giger himself in that he talks about how painting the subject matter that he does is a way to confront his own fears and master them.
The movie ends with the opening of the Giger museum which features exclusively his own work including some rare and favored pieces that he bought back from collectors and others in order to include them in the museum. It’s an impressive collection and its clear that Giger is clearly at home amongst his works.
Perhaps the best part of the entire movie is watching Giger ride on his ‘ghost ride’ in his back yard. Esentially it is one of those little kiddie trains on a track that passes through art instlliations of macabre imagery that only Giger can create. At one point while riding it he bursts into impish laughter when his cat nearly gets in the way. It’s truly a great candid moment in his life.
Dark Star was filmed shortly before Giger died after falling at home. The film is a bit slow at times but if you stick with it all the way you’ll find a proverbial treasure trove of tidbits and insight into this brilliant and enigmatic artist. If anything it captures the humanity of the pop culture myth. I would recommend this movie to die-hard fans of Giger’s work.