Memory: The Origins of Alien is a unique beast, much like the xenomorph itself, a documentary that delves inside the untold origins of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece and becomes a celebration of a magnificently creative trio in the shape of Scott, HR Giger and screenplay writer Dan O’Bannon, who joined forces at seemingly the absolute perfect time.
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, the man who offered up the excitingly insightful 78/52, the documentary that intimately broke down Psycho’s iconic shower scene (our review here), he follows a similar approach by pulling apart the beginnings of Alien and offers us all the insight into how it came to be and, eventually, came to life.
That tryptic of talent, in the form of O’Bannon, Scott and Giger, did something completely against the grain at the time. It’s easy to understand the impact of Alien in the modern era now but it’s even more astonishing when you see what they went through to get it made, and the luck they had in even getting it out there on the big screen. ‘Memory’ offers us a clear, unedited look into how deep their connection was to each other and how it moulded and formed an equally modern and ancient horror story that haunts and inspires to this day.
While I openly admit Alien is a personal favourite, I didn’t know it was originally going to be made on a £2m budget (the final budget was around £11m), and many people stepped away from it but for no logical reason, Ridley Scott picked it up and read it, brought in his team and focused on making it as real as they could, with all the echoes of Greek mythology and the greater question about ‘life’ itself. ‘Memory’ also highlights the iconic imagery involved, the scale of the sets, the obvious sexual and mechanical combination of what they created and, again, the unusual symbiosis of minds that pulled it together.
For me, it’s one of the finest operated films, I adore the openness, the drifting shots that show us the ship and the world we’re about to inhabit, as if things are always moving. Alien tells me everything I need to know about being smart and using silence in movies, waiting within a moment, the ship is breathing before anything happens. It was unlike anything else at the time and it’s still one of the finest movies ever made.
Memory: The Origins of Alien is a psychological and analytical delight, this is the ultimate Alien documentary, delving down deep, hiding in the mechanisms and yet revealing everything and so much more, it’s incredible as an insight.