Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (2014)
Written and directed by Belinda Sallin
Produced by Marcel Hoehn
Starring Carmen Maria Giger, Tom Gabriel Fischer, H.R. Giger, Carmen Vega, Mia Bonzanigo, Müggi, Stanislav Grof, Sandra Beretta, Hans H. Kunz, Leslie Barany, Andreas J. Hirsch, Marco Witzig, Paul Tobler
A volume of photographs and footage visualize a conspectus concerning the career of this reverend painter, sculptor and interior designer, whose months ante mortem are also recorded at his triplex residence in Oerlikon and locales of engagement in Sallin’s dual documentary, an engrossing eulogium for a figure whose unique corpus vivendi conjoined while challenging conventions of popular and high arts. Within a domicile grandly adorned with its inhabitant’s art crept amid cluttered confines a plump and rasping Giger, for whom infirmity hadn’t attenuated a vitality of imagination still evident in sketches, and whose anecdotes evidence inspiration informed by persisting night terrors, personal trauma and a determination to resolve and channel fear into graphic and plastic design. Accessorial accounts by his wife (Carmen Maria), mother-in-law and secretary (Vega), coadjutants (Fischer, Beretta, Witzig), agent (Barany) and ex-wife (Bonzanigo) affirm and enlarge on those by their distinguished dey, portraying a freehanded friend, discriminating hoarder and gentle eccentric whose talent and characteristic Swiss industry sluiced psychic pother as otherworldly imagery. Treating of vital cycles, feminine exaltation and a morbidly skeletal abstraction of the eternal, the seamless fusion of flesh and mechanism in Giger’s emblematic phantasmagoria obfuscates and recontextualizes variance between structure and semblance, contraption and corpus, its sprawl and detail no less personal for its transcendent universality. None other in depiction, influence or memory casts so dark or abiding an umbra in Giger’s universe as his novennial model, muse and ladylove Li Tobler, whose visage, adversities, personality and presence persist post mortem in enormities of canvas and sculpture lovingly crafted in bereavement coursing more abundantly than childhood anxieties or lurking unease into inhuman contours contorting her elegance as baroque grotesquerie imaged in memoriam. His career’s outset propagating early paintings as prints via the patronage of poster publisher Kunz lead in ascent during the ’70s to cult renown, culminating in the publication of the compilation Necronomicon, which in turn prompted Dan O’Bannon and Ridley Scott to boost by collaboration his commercial breakthrough as designer of Alien‘s chillingly extraterrestrial derelict and organisms; clips shot during this rise expose the artist’s uncompromising punctiliousness, prolific productivity, jocular blasphemy and unexcelled dexterity as an eximious master of the airbrush. Decades later, a moribund Giger accompanied by his Carmens visits Bonzanigo at a formerly familial chalet in misty Flims she’s renovated ulterior to his gift, attends an exhibition to unreserved ovation at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz hosted by curator Hirsch, and signs autographs at his museum in Gruyères for exceedingly dyed, pierced, tattooed and emotional fans. Sallin’s lens is always proximate but never invasive in scrutiny of its subject’s sanctum and lifestyle, where the odd and ordinary mingle: Beretta prepares pizza for her quondam employer, who with his wife entertains collaborators and acquaintances, peruses his mountains of books and views a telecast of Shadow of the Vampire as his Siamese cat Müggi seeks affectionate attention; meters away before backdrops and amid furnishings and sculptures of forbiddingly ghoulish and venereal ingenuity, Vega wrangles her son-in-law’s finances while Fischer and Witzig organize with scrupulous care a superfluity of cumulative chattels spanning three houses, five decades and a lifetime wherein interior space was filled as indulgently by creation as oniomania. For devotees and the uninitiated alike, Sallin’s overview and celebration of Giger in extremis is the only motion picture to exhibit him in his environment, a matchless document of an artist as fertile, strange, singular and accessible as Dalí or Moebius. In death, Giger’s immortality is reified in his museum and galleries, themed cantinas and monuments, album covers, chairs, microphone stands, periapts, posters and calendars parading portent and eros from natal to terminal states — the impossible, incessant invention of a brilliant and boundless mind.
Recommended for a double feature paired with (Soft Self-Portrait of) Salvador Dalí or Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (2014)