The Horror Honeys: Director Interview: Belinda Sallin ~ DARK STAR: H.R. GIGER'S WORLD

Director Interview: Belinda Sallin ~ DARK STAR: H.R. GIGER'S WORLD

It's no secret that any horror fan, whether they've been exposed to the world of Alien or not, is usually familiar in some way with the works of H.R. Giger. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that his work has affected me in a very deep way, and the opportunity to interview the director of a documentary that literally captures some of the artist's last days on earth was something I wouldn't ever pass up. As an art lover, there is nothing not to adore about Giger's work - his skill is palpable, and knowing that he completes his paintings without any prior sketching or planning is a daunting thing. As a woman, Giger's works have spoken to me on a more personal level than anything I've ever experienced - his terrifyingly strong women command the canvas with their gaze and overpower the world with their monstrous fertility and largesse. Their strong, direct, and benevolent gaze has followed me my entire life. I love them. I long to be them. As director Belinda Sallin was keen enough to point out, Giger's work isn't just about male and female, is was about everyone, about "all beings" and that observation alone encapsulates Giger's work and focuses in on the fact that Giger's art really did transcend traditional boundaries, and makes all the more poignant the fact that people view him as a conduit artist - someone who couldn't explain his paintings and creations, but was content to just let them flow from his fingers.

"It's not only female imagery, it's ALL. It's birth, it's life, it's death, it's ALL. The female figures and also the phallic symbols transcend the figurative and portray the primal instincts of humanity."

Dark Star is at once a tender portrait and a stark juxtaposition between the morbidity and darkness of the works of a genre-bending pioneer and his tender personal life, and the home he has made for himself within the realms of the bizarre and shocking. Told with more observations of the man and his work than through Giger's own interpretations of his life, Dark Star is somehow more poignant and powerful because of this separation.

"He feels most at ease surrounded by the uncanny. He feels at home in places we run from in fear."

Influential surrealist painter H. R. Giger (1940-2014) hypnotized audiences with his Oscar-winning visual creatures in Ridley Scott's masterpiece ALIEN and altered the pop culture landscape forever with his striking, dark visual imagery. 

Hollywood, sci-fi, horror, pop music, album covers, punk and goth culture, tattoos and fetish art have been influenced by his intricate, startling paintings and sculptures depicting birth, life, death and sex. Both a mesmerizing introduction to Giger's oeuvre and a must-see for Giger devotees, Belinda Sallin's definitive documentary DARK STAR: H. R. GIGER'S WORLD shares the last years of the artist's life and reveals how deeply he resided within his own artistic visions

Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World (2015)
Dir: Belinda Sallin
Questions provided by Sci-Fi Honey 2.0 Katie, Interview conducted by Head Honey Kat.

What did you set out to accomplish with this film? What kind of portrait of the man and his work were you hoping to achieve?

What I absolutely didn't want to make was a conventional documentary of HR Giger. You know, it was not my intention to start off with photographs of H.R. Giger as a little boy and, "he was born in 1940..." I really didn't want to do that. It was my intention to show the world he lived in, his extraordinary houses. I think he literally lived in his art with all of the consequences. He made the uncanny, the sinister, his home, and I think that's very unusual and at the same time he remained a very friendly, charming and humorous man. I wanted to show all that. I wanted this film to be an honest portrayal of the man H.R. Giger and his work.

How did you first encounter Giger's art? Is there a particular piece you're most affected by or drawn to?

I think the first piece of art I had seen of his was an album cover "Brain Salad Surgery" for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Then of course I saw "Li" and "The Birth Machine," I had a poster in my room, and of course I saw Alien, and I was shocked when I first saw it, it scared me. I loved his work over the years, but it wasn't until I met Sandra Beretta, a former life partner of H. R. Giger's I started to love it again. The night I met her, she started to talk about Giger, and immediately all of the images of his that I had seen came back to me. This is the quality of the art of HR Giger, if you've seen his work, you don't forget it. She (Sandra) took me with her one evening to meet HR Giger, and it was that night I decided to make this film. When I entered the house I was so overwhelmed, and when I met him it was very surprised - I don't know what I expected, maybe a man with a dark character, or a distance to him, but he was such a nice, friendly and charming man - I was really surprised.
Brain Salad Surgery - Emerson, Lake and Palmer

On an original level, the house is like a playground, it's amazing. The house became a protagonist in the film. The house and garden show a part of the *inside* of H.R. Giger, and as I mentioned he literally lived in his art. I  really liked to work there, it was a very friendly place, very homey. After a while, it was very comfortable there.

Over the course of filming, how much time did you spend with Hansrudi and his family?

We started filming in September 2013, and ended in April 2014 - in May 2014, just 5 days before he died we did a photoshoot for the film promotion. I think about it now, and this is amazing, we finished his work on this film just before he died.

In the film he says that he feels as though he's accomplished all he wanted to do with his life and work. Is there anything you wished you could have captured or experienced with him for the film? 

This is something that impacted me the most about H.R. Giger, is that he realized his dream and followed his dream regardless of what people thought. With art, I can't imagine what people said in the 60s and 70s about his art. Her stuck to his path all the time. He did a lot of things, tried a lot of things, he made comics, album covers, film, Hollywood, you name it, he built his own bar. He never did what the art establishment expected him to do, he did what he wanted to do. Well established galleries wouldn't show his work, so he built his own museum. I think this is very inspiring. I think it's beautiful that he can say at the end of his life that he is satisfied, that he has done what he wanted to do and he has seen what he wanted to see. It's very touching for me that he can say that about his life and his art.

It's a discussion here in Switzerland and Europe that he didn't get the acknowledgement that he deserved, but at the end of his life, this was no longer a discussion for him. Maybe a composure came from the fact that he knew that he didn't need the establishment or institutional approval when he has already reached so many people all over the world with his art.

When you look back on your experience with H.R. Giger and his extended family, and everything you did over that year of filming, is there anything that stands out to you the most?

There were many moments, but there are some that are very precious to me now. When I talked to Hansrudi about Li, I don't think he had ever spoken about Li; about his feelings and his experience when she died, so this is really precious to me. At the end of the film when we are at the museum in 
Gruyères, he enters The Spell Room and says it's his favorite room, and this was the last time he visited his own museum before her died. This was a very special day because he wasn't feeling well, and I had to convince him to come and I'm very glad because it was the very last time he was there.

In the film we learn some surprising things about his process, like the fact that he doesn't sketch before he paints. Having seen him work and seen the many things he has painted and sculpted in person, what struck you the most about how he approaches a project?

I asked him many times about his inspiration, and he would always say "Life! Life inspires me! Everything inspires me." He never liked to talk about his work, and he made that very clear before we began filming. "Don't ask me about my work, I cannot explain it, I don't want to explain it." He himself couldn't explain it.

How much footage did you actually have to go through to get your documentary? What was your process like trying to get it down to the documentary people will be seeing? 

It's huge. I was very interested in the early documentaries, especially one from 1971 by
Müller. He's a friend of Giger's and I went to his home and told him about my project and I asked him if he had any outtakes from this early early documentary. I didn't want to use TV reports, I wanted to make another film. I didn't want to make a conventional documentary.

Giger has influenced the art and film world in many ways -- what do you feel his greatest legacy will be?

It's difficult to say. I think he is somehow a trans-media pioneer. He was one of the first to use all of the tools he wanted [as an artist], I think that he was an exception in the 70s, and I think this is one of his legacies. He did it all. I think nowadays artists do that much more than they did in the 70s.  

Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World premieres on May 15th in the US

RIP H.R. Giger
5 February, 1940 - 12 May 2014