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Memory: The Origins of Alien just landed on Earth at the opening night of this year's Sundance Film Festival, and though the documentary is about 1979's Alien, it shed light on a relevant social issue of today.
Filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary explores new analyses of the sci-fi horror nightmare that hatched 40 years ago. These analyses offer a point of view that was mostly ignored during the era — how the hierarchy of the Nostromo crew and the power of top executives at Weyland Utani are really metaphors for the subconscious guilt of men associated with the oppressive patriarchy of the time.
“I don’t think it was necessarily a #MeToo movie,” Philippe told Bloody-Disgusting. “I think it was unconsciously a #MeToo movie. I think it resonated with audiences precisely because those were ideas that unconsciously were already in our society, that now 40 years later, interestingly enough, we’re starting to talk about.”
Philippe doubts that Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger, writer Dan O’Bannon, or anyone else involved in the film’s conception and production actually intended the film to be a social commentary about patriarchal society. Even Ripley was originally written as a male role, with Scott himself admitting that anyone watching Sigourney Weaver go up against terrors from deep space would never make her out to be the last survivor because of her looks.
In the film, Ripley is a warrant officer, ranking in between commissioned and non-commissioned officers, with that proverbial glass ceiling well above her. While Ripley isn’t the first final girl of that decade—Jamie Lee Curtis emerged from the bloodbath of Halloween the previous year—she is evidence of the film’s subconscious.
“I think the patriarchal guilt that was in our society, and I’m talking about an unconscious guilt... it’s something we still need to work through,” said Philippe. "There’s an imbalance there that we still need to work through.”
While this is not the only theme in Alien addressed in Memory, which also delves into H.R. Giger’s Lovecraftian design and the additional mythological inspiration behind the film and its creatures (including the Furies of Greco-Roman lore), it is certainly a strong element of the documentary.
There is no sign from space telling when those of us who weren’t at Sundance will be able to see Memory, at least not yet, but we’ll keep you updated.