Forty years ago in the summer of ’79, Alien, a revolutionary science-fiction/horror film made its way out into the world, bursting on the scene much like its titular character burst out of the chest of an unsuspecting John Hurt. Memory: The Origins of Alien explores the ideology and influences that gave birth to Alien as well as the film’s production and its meaning.
Documentaries about the origins of movies are nothing new. In fact, there are documentaries, video essays, reviews, books, etc. about Alien which have existed since its release. One need look no further than the various DVD and Blu Ray releases of Alien to find how it was made. This raises the central question to the making of this documentary: what is left to say about this film that hasn’t already been said? Memory explores the Greco-Roman myths and the Lovecraftian imagery that influenced the creators of Alien.
Alien is the brainchild of Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Geiger, and Ridley Scott; each one a visionary in his own right. This documentary explores their influences and how they were able to conceive what some consider a perfect horror film in space that spawned a franchise that has lasted until this day.
Another unique way Memory explores Alien is through its discussion about the themes of the film, themes that were perhaps unconsciously explored by its creators. Themes such as feminism, male rape, male pregnancy, and patriarchal guilt can all be seen in its imagery. It is a testament to the documentary that these themes aren’t usually referenced in other films about the Alien franchise.
Memory: The Origins of Alien comes from the mind of writer/director Alexandre O. Philippe, who uses stark lighting and dramatic angles to interview his subjects, mimicking the style of the film they’re discussing. It’s easy to see this was a labor of love for Philippe whose filmography is largely comprised of movies about movies including 2017’s 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene and 2014’s Doc of the Dead.
If you’re an a sci-fi fan, or a fan of movies in general, you’ll find something to love in Memory. It’s more than just the making of a movie. It’s a love letter to Alien and a gift to cinefiles.