Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Space Oddities Film Programme - Alien (1979)

Figure 1: Movie Poster
Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) is a film that has been categorised as a classic science fiction and horror. The film is about seven astronauts, who were on board a huge but dimly lit spacecraft called Nostromo. They were heading back to Earth with the mineral ores they have extracted from one of the planets. While on their way back, their machine on board, Mother, began to detect some distressed signal. The spacecraft detoured and headed towards the planet.

Upon reaching the planet, they found an enormous abandoned spaceship from a group of astronauts who were there before them. A dead alien was also found in it. Kane who was exploring the lower deck of the spacecraft discovered a huge incubator filled with several large alien eggs. He approached an egg that was cracking open for further inspection only to have been tricked by the alien.

A baby alien leapt out of the shell and attached itself to Kane’s face, knocking him unconscious. His fellow mates came to his rescue and brought him back to Nostromo. Ash permitted them inside the spacecraft despite Ripley’s rejection. The crew’s attempt to remove the alien from Kane’s face proved to be unsuccessful because of the alien’s acidic blood. Later on, the alien detached itself and the crew panicked as they tried to search for it. Ripley’s concern became true when Kane reproduced an alien that ripped him from the inside. Charles Cassady Jr. wrapped up the plot of the film beautifully when he said The crew struggles to kill the fast-moving, fast-growing, unwelcome visitor before it gets them.” (Cassady Jr., 2005)

H.R Giger, a Swiss surrealist artist, was the amazing creator and designer of Alien. His concept of this creature was scary because of the constant change in form and the fear of the unknown that he was able to successfully relate to the audience. In agreement with Eggert, he highlighted this in his review “Made with uncommonly crafted skill to unsettle the minds and bodies of its audiences, Alien is a profoundly influential work and a lasting classic.” (Eggert, 2012). This effort of Giger and his team paid off when the film won an Academy Award under the category for Best Visual Effects.

Figure 2: Alien design by H.R Giger [Still Image]
Like most sci-fi films made before this, the world depicted in Alien also used miniatures and extended sets. This was successfully projected on screen. In comparison to Kubrik’s 2001: Space Odyssey (1968), it was also able to achieve realism that made the audience believed that this is an existing world in outer space. Ross sums up this point accurately when he said “A truly remarkable film that hasn’t aged a day, thanks to the horrific and inspired Giger design work, miniatures-based special effects and the tone Ridley Scott created.” (Ross, 2012)
Figure 3: Extended Set of Alien [Still Image]
Figure 4: Behind the Scene of Alien [Still Image]
Not only was this film a great combination of sci-fi and horror, it also had several cultural context behind it. One of it was, at the time when the film was made, the sexually transmitted disease was an epidemic. The alien creature was the parasite that penetrated on Kane, the host. Ripley gave out orders for Kane to be isolated and quarantined fearing that he might have been infected was ignored blatantly by Ash. When Kane reproduced an Alien that later killed the rest of the crew was a representation of how fast an infection spread and affected others. In an article written by Franco, he agrees to this point by saying, “Audiences would relate to the need for quarantine and sterilization, noting how this sexually transmitted parasite goes on to destroy the crew it resides with.” (Franco, 2011).
Figure 5: Kane reproducing [Still Image]
The more prominent cultural context was that a woman played the main protagonist role. It was one of the critical moments in United States history as women organisations fought for Equal Rights that was a law later enforced.
Figure 6: Ripley in Spacesuit with a weapon at hand [Still Image]
In conclusion, this claustrophobic film was able to keep the audiences at the edge of their seats throughout the film. As Derek Malcolm puts it It is, in fact, an audience reaction picture par excellence.” (Malcolm, 2009)

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 Aliens (1979) [Poster] at accessed on 22 October 2013

Figure 2 Alien [Still Image] at accessed on 22 October 2013

Figure 3 Extended Set of Alien [Still Image] at accessed on 22 October 2013

Figure 4 Behind the scene of Alien [Still Image] at on 22 October 2013

Figure 5 Kane’s Scene [Still Image] at on 22 October 2013

Figure 6 Ripley in Spacesuit with a weapon at hand [Still Image] at on 22 October 2013

List of Bibliography:

Cassady Jr., Charles
Accessed on 22 October 2013

Eggert, Brian
Alien (1979)
Accessed on 22 October 2013

Franco, Hector
Alien (1979)- Film Analysis
Accessed on 22 October 2013

Malcolm, Derek
Derek Malcolm’s Alien Review from 1979
Accessed on 22 October 2013

Ross, Jim
Alien (1979)- Movie Review
Accessed on 22 October 2013

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