HR Giger Revealed: Monster maker

The documentary tries to cover major aspects of Giger’s work, but fails to keep the viewer interested.


Shaheryar Popalzai March 18, 2011

It is very rare that a documentary packed with a bunch of goodies is overshadowed by the extras that come with it. That is exactly the case with HR Giger Revealed, a documentary on Swiss surrealist HR Giger, who is known for his work on Ridley Scott’s film Aliens and various music album covers, among other things.

The documentary tries to cover major aspects of Giger’s work, such as his sculptures, but fails to keep the viewer interested. If it were not for the short films such as Walking with Giger included in the DVD’s extras, the documentary would have been an hour-long snoozefest consisting mostly of fellow artists and musicians praising Giger.

The film revolves around rare footage of the artist at his work place and his work displayed in his own workshop and museum. The opening shows Giger walking in a graveyard in Prague talking about death and changes scenes to him working at his workshop. The scenes showing the artist at work could have been made more interesting – I’d like to see him really working, not sitting on a chair and spraying black paint on a finished sculpture. The documentary is shot in three different locations, Giger’s workshop in Zurich, the Giger Museum, and the Giger Bar in Gruyères, and the film is structured around the work displayed in these locations.

The museum segments are interesting, they walk you through each room and show off his major works. For someone who has not been to the Giger Museum and will never get a chance too, well, something is better than nothing.

The scenes of the Giger Bar in Château St Germain are beautiful. We also get to see the $30,000 Harkonnen Capo chair designed for the Dune film.

The interviews with artists, musicians and other people he has worked with could have been a little better. Most of the artists are all praise and don’t speak much beyond that. Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom Warrior), the former front man for Swiss band Celtic Frost appears twice on the DVD, once in the documentary and the second time on Home Made, he however does not talk about Satan I, Giger’s work that the band was allowed to use free of charge. Interesting stories are clearly missed as most of the time is spent on praise. Debbie Harry (of Blondie) is probably the only one on the documentary who keeps you interested when she talks about Giger’s artwork for her band’s album Koo Koo, and also footage of the two music videos directed by Giger for the album (“Backfired” and “Now I Know You Know”). A little more discussion on the Dead Kennedys Frankenchrist album cover, which used the work Landscape XX originally and drove the band’s front man Jello Biafra to bankruptcy after a trial, would have been nice.

The DVD’s highlights are Art in Motion and Walking with Giger. Art is a 30 minute short of Giger’s work animated, an even more horrifying imagery of already realistic works of art. It revolves around ten of his works, touching on Atomic Children, Triptych, his Dune imagery and the Erotomechanic series.

Walking with Giger is a four minute short directed by Jo Schuttwolf. Giger talks about his influences and his perception of life. Way better than the shots of him walking and cackling at random intervals on the main documentary.

Overall the set is a decent attempt at documenting Giger and some of his work. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably seen most of what is shown here, and probably know more stories than being told here. If you’re just discovering Giger, and his morbid world, you might want to check this out, it’s a great start.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 13th, 2011.

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