Alien Resurrection: Into the Living Landscape:
Creating the viper's nest

leading from

a) The strange scene
Ripley becomes separated from the crew of the Betty when she is pulled by the aliens in through the gap in the floor in the corridor and she falls into a pit filled with aliens or as it intertwined in a slimy mass.

She lands on this living carpet before passing through its central sphincter as if disappearing into the writhing horde.

From one point of view, this scene was very important in order to come across something that was terrifying.

From another more important view, it was designed to be one of these abstract scenes that not everyone was going to immediately understand.

It was in a way a sensuous, sinuous world of parts and Ripley was surrendering to this strange thing.

To Sigourney,  it might have been something that Giger and Ridley Scott would have wanted to put in the film.

In terms of this film, it was ideally the sort of odd thing that might have made people ask questions about exactly what they were looking at and what it was supposed to be.

Perhaps it might have potentialy been the sort of scene to offer as much confusion as the scene of discovery of the Space Jockey in Alien


b) The living landscape
What they ended up with was this large living landscape.

A floor surface was sculpted, and was a mixture of rubber, textured floor, but with prosthetic and animatronic and costume pieces animated into it.   

The four polyfoam mats covered with sculpted alien shapes, were butted together on an elevated platform creating a 20 by 20 foot surface that came to life.

It contained tentacles, tales of aliens, a couple of aliens.  

Twenty to thirty puppeteers, the exact number was soon forgotten, a challenge to coordinate controlling various alien body parts - from slithering tails to shiny heads to gesturing fingers - crouched beneath a raised platform of slime and sponge plastic, in some cases they were underneath holding part of the foam sculpture and undulating it, keeping it alive.



c) Organising around Sigourney
Woodruff and Gillis were organising the scene and Woodruff would play one of the actual aliens in the environment. 

They took their cues from Sigourney, because she was the focus of the scene and everything they were doing, while it was in the background, was also a character in its essence, and it symbolically showed her sinking into the world of the aliens

They talked with her about what her emotions in the scene would be and how they sorted out their rhythms to that, perhaps these would not come across overtly on the film, but it would be there on what they considered as a subtextual level. 

Sigourney was actually very happy with the scene considering one of the most memorable images of any of the films

A real viper's nest. Photo by Bazuki Muhammad
(source:http://www.suprmchaos.com/)

A real viper's nest (http://stanleybing.com/bing-plus/nest-vipers)
Source Quotes.
  1. The key to the consistency of all the creatures in Alien Resurrection was to keep within the boundaries already set by H R Giger. Although the artist was not approached to add his own signature to Jeunet's film, his influence was still an important factor to the new to the new film's creature designs. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the nightmarish location of the Aliens' lair, or the Viper's Nest as it's been affectionately labeled. (SFX magazine #32, Dec 1997, p30, (UK version)
  2. The Viper's Nest is one of the biggest things ADI have ever had to create for any film. (SFX magazine #32, Dec 1997, p33, (UK version))
  3. Sigourney Weaver: A Hieronymous Bosch nightmare of tentacles and protuberances. (Alien The Archive, p290)
  4. Nigel Phelps: that was an interesting set because it's not really a set. that floor surface was sculpted and was a mixture of rubber, textured floor but with prosthetic and animatronic and costume pieces animated into it. (Alien The Archive, p290)
  5. Interviewer: There is a sequence in which Ripley descends into the coils of the Alien. What do you think is going on in that scene
    Sigourney Weaver: Again, this scene is one we had to fight for. They did not want Ripley descending into the sphincter of the alien world which is what Alec Gillis Special Effects used to call it and to me it was everything Giger, Ridley, everybody would have wanted, this sort of sensuous, sinuous world of parts and god help you if you're there. And yet, at the same time there's a great... there's sort of that thing of how she wants to sort of surrender to it, to me it was, you know, all about life. It's horrifying and you can't... you know you're attracted to it. It's fabulous stuff. But we had to fight of course for that scene because it was not an action scene, it was all sort of this subliminal erotic stuff.(reported from Alien Evolution documentary 2001 interviews)
  6. As the crew push on, Ripley becomes separated, falling into a pit filled with aliens or intertwined in a slimy mass. The disturbing image of the 'viper pit' was concocted using four soft polyfoam matts covered with sculpted alien shapes. Butted together on an elevated platform the matt created a 20 by 20 foot surface. A hole in the centre where one corner of each mat that joined, allowed Weaver to slip through as if disappearing into the writhing horde. As many as thirty puppeteers manipulated the mats from beneath, creating an overall undulating movement, while two suited aliens, along with miscellaneous limbs and tails move about on top of the mass. (Cinefex #73)
  7. For a surreal sequence in which the aliens kidnap Ripley, twenty puppeteers, controlling various alien body parts - from slithering tails to shiny heads to gesturing fingers - crouched beneath a raised platform of slime and sponge plastic. Slowly, Ripley sank into this Gigeresque nightmare of teeming vipers, all manipulated by subterranean puppeteers, directed by Alec Gillis. Lying precariously on a concealed , teetering plank, a prone Sigourney Weaver, her gaze haunted and hypnotic, disappeared into the morass, helped by Tom Woodruff, Jr, in his alien garb, as a crane dollied camera over the horrifying expanse (The Making of Alien Resurrection, p35)
  8. Woodruff: The viper pit, it was important and it was important in terms of the story because it was something that that we had never seen but it was it was always sort of in your mind like, where would these aliens take Ripley if they were ever got a hold of her.(Making of Alien Resurrection documentary)
  9. Tom Woodruff: So we knew it was very important to come across something that was terrifying and what we ended up with was this large living landscape of a uh, a twenty foot by twenty foot set piece that basically came to life, it was all containing tentacles and and er. tales of aliens and er , a couple of aliens in suits and dragging Ripley through it, and erm, I think at one point we must have had er er, probably twenty five or thirty puppeteers underneath, in some cases they were people that were just under there holding part of the, of the foam sculpture and moving it, undulating it, keeping it alive. Some of them were actually puppeteers performing er with a tentacle, erm, er, I was in a suit (Making of Alien Resurrection documentary)
  10. Tom Woodruff: And coming up through a hole, and dragging her, she was being lowered down on a lift, so there was a huge amount of er, of of motion and movement going on and then the saving grace there was that, it could all happen, you could have all these separate pockets of movement, they didn't have to overlap, it was never. It was never one creature that was supposed to be delivering a performance, it was always about a lot of little pockets of living movement bringing this thing to life. (Making of Alien Resurrection documentary)  
  11. Alec Gillis: Technically it was er er, it was a big undertaking, we're not usually asked to create, in essence, create sets.(Making of Alien Resurrection documentary)
  12. Alec Gillis: And this was a twenty by twenty foot set that was a living sculpture. We went through our processes on a, on a larger scale than we often do. Erm. coordinating the puppeteers er, was, er, is always difficult when you have twenty five or thirty puppeteers, er, it can always be a challenge to coordinate that. Erm, we sort of er, took our cues off of Sigourney because she was the focus of the scene and everything we were doing. While it was a background, was also a character in its essence and it symbolically showed her sinking into the world of the aliens. Erm, so we talked a little bit with her about what her emotions in the scene would be, er and how do we sort of time our rhythms to that, and these may be things that don't necessarily come across overtly on film, but in a subtextual level, they are there. Erm, but it really worked, we were very pleased that Sigourney said it was one of the most memorable of of images from any of the films. So we're happy about that. (Making of Alien Resurrection documentary)
  13. Alec Gillis.  So all of these things, it's very difficult to say, boil it down to one of the one or two things we did to make the any of these characters erm more alive because it really is many many things and its rare to have an opportunity to er er, on  a film to be able to explore the full potential of animatronics.








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