|Vincenzo Natali (2004)|
a) Growing up with Alien
Alien was a movie that influenced Vincenzo enormously and meant a great deal to him as he grew up. He was about ten or eleven when it came out, he desperately wanted to see it but wasn't allowed because of the Canadian cinema rating systems that were similar to the United Kingdom's. And so this forced him to have to voraciously read everything that he could about the movie, and that would lead him to knowing a great deal about the film
b) Seeing the film and his response
It would be some years before he caught Alien on the big screen, but when he did, he was amazed. What astonished him was that he found himself to be afraid, and although he knew every detail about the film, it still frightened him. He thought the reasons for this were actually twofold, one one hand he found it to be just so well constructed almost like a perfect movie, it was so clean, simple and precise. And on the other hand, just as great horror films do, it touched on things that were taboo and disturbing. With Alien, he thought it had something to do with the concept of having something growing inside of you. He thought that the core of the film was about rape, and that was why it was so disturbing, because that's basically what the alien did. While in more traditional horror and monster movies, the monster eats its vicitms. Here in Alien, it impregnated them.
c) Awareness of its history
He was aware that Ron Cobb did all the spaceship design, and everything that was related to the human beings and meanwhile, Giger did everything related to the aliens. And on top of that he was aware of the other great artists involved in the film such as Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Chis Foss. And so it was this group that were working on Alexandro Jodorowsky's production of Dune which lasted, the project lasted from 1974-1976. (although Ron Cobb didn't actually get involved with the project but Dan O'Bannon was doing what he could to get him aboard before the production folded. ) And Dan O'Bannon the visual effects supervisor on that movie, wrote the Alien script and brought that team of artists from Dune to Alien.
- Film-makers on film: Vincenzo Natali
Mark Monahan talks to Vincenzo Natali on Ridley Scott's Alien (1979)
Click here for the film-makers on film archive
For many British film fans born in or around 1970, one poster at that decade's close leapt off billboards like no other. It bore only the image of a strange-looking egg, cracking ominously above a strange-looking lattice; the single word "Alien"; and the simple dictum, "In space no one can hear you scream".
Lady in waiting: Sigourney Weaver, star of Ridley Scott's Alien
You didn't know quite what was going on, but you knew this much: that this was Star Wars for grown-ups, that you ached to see it, and that you hadn't a hope of doing so. Things were clearly as hard on the other side of the Atlantic.
"Alien is a movie that influenced me enormously and meant a great deal to me growing up," says writer-director Vincenzo Natali.
"I desperately wanted to see it, when I was 10 or 11, but I wasn't allowed to because we have a similar ratings system in Canada to yours. And that's why I know so much about the movie, because that made me read everything I could about the film. I was just voracious.''
It was some years before Natali - the man behind the startling Cube, and the exceptional new high-tech thriller Cypher (on general release) - finally managed to catch Alien on the big screen, but, when he did, he was amazed. "I was afraid," he says. "I knew every detail about that film, and it still frightened me. That was what astonished me about it.''
Certainly, Ridley Scott's breathtaking sci-fi slasher has always exhibited a rare ability to frighten - on the 20th viewing as much as the first.
"I think the reasons for that are twofold," says Natali. "On one hand, it's just so well constructed, almost a perfect movie - it's so clean, simple and precise. And I also think it touches on things, as all great horror films do, that are taboo and disturbing. With Alien, I think it has something to do with the concept of having something growing inside of you.''
The unwilling incubator for the alien is Kane (John Hurt), one of a crew of seven on a deep-space cargo ship who follow what they believe is a distress call to a remote planet. In the first of two famous scenes that act as struts for the entire movie, a creature welds itself to Kane's face, planting inside him an embryonic monster that later erupts unforgettably from his chest, and then proceeds to pick off the other crew members.
"I think that at its core the film is about rape," says Natali, "and that's why it's so disturbing, because that's basically what the alien does. In more traditional horror movies or monster movies, the monster eats its victims. Here, it impregnates them.''
Natali also attributes Alien's power to the contribution of the brilliant and (by all accounts) rather eccentric Swiss-born designer HR Giger, and to the decision - typical of the care that went into the film - to divide it, visually, right down the middle. "Ron Cobb did all the spaceship design, everything that related to human beings, and Giger did everything related to aliens.
"But, there were other great artists involved in the film - in addition to those two, it had Jean Giraud and Chris Foss. All of them were working on Alexandro Jodorowsky's version of Dune, which was being developed in 1974-6. That film fell apart, and Dan O'Bannon, the visual effects supervisor on that movie, who also happened to be the screenwriter of Alien, brought that team on to Alien.''
What O'Bannon also brought to the film was the experience of having worked with director John Carpenter on Dark Star (1974). This wasn't a horror movie, and was made for $60,000 - less, probably, than the sandwich bill for Alien - yet it was to have a profound effect on Ridley Scott's movie.
"Where every other film about space travel made it seem like a grand, epic voyage, Dark Star was the first that tried to make it seem mundane. Alien does that too. I think it was very clever in the way it made the characters basically truckers in outer space, and therefore treated the whole notion of space travel realistically.''
Similarly realistic was O'Bannon's script for Alien, further enhanced by producer Walter Hill, and beautifully rendered by the seven-strong cast that (in addition to Hurt) included Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm and the then-unknown Sigourney Weaver.
"For all the film's technical polish," says Natali, "there's a loose quality to the actors' interaction with each other, and it feels almost like improvisation. In fact," he adds, decisively, "that's the key to why the film is so terrifying: it's so believable."(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3602529/Film-makers-on-film-Vincenzo-Natali.html)