Alien: Alexandre O Philippe's Memory - The Origins of Alien: : The Furies waking up on the Nostromo





Philippe wanted to established  a mood and tone right off the bat, and establish ideas and themes thatw ere going to be explored throughout the film.

To him, it creates immediately a major dramatic question.

He was challenged over the matter by Kerry Deignan Roy, his producer at Exhibited Pictures and his partner in crime on those films, but she definitely understood the idea behind it later.

He was also challenged by Chad Herschberger, his wonderful editor, but it was never going to be negotiable. 

In the opening scene, the viewer is brought to enter a cave, the idea was that the viewer is entering the bowers of the derelict, and it's a very deep dark place that one doesn't emerge from until the very end.

Soon, one asks what are the furies doing on the deck of the Nostromo?

Why are they being summoned to life? What’s going on? What is the connection with Alien?

In his film, Will Linn of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, immediately makes the thesis statement that the alien is very much a Fury that is here to correct an imbalance which in this case was Patriarchal guilt.

That was the prologue to this film for Philippe.

Then this created a dramatic question.

What is the connection between the Furies and the Alien?

What makes Memory a mythological take on the movie?

Then it becomes a slow burn of trying to understand that connection.

Of course this scene was indulgent.

If nothing else  it’s a radical interpretation of a very short segment of the Oresteia by Aeschylus.

When he was filming the scene, he was telling the actresses that in Ancient Greek mythos, the lead Fury (played by Mickey Faerch) was as scary as hell.

When he put on his analytical brain, he would go, “Oh, maybe I’m going a little too far here. Maybe this is a little too esoteric.” 

He had a consultant on set and Philipped turned to him saying “Just tell me, are we going too far? What would Aeschylus think of this?

The consultant looked at Philippe and said, "well, Aeschylus was a drunk, he would have loved it!"

Besides, Philippe decided that those ideas were very important to reframing Alien, especially within the context of today.

It was the 40th anniversary now and Alien was dealing with ideas and images that the human collective needed to process and that we still need to process as a collective today.



  1. Alexandre O Philippe: In the opening scene, we enter a cave. Really, the whole idea was that you're entering the bowels of the derelicts. It's a very deep, dark place. And you don't emerge from that darkness until the very, very end.  (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
  2. Alexandre O Philippe: “It comes back a little bit later on when we circle back to Francis Bacon and the Furies, I didn’t want to keep hitting the nail on the head so to speak. To me, it was about establishing mood and tone right off the bat, and establishing ideas and themes that were going to be explored throughout the film. To me, it creates immediately a major dramatic question. What are the furies doing on the deck of the Nostromo? Why are they being summoned to life? What’s going on? What is the connection with Alien? Will Linn with the Joseph Campbell Foundation, immediately makes the thesis statement that the alien is very much a fury that is here to correct an imbalance? That, to me, is the prologue to the film. It creates this dramatic question. What is the connection between the Furies and the Alien? What makes Memory a mythological take on the movie? Then it becomes a slow burn of trying to understand that connection.” (https://bloody-disgusting.com/interviews/3543552/sundance-alien-documentary-reveals-sexual-metaphors-film-exclusive)
  3. Screendaily: A silly, highly amusing three-minute prologue – a fiction insert detailing the reawakening of the Furies at the behest of Clytemnestra in the Temple of Apollo – establishes quite firmly that we’re in the realm of myth and fantasy and viewers may, or may not, want to proceed with caution. (https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/memory-the-origin-of-alien-sundance-review/5136146.article
  4. The documentary opens with a scene featuring the ‘three Furies’ inside of a Nostromo-like set. What was your intention behind this dramatic scene and how did this spaceship set come about?
    Without giving too much away about Memory because I think it holds a few surprises, I really wanted to establish visually and viscerally the connection that exists between the chestburster and ‘the Greek Furies’ in the sense that there are mythological roots to Alien. So that particular scene really came almost unconsciously. It came from my unconscious, and it felt like the right thing to do in the sense that it sort of froze the audience immediately in this world that has certain elements of mythology. There’s obviously [in the film] the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, there’s very few shots from another Temple at Valtera in Italy, and then we get into this spaceship and here are the great Furies and we have the blue laser and the blue mist which of course Alien fans will instantly recognize.
    The Furies have these metal dentures that the fans will also recognize of course, but here they are speaking in ancient Greek. So it’s this sort of blend of the Alien universe and Greek mythology, which the idea was to create instantly a question: what is the connection between Alien and the Great Furies? And that’s a question that is of course answered over the course of the film itself. So it was definitely out there. I had many conversations with my producers about this. I felt very strongly about having that sequence. It’s almost a kind of pure cinema opening sequence. So far I’ve seen that it resonates with the fans so I’m very happy with that. (https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/alexandre-phillipe/)
  5. Point Of View: Can you talk about the opening scene with the dramatic recreation of the Furies, what it means to you, and whether it always made the final cut? Alexandre O Philippe: The opening was the first thing that I wrote. There was never a question that it was going to start any other way. I was challenged by Kerry Deignan Roy, our producer at Exhibited Pictures and my partner in crime on those films, but she definitely gets it now. I was also challenged by Chad Herschberger, our wonderful editor, but this was never going to be negotiable. To me, this opening scene encapsulates everything. It introduces a very potent dramatic question but it engages your senses without giving you a narrative. It presents you with this question of what is the connection between the great Furies and the Alien? Documentaries should be cinematic, throwing the audience into a universe and trusting if they’re patient and you give them images that are powerful enough, they’re going to stay with you. (http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
  6. Alexandre O Philippe: Of course it’s indulgent. When you have to go to Greece and Italy and do this crazy thing on a spaceship set with three actresses and metal mouthpieces and the blue laser and all of that, it’s definitely going a little overboard for an opening sequence in a documentary! But it’s really about setting up the foundation for the film, about making us think of Alien in a different way. If nothing else, it’s a radical interpretation of a very short segment of the Oresteia by Aeschylus. I remember when we were filming the scene and I was coaching the actresses that in ancient Greek. Mickey Faerch, the lead Fury, is fucking scary as all hell. We had a consultant on set and and I turned to him said, “Just tell me, are we going too far? What would Aeschylus think of this?” He looked at me and he said, well, Aeschylus was a drunk, he would have loved it! [Laughs](http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
  7. Alexandre O Philippe:The opening sequence with the Greek Furies, all of that sort of connection is something that if I put on my analytical brain, I would go, “Oh, maybe I’m going a little too far here. Maybe this is a little too esoteric.” But no, I think it works and I’m standing by it completely, because I think those are ideas that are very important to reframing Alien, especially within the context of today. It is the 40th anniversary now and Alien was dealing with ideas and images that we needed to process as a collective and that we still need to process as a collective today. (http://www.hammertonail.com/interviews/alexandre-philippe/)


     
The Furies asleep (source: http://filmthreat.com/reviews/memory-the-origins-of-alien/)
The Furies awake (source: https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/alexandre-phillipe/)

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