FantasticFest 2019 Movies: Memory Origins Of Alien


Alexandre O. Philippe (Director)

‘Memory: Origins of Alien’ does exactly what I hope documentaries will do… provide me with new connections I’d never seen in a subject I thought I knew.  When I sat down to watch this film, I assumed I’d see a critical breakdown of the infamous ‘chestburster’ scene, and I was excited for that alone. I’m a nerd for YouTube channels that explain the subtle ways that film works, how narrative, visuals, and sound combine and interact with the audience and the world at large. If director Alexandre O. Phillippe had given me nothing but a cold breakdown of one of my favorite practical effects scenes, I’d have walked away happy.

Instead, I got much more.

‘Memory…’ takes the story of Dan O’Bannon’s short script of the same name, and fleshes out the connections between it, the Greek myths of The Furies, and the eventual Alien franchise in ways I hadn’t considered. Between all this, it explores the challenges of designing the Xenomorph and also the Nostromo, as well as all the other stylistic choices that layered atop O’Bannon’s idea. Francis Bacon, Robert Altman and more are referenced and their influence demonstrated in an engaging narrative that left me feeling more in love with the original film than before.

The best explanations leave the magic of curiosity intact. By showing how the chestburster trick worked, or by examining the roots of the fear at work in the Alien franchise, Phillippe could have explained away the awe of the final piece. Instead, he engages with the material and the audience in a way that shows love for the source, with interviews that reveal the lasting power of what was created from these elements and collaborations.
I’d recommend anyone with a passing interest in the Alien franchise or a curiosity about how art can survive production realities check out this doc. You’ll surely find something interesting and maybe even brand new to love about the original movie, and deepen the mythological connections in the larger franchise.