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“HR Giger and I were on the same wavelength somehow”

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Belinda Sallin • Director


- Belinda Sallin reveals her impressions of Hans Ruedi Giger and her thoughts on her intriguing documentary Dark Star: HR Giger's World, which is currently being screened in North America

Belinda Sallin  • Director

Swiss director Belinda Sallin tells us about her latest film, Dark Star: HR Giger's World [+see also:
film review
interview: Belinda Sallin
film profile
, which had its world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival in 2014 and is currently being screened in North American theatres (starting with New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on 15 May, then going on to be shown in more than 35 North American cinemas). This constitutes a remarkable success for a Swiss film portraying the last few months of an artist who is particularly admired overseas. With her movie, Sallin did not want to make another conventional biography, but her aim was to lock up the emotions she felt during her stay with HR Giger. Both of these individuals had a great deal of sensitivity, which gave rise to an unexpected film that is provocative thanks to its simplicity. After Zurich, Dark Star: HR Giger's World was presented at various festivals such as Istanbul, Hong Kong and Buenos Aires. Finally, Sallin’s movie was part of the Panorama section of DOK.fest.

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Cineuropa: There are a lot of things you can read about Giger. Was it difficult to keep your distance from the legend and look at the artist differently?
Belinda Sallin: Of course, I had a lot of images and ideas about HR Giger when I met him for the first time. But it was not so difficult for me to throw it all away. I always do this – or at least I try to do so – when I make a film. I try to let go of all my prejudice and preconceptions. HR Giger made it easy for me: it was during the very first meeting with him when I decided to make this film. I was completely overwhelmed when I entered his house, and I was very surprised when I met HR Giger himself. He was such a nice, charming, friendly man. At first, the artist didn’t really seem to fit with his art, and vice versa. The image I had of him as an unapproachable artist with a dark nature was not correct. I found him to be a very considerate person, right up until the end, and I liked that. So it was not difficult for me to keep my distance from the legend – and show in the film what I'd seen and experienced.

What did you wish to achieve with Dark Star? Could we say that your purpose was to “reveal” the man behind the myth?
I wanted the film to be an honest portrayal of the man Hans Ruedi Giger, and of his work. A portrayal that was as devoid as possible of prejudice and moral conceptions. A portrayal that takes the multitude of different clichés that were piled onto HR Giger during his entire life, and obliterates them. But it was not my intention to make a conventional biography of Giger. It was my intention to show the world he lived in, his extraordinary houses. He literally lived in his art, with all the consequences of that. He made the uncanny, the sinister and the scary his home, and remained a very charming, humorous and friendly man. By showing all of this, I hope the film sparks a new, unencumbered dialogue about HR Giger and his work.

How did you obtain the strong feeling of intimacy and mutual trust that we can feel in the movie?
HR Giger's former life partner, Sandra Beretta, introduced me to him; she opened the door. This was certainly an advantage. Then Giger himself saw that my research was serious and I had a deep knowledge of his work. That's something he seemed to appreciate. Fortunately, I live near Giger's house, so I paid him many, many visits in Zurich-Oerlikon. Upon meeting him, I immediately accepted the fact that words were not his medium and that I’d have to use other ways and means to bring the film to fruition. I think Hans Ruedi was pleased when he realised that I understood that. We were on the same wavelength somehow, and we didn’t need to speak much between us. I think HR understood his participation in the shoot and his appearance in this film as his last performance. He bravely took part in the film despite his weak health. This is, in itself, quite a provocative decision in a society that is obsessed with youth, beauty and fitness. In my opinion, Giger was making himself conspicuous to us in the eternal cycle of birth, life and death. He knew exactly what he was doing. And I was there at the right time. 

How was Dark Star received in the US, and what does the act of releasing your movie in North America mean for you as a Swiss director?
It means a lot to me that Dark Star is being released in the US, in almost 40 cities (from 15 May until July). This is very exciting, and I really don't take it as a matter of course. I didn't expect such interest from the media, and honestly I was very surprised about the incredible number of interview requests, but of course also very pleased. So I'm very happy about it!

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