The Knightess of the Siege Perilous

In Harper’s Bazaar I see a woman, 1.80 meters tall, apparently without any make-up, with a determined face and a marked underbite, whose determination underlines, if anything, the fact that she is all but naked under a see-through, ice-blue miniskirt by Versace.  The legs are more muscular than we commonly think of a model’s as being, but this woman is no model.  She is a famous film actress named Sigourney Weaver, and one year ago (it is the October, 1996, issue) she sold her flesh, which had already had quite a bit of exposure in the Alien films, yet again.  The flesh seems to have recuperated since the last time.  On the next page she wears a similarly see-through but full-length dress by Dolce and Gabbana in a tiger-stripe pattern.  In the interview that is printed with it, the woman speaks about sex, on the occasion of a theatre piece that seems to have this as its theme and in which she plays the leading role.  In the Alien films sex plays no role.  Instead, it’s Sigourney who stars.


Sigourney Weaver, Photo: Harper's Bazaar

It is amazing in how many spaces one comes across people and still recognizes them just from their faces. These are occasionally the faces of people we actually cherish, particularly when they belong to film actors whom we would recognize wherever they might pop up, if not, perhaps, at the local bar, since these are certainly not the sort of people one just bumps into.  They are permanently removed from us, and yet, in the newspapers, they seem almost as though they could be touched, even if they could never be tamed.  Generally speaking, this happens because the imaginary space on the silver screen, even if it shows everyday genre scenes, is always separated from the space of daily life.  It incites the spectators to reach for it, but the invisible, unjust equation has no solution; it is as if one were reaching his hand into water that perpetually parts itself as the hand approaches.  Even though the space in which we live, though defined very precisely by natural science, is no firmer or more secure even at the spot where we abide, we also may not attribute to  the events on a movie screen --which is the only firm and secure thing about a film-- a greater density or concentration as a result of what is happening in the film.  It swishes past, leaving us unable to say what is happening.  Is film a war of worlds between the real and the irreal, which in turn must be real for us (indeed, the more real the better)?  And the more improbable the unreal aspect of the film is (naturally, in sci-fi films, which leave our planet behind and encompass all of outer space, we have the most improbable scenarios of all), the more the directors take pains to make what is shown on the screen appear particularly real.  Possibly, they do this so that it will be that much easier to establish relationships between what is shown, on the one hand, and our own reality on the other. 

ALIEN3 (David Fincher, 1992, Photo CentFox), from METEOR, 1997, 11

Perhaps the instinctive fear, indeed terror, that we normally feel during scenes in films of battles with sundry monsters (and the Alien films follow the ancient schema of man-against-monster, that is, against the non-human), is rooted in the suspicion that behind the space in which these battles are played out (though we know that there in fact is no such space), there could be another one, and behind this another, and so on-- spaces that threaten to suck us in, and in which nothing happens that has any relationship to real space.  And so we already have the world of the spectator and that of the illuminated screen, on which things “appear” to us, spaces, which exist in complete separation from one another.  And then there is what happens on the screen: that in turn would be another continuum, one that no longer permits of definition, since the characteristics of the space in which we live do not apply to it, even if many things about it appear familiar.  That we are being made afraid by what is going on up there on the screen would be the simplest explanation.  But perhaps it is quite different, and what we distinguish as the void or as space are part of one and the same mechanism: the original naturalness of these spaces, and of those spaces that in sci-fi films must be conquered, could long ago have been tamed by means of hard work and industriousness, and the cause of all of this may just have been: a Company that has it all in its hands and that wants to domesticate and dominate the spaces by means of its colonists, its freight and commercial vessels, as well as those it has sent, of various ranks, from the lady commandant down to the androids, who of course were manufactured and programmed by the rulers of The Company.  But for what?  In the first place, in order to exploit them.  The US-American novelist Thomas Pynchon (the author of paranoid global conspiracy, who could have come up with the Alien films and may in fact have done so), with a precision like few others before him, spoke of the naturalness of great commercial ventures (everything is connected, any one thing is connected with any other, and the connection is itself the paranoid conspiracy, as well as the one thing that would be worse than being a part of the conspiracy: not to be a part of it).  In Gravity’s Rainbow what is at issue is the creator of the  cartellized state, the subsequently murdered German foreign minister and son of the founder of AEG, the first great electric company, Walter Rathenau, who, by connecting the horizontal and vertical structures for which he was the spokesman and architect (in any case, as a social utopian, he was as it were the “good” father of his employees, while in contrast, at least in the Weimar Republic, Alfred Hugenberg, who himself in the most literal sense of the word owned public opinion, the press, the film studios, and thus the people as well, may perhaps be pegged as the “evil” ruler), is ultimately at the same time also the one who sets off The Universal Paranoia.  In the modern post-war state (by which I mean not just both World Wars, but all wars that come after, which, even if they are partially fought, are always diffused by commerce, as the freight shippers in Alien for their part show), no political group could emerge any longer as victorious, but instead a rational structure, in which commerce represents the true and appropriate authority—a structure that, not surprisingly, would be based on what Rathenau and --with more far-reaching consequences-- Hugenberg built in Germany.

From this it follows, that behind every power there must be another, and to its conquests correspond, in concretized form, all the spaces, behind which other spaces are always already waiting.  There is The Company, a faceless kraken, an organization, which knows more than all the rest, because it controls everything, and The Company also knows the horrible structure behind all the conquests, behind all the facades of multisidedness, market economy, colonialization, dread and retribution.  And perhaps The Company itself constructed the alien, or alternatively used a genetic culture.   Either way it is the same: either to test humans on it or to test it on humans.  Perhaps The Company already possesses everything that it purports to test and exploit, and only wishes to dispose of humans and androids economically, like I.G. Farben, the cartel that set up shop in Auschwitz, clearly against common sense and real production interests, for the purpose of destruction as opposed to labor and production, as Hannah Arendt demonstrated.  No boundaries are set for paranoia, for otherwise there would be no paranoia.  And what people have made and can make becomes ever more like what they cannot make other than in conception and birth: nature, or at least its imitation.  From carbon arise organic bonds, from these the benzene ring (an image of our own beauty), and so things begin.  In the meantime, the cartel itself becomes organic, it cannot be otherwise but like nature, and the one constant in the Alien films is the heroine, Ripley, Sigourney Weaver: she is the one constant, which always stays the same, does not shift but once, for she travels through time in such away that for her it does not pass; all the others change, even the daughter changes and dies eventually as an old woman (cut from the commercial version).  Yet, as in an entropic process, one can perceive a paradoxical movement in the opposite direction, namely, the more Sigourney works, the more she plans and directs (now with The Company, now against it.  Is she The Company?  Is The Company her?  Does she know at all about the scheming of the cartel?  Is she a part of it?), the more the uninhabitedness grows, the more frequently the participants perish (little Newt, who in part two was still alive and who was lovingly put to bed, at the beginning of part three is simply dead as the result of a crash-landing.  Good riddance!), and the deeper everything seems to sink into the sleep of death, and most of all Sigourney herself who seems to grow ever more resigned, rigid, as if made of stone, even though she is at the center of all of this.  And to the cartel, which pulls all the strings (even hers), corresponds a film company, which she herself may perhaps have forgotten, though perhaps not.  This film company produces ever more Alien films, as if by nature, films that simply cannot come to an end.  Why not?  Is it because they have long since taken on a life of their own?  Because they can still make money?  The latter answer seems almost to be too banal.

In the end it is only in sci-fi films that it is possible to show all this, for it is only in these films that the depicted spaces (each for its part itself multidimensional), simultaneously possess the greatest reality as well as the greatest irreality, and no other film genre is able to evoke the spaces, the Conspiracy That Lies Behind, in a manner that is so plastic down to the smallest details.  This Behind must of course reveal from itself alone what rules pertain to it: these are rules that some people or other have established, that do not wish to be named even if they may be shown.  They bear no similarity to donators who wish to remain anonymous.  We spectators, in any case, do not have the privilege of sharing in the experiences that Sigourney Weaver must go through in the Alien films.  She experiences everything for us, we wouldn’t even want to experience what she does in a dream, as they say.  But we are happy to watch, even if we do so while hiding our faces behind our hands and peeking between our fingers.  What we are actually able to see there, though, the total power that has long enchanted us, is shown to us as possible insofar as, in these films, everything is possible,  only so that we might forget that death is transformed into more death, so that we might hide this principle under a great deal of technology and special effects.  However, so long as we do not try to decipher the rules in their imaginary space behind the screen, we will also be unable to break the code of what this actress is doing on the screen.  And yet this is only the beginning.  We will never know, even if we penetrate into the innermost depths of her molecules.  It is only logical that in part four the heroine Ripley is entirely rebuilt from molecules and DNA, and herself does not know who or what she is, monster or human. 

A second, external component is that Ripley often has a hard time doing anything at all amidst all these planetary ruins and all this garbage that entropy has already scattered about, behind all the causes and effects that here at home we call “history” –though in history it unfolds in the Behind, indeed, behind the spaces that are accessible to us--.  For in these films the screen is for the most part very full, as if it had had glued to it a wildly patterned –as well as living!—wallpaper from which the heroine and her co-actors, the little Newt, Bisop, the android –who at first is nothing other than a highly developed (highly “cultivated”!) robot, but in the course of the action of the films becomes ever more human, until he is the most human of all, human and machine at once, a creating creature, for now we see for the first time that the android has had, all along, the face of its master! (here it is already a completely other space in which the master has taken on the face and the interiority of its creation, perhaps since in the process he has perished?)—and the warriors, women and men both (all apparently belonging to the same, androgynous, muscular gender, with the exception of the child, who is the one clearly feminine character and is meant to appear so—a reversal of the legend of the “sexless” child) are only able to flounder chaotically.  They are constrained to run about like savages, to sweat, to throw flames, shoot, toil, in order to somehow liberate the screen and thereby to clear a way for themselves.  It is different, by the way, in part three, “in the penal colony,” for there the protagonists have no weapons at all, other than the most primitive ones that were already available in the Stone Age.  Very nearly completely nude (stripped to the bones) and sheared of all hair (which naturally pushes androgyny to its limit), they must use their bodies themselves as weapons, thus very literally giving themselves as security deposits.  To make room on the screen means that what is is arleady there, what is already “put on celluloid,” is able to appear in order to show us our place in the In-Front-Of.  To clear and to fill up the space on the screen means, from the point of view of the actors, to drive out a many-armed, amorphous monster, a monster that is simply everywhere.  And even if the monster does not seem to be home, the tension naturally arises from the fact that it is there.  But are they going to find it?  (well, the musical score, at least, will be of help here).  A tentacled, horrible creature, melting upon itself even before it is in fact burned (the fate of witches of old!), a horrible embryo over which Ripley, still plunged in the inferno with which she will save the world while at the same time annihilating her “child”, bends, almost as if moved by care—the absolute parody of the Virgin Mary and the little child Jesus.  The monster, even if it jerks about like lightning and appears cut into pieces –probably so that we will remain unable to examine too closely the made, built, tinkered aspect of the thing; thus we get only a piece of the tail, one, two seconds of a head, etc.— becomes a moving background pattern, since it is able to be “everywhere” and indeed is everywhere.  From this background the star Sigourney, the leader, and her co-actors, must make their way in this “everywhere” in order to be able in the end to give us some decent movie acting.  The art of film, like any other art in which something arises, in which something is “made”, sets a work in motion that displaces everything in its way; sometimes this work can be called truth.  In any case it consists in paths and spaces that are carved out from unmoved space.

Brigitte Helm and Heinrich George in METROPOLIS (Fritz Lang, 1926, Photo ORF), from METEOR, 1997, 11

In Fritz Lang’s Metropolis of 1926 it is to these tentacles of the monster, of the alien-stranger, that the painted corridors of the worker-city Metropolis correspond, built as models and quickened through the trickery of mirrors, a city in which above and below, ruler and worker, are strictly separated, and the son of the ruler is the connection between the two spheres, the wanderer who bridges the gap.  The futuristic lines of transport traverse the frame of the film like living, gripping arms, and at some point the workers (Ernst Jünger first published “Der Arbeiter” in 1932, though it seems to me he must also have been influenced by this film) fill the space entirely, like flowing streams of water; living people fill in, as it were like putty, all of the space between the traffic arteries and the means of transport, into a whole from which nothing more may be removed.  Indeed, formally the streets become people who --perhaps out of fear of the void, and out of fear that, behind the void there is another void that is much more comprehensive-- are sucked into this vacuum and then become the substance of the film’s space, its negative, something other than what any film “naturally” has and ought to have (no positive without the negative!).  Movement arises through an intricate but fundamentally simple choreography of the protagonists, and above all of the actress Brigitte Helm, who in fact appears in a double role: that of (the holy virgin— yet another one!) Maria, and that of the evil robot, created by a human, who bears Maria’s traits but who, underneath, consists entirely in shimmering metal, and who drives the masses to revolution, a revolution that consists only in the desire to destroy themselves, their homes, and their children.  That is the negative of the revolution that was nonetheless thought as positive.  This is not something negative into which the revolution collapses, but a negative that is “in accord with nature,” as in the film.  But at any rate in Metropolis the ruler and The Company can still be seen, just as one was still able to know the Rathenaus and the demonic Hugenbergs, while in the Alien films the  cartel no longer shows itself, only its representatives do.  The catastrophe of the Metropolis is prevented at the last minute by the holy virgin and by the sympathising son of the industrialist, who in the end is someone who poses the Parsifalian “question of compassion,” (the connection between hand and body, thus between handwork and headwork, “the heart”, and without this nothing can succeed, as Fritz Lang says-- least of all breathing, as I say): is revolt, should it occur, “natural”?  In any case, as we have in the meantime learned from real space, it ended badly.  Well then.  The enemy either comes from without, which is the harmless variant, or from within, in which case things get interesting (soon we will see that Metropolis, like Alien, is a hybrid, and draws its fascination not least from this), for this inside is not simply the inside of a human, not simply his evil or good drives and plans.  Rather, to this inside there corresponds a wholly different space than the one that can be seen.  In the Alien films the monster comes simultaneously from without as well as from within, for it is almost always perceived first as a monster when, slavering, spitting, snarling, triumphing, it emerges from the host body that it has inhabited like an evil spirit, popping out like a jack-in-the-box.  Yet it also has to get in there first.  How does Fritz Lang solve the problem of showing his artificial person, who comes from without as well as from within, who is something made as well as something that “lives unbeknownst among others” and is perceived as a foreign species, his robot, who bears the traits of the girl Maria, now as a human and now as a demon that entices into ruin?  The witch Maria, the personification of evil itself, thus (it is important to mention that Maria and Maria-as-demoness are not only identical and of course played by one and the same actress, but that they are also in fact interchangeable, one is the other, since evil --and here this may also be proved-- in the end always comes from within, and only the other Maria, the evil one, can suggest to us this second space, a place that has left the predetermined place and created one of its own in order to unfold itself there, without any barriers; for evil tolerates no limitations, in contrast to the good, which “means something” in the sense of signifying, which is to say it acts towards ends), sits on the shoulder of a revolting worker, the masses push their way along behind her, filling up the surface of projection, as if they had been sprayed on there just like water.  And Maria-the-Devil, waving her hands with a mad and at the same time transported smile upon her face (Brigitte Helm, who has more of an oval-shaped, or, perhaps better, a heart-shaped face, was made up for this scene, in the fashion of the time, with artificial rings under the eyes, the sign of decadence and of nights spent drinking, which does not cease to produce an uncanny effect, like a living skull, straightforwardly duplicated forty years later, though with a somewhat darker colour, in Herk Harvey’s “carnival of souls”!), turns, and with her of course her “Untermann”, on whose shoulders she sits with legs spread and who in fact makes her spin at break-neck speed, “over-revved” in the truest sense of the word, in a circle.  (When she sacrifices herself, Ripley/Weaver sinks into the flames along with her monster/child, slowly rotating around her axis in a resigned giving of herself, hovering in a single sceptical gesture of her entire body.)  Beyond the space of the film, by means of an aggressive gyroscopic motion, a segment is as it were formally bored out, a hole emerges amidst the crowd, and through this hole, which was produced by a person, by means of motion, this other space, the one behind, is able to push forward, setting loose the viewer’s true horror.  This space behind bores into the viewer and formally tears him out of the seat in the movie theatre.  And the more the screen fills with human material (the workers, as is characteristic for them, almost always appear “en masse”, threatening, faceless, amorphous.  In this far, they are the sorce of such a danger.  At the same time, however, they are a raw material, one cannot distinguish between them, they are actually garbage, rubbish, there are just too many of them) and is again cleared out, the more the masses seem to have been sent onto the screen only in order that they might be wiped out once and for all so that we might have more space to live and breath.  The screen was thus filled to the brim, but the water is then drained so that we might remain (Metropolis indeed really does threaten to be flooded!  But the real flood is that of the people themselves).  Are we thus the true lords of the screen?  Did we liberate it so that we might, as in a sacral act, have a place to live rendered to us, a place that is intact, where one might abide undisturbed by foreign elements (even though these elements are among us… no, they are us!  Not in the romantic sense, that we are all foreigners on this earth or something like that, but much more comprehensively: that ultimately everyone must believe in the totality, even if originally destruction only pertained to isolated groups).  A few years after Metropolis they would all be shouting “Heil!”.

Sketch, "New Alien", from METEOR, 1997, 11

Considered more superficially, we witness in the Alien films on the contrary  a regression back to a state short of Fritz Lang’s aesthetic possibilities (naturally this does not concern his technical possibilities): the abstraction of the cinematic artist Lang is, in the Alien films, as in a children’s film, re-concretised  and appears… as what then?  Of course! it appears as a many-armed monster, as a sort of hydra, as material and at the same time as materialized.  In Metropolis, the people bear a proletarian character, which is to say no character at all, on their evidently unchanging mass-faces, faces that say nothing.  And those to whom individuality is allowed, above all the son of the ruler and of course the ruler himself, rise far above this, not just by means of their clothing and the close-ups of their faces.  At any rate, these are rulers who can still be depicted, and who lead us to suspect no others pulling the strings behind them.  At the dawn of the cartellized state, power had as yet no need to cover its tracks, since ‘under normal conditions’ none think to rival it.  The proletarian character of the figures in Metropolis is so strong that it must hide itself behind these non-faces (the faces probably emerged only at the moment when labor was inserted into their features, as books onto shelves), and the faces blur and vanish, and, in contrast to the rulers and to Maria, who is elevated among the women, they are no longer perceptible as individual and individualized.  It is first in the ‘Revolution’, which in fact is not one at all, that individual workers’ faces, by means of close-ups, first emerge from the mass.   May we conclude from this that the worker becomes human only in the revolution, since blind will grabs hold of the individual?  (It exists in order to revolt.  It is not permitted to revolt.)  No, we may not.

This process has its parallel in the Alien films.  Here, the ‘workers’ (in this case, the colonists and the space warriors), standing in opposition to the alien and to its ever-expanding brood (!) (the individuals in Metropolis exhibit a similar naturalness, as if they were there for the culling and thus also destined for extinction, and indeed in Germany people would soon be culled as a consequence of their Jewish nature!), disappear before the background of their terrible ‘work’, the many-armed hydra, the kraken that they cannot annihilate, that they must not annihilate, lest the sequels come to a halt, though this is still only one reason (and what are the interests of The Company here?).  The conversion of the ‘proletarian character’ of the masses, or of the warrior class --in the third part we see that the ‘primitive’ members of the penal colony, mostly rapists, flesh that has pounced on flesh, but that, through battle against the beast is now manifestly that of a warrior, may be ennobled-- in the Alien films into a purely martial character continues to bear in both films an artisanal character, when we consider how silently and relentlessly annihilation has long since been able to occur, and indeed has occurred.  Do the Alien films indicate a sort of artistic regression in comparison with Metropolis?  Can the interpretation be sustained according to which a transition has taken place, from the purely human construction, ‘The City’, to a complex that is recognized as something made and that signals the uninterrupted power of a technology that involves, on the other hand, no concept of making, but rather one of knowing?  And indeed, is this a transition to an organic construction that may be called ‘The Monster’?  And at the same time a spiritual, dynamic abstraction, a planning of the life-space taken over by humans  --a space that on the one hand attempts to seize them but which on the other hand first enables them to appear as they are, paradoxically, precisely because it seems to eliminate the humans who live there and thereby first frees up the space!-- is carried over into nature, into a being, half animal, half plant, that first comes from a sort of pod (a beloved image in science fiction) so to speak into nature of the fist degree.  Naturalness of the second degree, in turn, that of the inhabitants of the Metropolis, emphasized to such an extent that they are able to disappear, would be a nature that is attained through human labour, literally carved out of them.  And their product, the gigantic machine in the megacity-machine (thus a machine within a machine), Moloch in the film, may be seen, pushes its way into our attention as that which towers above everything else.  Technology, ordinarily the most important thing in science-fiction films, in the Alien films retreats behind the evidently ‘pure nature’ of the monster and willingly makes room for it, until, as I said, this nature has overgrown and covered the screen.  I attempted to show at the beginning of this text how deceptive naturalness is, that it is probably even a more refined form of that which is made, since we do not even know whether the alien was produced by The Company or whether The Company is not itself in fact the alien.  Put another way: while Metropolis emphasizes the tension between nature and civilisation, to the extent that humans must ultimately take hold of that which they have made and thereby triumph (all the sentimental stuff that accompanies this need not concern us here), in the Alien films naturalness becomes the very pinnacle of that which is made, produced, which can only mean that something was inserted into the world, previously not appearing as present, as shown, and this is perhaps because these films by now have all technology at their disposal, and thus are able to depict visions of the future in which the actors have access to technologies that have not even been invented.  Nature is depicted as triumphing, over technology too. 

Superficially, this is how things look.  I have tried to show that this is not in fact how they are.  A being, extraterrestrial but still clearly living, certainly still seems to triumph over sophisticated weaponry and thus over men, for it is immanent to these films that they must go ever farther, since otherwise that would be the end of them.  But this being is itself probably only technology (and in the film this is technology in the truest sense of the word), and the rulers of technology, who ‘know what’s what’ in the sense that they are conscious of what there is to be consicous of, and know what there is to know, have their reasons for not trusting indomitable nature, and for preferring to make nature themselves, and indeed from and with what is available today, from and with what they are capable of today, and from and with what they, in consequence, will be ever more capable of in the future. 

In one of her best scenes in Alien 2, Sigourney Weaver, in order to save the little girl Newt, must as it were expand herself, as a living person, by means of a machine.  She climbs into a sort of enormous steel excavator in order to enlarge her person, to construct a machine around herself that on the one hand will protect her, and that on the other hand will drive the monster away from her.  When she puts her body in the machine and projects her robotic arms toward the monster, she is untouchable.  The hydra cannot come near her, while the claws of steel are able to grip and crush the hydra.  But at bottom Ripley’s attempt to literally take technology into hand and to seize nature through recourse to the uncritical affirmation of techology as something inevitable, corresponds to a current conception of technology as instrumentality, and it thus gives the impression of a step backwards in comparison with that space that is dominated by the rulers in Metropolis (and by their ‘instruments’, the workers), and that in its own way has even planetary dimensions, encompassing everything outside of it that we detect within it: the outer space of outer space!   The planets themselves must send their people to the alien, into the ‘colonies’, an almost rural idyll, for toward this end, even if horrible and attractive things happen there, small and manageable branches must be constructed, doubles of the earth, in order to concretely accommodate the events.  Metropolis, in contrast, is everywhere.  In leaving it behind, one can conquer the planets and enable any construction to become a reality, including the woman as robot, the woman as indistinguishable from the robot.  (Only the voice of love, the son of the ruler, can distinguish between them.  Amidst all this technology, they experience a regression into archaic times and archaic beliefs, a regression that drives the masses to burn the ‘witch’.  But she only laughs, for she is not human and thus cannot die, which of course she knows.  In an interesting parallel to the witch-burning in Metropolis, in which in truth it is an artificial construct that is burnt, Sigourney Weaver, who embodies what is positive in a witch, who is thus the good –white—woman who is to save the world from the horror that ‘is growing within her body’, plunges into the fire, but for a fraction of a second is herself the mother of this horror!).  And with the help of this same technology modern man, mass man, whose revolutions will be thwarted again and again but who will nevertheless never be killed off, since there are just too many of him, will take over the world.  A film such as Metropolis brings this technology clearly into view, in that the creation of the robot is a quasi-medical act of creation, and not a technical one, when Brigitte Helm’s face is projected onto the robot, as in a Mickey Mouse cartoon the soul of an angry pig is projected over that of a happy one, and vice versa, by the ingenious Daniel Düsentrieb, and in this way helmet and wires are shared by the two, nothing is soldered, welded, or cut.  If we look first with innocent eyes, eyes that The Company has not yet caught, that, as said, nobody has yet seen, the situation may appear on the other hand perfectly simple, just as it is from the point of view of the worker: simply, he must work in order to live.  By contrast, the fighters against strange beings, against aliens (and for the ‘aliens’ the strange colonists are of course in turn aliens), have set up their medical station here, and there they’ve placed their android, who has been sent by the Cartel and grows ever more human (also a hint that nature can be the ultimate transformation of technology and that, through nature, The Company leads the people to believe that they are only dealing with something very refined: the android as the very most human human), and over there the sleeping cabins; and behind all this, without anyone having pasted it up (or did someone?) there is again this wallpaper, this original but also ultimately somewhat plain background effect, this extraterrestrial continuation, that is in fact the essence of the film.  But of course the heroine must be even more essential, Sigourney, who, almost resignedly, fights against the monster at the end in an act of colonisation that goes well every time but that suggests that next time it’s probably not going to work out (the third sequel, we really believe, will finally be it).  And thus we are led to believe anew every time that these colonisable spaces are only there so that people possessed of decisiveness, an upright chin (un-made-up women in film!) love for children, and a nice, thankfully slim and long-legged figure in sensible wool underwear, wearing them just like I do (here, quite simply, the plain little cotton dress worn by Maria in Metropolis is overcoded), in order to settle in this new and beautiful colony ripe for exploitation (for in the end, make-up or no, the goal of all of this is exploitation), to insert themselves in the place of those who were there before.  And this whole bric-a-brac, all of these constructions of monsters in the manner of a Swiss clockmaker and all of these simulations of life have as their result that a terror that is more dense and profound does not arise in the spectator, since demise is always also triumph (of the heroine).  The organcity of technology (a monster that is put together by means of technology) and the mechanicity of men (the robotic workers), this opposition still arises, and signifies that men remain a cut below their spaces, below all space.  Thus they must  first liberate themselves from these spaces with their organic and technological constructions (‘Raum im Osten schaffen’ [‘To clear some space in the East’], this was already once the terrible consequence, that an inhabited area was cleared out so that other inhabitants, who nonetheless apparently inhabit differently, and of course more nobly, might move in and replace them.)  The clearing of spaces does not however mean that there could not be other, more dangerous ones behind them, with which we are threatened, and which, since they can no longer be cleared, since they cannot be entered, and ultimately in consequence cannot be named, cannot even be shown.  And that is where the cartel itself resides.  We must stay outside (inside?).  The colonists, like the penal colonists in part 3, struggle to destroy the monster.  They are covered with sweat, they are pure effort personified, as if they themselves were things that, again through struggle, have been brought forth by others.  Yet struggle on its own does not suffice, it is in itself no achievement.  It seems to me that all the efforts in these films only serve to re-conceive individual beings from an amorphous, flailing mass of people.  But woe unto them if they are then set loose!  At the end of Metropolis, Frieder and Maria fall into each other’s arms and yield an instance of coupledom.  Sigourney too gets out alive even if, at the end of part 3, she is quite crushed, or indeed burnt though at this point we see nothing.  She can however evidently be reconstructed, though what will come of her would seem to be a new genus, a new species, half person, half function, or indeed the function will have literally passed through her into flesh and blood.  Is this a step backwards to part 3, in which flesh and flesh were made to stand over against one another, as it were naked and sexless, and even little Newt is now but a clump of flesh dissected under the gaze of a Ripley touched to the marrow?  Who or what awaits this completely new species in part 4, this freshly arrived species?  Again, as always: domination.  For what is empty may also be taken over, for what is chaotic may also come to know the severity of law.  But this law will then hold for all, since what is not yet present may yet come someday.  It may even be the eternal that will come upon the temporal.  When this happens, things will have to be worthy of the eternal, and they will issue from us, even if no one has entrusted them to us, and even if it were the case that we simply dwelled here and could not put up with it. 

As if intuiting this, the director reconstitutes Sigourney Weaver with the help of her DNA formula in what is for now the final part, the fourth (I haven’t seen it yet), since he has slowly used up all the technological possibilities and ideas (and in part 3 already is forced to reach back to ‘natural’ ones).  This is similar to the evil Maria, to the robot in Metropolis, since Sigourney/Ripley is burnt, and is thus dead without a trace, and now seems uncertain whether the DNA-mass of the alien that she, Ripley, has killed, or that she has killed in and with herself, has not also insinuated itself into her genes.  That will be interesting, since now the enemy is explicitly, without any doubt, without any ambivalence, within oneself, but again we don’t know this with precision.  Or perhaps one is one’s own enemy.  Why yes, of course!    The fact that the heroine no longer knows herself whether she is human or not is in any case a new twist, in that she is now negative as well as positive, she must remain ‘outside’, like all heroes, ultimately.  Yet another symptom speaks to this: the actress complains in an interview that in part 3 a short sequence, some three minutes, was cut from the film, a sequence that shows what it is that really makes Sigourney Weaver/Ripley tick: to wit, her daughter, and that this sequence, left out in order to stay within the prescribed length of time (the sequence is there in the director’s cut on video), would have toppled everything, would have changed the whole story (“If you bust your gut trying to play a character and they take away your raison d’être, it’s such a slap in the face.”  In the same interview Weaver also relates that she herself became pregnant, that she wanted to have a child because she got on so well with the actress who played little Newt!  If that is not a case of art and life becoming one…!).  The question is: was this biogaphical detail cut from Ripley’s life perhaps in order to dodge her humanity?  In order to make her into something-other-than-human, which she will manifestly be in the  final episode?  It would probably be paranoia to believe this.  We will learn of Sigourney Weaver that she will again wear transparent clothing and stiletto heels and will look as if she did this every day, indeed because she in fact does do this quite often.  I do not know how Brigitte Helm dressed in private.  Both are spaces behind spaces, but spaces that we are permitted gently to see.  

Translated by Justin E. H. Smith


(To be published in Monsters and Philosophy. Ed. Charles Wolfe. London: King’s College Press, 2005.  For further information please visit

11.1997 / 25.10.2005

Copyright © 2005 Elfriede Jelinek


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