8.6.12

Prometheus: was Ridley Scott spawned by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Ayn Rand?


An alien 'Engineer'

Ayn Rand believed in Prometheans and Ridley Scott believes in fallen Promethean's. One must remember that Ridley Scott worked in advertising in Britain in the 80s, he chose not to believe in 'ideology'. He fell victim to ideology by default and thereby lost his immortal soul.

He directed Black Hawk Down, the Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator, which are all essays in the need for a visceral defence of civilisation, as Scott sees it. They are essays in the competing roles of human self-sacrifice and self interest in the maintenance of capitalist society. Ridley Scott is also an expert at the viral and he must have studied Freud and Bernays and the other psychologists in relative depth. It shows in his films.

But for all this, Scott is not an artist - any more than, say, Frank Gehry is. Ridley Scott might just as well have chosen architecture as a career. Yet another Norman Foster winning export awards for British creative industry, with the emphasis on industry. Neither is he a Science Fiction auteur. Blade Runner was the creation of Philip K Dick. Alien was the creation of Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett and, consquently, Prometheus the film is poor in its conception and narrative. It is militarised and impoverished SF and that's why I don't think the SF community rates it very highly - as SF. It is something else. Social commentary, perhaps.There is a lot that is crass and cavalier in the film too, but it is offset by the depth and detail of conception.

Giger, who is a proper artist, trumps Ridley Scott and Giger's work is, of course, the bio-mechanical seed that worms its way derivatively into Scott's film architecture and stays there until it starts to wriggle - an increasingly severe case of cysticercosis. As my son, a medical student at the end of his third year, said. 'There is nothing intrinsically alien about a little worm poking its head out of an eye; there are diseases in Africa that cause this to happen.'

Ridley Scott's movie is not a grand narrative. It has all the feeling of a form fitting, head fitting bio helmet. There is a Celtic Hibernian feel to the film's claustrophobia. The Celtic used to have an obsession with heads. Heads and sacrifice go together in ancient Celtic culture. The Celts and perhaps even the people before them used to bury heads in the foundations of buildings in order to make them last. In an important building a victim was buried head first in one of the holes where the central staves were planted.

The film Promtheus is quite generous, as many of Ridley Scott's films are, there is much more to see than meets you in the eye and wriggles about. However, what is offered in the end is Churchillian. Peter O'Toole's character in Lawrence of Arabia is a young Churchill with the brakes burned away, a young Churchill without confidence and the victim of his imagination. David. The run away technical human imagination. Scott's idea of human value and sacrifice is Churchillian, at root, about control and values.

Churchill himself was equally as daring as T E Lawrence, but he had the ability to remove himself from the all encompassing theatre of the mind, sit back, and have a whisky and a laugh. David, the Anderoid does not have intentionality. David really represents the unfettered unconscious awareness, without controls or inhibition - the danger of the 'true.'

According to one of the RSA talks given by Ian McGilchrist, the key to the 'I' is actually the repression of all encompassing awareness and one of the prime inhibitors of the transfer of information between the right and left hemispheres is the corpus callosum. It is inhibition and control that produces conciousness and ego and Peter Weyland. Weyland produces David, who has a single unified brain, has no intentionality partly because this brain is all unconscious. He is a victim of his own mechanical 'imagination' of his own holistic thought processes. There is no choice for him, but to believe.

Giger is not, when de-constructed about the chemical sugar of fear and sex and nutrition and survival. There is more to him. From his work, instead, I get the feeling of nostalgia and horror and history. Giger is not context free. Scott who works in film parables seems smitten and uncritical when it comes to Giger's work. In a sense Giger is post holocaust art-deco. To use Giger's work as a metaphor for the intangible sugar of sex and the promise of genetic continuation is no accurate reflection of Giger. It is Scott's art of the 1980's Machiavellian; fronting in order to sell a film.

Far stronger than the sugar of eating of course, sex is the answer to the philosopher's sense of bodily entrapment. Sex is sweetly altruistic, not selfish. What is it about the physical sweetness of reproduction that connects it so strongly with our death?But think of it. In sex your own death gives you an intoxicating reward for dissolution and non-existence. At the moment of death you should think of sex - which is the meaning of dissolution. It underlies all metaphors and yet it is a metaphor. Magritte was wrong. Yes: 'Ceci c'est une pipe.'

Yes, you will die, but have this. The answer to a consciousness brought about by selectivity and the choice to believe are mechanisms that compensate and comfort. The experience of dying properly is one of the greatest release and relief - and yet so personal that it cannot be easily shared. I and everyone else link up in a hive mind and when that one nodule of existence extinguishes, the being that is humanity in the network of beings that is the Earth is life itself perdures. The ship's Captain and his two officers are agents of the US government. They seem to be supremely competent military officers, commanded with a mission to stop the contamination of earth and they succeed in this mission in the end. They understand in their bones that they must give their lives for the organism that is Earth.

What do you make of the Golden Bough: The Dying God, Volume 3? In all societies at ll times the idea of the sacrifice of the king. The king is dead, long live the king. The albino giant who sacrifices himself at the beginning of the movie; decomposing himself to create life, or at least intelligent human life, must have died at Victoria Falls, or, it is more likely, near Lake Victoria, at the Ripon Falls at the exit of the White Nile, seeding Africa in around 60,000 BCE.

Scott was inspired by the memory of the giant Sudanese actor who played the first alien in the creation of his white giants. He was also inspired by Leni Riefenstahl's glorification of the Nuba (either that or Ridley Scott's garrulous and nerdy replacement side-kick, Damon Lindelof, fed him with the cinematic references).  The giant's alien face is albino, (he includes a touch of Steve Jobs). It is a composite face, with embryonic skin. Embryonic stem cells make up the alien's body and, consequently, he is immortal. The aliens all seem to be men, which for, Scott, is a critique. They are a powerful people with a Spartan ethic. In another of Scott's films the king of Jerusalem, also an albino, decomposes. Scott's Promethean cracks at the knee, in a reference to Scott's own knee problem.

 David sets all the lethal trains in motion. When the alien ancestor awakes, almost predictably, the first thing the ancestor captain sees is an old man selfishly begging for eternal life, translated through the agency of a deadly AI. Nevertheless, the ancestral captain admires David because each new manifestation of the ancestor genes brings fresh AI. However, with the alien, we watch as Weyland has his bully boys smack the doctor, the female protagonist of the film, in the stomach.Weyland shuts up the altruistic voice of humanity with a rifle butt in order to make his own selfish plea for personal immortality heard first.

The alien Prometheus at the beginning of the film spread viral fire to our planet. A potential rival to his own civilisation. The command in his home world, the centre of a great empire, must be that planets are not seeded because what results is an intelligent race that quickly creates out-of-control AI. Sure enough,

 Weyland hates his blood clone because she exists in the same space as he does, and she knocks elbows with him and he seems to hate himself. But he feels close to David. When David quotes Peter O Toole, who is also quoted by his master in the fake TED talk: 'The trick Potter is not to mind the match burning.' he is a robot who is forming consciousness. The trick is to be able to step back from what you think you are and make choices. The power of the will. This Weyland has in spades and this makes his 'son' David dwell on his father's favourite saying. In so doing he becomes more self like.

I think my response to the film would probably be similar to my response to Ridley Scott himself. I would be mildly impressed. However, there are many people who I have met and talked to and loved, who have more subtle and interesting world views and who have made more moral choices.

Ridley Scott creates like a Heideggarian. As a barrel maker does he takes what is to hand and constructs these well made barrels, these films. His films seem to have been moulded by the medium of advertising and by his admiration of the United States and its war sacrifices, and by his imagined Scottishness and everything else he just happened to find lying around.

But to me, in fact, Scott is more like his creation David. He lacks a soul precisely because he was authentic.  Scott's soul is buried somewhere in the early 80s in a basement in Beak Street at the the moment of the recrudescence of the right. In the end the followers of Ayn Rand help mould Scott.

While Scott was setting up his company and filming the first Alien, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (no relation) was making another film: In a year of 13 Moons. Here you can see the origins of the Zeitgeist that spawned Alien and Prometheus. If Ridley Scott choses to complete Fassbinder's work and make a movie about Rosa Luxemburg, Scott will find a little redemption. But instead he will probably make a film about Churchill, or some Churchillian empire figure.

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