HOW IT ALL BEGAN
It was in August of 2011 that I happened to meet Sandra Beretta while visiting some friends. We’d hardly spoken two sentences before we realized that we both come from French-speaking Switzerland, so we continued our discussion in French. This created a special sort of intimacy between us. It wasn’t long before I learned that Sandra Beretta had been HR Giger’s life companion for several years.
HR Giger?! The name evoked some deeply buried images in me. I too had held the album cover “Brain Surgery” by the band “Emerson Lake and Palmer” in my hands. The film “Alien” had forever changed my perception of the science fiction genre, making it my favourite ever since. Works like “Birth Machine” or “Li I” belonged to the images of my youth. They hung as posters in record stores, or in the shared flats of my friends.
As I spoke with Sandra Beretta, all these ‘encounters’ with the art of HR Giger came flooding back to me. Before that first night was over, we’d already discussed the possibility of making a film. It just seemed self-evident. It wasn’t long before I met Hansruedi Giger myself.
It was this first meeting that solidified my interest in making the film. As I entered his house I was completely overwhelmed by impressions. As a journalist and filmmaker I’d seen many different kinds of houses and flats, but I’d never in my life seen anything so unusual. Crossing the threshold was like entering another world. It was like I had entered one of HR Giger’s works of art, dark and threatening. I took a seat in a Harkonnen Capo Chair and was surrounded by Giger-images, Giger-figures and Giger-objects. I hardly dared blink for fear of missing out on the incredible richness of detail. Despite the strange forms, the shrunken heads and skulls, I felt completely at ease. This was surely due to my host. HR Giger was friendly, polite and welcoming. 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 flew right out the window as he offered me apple pie and coffee and as we chatted about the weather. It wasn’t what I had been expecting. On the contrary, it was more interesting, more surprising. By that time, at the very latest, the film about HR Giger began to form in my head.
I was fascinated, and had a thousand questions at once: How can someone live like this? Why would anyone want to live like this? What sort of person lives like this, with what kind of biography? And what would his surroundings look like? His family, his background? After the visit, I began my research immediately.
I’ve visited the Gigers many times since. Sandra Beretta was wonderful in opening their door for me. With her help I was able to build a foundation of mutual trust with the Giger family. Each discussion I had with Hansruedi Giger, each person I met from his surroundings, each work of art that I discovered strengthened my resolve to make this film.