“Alien”, directed by Ridley Scott, is a science fiction/horror film about a commercial starship (nostromo) and the leading crew encounter an alien creature which slowly pick off the characters, one by one, to kill them in a similar narrative syntax of a horror slasher film whilst holding the semantics of both science fiction and horror.
Alien can easily be categorised as a Freudian film. Much of the film contains links to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories which have added to the many different ideas and concepts used in the film.
Sigmund Freud studied and wrote of a psychoanalytical explanation for why humans
“In order to make sense of the information that surfaced through talking and free association, Freud looked at the workings of the mind. Taking a scientific approach, he proposed that a person’s psyche can be understood as three interconnected layers (id, superego and ego) [which identify a human’s personality].” Below is a summarised definition of the different concepts used by Freud and clarification of what particular sections of his theories apply:
- Ego – The conscious part of your brain which deals with the reality of situations and learns from experiences and grows stronger so you’ll ‘…strive to be moral’ (Gay, 1995, p.655) which eventually fuels our superego. It rationalises and identifies plausible consequences and further situations which may occur.
- Superego – your interior thoughts which separate right from wrong and guides your behaviour. It’s based around the components of what we deem as socially acceptable in human behaviour. This is often associated as our ego ideals which is following “good behaviour’ which we’ve learnt from our past experiences of discipline (e.g. parental education of societal ideals). It’s the moral conscious.
- ID – also known as the unconscious, is associated to be the reason for our impulsive and animalistic instincts such as sex, lust, and aggression. This includes the “pleasure principle” in which humans need to act on their desires without any concerns of remorse. ID is our primitive instincts.
From a Freudian stand-point, Ripley represents the ego (conscious); the alien (xenomorph) represents the ID (unconscious); and Ash represents the Superego (preconscious). These three particular characters hold clear signs of representing a specific agency of humanity personality traits. “Alien” is a frudiean film that presents the basic instincts of humanity.
Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is one of the first major science fiction characters whose a resourceful, realist female hero. Her character was also originally gonna be played by a male, as it was not common for females to play a protagonist character who (aside from the recently released “Halloween”). Ridley Scott said, “I just had a thought. What would you think if Ripley was a women? She would be the last one you think would survive – she’s beautiful.” Ripley’s character being played by a female added to the minor themes of maternity and nurturing motherhood. As previously mentioned, Ripley’s character represents the ego (conscious) and bases her decisions on the situation which both occurs now and which could presently occur.
The Alien, which will for the rest of the essay named xenomorph, is clearly the antagonist of the film. It’s character is based on the animalistic instincts of predators in the animal kingdom.
“…art direction [mixed] organic motifs with the metallic, and the sparingly glimpsed alien”. This key choice links to the fear and fascination of otherness.
Some of the scenes where you can see these different personalities put into place is in some of the following scene:
Not to put too fine a point on it, the alien in Alien comes in two guises: vaginal and phallic.
“Alien is a rape movie with male victims,” explains David McIntee, author of the Alien study Beautiful Monsters. “And it also shows the consequences of that rape: the pregnancy and birth. It is a film that plays, very deliberately, with male fears of female reproduction.” – https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/oct/13/ridley-scott-alien-ripley
Alien questions the hierarchy of males and their references to the fears of homosexuality and the idea of men being dispensible, especially since the recent events of WWII (which ended in 1945).