Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oh, Mother.

Regardless of its status as one of the best action films of all time, Aliens is essentially an old fashioned story about mothers, a la Mrs. Miniver or Terms of Endearment.
While James Cameron's visual subtleties have never been praised, truth is that the guy should get more credit when it comes to representing ideas through images.
In my favorite sequence in the film, Cameron essentially recreates birth as Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and company, try to take little Newt (Carrie Henn) out of the evil aliens' sight. Ripley has developed a complicated relationship with the child after finding out her own kid had died and in this sequence we see their bond materialize.
The picture above shows us Newt's passage from the mother's womb through the tunnels where she will be expelled.

Later, she lands in a place surrounded by water where she still can't call herself "alive" to her mother. This placenta-ish kind of environment forces Ripley to break through to get her, which leads to my favorite shot in the film.

Here we see Ripley trying to get hold of her new daughter by literally breaking her free from her wet captivity. Notice how Cameron shows us three figures: the mother, an invisible father figure (Michael Biehn's hand) and Newt's tiny hand trying to find her way to mother.
We are reminded that the story is not about the child but about the mother and therefore Weaver's face is the only one we see. It's all about her struggles, her compassion and her determination to, well, keep the alien bitch away from her.

Little does mommy know that she won't be able to protect her child all the time...
Beautiful metaphor for life itself, no?

This post is part of Lt. Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series.


Janice said...

//"Ripley has developed a complicated relationship with the child after finding out her own kid had died and in this sequence we see their bond materialize."//

Jose, I assume you're referring to a sequence in which Ripley finds out her child long since died while she was in space? That scene was not part of the original release; my brother saw it in an "extra" long afterwards (not on DVD, but on TV - remember when VHS tapes first started to compete with TV, and so they began adding "deleted scenes" to movies on TV?) So when I watched the film back in the day we didn't have that extra layer of backstory; although the "mothering" theme was pretty apparent on the surface, it's interesting to think how that one piece of knowledge might have deepened my own reaction at the time.

Jose said...

That's interesting Janice. I've never seen a version without that sequence! Must make for an altogether different experience for sure!

Paolo said...

Cameron reinvented the narrative in the original by adding the mother factor. And the deleted back story scene doesn't feel as melodramatic as it should.