Warning: Below There be Spoilers!
One of the main complaints about Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s first Alien prequel (released in 2012) was that it left way too many questions unanswered. And even though the lauded filmmaker promised that his next prequel, Alien: Covenant (released May 19th) would fill in many important information vacuums, that movie only made the franchise’s core mythologies even more opaque. Still, one of the most enduring questions fans have in regards to both films is: What the hell did David (Michael Fassbender) say to The Engineer near the end of Prometheus that so enraged the humanoid he decapitated the Android?
The scene lacked subtitles, so moviegoers had no idea whether or not David was accurately communicating Mr. Weyland’s (Guy Pearce) plea; we have no idea if The Engineer’s rage stemmed from a pre-existing disposition or a miscommunication. Did this act of barbarism have anything to do with David’s decision to annihilate The Engineers when he arrived on their home world in Alien: Covenant. It’s all just so confusing!
Related Article: Dissecting “Alien: Covenant”: David is Satan
Believe it or not, The Engineers’ language wasn’t mere movie gibberish; it was an actual language constructed by a professional linguist, based on proto-Indo-European vernaculars. Which brings us all the way back to the original question of this article: What the hell did David say that made The Engineer go aggro?
Enter film enthusiast and YouTuber Kroft talks about Movies; the cinematic scholar has produced a video essay that answers this enduring question while putting the scene into a wider context as it pertains to Scott’s Alien universe. If you can’t stream, the translation of David’s question to The Engineer is reveled beneath the video. Enjoy!
Official Synopsis: Screenwriter Damon Lindelof admitted in an interview that the film originally had subtitles for this scene, but Ridley Scott felt strongly about not including them. And given that David doesn’t seem to value human life, many people thought that he must have said something extremely offensive that would trigger the Engineer to start killing people. David talks to the Engineer in Proto-Indo-European an ancient language, ancestor of Indo-European languages such as Spanish English German, Bulgarian and others. It is probably one of the oldest dialects in human history. And if, you remember, at the beginning of Prometheus, David studies Proto-Indo-European with a holographic tutor. Actually, the tutor is a real life linguist Dr. Anil Biltoo from London’s Language Centre. He was hired by Scott to train Fassbender for The Engineer scene.
David: “This man is here because he does not want to die. He believes you can give him more life.” The Engineer responds: “What this man has done that makes him so great that he deserves more life?” Weyland then purports to be The Engineer’s equal, a living God who deserves forever. Clearly, The Engineer disagreed!
About Kroft talks about Movies: Different insights about Movies including Alien, Predator, and others.
This mystery may be solved, but Scott’s last 2 Alien prequels remain frustratingly enigmatic; sci-fi messes that seem to have no regard/respect for previously established pillars of the franchise. I have a feeling many of the questions Scott has posed in Prometheus and Covenant will go unanswered—because, at this rate, even hardcore Alien fans are going to lose interest. But that’s exposition for another day.
Official Synopsis: The discovery of a clue to mankind’s origins on Earth leads a team of explorers to the darkest parts of the universe. Two brilliant young scientists lead the expedition. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) hopes that they will meet a race of benevolent, godlike beings who will in some way verify her religious beliefs, while Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) is out to debunk any spiritual notions. However, neither the scientists nor their shipmates are prepared for the unimaginable terrors that await them.
What are your thoughts on David’s conversation with The Engineer in Prometheus? Do you think Scott should have included subtitles in the film? Does this help your understanding of the core themes and symbolism Scott has been experimenting with? Let’s discuss in the Comments section!