I always think that any filmmaker that can make any underground, low budget, cult movie that has poignant charisma is very inspired. Directors in this category range from David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Kim Ki-Duk, Mamoru Oshii, and the like. Shinya Tsukamoto's "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" is a strangely allegorical and interestingly crafted movie about the dehumanizing love affair between society and modern technology.
Adapted from a play written by Tsukamoto back in college "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" takes place in the underbelly of Tokyo. A homeless man with a masochistic fetish for metal gets killed in an accident after discovering that his self-inflicted injury has become infected with maggots. After being concealed in a ravine by a Japanese businessman with the help of his girlfriend the spirit of the homeless masochist begins to manifest itself within his offender. As the next day dawns, the Japanese businessman begins to discover strange happenings within himself and his surroundings. He starts to mutate into a metal infested apparatus of destruction and begins to have his humanity deprived from him little by little.
"Tetsuo: The Iron Man" is very similar to David Lynch's "Eraserhead" in terms of narrative and style. The world of "Tetsuo" is very bleak and noisy. Machines have taken over the personal and professional lives of the common folk. Everything is constantly running and the streets are always riddled with scrap metal.
Anyone who has seen "Eraserhead" will inevitably draw parallels between the two movies. "Tetsuo" has very little exposition and instead tells everything through the images. A lot of the horror mechanics are reminiscent to the "body horror" style of David Cronenberg. The things that happen in this movie are allegorical uses of body mutation to convey the characters' loss of humanity. Most of the humanity and reason is conveyed through the television set. This probably goes to show our level of immersion with technology in how we become so infatuated with it to the point to where we slowly get robbed of our ability to reason.
The story is paper thin, but "Tetsuo" does manage to do well for what it has to work with. The set pieces and cinematography are good for a more claustrophobically feeling movie. These along with the shifts of the quality from normal to low quality are greatly timed and creative. Most of "Tetsuo" takes place in reality, but it makes these transitions in video quality when displaying images of humanity.
Unlike "Eraserhead", "Tetsuo" is much faster paced. "Eraserhead" always relied on situations and randomly occurring surreal happenstances. "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" has more action involving chase scenes. These scenes are mostly shot in fast motion and the death effects for the mutated humans are similar to the style and quality of "The Evil Dead". The set design of the interconnected technology is similar to the kind of sophisticated designs of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" and "12 Monkeys". The soundtrack is also used very cleverly during the action scenes and really adds to the overall atmosphere.
"Tetsuo: The Iron Man" is a very intriguing movie. It provides a deep look into the functions of modern society and a realistic look inside the world of a machine. While poignant and nightmarish in lieu of "Eraserhead", "Tetsuo" is more metaphorical in comparing technology to the functions of the human body. "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" may not be as endearing as "Eraserhead" but it stands as very solid art in and of itself.
*Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween.