Tetsuo The Iron Man Review

Movie: Tetsuo The Iron Man
By: Maniac E
Date: June 5, 2012

A monochrome fever of nuts and bolts, cuts and bruises

Widely accepted as one of the most groundbreaking and seminal cyberpunk movies ever to have been produced in Japan, directed by and starring Shinya Tsukamoto, one of the most critically-lauded directors in the world, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a short black and white movie (running at precisely 67 minutes) more suited to the art world than the cinema, is also notoriously one of the most difficult to both watch and indeed understand.

the story:

The original follows a strange man known only as the "metal fetishist" (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto), who seems to have an insane compulsion to stick scrap metal into his body, he is hit and possibly killed by a Japanese "salaryman", out for a drive with his girlfriend. The salaryman then notices that he is being slowly overtaken by some kind of disease that is turning his body into scrap metal, and that his nemesis is not in fact dead but is somehow masterminding and guiding his rage and frustration-fueled transformation.

Tetsuo the iron man

With its cacophonous, grating industrial soundtrack matching graphic, brutally hyper-kinetic imagery, and with one infamous scene in particular grabbing the public's attention (involving.. errr, shall we say, the world's largest revolving drill bit and a sensitive part of the human anatomy ), and deranged, incomprehensible plot, Tetsuo has often been referred to as an 'assault on the senses'. And yet on watching it, it's really hard to believe that a movie this far ahead of its time was actually produced in 1988. Without a doubt Tsukamoto drew a lot of his aesthetic ideas from very same parts as Akira did, both movies came out in the same year and both handle the same subjects. Both movies got ideas from in that time rebel's fashion ways of the Japanese 80tees which was all about cyberpunk.

Tetsuo the iron man

However, to term Tetsuo as a simple 'cyberpunk' movie is to do it an enormous injustice. There are images and influences drawn from right across the board featured here. Firstly, the feel of the movie and its script is evidently informed by HR Giger's intense, dark art motif of biomechanics, wherein flesh and metal are symbiotic, a melding of man and machine in the form of limbs mysteriously replaced by guns, by demonic creatures who breathe through tubes and produce offspring via internal conveyor belts, by hellish genetic mutations fused with alien schematics. This seems to be really obvious when you consider that the central character of the movie, a bizarrely fetishistic businessman (played with just the right amount of unhinged horror by Tomorowo Taguchi) ends up growing a giant metallic killer penis and later on.

Tetsuo the iron man

All that said, though I know you're probably thinking by now, yeah, yeah, so what, is the damn movie actually any good? Well, it's... difficult to say. It's one of those puzzling movies that people tend not to sit on the fence about it's a love-or-hate flick which some consider to be a visual-media proto-industrial objet d'art, and others consider to be overhyped codswallop with a confused mess of a plot and an unlistenable soundtrack. Both of these opinions, awkwardly enough, are actually quite simultaneously valid. And let me be part of the first group, the movie was ahead of time and really framed taboo issues in one big outburst of creative genius.

Tetsuo the iron man

This movie will likely make all viewers uncomfortable. Tetsuo: The Iron Man will teach you how to squirm. The grainy 16mm film mixed with the disorienting angles and shots make each scene resemble a Rorschach test that must initially be analyzed before the viewer realizes what is happening. Tetsuo: The Iron Man is not a film to be merely watched. Tetsuo: The Iron Man is an experience. It is impossible to watch this movie and be unaffected by it. No matter what your reaction to this movie is, the fact remains that, once you see it, there is no turning back.



Tetsuo The Iron Man


Tetsuo The Iron Man


Shin'ya Tsukamoto






Kei Fujiwara, Tomorowo Taguchi and Nobu Kanaoka