Tetsuo: The Iron Man

At the peak of Japan’s ’80s economic boom, a new breed of self-taught filmmakers brought the attention of the international film community to the country for the first time in decades. The short-lived movement adapted the chaotic sounds and metal-studded costumes of the country’s punk subcultures with jagged stop motion, jerky camerawork and choppy editing techniques. It became known as “cyberpunk” – a kind of avant-garde, dystopian science fiction distinguished by its striking aesthetic and intense experimentation.

No film had a more significant impact than Shinya Tsukamoto’s 1989 film ”Tetsuo: The Iron Man”. Commonly referred to as “the Japanese Eraserhead”, the 16mm film was so influential that it served as the watershed that allowed the entire independent film industry of Japan to be established in the decade that followed. An almost dialogue-less black and white film about a man who gradually, excruciatingly transforms into metal, it made Tsukamoto an international star overnight.

The film was scored by industrial musician Chu Ishikawa, who maintained a close collaborative relationship with Tsukamoto for the entirety of his career until his death in 2017. Like the film, which is dominated by stark and often violent images of scrapyard steel and rusted tools, the soundtrack is populated almost entirely with the sounds of clattering percussion, metallic thumps and searing white noise.

‘Tetsuo: The Iron Man’ is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.