WTF Japan, Watching Tetsuo: The Iron Man

The Metal Fetishist

Finally moving on from Ringu and Sadako, I thought I’d try something a bit more sedate. Hence why I decided to watch the 1989 film, Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Being about 10 years earlier than Ringu and in black and white, I wasn’t really expecting much from this film.
Sitting down with a friend, both of us armed with warm cups of tea we sat in a darkened office to watch the movie.
My initial thoughts of “this is going to be lame” and “it’ll probably just be like ‘man in the Iron mask” were very quickly and violently torn from my mind and savagely replaced with a horribly violent scene of a man slicing open his upper thigh and forcing an iron bar into the wound. This man would for the next hour of my life be known as the metal fetishist, an abhorrent mix of metal and man with otherworldly powers over iron.
Very quickly this man’s leg begins to rot and is filled with maggots, in horror he runs out of his warehouse and along the road when he is hit by a ‘Salary-man’ out on a drive with his girlfriend.

For those now interested please go watch the movie here:

Anyone else not so keen, I’ll sum up The remaining 50 minutes or so of the film in dot points from the perspective of the salary-man

  • Oh no what’s this metal zit!?!
  • Some crazy metal lady is chasing me through the train station help!
  • I just had the weirdest dream about getting fucked by a vacuum hose dildo
  • OMG I have a gargantuan drill Penis!!!
  • No don’t sit on that!!!
  • You turned me into a monster and I will epic stop motion fight you to the death (Directed at metal fetishist)
  • Oh wait I love you, lets morph into one giant metallic phallic symbol and cast destruction over the earth

That is actually the story, and all those scenes are actually in the film, chopped with more sex and maniacal laughter from the metal fetishist randomly throughout. With a ‘soothing’ backing track of industrial machines and pistons constantly working away.
My only response to my friend at the end of this film was “Well… that just happened”

After getting over the initial shock of what we had just sat though, we started discussing what it could be about, desperate to find some reasoning for the horror we had just witnessed. We tossed around ideas of Japanese industrialism in the 80’s and perhaps the film was saying that industrialism had destroyed romance and the man-woman relationship. That a love for metal, industry and other men had replaced and destroyed the traditional bonds between a man and woman.

Finally coming home and doing some research on 1980’s Japan, I found an article in Business Week that discussed the Japanese economic model that peaked towards the end of the 1980’s and then crashed in 1989 causing the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars (Katz, Richard 1998).

I believe that Tetsuo: The Iron Man was an incredibly well timed film, promoting the destruction that industrialisation would bring, not just to personal relationships but to all of Japan. While, it may carry an important yet potentially vague message underneath it’s horrific outer shell, this film is not for the light hearted.
While I appreciate the film for its message and artistic value, but it’s not something that I will be revisiting anytime soon, for sake of my mental health and ability to continue relating to other human beings.

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