Creative Spur 02: Metropolis

Writing inspiration

Welcome to another creative spur post! The premise is simple – we share something genre- or otherwise boundary-crossing and offer some suggestions for how you can respond to it in your own work. Last month we brought you Delia Derbyshire‘s experimental sci-fi soundtracks, and this month we’re continuing a slight unintended robot theme…

Your spur

Rintaro: Metropolis

Earlier this month I went to see Metropolis, Rintaro’s 2001 cyberpunk-action-noir anime feature film. There’s a ton to appreciate about the film itself – the detail and depth of the painted backgrounds, the clashing struggles of exploited robots and human proletariat amidst a retrofuturist Tower-of-Babel-retelling, the use of Ray Charles in one of the most jolting and incredible moments of soundtrack dissonance I’ve experienced – but its backstory is also a fantastic piece of genre- and culture-crossing history.

Metropolis is a loose adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga, which was in turn inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film. Tezuka wrote the manga without having seen Lang’s Metropolis – just a still image in a magazine, which he combined with ideas from his own unpublished work.

metropolis lang 5

When the anime was produced, its creative team returned to Lang’s original work and incorporated more of its visuals, themes and politics into their version. This process of interpretation, divergence, and re-convergence – and crucially, the awareness of that process – is what we’d like you to take inspiration from for this exercise.

Your challenge

Find a promotional or still image that appeals to you from a film you’ve never seen. Here are a couple of resources:

Posteritati is a New York based seller of vintage and rare movie posters with a fantastic searchable gallery. You can filter by country, genre, year and a load of useful tags.

KINODASIEN posts selections of stills from a wide selection of international, arthouse and cult classic films on twitter – each tweet is almost a mini art gallery in itself.

Looking at your chosen image, what story/ies does it suggest? What’s its relationship to the film’s title? Try writing your interpretation – either as a new piece, or incorporating an existing work or idea, maybe something you’ve been stuck on how to develop.

Let it sit for a while, then go and read up on the film (or watch it!). How would you synthesise your own interpretation with its source, as the makers of Metropolis did? And if you think it would be difficult to do that, why?

What does it do to your process to directly acknowledge an influence in two different contexts?

Your Further Reading/Watching

Lang’s 1927 Metropolis has been hugely influential across art forms, from subsequent sci-fi cinema to stage adaptations to Janelle Monáe’s Metropolis saga of concept albums – Monáe’s music video/short film ‘Many Moons’ is included below. The world of the film was even incorporated wholesale into the DC comics universe as the far-future home of the robot villain Mekanique. Wikipedia has a page on works inspired by the film if you want to head down that rabbit hole.


We hope you’re enjoying spur posts! We’d love to hear how you found them or about anything they inspire – let us know in the comments or on twitter if you like! And if you’d like to experience more of this approach, have a look at our upcoming retreat in Brittany, France.

Share and enjoy!

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