Art News

6 Times M.C. Escher’s Work Inspired Modern Cinema

M.C. Escher was born and raised in the Netherlands, and enrolled in the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem after failing his high school exams. After a week Escher told his father that he would rather pursue graphic arts instead of architecture, and since then he has made 448 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and over 2000 drawings and sketches.

Escher at work in his studio making a tessalation
Escher painting the mural decoration of the chapel of the third cementery of Utrecht, Netherlands. 1958 (Image: found on Pinterest)

Escher’s artworks continue to have a profound influence on many popular films, even today. Below are six major movies that were undoubtedly inspired by Escher’s mathematical and otherworldly designs.

1. Labyrinth (1986)



In this wacky musical adventure tale starring David Bowie, production designer Elliot Scott created a three-dimensional staircase set based on Escher’s Relativity.

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)



Also inspired by Relativity, the Grand Staircase of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry imitates the impossible angles that Escher creates in this pieces.

3. The Matrix (1999)



“Take the blue pill and the story ends… take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus to Neo

In Douglas R. Hofstadter’s 1979 book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a tortoise and the philosopher Aristotle drink phials of blue and red liquid to pop in and out of Escher’s labyrinth drawings.

4. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)



Another film taking inspiration from the 1953 lithograph Relativity, the third installment of the Night at the Museum series finds its characters navigating the sideways staircases of Escher’s courtyard.

5. Inception (2010)



In this multi-dimensional dream narrative, the Penrose Staircase – a physically impossible ever-ascending staircase – was inspired by Escher’s Ascending and Descending. In this work, Escher depicts many monks seemingly climbing up and down the same set of steps in a square pattern.

6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)



Many attribute Peter Jackson’s inspiration for the Mines of Moria to Escher’s Procession in Crypt.

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