Steampunk is fast becoming part of contemporary vernacular. This is due mainly to the fact that movies, probably one of the most popular forms of entertainment today, are incorporating steampunk costumes and styles. Some of these movies include A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Stardust (2007), and The Golden Compass (2007). While these are well-liked movies in their own rights, all of these were based on books. This is the case for many steampunk-esque films.
However, Thomas Plaete, a young French artist, created an incredible original steampunk film called Nimbus Machina. This short movie combines excellent graphics that are designed to personify the steam centered universe of the Steam Age with an almost chilling storyline. The six-minute film follows an engineer who is operating a quite spectacular steam engine in an attempt to run away from a monstrous, dark storm that is closing in on him. The engine itself is impressive because the monochromatic palette that Plaete uses still manages to give this otherwise simple engine dimension and style. Balancing on a simple wheel, with cogs and gears splattered throughout (each serving a unique purpose that only the engineer in the film, or Plaete himself, will be able to explain), the engine almost looks like a transportable castle. Inside the contraption, there are grand staircases and sweeping arches, pulleys and knobs. The impressive architecture almost makes the steam engine unbelievable, except it is created with such grace and poise—and most importantly: down-to-earth practicality—that the whole engine is elevated in the viewers esteem from mere fantastical machine to a magical (almost breathing) creature.
Aside from the stunning graphics, Plaete has created a simple, yet frightening storyline. For this very engineer, who is operating a machine of such delightful proportions and splendor, is outrunning the very storm that he himself created. Well, not he himself—rather the steam belched from the handsome engine gathered in the air and rolled and kneaded until it formed a ferocious storm that charged its very creator.
The simplicity and brilliance of this short film is representative of the steampunk culture. Creativity is a huge component of steampunk because the boundaries are so broad and open-ended so that everyone can find a little of steampunk inside themselves. It doesn’t take much to find that steampunk inside you: just think of the Victorian Era, the Age of Steam, and all alternate realities that you’ve ever wished to experience and you’ve found a Steampunk world to connect to. Once you figure that out, all you have to do is demonstrate that creativity in a way most complimentary to your talents. Whether this is through dance, music, art, graphic design, fashion, food, writings, makeup or anything else, harness that talent, mix in a little inspiration and creativity, and you will contribute something magical to the growing Steampunk culture.
Grab your thinking caps, strap on a pair of goggles, so you see the world from a new perspective, and you’re well on your way to Steampunk (and maybe one day: international) fame.