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Why The Stairs In Netflix's Squid Game Look So Familiar

If you're one of the many (and we mean many) people who has tuned into the latest Netflix sensation "Squid Game," you likely already know that, in addition to the scintillating social commentary, the series is remarkable for its ultra-cool production and costume design.

"Squid Game" is about an underground competition where players compete in a series of deadly games based on some South Korean childhood favorites. Each of the game rooms has a design that harkens back to the toys and playgrounds of yesteryear, with a cheerful banality that makes the menacing nature of the competitions all the more grotesque. The barracks that the contestants stay in also have a distinct flair, as do the colorful, winding stairs they use to get around the compound.

There's a good chance the design of the staircase, in particular, looked familiar to you, as it was modeled after the famous M.C. Escher lithograph titled "Relativity." The original print depicts a room with a series of staircases that twist in gravity-defying ways, suggesting a world where the laws of physics are totally different than our own. While the stairs in "Squid Game" follow the basic rules of gravity, the bold colors and maze-like nature feel appropriate considering they are transporting the contestants to a situation of complete absurdity.

Here's what the director and art director of "Squid Game" have to say about this distinct design element.

The Escher inspired stairs were difficult to shoot on

During a Netflix commentary panel on the making of the show, writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk and art director Chae Kyung-sun both acknowledged the influence that Escher's lithograph had on the design of the staircase. They also spoke about the difficulties of working on such a unique set.

Dong-hyuk noted that the purposefully confusing layout meant he had to keep an extra close eye on the actors while they filmed scenes of them traversing the structure. "I needed to give directions while they acted so I had to keep monitoring, but since it's like a maze ..." he began, while Kyung-sun finished his thought by adding, "You get lost, too."

It wasn't just the director who sometimes had difficulties working around the complex set. Kyung-sun revealed that the crew sometimes had to break through walls during filming. She said, "The staff were worn out at the end of the day. They had to think about where and how to install the cameras in there."

For all the trouble, though, anybody who has seen the show can attest that it was well worth it. The scenes in the staircase are delirious and eye-catching. And, as Dong-hyuk notes in the commentary, the huge scale of the set makes the contrast from the beginning of the series, when hundreds of people are walking up and down, to the end when it's just a few, feel incredibly stark.

"Squid Game" is currently available to stream on Netflix.